Junior bantamweight world titleholder Khalid Yafai is headed to the United States for the first time to defend his belt with the longer-range plan being a unification fight with fellow titlist Jerwin Ancajas later in the year.
Yafai, of England, will defend his 115-pound belt for the third time when he faces Mexico's David Carmona on May 26 at a site in the United States to be determined, Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti told ESPN on Thursday.
Moretti said although the fight is not yet signed he made a deal with Yafai promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing and that they are exchanging the paperwork for the fight that will serve as the co-feature for the mandatory fight between Ancajas and Jonas Sultan. Both fights will stream live on ESPN+, the ESPN subscription streaming service that launched on April 12.
Moretti said should Ancajas and Yafai retain their titles, Top Rank and Hearn hope to match them later in the year in a unification bout in one of boxing's deepest divisions.
"I have made a deal with Eddie for the fight and it gives us a nice doubleheader," Moretti said. "They are both good fights, and if (Ancajas and Yafai) are successful, we'll look to match them later this year."
The 28-year-old Yafai (23-0, 14 KOs) won a vacant belt by unanimous decision against Luis Concepcion in December 2016. Concepcion had been stripped of the title the previous day for being 2½ pounds overweight. Yafai has since defended his title against Suguru Muranaka and Sho Ishida, obscure opponents that have done little to raise his profile. But the prospect of a unification fight with Ancajas would go a long way to raising the profile of both fighters.
Carmona (21-5-5, 9 KOs), 26, of Mexico, has faced quality opposition. Though he lost, he went the distance challenging then-junior bantamweight world titleholder Naoya Inoue in Japan in May 2016 and former titlist Carlos Cuadras in 10-rounder in 13 months ago on the Gennady Golovkin-Daniel Jacobs pay-per-view undercard at Madison Square Garden in New York.
"Carmona went the distance with Inoue and that says something," Moretti said. "It should be an entertaining and competitive fight."
The Ancajas-Sultan fight was finalized a few weeks ago and will be the first world title fight between fighters from the Philippines since then-flyweight world champion Pancho Villa, a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, retained his title by unanimous 15-round decision against countryman Clever Sencio on May 2, 1925 in Manila.
Ancajas (29-1-1, 20 KOs), a 26-year-old southpaw, will be making his fourth title defense. He is coming off a dominant 10th-round knockout of Israel Gonzalez on Feb. 3 in Corpus Christi, Texas, on a Top Rank on ESPN undercard. That fight was Ancajas' American debut.
Sultan (14-3, 9 KOs), 26, has won five fights in a row including victories against former world titleholders Sonny Boy Jaro and John Riel Casimero in 2017. A unanimous decision victory against Casimero in September came in a title elimination fight to earn the shot at Ancajas.
"I think bringing Ancajas back in an all-Filipino matchup should be interesting in and out of the ring and when you couple that with Yafai in another title fight where we hope to match them later in the year if they win makes for a very good show," Moretti said.