Welterweight contender Lucas Matthysse and lightweight world champion Jorge Linares will box on the same card Jan. 27 at the Forum in Inglewood, California, Golden Boy Promotions announced on Monday.
Matthysse will face unbeaten Tewa Kiram for a vacant regular world title in the main event and Linares will defend his world title against Mercito Gesta in the co-feature of the 2018 debut of HBO's "Boxing After Dark" (10:20 p.m. ET/PT).
While Matthysse (38-4, 35 KOs) and Linares (43-3, 27 KOs) rank among boxing's most exciting fighters, neither is facing a significant opponent.
Kiram (38-0, 28 KOs), 25, of Thailand, has a tremendous record but has never faced a remotely top opponent, nor has he ever boxed outside of his home country. Gesta (31-1-2, 17 KOs), 30, a Philippines native fighting out of San Diego, lost badly the only time he stepped up in opposition, getting schooled by then-lightweight world titleholder Miguel Vazquez in a one-sided decision loss in 2012. Since then, Gesta has fought only six times, going 5-0-1 against non-descript opposition.
Matthysse, however, is excited to get a chance to fight for a belt, even if it's a second-tier title to unified titleholder Keith Thurman's.
"I am honored to be able to fight for a world championship in just my second fight at welterweight," said Matthysse, a former junior welterweight interim titlist, who owns wins against Lamont Peterson, Ruslan Provodnikov and Humberto Soto. "I understand I am facing a younger, undefeated opponent, but I am confident that 'The Machine' will emerge victorious."
After getting stopped in the 10th round by Viktor Postol in a junior welterweight title fight -- and suffering an eye injury in the October 2015 bout -- Matthysse, 35, of Argentina, didn't fight again until May. That's when he moved up to welterweight and looked good in a dominant fifth-round knockout of Emmanuel Taylor on the Canelo Alvarez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. undercard.
Although unknown outside of his country, Kiram, who turned pro at age 15, said American fans will know him by the end of the fight with the big-punching Matthysse.
"I understand not many people know me in the U.S., but they are in for a big surprise on Jan. 27," said Kiram, who is aiming to become the first fighter from Thailand to win a welterweight belt. "I have never been defeated, and I am fully confident that I will return to Thailand with the WBA welterweight world championship around my waist."
Said Taweesin Terry Laosuwanwat, Kiram's promoter, "Thailand has never had a welterweight world champion before. We are making history here, and Tewa will do anything to win this fight. Tewa has never lost before, and he will keep his undefeated record against Matthysse."
Thurman holds the WBA's so-called "super" title and the organization has said repeatedly it would no longer sanction multiple titles in the same weight class but went against its word with the sanctioning of his bout.
Linares, 32, of Venezuela, who has also won world titles at featherweight and junior lightweight, will be making his third title defense when he fights Gesta four months after he turned back a stiff challenge from mandatory challenger Luke Campbell to win a decision, also at the Forum, on HBO on Sept. 23.
"I have traveled all over the world to win and defend my titles, and I am looking forward to having my hand raised in victory once again in America," Linares said. "I know that Gesta has speed and power, but he hasn't been at this level before, and on Jan. 27, he'll know what it's like to face a world champion."
Gesta said he knows he is in for a tough challenge.
"I know firsthand how long it takes to get a shot at a world championship, and I will not allow this opportunity to pass me by," he said. "I understand Linares is a great fighter, but I know I have the skills, speed, power and great coaching, which will get my hand raised in victory."