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Newsletter: The Fight Corner: What’s next for Vasiliy Lomachenko?

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Vasiliy Lomachenko knocks down Jose Pedraza in the eleventh round during their WBA/WBO lightweight unification bout.
(Al Bello / Getty Images)

Welcome to our weekly boxing/MMA newsletter. I’m Lance Pugmire.

Vasiliy Lomachenko’s unanimous-decision victory and ratings winner Saturday night propels him to a likely unification of titles in April at Staples Center, his promoter told the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday.

Todd duBoef, president of Top Rank, said, “We’re preparing for the possibility he’ll be fighting in Los Angeles in April,” with Staples Center on hold and open for April 12.

Three-division champion Lomachenko (12-1, nine knockouts), of Ukraine, added the World Boxing Organization lightweight belt to his existing World Boxing Assn. title Saturday night on ESPN by defeating Puerto Rico’s Jose Pedraza at the sold-out Madison Square Garden Theater.

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He is expected to meet the winner of the Feb. 2 International Boxing Federation lightweight title fight between Richard Commey and Isa Chaniev, to be held at the Dallas Cowboys’ training facility, the Star, in Frisco, Texas.

Should Lomachenko win the April fight at Staples Center, the Oxnard-trained, two-time Olympic gold medalist Lomachenko would be in prime position on the calendar to increase his pressure on World Boxing Council lightweight champion Mikey Garcia for a unification of all four belts later in 2019.

Lomachenko is free to tout his appeal to sports fans based on viewership of the Top Rank card he headlined Saturday — which averaged 1.865 million viewers over the course of more than two hours. The broadcast did benefit from its placement behind the Heisman Trophy presentation.

By comparison, the UFC preliminaries averaged 786,000 viewers, the HBO farewell card at StubHub Center had 339,000, and the Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury replay on Showtime had 480,000.

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On ESPN last week, Lomachenko’s fight was second only to the Friday NBA game between the Golden State Warriors and Milwaukee Bucks, topping the Lakers’ Wednesday game against the San Antonio Spurs (1.816 million).

Much to consider

On vacation now at a mystery location, former middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin is expected to announce his future plans when he returns, his trainer Abel Sanchez told the Los Angeles Times.

“He’s talked to all the parties and he’s mulling it over,” Sanchez said. “He deciding his future, and the future is rightfully his to determine since he only has three to four years — and six to seven fights — left.”

Golovkin (38-1-1, 34 knockouts) has met with English promoter Eddie Hearn about being linked to DAZN, the new streaming service that signed his rival Canelo Alvarez to an 11-fight, $365-million deal that launches with Alvarez’s Saturday fight at Madison Square Garden.

Joining DAZN would better position Golovkin for a trilogy fight with Alvarez or a rematch with Hearn-represented International Boxing Federation middleweight champion Daniel Jacobs after the pair staged a competitive bout in 2017 at MSG.

But Golovkin also met with Al Haymon, head of Premier Boxing Champions, on Dec. 1 at the Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury bout at Staples Center, and Haymon offers unbeaten middleweight Jermall Charlo, who fights on Fox on Dec. 22, and the exposure of Fox and Showtime television deals.

There’s industry speculation that Golovkin could leave longtime promoter Tom Loeffler, too, but Sanchez didn’t confirm that.

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“The fighter is the fighter and the promoter is the promoter,” Sanchez said. “I’m sure [Golovkin] will do what’s best for his family, and he’s earned that right.”

Loeffler did not immediately reply to questions from The Times.

TV talk

HBO’s boxing coverage ended Saturday with a sparsely attended card at StubHub, a sad moment that was magnified by the network’s post-fight farewell retrospective, which is worth checking out on YouTube if you missed it.

But HBO Boxing analyst Max Kellerman, who also works for ESPN, will remain in boxing. The co-host of ESPN’s popular morning show “First Take” is slated to host ESPN’s boxing coverage and an additional 30-minute boxing show during the week, according to industry officials.

Hall of Famers

Congratulations to the new class inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in New York last week.

Former two-division champions Donald Curry, Julian Jackson, Buddy McGirt and old-time welterweight champion Tony DeMarco won induction.

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The nonparticipants category included ESPN broadcaster Teddy Atlas, who earlier this month cornered new light-heavyweight champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk’s victory over Adonis Stevenson (who remains hospitalized), and longtime Top Rank publicist Lee Samuels.

Samuels told of how he was influenced by another Hall of Fame member from Top Rank, publicist Irving Rudd, back when Samuels was a newspaper reporter in Philadelphia.

“I was to interview Ali,” Samuels said, “and [Rudd] said, ‘He’s waiting for you in there.’ And when I said it’d be nice to get [trainer] Angelo Dundee too,” Rudd told him, “He’s in there waiting for you, too.”

“I was so excited about talking to those two,” he said, but Rudd “showed me how to keep things calm, to keep the interview professional and comfortable — which was great both for the fighter and the writer.”

Speaking personally, Samuels is a jewel of a human being who endured the death of his hockey-playing son, Eddie, a few years ago. In attending the Las Vegas memorial, it was comforting to see how the boxing family steps up in times of such heartbreak to lift up their own.

Work to do

Samuels is assigned this week to Friday night’s World Boxing Organization super-middleweight title rematch in Corpus Christi, Texas, between champion Gilberto Ramirez and Philadelphia’s Jesse Hart.

Ramirez defeated Hart by unanimous decision last year, bringing some in the sport to criticize why Top Rank is doing it again.

The scores, however, were 115-112, 114-113, 115-112, and with International Boxing Federation champion Jose Uzcategui locked into a Jan. 13 mandatory defense against Caleb Plant at Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, Hart was the easiest available, most competitive foe for Ramirez.

While fight enthusiasts fret about the expanded colonization of the sport separating ESPN, Showtime/Fox and DAZN fighters, it’s on the promoters and their matchmakers more than ever to ensure competitive bouts instead of the predictable showcases that will certainly dampen viewership.

That’s why Top Rank was pointing to Saturday’s upset loss by rising-star super-bantamweight champion Isaac Dogboe to Mexico’s Emanuel Navarette as an example of the type of action it vows to produce as the difficulty of making cross-promoted fights with others continues.

Until next time

Stay tuned for future newsletters. Subscribe here, and I’ll come right to your inbox. Something else you’d like to see? Email me. Or follow me on Twitter @latimespugmire


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