has learned that the Mexico City-based sanctioning organization has initiated a voluntary negotiating period between representatives for Frank Sanchez and Agit Kabayel. Cuba’s Sanchez (24-0, 17 KOs) is the WBC’s second-ranked contender for Tyson Fury’s title and Germany’s Kabayel (24-0, 16 KOs) is ranked fourth. Anthony Joshua is the WBC’s number one-ranked heavyweight contender, but England’s Joshua (27-3, 24 KOs) could fight Croatian contender Filip Hrgovic (17-0, 14 KOs) later this year for the IBF title if the winner between Fury (34-0-1, 24 KOs) and Oleksandr Usyk (21-0, 14 KOs) on February 17 at Kingdom Arena in Riyadh is stripped of the IBF belt. Hrgovic is ranked number one by the IBF, two spots atop the third-rated Joshua, and the second spot is vacant.
Former WBO champ Joseph Parker (34-3, 23 KOs) is ranked third by the WBC, but he has a challenging fight scheduled for March 8 at Kingdom Arena. Parker will encounter gigantic Chinese southpaw Zhang Zhilei (26-1-1, 21 KOs), who owns the WBO interim championship, in the pay-per-view co-feature that night. If Parker were to beat Zhang, he would, as the WBO interim champ, be eliminated from the WBC’s rankings. If Parker loses to Zhang, he will presumably drop down in the WBC’s ratings. If Joshua, who will face Francis Ngannou in the main event March 8, and Parker are eliminated from the mix to fight for the WBC belt, an intriguing bout between Sanchez and Kabayel would determine the next mandatory challenger for the WBC title. Should their handlers reach an agreement with Saudi Arabia’s Turki Alalshikh, Sanchez-Kabayel could be part of a card preliminarily planned for June 1 at Kingdom Arena. Sanchez, 31, stopped New Zealand’s Junior Fa (20-3, 11 KOs) in the seventh round of their fight on the Joshua-Otto Wallin undercard December 23 at Kingdom Arena. Kabayel, also 31, recorded the most noteworthy win of his career later that night when he dropped previously unbeaten Russian contender Arslanbek Makhmudov (18-1, 17 KOs) three times, all with body shots, to win by fourth-round technical knockout. Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.