Vasiliy Lomachenko will return to the boxing ring Dec. 1 at the Forum, officials at his promotional company, Top Rank, told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday.
Ukraine’s Lomachenko (11-1, nine knockouts) is scheduled to meet the winner of Saturday’s World Boxing Organization lightweight title fight between veteran champion Ray Beltran and Puerto Rico’s Jose Pedraza in a unification bout.
Lomachenko claimed the World Boxing Assn. lightweight belt in May with a 10th-round technical knockout of longtime champion Jorge Linares of Venezuela at Madison Square Garden.
The bout that made Lomachenko a three-division champion after previously winning two Olympic gold medals was a rigorous test that saw him knocked down for the first time in his pro career. He also required shoulder surgery following the fight.
“Lomachenko has proven he’s a lightweight by beating Linares and now he’ll fight for another belt,” Top Rank Chairman Bob Arum said.
The Dec. 1 bout is expected to be streamed on ESPN-Plus.
Fighting at the Forum keeps Lomachenko close to his training camp in Oxnard and keeps him in prime position to participate in his biggest fight yet in 2019.
In addition to a possible meeting with Oxnard-raised Mikey Garcia, an unbeaten, two-belt lightweight champion, Lomachenko has emerged as a leading candidate to meet return welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao.
Pacquiao’s longtime promoter Arum told The Times following a recent meeting with Pacquiao in the Philippines that Pacquiao wants to fight in December and twice in 2019.
“Pacquiao’s fascinated with Lomachenko,” said Arum, who explained that “a lot of our conversation revolved around Lomachenko” and the effort to match them at a negotiated catch weight.
First, Lomachenko has to await Saturday’s winner in Glendale, Ariz., as former Pacquiao sparring partner Beltran, 37, seeks to win in his first defense of the WBO belt he won by unanimous decision in February.
Beltran, aware that fighting Lomachenko will generate his greatest purse yet, previously lost a unanimous decision to the world’s No. 1 pound-for-pound boxer, current welterweight champion Terence Crawford.
A slight favorite over Pedraza on Saturday in an ESPN-televised main event, Arizona’s Beltran said the prospect of fighting second-ranked Lomachenko is encouraging.
Lomachenko coming off shoulder surgery “might favor me, but I always respect my opponents and expect them to be the best they can be. I expect a monster,” Beltran said.
“Hopefully, we win this fight and I get that fight to go after. He’s the best in the world. Who wouldn’t want to go after him? And at the same time, I want to get paid.… It’s a big opportunity for me.”
Beltran admits: “The world will look at me like I’m the one who’s going to lose. Whatever. I know how to fight off negativity. I’m here right now and made it through all the adversity because I believed in myself.