WBC Orders Vasiliy Lomachenko vs. Luke Campbell For Vacant Lightweight Title:
The WBC has made a major announcement regarding its vacant lightweight world title.
After it was announced that Mikey Garcia was vacating the belt and being moved to Emeritus champion, it was expected that mandatory challenger Luke Campbell would get a shot at the title, but his opponent was unclear. That all changed when the WBC announced that it has ordered Campbell to face unified WBA and WBO lightweight champion Vasiliy Lomachenko.
Campbell had been the mandatory challenger since September 2018 when he defeated Yvan Mendy in a title eliminator. Although Campbell was the No. 1 contender for the WBC title that Garcia had, Campbell was never going to get a shot at the title until summer 2019 at the earliest.
Garcia, who had held the title since January 2017, moved up to welterweight to challenge IBF champion Errol Spence Jr. in a Fox pay-per-view event in March. Garcia would go on to lose the fight and weeks later, announced that he was going to vacate the title as he is not planning on fighting at lightweight in his next fight.
Lomachenko, who had been looking to unify the entire division, became the unified champion last December when he defeated Jose Pedraza to win his WBO title. Originally, Lomachenko was supposed to face IBF champion Richard Commey on April 12, but Commey suffered an injury during his title win in February, leaving him unable to fight Lomachenko. Instead, Lomachenko faced Anthony Crolla, the mandatory challenger to his WBA title, and won the bout when he knocked out Crolla in the fourth round.
For weeks, speculation as to who would be facing Campbell for the title was running rampant with no clear indication of whether or not the challenger would be announced before or after the new WBC rankings come out. The three names that were mentioned were Zaur Abdullaev, Devin Haney and Teofimo Lopez.
Well the WBC eliminated all doubts and announced every contender that was rumored to fight Campbell will have a tournament to become the new mandatory challenger.
The four-man tournament will feature the fighters ranked No. 2 to No. 5 in the WBC lightweight rankings as of this writing. The matchups ordered are as follows: Zaur Abdullaev (No. 2) vs. Devin Haney (No. 3) and Teofimo Lopez (No. 4) vs. Javier Fortuna (No. 5). The winners of those two fights would then face off in a final eliminator.
While this plan is all well and good, it's highly unlikely that this will go off without a hitch. Tournaments from sanctioning bodies rarely start and finish as originally planned.
Top Rank's Bob Arum, who promotes Lopez, has told a number of media outlets that Lopez will not ultimately figure into the WBC's plans and instead will go for a previously reported IBF lightweight title eliminator against Masayoshi Nakatani on July 19 at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland. The fight, which would headline a Top Rank card on an ESPN platform, would crown a mandatory challenger to Commey's title.
This obviously throws off the WBC eliminator tournament it had planned to do, but the simple solution would be to replace him with the next highest-ranked available contender to take over Lopez’s spot which would actually be Mendy, followed by Pedraza.
What's interesting about this whole issue was Matchroom Boxing's mentality prior to the announcement. The company had essentially ironed out a deal to have Campbell and Haney, who signed a promotional deal with Matchroom recently, fight for the vacant title, but that was done without the WBC's blessing. Since the WBC never approved that fight to be for a lightweight world title, Matchroom Boxing isn't overly ecstatic with the end result, but at the very least they are going to have at least one of its fighters (Campbell) fight for the title.
The interesting part will be whether or not ESPN or DAZN gets the U.S. broadcast rights to the fight. It's not a guarantee, but for all intents and purposes, ESPN will more than likely get the rights, potentially ironing out a similar deal to that of Lomachenko's fight against Crolla, another Matchroom Boxing fighter. The other thing that is at play is the location of the fight.
This fight between Lomachenko and Campbell has a good chance of landing in the United Kingdom. Lomachenko had never really considered fighting there, but was in love with the atmosphere when he visited there to watch Oleksandr Usyk knock out Tony Bellew to retain the undisputed cruiserweight title last November.
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