Linares signs with Golden Boy

LAS VEGAS -- Golden Boy got the other Golden Boy.

Oscar De La Hoya, president of Golden Boy Promotions, announced Saturday the signing of junior lightweight titlist Jorge Linares, the 24-year-old Venezuelan prodigy who goes by "El Nino de Oro" -- "Golden Boy" in Spanish.

"He's a special fighter," De La Hoya said in making the announcement at a morning news conference in the Floyd Mayweather-Juan Manuel Marquez media center at the MGM Grand.

Linares (27-0, 18 KOs) has been based in Japan for the past several years and fighting for Akihiko Honda's Teiken Boxing, Japan's most influential promoter.

Honda will remain involved as Linares' co-promoter and will promote his defense against Mexico's Juan Carlos Salgado on Oct. 10 in Tokyo.

After that fight, Linares, who considers De La Hoya one of his boxing idols, will fight in the United States.

"I've enjoyed fighting for the fans in Japan, Mexico and Panama, but I'm ready to fight all the top names in the sport, and since they're fighting in the United States, I need to fight here too," Linares said through translator Robert Diaz, a Golden Boy matchmaker who has known Linares since he was a teen and was a significant factor in Linares' decision to sign with the company. "Golden Boy Promotions has promised to help get me the big fights and I can't wait to perform here and start adding some more titles to my collection."

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

"Anyone who has seen Jorge Linares fight knows that he is one of the best fighters in the world, pound-for-pound," De La Hoya said. "Unfortunately, too many people here in the Untied States haven't seen him fight, but we're going to change that and Jorge will finally get the attention and the big fights he deserves."

Like several American promoters, Golden Boy has had its eye on Linares for a few years.

Linares won his first world title in Las Vegas in July 2007 when he stopped former junior featherweight champion Oscar Larios in the 10th round of a one-sided fight to win a vacant featherweight belt.

The bout was on the Bernard Hopkins-Winky Wright card, which was promoted by Golden Boy. It didn't have a deal with Linares at the time, but put him on the card with the hope of signing him.

It took more than two years.

"This announcement is a long time coming," Linares said. "There were a lot of opportunities and calls from other promoters but the admiration I have for Oscar and the relationship I've had with [Diaz] made this come together."

Since beating Larios, however, Linares has only fought three times because of nagging injuries, which he seems to have put behind him.

Linares made one defense of his featherweight belt before relinquishing it to move up to junior lightweight, where he captured a vacant title via fifth-round knockout of Whyber Garcia in November 2008.

Linares made his first defense of that belt June 27, stopping Josafat Perez in the eighth round in Mexico.

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.