Richard Commey moved into a main event on ESPN as a result of the Joe Smith-Maxim Vlasov postponement Thursday.
Commey and Jackson Marinez will now headline the network’s tripleheader Saturday night in a 10-round lightweight fight at MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas. The former IBF lightweight champion still feels for Smith and Vlasov, who tested positive for COVID-19 following a full training camp for their light heavyweight title fight.
“It’s always sad when you put all the hard work in and then, you know what I mean, at the last minute, you can’t fight,” Commey said during a press conference Thursday at MGM Grand. “It sucks. Excuse my language. It really hurts, but I feel for them because I’m a boxer as well. If it happened to me, I would feel very bad. But I pray that [Vlasov] will recover fast and then they get a chance to fight again.”
Smith (26-3, 21 KOs), of Mastic, New York, and Vlasov (45-3, 26 KOs), of Samara, Russia, had already arrived at MGM Grand when their main event was postponed. They were preparing to participate in the aforementioned press conference when organizers of Saturday’s card learned that Vlasov tested positive for COVID-19.
Their fight for the vacant WBO 175-pound crown has been postponed indefinitely, as it is unclear how long Vlasov will need to remain out of the gym in accordance with COVID protocols.
Commey, meanwhile, will fight for the first time since undefeated, unified champion Teofimo Lopez knocked him out in the second round of their IBF lightweight title fight in December 2019 at Madison Square Garden. The 33-year-old Commey (29-3, 26 KOs), a native of Accra, Ghana, is listed as a 3-1 favorite to beat Marinez (19-1, 7 KOs), of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
“I think it’s the right time because I’m coming back off a loss, and he’s also coming back off a loss,” Commey said. “So, I mean, it makes sense. It’s a great fight. I’ve seen him. You know what I mean? He’s a great fighter for me to come back [against].”
The 30-year-old Marinez lost a controversial unanimous decision to Rolando Romero (13-0, 11 KOs) in his last fight, a 12-rounder that Showtime televised August 15 from Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
“It’s been over a year since I lost my fight with Teofimo,” Commey said. “It was a little bit hard for me to take it [because] I didn’t really expect that. I trained so hard, but, you know, whatever happened, happened. But now it’s gone, and I learned what I had to learn from it. I learned my lesson, so you know what I mean? It’s redemption time for Commey, because I’ve still got a lot in there and I wanna be a two-time world champion. So, definitely this is it.”
ESPN’s broadcast will begin at 10 p.m. EST with a six-round heavyweight bout in which Jared Anderson (7-0, 7 KOs), of Toledo, Ohio, will face Phoenix resident Kingsley Ibeh (5-1-1, 4 KOs). In the 10-round co-feature, Adam Lopez (14-2, 6 KOs), a featherweight from Glendale, California, is set to battle Albuquerque’s Jason Sanchez (15-2, 8 KOs).
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.