Vasiliy Lomachenko vs. Jorge Linares fight set for May at Madison Square Garden
The pound-for-pound king enters possibly his toughest test to date in lightweight title bout
It appears cooler heads have prevailed in the promotional and cable television divide that threatened pound-for-pound king Vasiliy Lomachenko an opportunity at arguably his toughest fight to date on paper.
Lomachenko (10-1, 8 KOs), the recognized junior lightweight champion, will indeed move up to 135 pounds to challenge WBA champion Jorge Linares (44-3, 27 KOs) on May 12 at New York's Madison Square Garden, according to reports from ESPN and the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday.
The fight will air at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN, after the network agreed to move a previously scheduled softball game. The initial holdup centered around HBO's plan to air a replay of the May 5 pay-per-view rematch between Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez at 10 p.m. ET, which would've pit competing shows featuring Golden Boy promoted fighters against each other had the two broadcasts overlapped as originally planned.
Instead, a difficult deal was finalized between Lomachenko's promoter Top Rank, which holds an exclusive television deal with ESPN, and Linares' representatives at Golden Boy (where he's co-promoted alongside Japan's Teiken Promotions). Golden Boy promotes its larger fights on HBO (Lomachenko's former network), but also holds a deal for smaller bouts on ESPN.
Lomachenko, 30, the sublime two-time Olympic gold medalist from Ukraine who set a boxing record for the fewest fights needed to win titles in two weight divisions, will return to MSG for the second straight time, only this time in the big arena. In December, "Hi-Tech" forced fellow former amateur star Guillermo Rigondeaux of Cuba in submission at the smaller MSG Theater venue, becoming the fourth straight Lomachenko opponent to willingly bow out of a fight before being stopped.
The veteran Linares is not only the biggest opponent Lomachenko will have faced, he also brings an incredible amount of craft and speed (along with a reach advantage) to the matchup. At 32, the native of Venezuela enters on a 13-fight win streak dating back to 2012, including eight straight wins in 135-pound title bouts.
Lomachenko adds his name to a suddenly loaded lightweight division, which includes unbeaten titleholders Robert Easter Jr. and Mikey Garcia, who also captured a 140-pound belt on Saturday.
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