Light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol is not eligible to fight for the WBC title because of ongoing sanctions for Russian and Belarusian fighters, WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman told ESPN on Monday.

The WBC, like other sanctioning bodies in the sport, have chosen not to recognize champions or rank fighters from those countries following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, for which Belarus is a key staging area.

This means Bivol would not be eligible to win the WBC belt in a potential undisputed light heavyweight bout against Artur Beterbiev.

“This is absolutely sports-directed,” Sulaiman told ESPN. “There is no boxing in Ukraine because of the invasion. So as long as there’s no boxing in Ukraine, we cannot simply overlook and state that there’s boxing in Russia or Belarus from the WBC. “

The sanctioning body’s president cited the regulation that was enacted at the WBC’s annual convention last year.

Starting with a win over Trent Broadhurst in 2017, Bivol has successfully defended the WBA’s top 175-pound belt since the sanctioning body promoted him to champion. That run includes a convincing 2022 win over Canelo Alvarez, the undisputed super middleweight champion.

Bivol’s nationality is listed as Russian in the WBA rankings. Beterbiev is also Russian and holds the other three major belts (IBF, WBC, WBO) at light heavyweight.

Sulaiman said fighters are eligible to request a review of their specific case. Regarding Beterbiev, Sulaiman said the WBC’s light heavyweight champion has been living in Canada for the last 15 years, carries a Canadian passport and has a Canadian boxing commission license.

“That is why the WBC took a specific look at Beterbiev and decided to have that as consideration,” Sulaiman told ESPN. “We have had a few other requests. The world believes in peace and it is very unfortunate to see what is happening in that part of the world.”

Sulaiman said no such request has been made by Bivol or on his behalf.

The WBA in 2022 banned Russia and Belarus flags during ring walks and removed those nationalities from pre-fight introductions, as well as prohibited the playing of those countries’ national anthems.

Before Russia invaded Ukraine, Bivol’s hometown was listed as St. Petersburg, Russia. But in his last two bouts, including the victory over Alvarez, he was listed with a residence in Indio, California.

Bivol has spoken out against the invasion, which Russia calls a “special military operation.”

“It’s really sad for me,” Bivol said at a news conference in March 2022. “Every day I wake up and read the news and I hope it will stop.”

Beterbiev and Bivol are considered the Nos. 1 and No. 2 fighters in the division, respectively, according to ESPN’s rankings. Neither fighter’s next bout has been announced.

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Dmitry Bivol not eligible for belt due to Russia sanctions, WBC says