Mikey Garcia, who has won world titles in four weight divisions and is regarded as one of boxing's pound-for-pound best, vacated his lightweight belt on Thursday.
The WBC, whose title Garcia held, also announced that it has given Garcia the rare designation of "champion emeritus," meaning that should Garcia decide to return to the 135-pound weight class, he can immediately challenge for the title.
Garcia has won belts at featherweight, junior lightweight, lightweight and junior welterweight. He had hoped to win a title in a fifth division on March 16 when he moved up two divisions from lightweight to welterweight to challenge Errol Spence Jr. in one of the year's biggest fights. But Spence was too much for Garcia and won a shutout decision at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
After the fight, Garcia (39-1, 30 KOs), 31, of Moreno Valley, California, said he was unsure what his next move would be. But with Garcia having not defended the lightweight belt since outpointing Robert Easter Jr. in a title unification fight last July, and his mandatory defense against Luke Campbell due, Garcia elected to vacate.
"I've been speaking with (WBC president) Mauricio Sulaiman, and I know the organization requires the champion to defend their title, and I haven't had the opportunity to do that. Not that I wouldn't want to. I would love to be able to defend my title, but there are also other options that I am exploring," Garcia said during an appearance on "Inside PBC Boxing" on Wednesday night.
Later in the interview, Garcia said, "I'm going to vacate the title. I don't plan on fighting right now, my next fight, at 135."
And so on Thursday he vacated. He said the reason was because he wanted to "look at options at 147 (pounds)."
The biggest fight that can be made at lightweight would be a three-belt unification fight between Garcia and pound-for-pound king Vasiliy Lomachenko. It's a match both fighters have said they want but that is a complicated deal because they fight on different broadcast platforms. Garcia left open the door for a possible return to lightweight but that appears to be unlikely.
"It's hard to say definite. For the moment we are (done at lightweight). For the moment," he said. "My next fight's not going to be at lightweight and that's the reason why I will vacate the title. My next fight will not be at lightweight therefore the title will be vacant.
"I want to see what options are available at 140 or 147 for my return fight. But I do want to pursue another title shot at 147. I really do. So at that time we'll see who is available, which champion is available and willing to give me a shot. My next fight might be at 140. It might be at 147. I'm not sure yet. I got to explore those options. I want big fights. If I can get another title shot next I would do it. Probably not going to happen but I would definitely jump on a title opportunity. I do want a fifth world title in a fifth division."
The WBC did not specify the fight it would order to fill the vacancy, but Campbell (20-2, 16 KOs), 31, a 2012 Olympic gold medalist from England, will be on half of that fight.
"The WBC Board of Governors will review the lightweight division to order a fight for the WBC lightweight world championship involving mandatory challenger Luke Campbell in the coming days," the WBC said.
Campbell lost his only world title shot by split decision to Jorge Linares in September 2017 and has won three fights in a row since to earn his position as the mandatory challenger for the WBC belt.
The WBC will go down its lightweight rankings to find a contender willing to negotiate the bout with Campbell. Behind Campbell in the ratings are Russia's Zaur Abdullaev (11-0, 7 KOs) followed by Americans Devon Haney (21-0, 13 KOs) and Teofimo Lopez Jr. (13-0, 11 KOs), the 2018 ESPN prospect of the year.