Three months after Terence Crawford became the undisputed welterweight champion, “Bud” can no longer call himself that. The IBF has stripped Crawford of its belt, effective immediately. In a twist, the belt now belongs to Jaron Ennis, the interim IBF champion and mandatory challenger for Crawford.
The IBF’s official website has Ennis on top of the rankings at the “champion” level, with Crawford nowhere to be seen. ESPN later confirmed the news that Crawford was down one belt. Crawford, the long-standing WBO champion, beat Errol Spence Jr. in a super fight in July to add the WBA, WBC, IBF, and Ring belts to his collection. He still holds the other belts, with the IBF being the lone organization to strip him.
Following his fight against Spence, Crawford was ordered to defend the IBF belt against Ennis. “Boots” beat Karen Chukhadzhian in January to win the interim belt and defended it in July against Roiman Villa. Crawford is contractually obligated to face Spence again after the latter activated his rematch clause. However, the IBF does not recognize rematch clauses as an excuse for avoiding mandatory challengers.
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When asked by David Malandra Jr. about the issue, the IBF responded by saying it sent a letter to TBC Promotions on August 25 directing Crawford to begin negotiations with Ennis. Negotiations were to conclude by September 24. On September 22, Crawford’s representative Harrison Whitman stated Spence exercised the rematch clause, which would mean negotiations for an Ennis fight weren’t feasible.
Per the IBF:
“IBF Rule 3.B. Return Bouts states: ‘No contract for a Championship contest shall contain any clause or any provision, whatsoever, guaranteeing or in any way assuming or promising either contestant a return Championship contest where such cause or provision interferes with the mandatory defense of a title. Based on the forgoing, the IBF has withdrawn recognition of Terence Crawford as the IBF Welterweight world champion.”
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The IBF has had a unique history regarding the welterweight division. When Spence won the IBF belt against Kell Brook in 2017, he successfully defended it six times. However, only one of those defenses, against Carlos Ocampo in 2018, was mandatory. Spence also took time off twice after getting into a car crash and suffering a retinal tear to his left eye, but remained champion.
The organization will look to do the same to the eventual winner of the undisputed heavyweight title fight between Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk. There is a rematch clause, but the winner could get stripped in favor of mandatory challenger Filip Hrgovic.
There are no updates regarding a Crawford vs. Spence rematch at the moment. The 26-year-old Ennis will have to wait for the winner of Crawford-Spence 2, but he will now have to make a mandatory defense of the IBF belt at some point. Per the IBF’s rankings, Cody Crowley appears to be next. The Canadian, 22-0, last fought in March, beating Abel Ramos.