John Thompson, a long shot who won the eight-man ESPN Boxcino junior middleweight tournament in May, is getting an unexpected shot at a world title.
Thompson will take on England's Liam Smith for a vacant 154-pound world title on Oct. 10 at the Manchester Arena in Manchester, England, promoter Frank Warren announced Monday.
Smith was scheduled to face France's Michel Soro -- a fight announced last week -- for the belt recently stripped from Demetrius Andrade because of inactivity. According to Soro promoter Top Rank, his management ultimately turned down the fight, which paved the way for Thompson, the next leading available contender in the WBO rankings, to get the shot.
"I am ecstatic at the opportunity," Thompson said. "I will look to take advantage of it, and [I am] ready to win and become world champion. It won't feel like fighting the road. I have family in Scotland who will be at the fight. I've been there before, and that was a pleasure trip. I am coming this time for business."
Smith-Thompson is one of three world title bouts on the card, which also includes Ireland's Andy Lee (34-2-1, 24 KOs) in a mandatory defense of his middleweight belt against England's Billy Joe Saunders (22-0, 12 KOs) in the main event. Lightweight titleholder Terry Flanagan (28-0, 11 KOs), who is from Manchester, will make his first defense, also mandatory, against Las Vegas contender Diego Magdaleno (28-1, 12 KOs).
Thompson (17-1, 6 KOs), of Newark, New Jersey, won all three of his Boxcino bouts despite not coming aboard until the day before the quarterfinals, when, as an alternate, he was pressed into service because Cleotis Pendarvis was dropped from the field after failing to make weight.
The 26-year-old Thompson claimed a six-round unanimous decision against Ricardo Pinell in the February quarterfinals and an eight-round split decision against Stanyslav Skorokhod in the April semifinals. Thompson survived a first-round knockdown to rally for a second-round knockout of Brandon Adams to win the tournament May 22.
Smith (20-0-1, 10 KOs), 27, is the reigning British junior middleweight champion and a former Commonwealth titleholder. In his most recent fight, Smith knocked out David Ezequiel Romero on April 18 in his hometown of Liverpool, England.
"I don't care who's in front of me," Smith said. "Nobody is going to stop me from winning the world title. I'm not bothered about Soro [dropping out]. All I care about is Thompson and beating him and getting that belt around my waist.
"I've seen Thompson before, as I keep my eye on everyone in the division, as I might one day fight them. He's tall [6-foot-1] and strong and can obviously bang a bit with his big upset in the Boxcino tournament. I'm more excited to be fighting an American, as they bring that extra spice to the ring, and it's going to be cracker for the fans and viewers on BoxNation."
Soro (27-1-1, 17 KOs), 27, of France, fought for the world title in 2012 but lost a unanimous decision to Zaurbek Baysangurov in Ukraine. Soto went 9-0-1 in his next 10 fights to put himself in position for the title shot, including his two most notable victories in his past two bouts: a fourth-round knockout of Glen Tapia on May 8, followed by an eighth-round knockout of Emanuele Blandamura to win the vacant European middleweight title June 20.
"Having agreed and confirmed a deal with Soro's promoter and then having announced the fight, I was very disappointed to hear there was an internal disagreement between [Soro] and his promoter," Warren said. "We didn't wish to be involved in this dispute and wait any longer for this to be resolved, which would have held up the WBO title and Liam fighting for it. Therefore we sought approval from the WBO for the next available contender, which was John Thompson, who jumped at the chance to fight for the world title.
"We're still over six weeks away, so Liam can adjust his training and strategy for Thompson, who's a tall, tough fighter and will be looking to cause a big upset by defeating Liam."
Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti told ESPN.com that Soro's management rejected the fight with Smith because of displeasure over the purse.
"We offered their team all the money there was in the pot from Frank," Moretti said. "The management thought it wasn't enough. It's unfortunate because we all thought this was an easier fight than Tapia and for a world title. Usually, the fighter is the one who suffers the most when decisions are made for him instead of with him."