Pound-for-pound king Vasiliy Lomachenko is bringing his talents back to the left coast.
Lomachenko (12-1, 9 KOs), fresh off a trio of victories at New York's Madison Square Garden, will make his debut appearance headlining the Staples Center in Los Angeles when he defends his WBA and WBO lightweight titles against mandatory challenger Anthony Crolla (34-6-3, 13 KOs) on Friday, April 12. The fight will air on ESPN+ (11 p.m. ET), coinciding with the one-year anniversary of the streaming network, and will also feature former super middleweight titleholder Gilberto "Zurdo" Ramirez in his 175-pound debut in the co-main event. Airing the card on Friday allows it to avoid competing with ESPN's undercard coverage of UFC 236 the following night.
A two-time Olympic gold medalist from Ukraine, Lomachenko returns to southern California where he trains and lives for the first time since defending his 130-pound title against Miguel Marriaga in 2017 at the Microsoft Theater across from Staples Center. Lomachenko also won his first world title in nearby Carson in 2014 by outpointing Gary Russell Jr. at featherweight.
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"Los Angeles boxing fans are passionate and knowledgeable, and I look forward to putting on a spectacular show for them at Staples Center," Lomachenko said. "Crolla is my mandatory challenger, and I like that he always comes to fight. He's going to make the most of this opportunity."
Lomachenko, 31, was expected to face IBF champion Richard Commey in a lightweight unification bout until Commey injured his right hand in a second-round knockout of Isa Chaniev on Feb. 2. A native of England, the 32-year-old Crolla became the WBA mandatory by defeating Daud Jordan by decision in November.
Crolla, a heavy underdog who is promoted by Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Sport, will get a chance to fight for the WBA title he lost to Jorge Linares in their first of two fights in 2016.
"I cannot wait for this. These are the fights you are in the sport for," Crolla said. "People will say that I have got nothing to lose, but I am genuinely going over to LA to shock the world. I will concentrate on me.
"Firstly, I have to make sure the best Anthony Crolla turns up that night. I'm not worried about that. Preparing for Lomachenko is hard because he's so unorthodox. He's that good that when he does something wrong he gets away with it. You wouldn't teach some of the things that he does. He's so unique in that respect."
Lomachenko stopped Linares late in one of the best fights of 2018 last May. He came back in December to take a hard-fought decision from a determined Jose Pedraza in their unification bout.