WBC lightweight world titlist Devin Haney and former titleholder Jorge Linares have come to terms to fight for Haney’s belt, Golden Boy Promotions president Eric Gomez, Linares’ co-promoter, told BoxingScene.com.
The fight is penciled in to headline a Matchroom Boxing card on DAZN card on May 15 at a site to be determined.
Matchroom Boxing, Haney’s promoter, made an offer on the fight earlier this week and after some brief back and forth they came to terms on Friday.
“We have an agreement in principle for the fight,” Gomez said to BoxingScene. “We’re waiting for the contract to come in but we have a verbal agreement.”
The 22-year-old Haney (25-0, 15 KOs), of Las Vegas, will be making the third defense of his 135-pound title. He claimed an interim belt via one-sided fourth-round destruction of Zaur Abdullaev in September 2019 but was eventually elevated by the WBC to the full titleholder later in 2019 when full titlist Vasiliy Lomachenko elected to face Teofimo Lopez Jr. rather than make a mandatory defense against Haney.
Linares will be by far the most notable opponent of Haney’s career. He has so far defended his title against Alfredo Santiago, whom he outclassed in a shutout decision in November 2019 despite early in the fight injuring his shoulder, and former unified featherweight world titlist Yuriorkis Gamboa by near-shutout decision in his return from the shoulder injury this past November.
“I think it’s a great fight. Linares is still one of the top lightweights in the world,” Gomez said. “This is Haney’s biggest test.”
Linares (47-5, 29 KOs), 35, a Venezuela native based in Japan, has won world titles in three weight divisions: featherweight, junior lightweight and lightweight.
When he moved up to junior welterweight in January 2019, he suffered an upset first-round knockout loss to Pablo Cesar Cano and decided to return to lightweight, where he has won two fights in a row. Most recently, he knocked out Carlos Morales in the fourth round in February 2020.
That fight was on the undercard of Golden Boy stablemate Ryan Garcia’s first-round knockout of Francisco Fonseca and was supposed to lead to a match between Linares and Garcia.
However, those plans fell through and Linares instead was slated to fight former junior lightweight titlist Javier Fortuna on Aug. 28 at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, California. But that show was eventually canceled when Linares tested positive for Covid-19 and was hospitalized for two weeks in Tokyo, where he was training.
Gomez said Linares has had no lingering issues following his bout with Covid-19.
“He’s all over everything and he’s ready to go,” Gomez said of Linares, who has beaten opponents such as Luke Campbell and Anthony Crolla (twice).
The fight with Haney will be Linares’ first appearance in a world title fight since May 12, 2018 at Madison Square Garden in New York. That is where he knocked down Lomachenko in the sixth round but ultimately got knocked out in the 10th round and lost his WBA lightweight title.
“Linares has to win this one,” Gomez said. “This is probably the last chance he will have at a fighting for world title and he has to go into the fight thinking like that.”
Dan Rafael was ESPN.com's senior boxing writer for fifteen years, and covered the sport for five years at USA Today. He was the 2013 BWAA Nat Fleischer Award winner for excellence in boxing journalism.