Inside Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater, there are two big title fights on February 4. Both are for the chance to become undisputed champions. One bout features two dominant champions. Another features a powerful champion fighting for undisputed gold, but not the way she envisioned.
Still, WBC, IBO, IBF, WBO, and The Ring super-featherweight champion Alycia Baumgardner is ready to show the world why she’s one of the best in the world against Elhem Mekhaled. The vacant WBA super-featherweight title is on the line.
Amanda Serrano vs. Erika Cruz for the status of undisputed featherweight champion is the main event.
The WBA title was not supposed to be vacant. Baumgardner, who made her pro debut in 2017, beat Mikaela Mayer in October to become the unified champion. Her goal since beating Terri Harper for the WBC and IBO titles in 2021 was to become undisputed.
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The only obstacle the 28-year-old faced was Hyun Mi Choi, the WBA champion. That option, for now, is no longer on the table.
Why isn’t Alycia Baumgardner fighting Hyun Mi Choi?
Choi (20-0-1) has held super-featherweight gold since 2013, when she beat Emiko Raika. She has defended the belt ten times, primarily in South Korea. Choi last fought in October, beating Vanessa Bradford via unanimous decision.
When Baumgardner beat Mayer, the WBA called for an undisputed fight as part of its “One Boxing” program. However, even when Mayer was champion, it was impossible to get a hold of Choi. There was a call for Choi to “fight or vacate” at some point.
Recently, Choi filed for a medical exception. She claimed she won’t be able to meet the WBA’s deadline for a fight. Per Boxing Scene, the WBA downgraded Choi to “Champion in Recess.” That opened the door for Baumgardner vs. Mekhaled to take place.
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“Based upon the [championship] Rules, and the finding of the WBA Medical Committee, the WBA places Ms. Hyun Mi Choi as Champion in Recess of the WBA World Female Super Featherweight division for a period no longer than the date of the medical clearance referred to below,” the WBA declared. “Ms. Baumgardner will contend for the vacant WBA title against the next leading available contender ranked by the WBA for a bout to take place no later than March 31st, 2023.”
Mekhaled (15-1) is ranked first overall in the WBA rankings, third in the WBC rankings, and ninth in the IBO rankings. An interim WBC super-featherweight champion, her last fight was a loss against Delfine Persoon in May 2022. Persoon was rumored to be a challenger for Baumgardner.
Per the WBA, if Choi becomes medically cleared to fight, she will be the next mandatory challenger for the WBA title. There is no timetable for her return.