Mikey Garcia will attempt to join Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez as the only champions of the four divisions stretching from featherweight to junior-welterweight when he meets Sergey Lipinets in San Antonio on Feb. 10.
The Riverside-trained Garcia (37-0, 30 knockouts) bypassed higher-profile bouts against now-retired 154-pound champion Miguel Cotto and current lightweight champion Jorge Linares in recent months, settling on a Showtime bout against Lipinets (13-0, 10KOs), the International Boxing Federation's new 140-pound champion.
"Mikey made the right pick; he's playing with fire," fight promoter Richard Schaefer said. "Both guys are undefeated, they have 40 knockouts between them … these are two guys in their prime and each dares to be great.
"Sergey knows that winning against Mikey Garcia is a life-changer, and for Mikey to win a title in a fourth weight class, he'll have options to go unify at 135 or 140."
Schaefer said the World Boxing Council won't strip Garcia of his 135-pound title to take the Lipinets fight, and the promoter said he believes that the Linares fight "will still be there," later in 2018, along with the possibility of fighting the March 17 winner between Central California's Jose Ramirez and Amir Imam for the WBC's vacant 140-pound belt.
The Feb. 10 co-main event will also be a 140-pound title fight, Cuba's Rances Barthelemy (26-0, 13 KOS) meeting Belarus' Kiryl Relikh (21-2, 19 KOs) in a rematch for the World Boxing Assn. belt vacated by Terence Crawford.
ESPN SHELVES ATLAS FROM FIGHT-CALLING: The ringside absence Saturday of longtime ESPN boxing analyst Teddy Atlas appears to be permanent.
When asked by The Times whether he'll return to live fight analysis on the network where he has worked for 21 years, Atlas said, "Doesn't look like it, at least from what I understand is the decision. It wasn't my decision."
According to two individuals familiar with Atlas' situation but unauthorized to speak publicly on the matter, the decision to remove him from live broadcasts was based on his comments he mae on two ESPN Top Rank cards this year.
ESPN and Top Rank agreed to a lucrative four-year deal this year that will regularly place the promoter's best fighters on the network.
In July, during Manny Pacquiao's upset welterweight-title loss to Australia's Jeff Horn, Atlas vented about the quality of judging, breeding speculation of corruption — not a good look for the sport.
Then, last month in a Fresno card headlined by Ramirez, Atlas argued with newly hired co-analyst Mark Kriegel, a respected broadcaster and sportswriter, and questioned his credentials.
"They gave [Atlas] a bunch of chances," one official said. "The Fresno show was terrible. He was terrible to Kriegel and it was the straw that broke the camel's back."
Atlas said he has three years remaining on his contract with ESPN.
"I can't really talk about it [more] because I'm under contract," he said. "I always try to be up front and honest. I'm not able to speak about it. I don't mean to be vague or be to the point, because that's what I like to be and always try to be, whether people like it or not."
SAUNDERS-LEMIEUX HAS EFFECT ON CANELO-GGG: World Boxing Organization middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders of England has an opportunity to make himself known as someone beyond the division's other champion.
Former champion David Lemieux has a chance to make himself a powerful bargaining chip in negotiations for a Canelo Alvarez-Gennady Golovkin rematch in May.
Saunders and Lemieux square off Saturday in Lemieux's hometown of Montreal on an HBO card starting at 6:40 p.m. PST.
Since both Lemieux and Alvarez are promoted by Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions, striking a deal for those two to fight on Cinco de Mayo weekend would be far easier if Golovkin doesn't agree to the terms that De La Hoya wants.
Golovkin promoter Tom Loeffler told The Times this week that he "should know by the end of next week" whether the Alvarez-Golovkin rematch will be made for May.
"They're not going to make more money by fighting anyone else than each other," Loeffler said.
Lemieux is determined to complicate matters.
"I'm excited just to lay my hands on Billy Joe Saunders," he said. "He's got a big mouth. It's rare I see fighters with such a big mouth. … It's actually going to be hell for him."
Said Saunders: "I would love to fight Canelo Alvarez. … If I come to Canada to spank David, I will go to Las Vegas, Mexico, wherever they want."