By Chris Williams
The contracts have been signed for the May 12th fight between WBA World lightweight champion Jorge Linares (44-3, 27 KOs) and Top Rank fighter Vasyl Lomachenko (10-1, 8 KOs) for a contest that will be televised on ESPN at Madison Square Garden in New York.
The undercard is still being worked on for the Linares-Lomachenko card. Former lightweight world title challenger Luke Campbell is being mentioned as one of the names on the undercard.
This will be a Top Rank promoted card. Linares’ co-promoters at Golden Boy were willing to work with Top Rank to make the Linares-Lomachenko fight happen despite the two promotional companies sometimes not Seeing Eye to eye at times. Top Rank promoter Bob Arum worked with Linares’ co-promoters at Teiken Promotions to get the fight put together. Golden Boy just needed to sign off on the fight.
This is a voluntary defense for Linares, so there will likely be a rematch clause in the contract in case he loses to Lomachenko. Linares is expected to lose this fight, as Lomachenko’s last four opponents have quit against him. It’s going to be tough for Linares to pull off an upset against Lomachenko. Linares will need to use his boxing brain, speed and a lot of movement to beat Lomachenko.
To get the Linares-Lomachenko deal done, ESPN agreed to televise the start time for the fight at 8:00 p.m. ET/5:00 p.m. PT. The reason for the early start of the Linares vs. Lomachenko card was so that it wouldn’t run at the same time as the Saul Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin replay on HBO, which starts at 10:00 p.m. ET/7:00 p.m. PT.
Linares has looked great recently with wins over Mercito Gesta, Luke Campbell, Anthony Crolla (x 2) and Kevin Mitchell. Top Rank has put together a deal to co-promote Campbell for his next three fights to match him with Lomachenko next year. Top Rank badly needs recognizable fighters to help build Lomachenko’s name. Once Linares is out of the way, Lomachenko will be looking at a barren division devoid of big names. Mikey Garcia is the most popular guy in the lightweight division at this time, but he says he’ll be fighting just one more time in the weight class before moving up to 140 and 147. Top Rank will need to try anything they can to scare up game for Lomachenko to fight at 135, and unfortunately there’s just nobody in the weight class that the casual boxing fans in the U.S have heard of.
Canelo fights Golovkin on May 5th on HBO pay-per-view. Golden Boy Promotions, the promoter for Canelo, doesn’t want to have the replay of his fight with Golovkin running at the same time as the Lomachenko vs. Linares fight. Having both fights televised at the same time on different networks wouldn’t work in Golden Boy’s favor. Initially, Top Rank was interested in having the Linares-Lomachenko fight air at the same time as the Canelo-GGG 2 replay, but Golden Boy wasn’t interested in that idea. They weren’t going to let Linares take the fight with Lomachenko if it meant that it would compete with the Canelo vs. Golovkin replay.
The 29-year-old Lomachenko will be moving up from super featherweight to challenge the 32-year-old Linares for his WBA 135 lb. strap. Lomachenko will be looking to capture hi third division world title. He’s previously won titles at featherweight and super featherweight. He’s decided to move up to lightweight to go after bigger fights. In truth, there aren’t any big names at lightweight other than Linares and Mikey Garcia, who has made it clear that he won’t fight Lomachenko. The bigger fights for Lomachenko will be at 140 if he dares to move up to that weight class. Even at 140, Lomachenko would need a popular welterweight like Manny Pacquiao to come down to that weight for a fight with Lomachenko to happen. Lomachenko won’t get the talented welterweights like Errol Spence Jr., Keith Thurman and Shawn Porer to melt down to 140 to fight Lomachenko.
Golden Boy is expected to pair the HBO televised Canelo-Golovkin 2 replay with a title fight between WBO junior middleweight champion Sadam Ali and his mandatory challenger Liam Smith. It’s a good match-up. Ali recently defeated Miguel Cotto last year to capture the WBO 154 lb. title.