Jorge Linares stripped of lightweight belt

Jorge Linares, sidelined with a fractured right hand and unable to make a mandatory defense that is due, has been stripped of his lightweight world title, although he will be able to fight for the belt immediately upon his return.

Linares, also a former featherweight and junior lightweight world titleholder, fractured his hand earlier this month while training for the mandatory defense against Dejan Zlaticanin -- which was supposed to take place on a date to be determined in April and be televised on Showtime.

With Linares recovering from the injury, the WBC has vacated the title and reclassified him as a so-called "champion in recess," which means he can fight for the 135-pound belt in his first fight back when he is ready to return if he wants to.

WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman said Tuesday that Zlaticanin would be ordered to face the next leading available contender, 39-year-old Italian Emiliano Marsili (32-0-1, 14 KOs), for the vacant title. "The winner must fight Linares whenever he is ready to fight," Sulaiman said.

Linares (40-3, 27 KOs), 30, of Venezuela, won the vacant title 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 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 Linares' mandatory challenger. Zlaticanin also owns quality wins against former lightweight and junior lightweight titlist Ricky Burns and 2014 ESPN Boxcino champion Petr Petrov.

Marsili is an obscure fighter, although he won a unanimous decision against former junior lightweight titleholder Gamaliel Diaz in his last fight, which took place in August in Italy.