A temporary goodbye has been replaced by a historic farewell.
The new main event for the Dec. 17 HBO-televised card at the Forum will now be former long-reigning middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins’ final fight, against New York’s Joe Smith Jr. in a light-heavyweight bout, promoter Oscar De La Hoya told the Los Angeles Times on Monday.
Mexico brawler Orlando Salido injured his back in training and has been forced to withdraw from his scheduled headlining bout against super-featherweight Takashi Miura, De La Hoya said.
The 35-year-old Salido (43-13-4, 30 knockouts) was expected to generate another fight-of-the-year candidate with Japan’s Miura (30-3-2, 23 KOs).
Both men have participated in riveting action recently. Miura lost his World Boxing Council super-featherweight belt to Mexico’s Francisco Vargas in November by ninth-round technical knockout.
That bout was voted by the Boxing Writers’ Assn. of America as fight of the year.
And Vargas’ June draw against Salido at StubHub Center is among the front-runners for this year’s award, after the pair engaged in a slugfest that saw Vargas cut near both eyes and Salido displaying another tough-man effort that has enhanced the former featherweight champion’s reputation.
Losing that clash is sure to disappoint fight fans. De La Hoya said he’s “working on” the possibility of filling Salido’s void with another opponent for Miura, adding it’s too premature to know if Miura can remain on the card or if he should wait for Salido’s return.
Salido has pain in his sciatic nerve, De La Hoya said.
The loss of Salido was filled by Hopkins (55-7-2, 32 KOs), who hinted earlier this month he would participate on the HBO card.
Hopkins, who’ll turn 52 on Jan. 15, hasn’t fought since a Nov. 8, 2014, unanimous-decision loss to three-belt light-heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev.
Before that setback, Hopkins stood as the oldest world champion in boxing history, when he broke George Foreman’s record by winning a belt at age 46. He was 49 when he lost his belt to Kovalev.
He was middleweight champion for 11 years, from 1994 to 2005, establishing a record 20 consecutive title victories, a feat that current three-belt middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin is pursuing with 17 consecutive title triumphs.
Hopkins is not going out with a soft touch.
Smith (22-1, 18 KOs), of Long Island, N.Y., upset Andrzej Fonfara by first-round knockout on June 18. He’s 27 and hasn’t lost since his seventh fight, in 2010.
“[Hopkins] final, farewell fight will be here at the Forum – 12 rounds,” De La Hoya said. “As we speak, it’s for no title, but it can be. We’re finalizing details. I’m happy it’s at the Forum, where I started my career, and where my partner will end his.”
De La Hoya and Golden Boy Promotions President Eric Gomez said they are sorting out if other fighters – such as featherweight Joseph Diaz Jr. or De La Hoya’s unbeaten cousin, Diego De La Hoya – will be added to the Dec. 17 card.
“We’ll see who the best candidates are to make it a spectacular night,” De La Hoya said.