Lightweight world titleholder Jorge Linares suffered a fractured right hand in a training session this week, forcing him to withdraw from a mandatory defense against Dejan Zlaticanin, Golden Boy vice president Eric Gomez told ESPN.com on Thursday.
Linares-Zlaticanin did not have a site or date, but it was set to take place in April on a Showtime-televised card being promoted by Lou DiBella, Zlaticanin's promoter, who made a deal with Golden Boy to put on the fight.
Gomez said Golden Boy was awaiting Linares' medical report to see how long Linares would be sidelined, and also so he could pass it on to WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman, who will have to decide how to handle the situation.
It is possible that Linares could be stripped of the belt and that Zlaticanin would be ordered to face Emiliano Marsili (32-0-1, 14 KOs), 39, of Italy, the next leading available contender, for the vacant title, with Linares having the opportunity to face the winner upon his return.
An irritated DiBella said he did not think Linares really wanted the fight and that the fighter and Golden Boy were looking to fight for another organization's title rather than take on the dangerous Zlaticanin.
"I was told by people on my side of the table this fight wouldn't happen when we made the deal and now it's not happening," DiBella said. "The whole way everything went down makes me skeptical. But we hope to fight Linares and the proof will be in the pudding. When he is ready to come back will he fight us? We'll see. If he doesn't, there you go. This is very disappointing."
Gomez said that Linares very much wanted the fight.
"Linares wants the fight," he said. "He was fine with the fight. In fact, he kept calling us and asking us 'When's the fight?' We kept leaning on Lou for the date and he kept saying he was working it out with Showtime. Linares was anxious for the fight."
Linares (40-3, 27 KOs), 30, of Venezuela, won the vacant 135-pound belt in December 2014 by fourth-round knockout of Javier Prieto and defended it twice in 2015.
In May, he traveled to England and survived a knockdown to rally for a 10th-round knockout of Kevin Mitchell in a blazing action battle that was a fight of the year contender.
In December, Linares, a former featherweight and junior lightweight titleholder, fought in Venezuela for the first time since 2010 and knocked out Ivan Cano in the fourth round of a dominant performance.
Zlaticanin (21-0, 14 KOs), 31, of Montenegro, was very impressive in his last fight, in June, when he bombed out highly touted Ivan Redkach in a fourth-round knockout victory on Showtime for an upset to become the mandatory challenger.
Zlaticanin also owns quality wins against former lightweight and junior lightweight titlist Ricky Burns and 2014 ESPN Boxcino champion Petr Petrov.