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Vasiliy Lomachenko-Jorge Linares title bout lands on ESPN

Updated March 23, 2018 - 3:40 pm

When negotiations stalled between Vasiliy Lomachenko’s and Jorge Linares’ promoters over a disagreement on the fight date, boxing fans moved on from the dream match.

It wasn’t going to happen. They had been down this road before. This was a common fight away from the ring between Top Rank’s Bob Arum and Golden Boy Promotions’ Oscar De La Hoya. They’ve had many squabbles, and now both belong to different TV networks.

“They said that was impossible,” Arum said of coming to an agreement.

Yup, wasn’t going to happen. Better to not get hurt. Look forward to Saul “Canelo” Alvarez-Gennady Golovkin II.

But then someone had the grand idea of moving the highly desired bout an hour earlier. Those extra 60 minutes made the impossible possible. A miracle in the boxing world.

Lomachenko (10-1, eight knockouts) will move up to lightweight and challenge long-reigning WBA champion Linares (44-3, 27 KOs) on an ESPN-televised main event May 12 at Madison Square Garden in New York. Linares, a Las Vegas resident, is a plus 550 underdog against Lomachenko at William Hill sports books.

The bout will air at 5 p.m. and lead into Golden Boy Promotions’ HBO card at 7 featuring the Alvarez-Golovkin replay of their May 5 pay-per-view match and the junior middleweight title fight between Sadam Ali and Liam Smith.

“It ended up being a win-win for everybody,” said Arum, who promotes Lomachenko. “We got the fight on the date we wanted. Not only is there no interference with HBO’s telecast, but it’s the greatest lead-in they could have.”

Arum budging over the earlier time slot and De La Hoya signing off on Linares fighting on a different network helped make the fight come to fruition.

But the biggest reason was Lomachenko, 30, and Linares, 32, demanding this fight happen. Here we had two champions who wanted to be challenged. No mandatory bouts. No tuneups. No ducking.

Too often in boxing, fighters succumb to their promoters’ plans and promises.

Arum was ready to walk away from the Linares negotiations and dangled a potential spring bout with Manny Pacquiao for Lomachenko. The junior lightweight titlist declined to face the 39-year-old Filipino senator and demanded for Linares, who is in his prime and arguably the best 135-pound fighter.

“I think it probably is a better fight than fighting Pacquiao, but it’s certainly not as lucrative,” Arum said. “(Lomachenko) and his father (Anatoly Lomachenko) are professionals. They know exactly what they’re doing. They know exactly how to prepare for a fight, so I’m guided by them.

“They are not money driven. They are process driven, and they want to do the best fights for the fans (and) for themselves.”

Arum remembers how he landed Lomachenko when he was a sought-after two-time Olympic gold medalist looking for a professional contract. Arum promised he wouldn’t stand in the way of the Ukrainian’s desire to be great and fight the best of his era.

When Lomachenko wanted a title fight in his second pro bout, Arum delivered. When Lomachenko wanted to prove he was better than Guillermo Rigondeaux, Arum delivered.

Now Lomachenko, arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter, will try to make history by becoming the fastest three-division champion in only 12 bouts.

For De La Hoya, how could you tell Linares no to a career-high payday of $1 million to fight Lomachenko on basic cable with millions watching from home?

Finally, promoters are starting to put their fighters first instead of themselves and TV contracts.

More boxing: Follow all of our boxing coverage online at reviewjournal.com/boxing and @RJ_Sports on Twitter.

Contact Gilbert Manzano at gmanzano@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GManzano24 on Twitter.

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