Willibaldo Garcia, Israel ‘Jiga’ Gonzalez Sent Invitation To Enter IBF Title Eliminator

Boxing Scene

Israel ‘Jiga’ Gonzalez has a decision to make while deep in camp for his next fight.

BoxingScene.com has confirmed that the junior bantamweight contender is in line to enter a title eliminator versus Mexico’s Willibaldo Garcia Perez. The two boxers—who are ranked number five and six, respectively, in the IBF 115-pound ratings—were given a 72-hour period to confirm their availability for a fight to determine the mandatory challenger to current IBF junior bantamweight title holder Fernando ‘Puma’ Martinez.

“In an effort to determine who the mandatory challenger will be, the IBF is ordering an elimination bout between Willibaldo Garcia Perez and Israel Gonzalez for the number 1 position,” IBF Championship Committee chairman Carlos Ortiz stated to the promoters for both boxers in a letter obtained by Boxing Scene. “The winner will be #1 and the mandatory challenger.

“Within 3 days of October 10, 2023 or no later than October 13, 2023 you should contact this office in writing advising your availability. In the event we do not hear from you in writing by 5 PM EST on October 13, 2023 we will assume that you do not wish to participate in this eliminator process and proceed down the list of rankings to the next available contender.”

The ordered title fight will permit Argentina’s Martinez (16-0. 9KOs) to make a voluntary title defense. The unbeaten boxer won the belt in a twelve-round decision over long-reigning champ Jerwin Ancajas last February. His first defense was a repeat and even more dominant win over the Filipino in their rematch last October before he disposed of the Philippines’ Jade Bornea via eleventh-round knockout in their June 26 mandatory title fight.

Garcia is promoted by Pedro Moran’s Big Star Boxing. Gonzalez is represented by Sean ‘VIVA’ Gibbons.

Interestingly, the order comes as Mexico’s Gonzalez (28-5-2, 11KOs) is already scheduled for his next fight.

The 28-year-old former four-time title challenger is due to face countryman Luis Castro (19-7-3, 13KOs) on November 4 in his Cabo San Lucas hometown. Gonzalez can still accept the IBF’s invitation since the fight is already scheduled, which would not violate IBF Rule 9(c), which states that “neither boxer is permitted to enter another bout once the sanctioning body assigns them to a title fight or eliminator. Refusal to participate in the negotiation period or the fight itself will result in a demotion within the rankings and a minimum of six (6) months before said boxer will be eligible to fight in an IBF-sanctioned contest.”

Gonzalez has suffered defeats in all four career title bids.

He was stopped In the tenth-round of a February 2018 challenge of Ancajas’ IBF title, and dropped decision defeats to then-unbeaten Khalid Yafai in June 2019, the legendary Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez in October 2020 and to unbeaten Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez last September. In his most recent start, Gonzalez was held to a ten-round draw with Jonathan Rodriguez on July 7 in Monterrey, Mexico.

Still, he advanced into the title eliminator picture when a similarly offered opportunity was declined by former three-division titlist Kosei Tanaka (19-1, 11KOs). The IBF sent the same letter to Tanaka and Garcia in September, but it is widely speculated that Tanaka is waiting out the title status of countryman Junto Nakatani who may soon vacate his WBO junior bantamweight title.  

Garcia (20-5-1, 12KOs) does not boast a glossy record though two of his losses have come versus fighters who went on to win major titles.The 33-year-old Mexican contender from Copala, Guerrero has won eight in a row since a June 2021 defeat to England’s Paul Butler, a former IBF bantamweight titlist at the time who won the WBO belt one fight later. Among his current stretch of victories is an eighth-round knockout of Marion Rios on April 22 with an IBF regional title at stake to advance in the rankings and into contention.

Garcia also dropped a September 2020 majority decision to countryman Alexandro Santiago, who went on to win and currently holds the WBC bantamweight title.

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox

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