Commonwealth and European light welterweight champion Junior Witter is another Hennessy Sports fighter set for a massive 2006 after being officially installed by the WBC as the mandatory contender to their light welterweight champion Floyd Mayweather. A purse bid was due to be held today for his contest against Gianluca Branco to establish who would fill that position, but the Bradford switch hitter woke up to a letter from the governing body this morning that read:
"You have been officially appointed as mandatory challenger for the super lightweight division as per the agreement at our convention in October, since Gianluca Branco has withdrawn from the final elimination bout ordered by the WBC."
It added: The WBC is very proud of you; you participated in an elimination bout beating Lovemore N’Dou in a great fight and we would like to wish you the best of luck in your career."
Branco has opted to fight WBO champion Miguel Cotto rather than face Witter.
It was a turn of events predicted by Hennessy Sports head Mick Hennessy, who duly sought assurances from the WBC at their convention in Cadiz last year that should the Italian withdraw, his man automatically be given the right to challenge Mayweather.
It comes at the end of a good week for the promotional company. They had already secured Howard Eastman a final eliminator for the IBF middleweight title, Carl Froch the #6 position in the super middleweight rankings with the WBC and Lenny Daws a final eliminator for the British light welterweight title.
Witter, who actually vacated the British light welterweight title yesterday, is understandably upbeat. "I’m really happy to finally have the mandatory position," he said. "Fighting for the WBC title will mean the world to me. It’s the belt everyone wants; it’s the dream.
"That’s why I have patiently gone about earning my shot and remained very loyal to the WBC, despite being presented with other opportunities.
"Thanks to my promoter Mick Hennessy, they have recognised this. This is a result of Mick fighting my corner at their convention in Spain last year. He told them Branco would go missing and he did.
"I’m glad he is finally out of the picture. He has pulled out of fights before. He was supposed to fight me a while back for the European, but pulled out. He was then next to me in the WBC rankings, but was withdrawn because he was supposed to fight Cotto.
"That fight didn’t happen, so he was put back in the WBC rankings and mandated to fight me. Now he has pulled out again. He has swerved me at world and European level. He must know I will knock him out, even though he started talking big a while back when I said he was scared of his own shadow. Let’s hope he goes through with this latest world title shot."
Witter, who’s only defeat came in November 2000 when as a novice he took then IBF champion Zab Judah the distance on seven days notice, now has bigger fish than Branco to fry. Next up could be ‘Pretty Boy’ Floyd Mayweather, regarded by many as the world’s best pound for pound, although his next move remains unclear.
"I’ve given up predicting what fighters are going to do, but I hope Mayweather sticks around," Witter added. "Even though he is the toughest fight out there I want him and genuinely believe I can beat him.
"I think he is a brilliant fighter and has grown into the light welterweight division much better than I thought he would do, but his chin still hasn’t been tested by a proper puncher at the weight like me. I have been a light welterweight since I was 16.
"I am stronger than anybody else he has ever fought. I would build on that by getting myself into fantastic condition. This is the fight I need to motivate myself. If it happens I am going to go into a training camp in America. My focus will be unbelievable.
"It would be a very skilful, technical fight. He is a great thinking fighter, but I know that I will catch him. Then I wouldn’t let him get off the hook. I would jump on him."
Should Mayweather vacate, Witter will meet a co-challenger for the vacant WBC crown. There is no potential foe that worries him.
"I don’t mind who I have to fight if Mayweather does go elsewhere, as long as it’s soon," he continued. "I am confident I can beat any 140lb fighter in the world. Maybe Zab Judah could step in. That might make for an interesting rematch if he comes back down to light welterweight now that he has been beaten. It would be a whole different affair this time round. I have championship experience now and would get notice this time. I would knock him out."
With this development, the Ingle trained fighter could be forgiven for letting his mind race forward to a unification match against long time rival Ricky Hatton. He’s having none of it.
"I’m not thinking that far ahead," he stressed. "I want to get that green belt round my waist first. Mayweather has to fight me before the end of June and I will start making decisions after that. I am sure that there will be plenty of opportunities once I am champion, but I will leave Mick to handle that."