The WBO has ordered its welterweight champion, Terence Crawford, to start negotiations for a mandatory defense against Alexis Rocha, ranked No. 3 by the organization.
In a letter sent to both sides Monday, the WBO stated that the parties have 20 days to "reach an agreement" for the bout. If no agreement is reached, the fight will go to a purse bid.
"Terence Crawford's mandatory defense window has expired, he needs to do his mandatory [fight], since he hasn't done one since he fought against Shawn Porter [in November 2021]. Crawford fought [David] Avanesyan, but that wasn't a mandatory defense," Francisco "Paco" Valcarcel, the WBO president, told ESPN on Tuesday.
Crawford (39-0, 30 KOs), a promotional free agent after leaving Top Rank when his contract expired following the Porter fight, defeated Avanesyan by sixth-round KO on Dec. 10. Crawford has fought only two times since he defeated Kell Brook by fourth-round TKO in November 2020.
Rocha (22-1, 14 KOs), promoted by Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy, stopped George Ashie in the seventh round on Jan. 28. He has accumulated six straight victories -- four by stoppage -- since suffering the only defeat of his career, a unanimous decision to Rashidi Ellis in October 2020. His best win was a ninth-round KO victory over then undefeated Blair Cobbs in March 2022.
With Vergil Ortiz Jr., the WBO No. 1 challenger, scheduled to face Eimantas Stanionis on April 29, and Keith Thurman, No. 2, attached to a possible fight against unified welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. at junior middleweight, Rocha was the next opponent in line for Crawford.
"Rocha is our NABO champion and he's a great fighter. Don't believe for a second that he's a soft opponent [for Crawford]," Valcarcel said. "People talk, but Rocha is a tremendous fighter, he's young and he's learning fast. Crawford is a super-gifted athlete, but in boxing nothing is written in stone."
Crawford and Spence have been circling for years to fight for the undisputed championship -- one of the best and biggest fights boxing can offer -- but that mega-event never materialized and with Spence moving up in weight, chances are, we won't see Crawford-Spence anytime soon.
ESPN was unable to obtain a comment from either Golden Boy or Crawford on Tuesday morning.