Top Rank promoter Bob Arum has certainly had his well-chronicled battles with Oscar De La Hoya of Golden Boy Promotions and HBO Sports boss Peter Nelson, but they were able to put their considerable differences aside, at least momentarily, and get one of the premier fights in boxing finalized: lightweight world champion Jorge Linares against junior lightweight titlist and pound-for-pound king Vasyl Lomachenko.
The fight, which will take place on May 12 at Madison Square Garden in New York and headline a Top Rank ESPN card (ESPN and ESPN Deportes, 8 p.m. ET), was made official on Wednesday.
"This is the fight that boxing fans wanted. This will be a super fight between two of the best champions," Linares said. "Not only will I demonstrate why I'm the best lightweight in the world, but also that I'm one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. I have the speed, skill and power to win this battle. This May 12, Vasiliy Lomachenko will bow down to 'King' Jorge."
Venezuela's Linares (44-3, 27 KOs), 32, who fights out of Las Vegas, is a three-division world titleholder and will be making his the fourth defense of his second title reign at lightweight. He will be seeking his 14th win in a row against Lomachenko (10-1, 8 KOs), a 30-year southpaw who is moving up in weight and can win a title in a third weight class in the fewest number of bouts in history.
"We are very excited about the fight. It should be a great one," said Lomachenko, the two-time Olympic gold medalist from Ukraine who has made his past four consecutive opponents quit. "Fans from around the world have been waiting for Jorge and me to fight. We appreciate the work Top Rank did to put this fight together, and thanks to the television networks that helped make it happen. I am looking forward to May 12 in New York to make my debut in the big arena at Madison Square Garden."
Arum, aligned with ESPN, wanted to make the fight and Golden Boy was open to it but it nearly fell apart over the date because Golden Boy has another event on the same night on HBO, when Sadam Ali defends his junior middleweight belt for the first time against former titlist Liam Smith.
That put Golden Boy in a tough spot with Nelson, who counts Golden Boy as his network's chief fight supplier, and he had also bought Linares' past two fights.
But when Top Rank and ESPN agreed to move the telecast start time back to 8 p.m., it meant that it would not conflict with HBO's telecast that night, due to start at 10 p.m. ET/PT, and that worked for everyone involved.
"This fight marks a significant step forward for one of the greatest fighters we've seen, Vasiliy Lomachenko, as he goes up in weight once again to fight the best lightweight in the world, Jorge Linares," said Arum, who then doled out a rare compliment to Nelson, whom he has attacked regularly for months. "I want to thank everyone involved for making this happen, particularly Peter Nelson of HBO and the Golden Boy team, whose cooperation made this fight possible. This demonstrates that promoters and networks, when they work together for the good of everyone, can accomplish so very much."
De La Hoya said that by making the fight he was sticking to his long-running mantra of trying to make the best fights regardless of the promotional or television entities involved.
"Jorge has established himself as the world's best lightweight by taking on any and all comers over his storied career, but a win on May 12 would put him on an entirely different level," De La Hoya said. "We fully understand that Lomachenko is universally seen as the best fighter on the planet, but he's never faced anyone with the size and skill of Jorge. As this fight makes clear, I'm 100 percent committed to giving fans the fights they want to see and will work with anyone to accomplish that goal."