Vasyl Lomachenko vs. Jorge Linares in jeopardy thanks to HBO dispute

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
Vasyl Lomachenko vs. Jorge Linares on May 12 is in jeopardy over a dispute about the date. (AP)

An attractive lightweight title fight between WBC champion Jorge Linares and super featherweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko is in jeopardy over a dispute about the date.

Top Rank president Bob Arum, whose company promotes Lomachenko, planned to put the fight at New York’s Madison Square Garden on May 12, with ESPN broadcasting it.

Arum said Thursday his company had reached financial terms with Akihiko Honda of Teiken Promotions for Linares to put his belt up against Lomachenko. Golden Boy Promotions is Linares’ U.S. promoter, and GBP president Eric Gomez said his company wants the fight.

Arum, though, claims that Peter Nelson, the executive vice president of HBO Sports, blocked the deal. HBO is distributing the hotly anticipated rematch between Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin, which will be held May 5 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Gomez said HBO plans to have a show on May 12, when it would air the replay of Canelo Alvarez-Gennady Golovkin II. The Lomachenko-Linares bout on ESPN would compete with the replay of Alvarez-Golovkin, which would be on HBO.

“We argued for a week about the money, but we finally got it done and all sides were OK,” Arum said. “But Peter Nelson leaned on Golden Boy and forbade them from going ahead on May 12 because it would interfere with the delay between Golovkin and Canelo. They [Golden Boy] do a lot of fights with HBO and so they pulled out.

“What the hell kind of conduct is that from people from a company whose request for a merger [with AT&T] is being reviewed by the Justice Department?”

Nelson said he could not speak publicly about the situation. However, an HBO spokesman released an unattributed statement which denied Arum’s allegation.

“Golden Boy and HBO have long been in talks for a live event on May 12, though Jorge Linares had not been mentioned,” the HBO statement read. “We have never stood in the way of Jorge fighting on that date or any other. In fact, we look forward to Golden Boy offering a fight to us in accordance with our rights to Linares’ next fight. So far, no offer has been made to us.”

Gomez said he likes the fight for Linares and hopes it is made. He said he has no problem with Linares fighting Lomachenko on ESPN, which has a multi-year agreement with Top Rank to broadcast its fights. Gomez noted that Golden Boy has a partnership with ESPN, as well.

He said he was hopeful the fight could be put on another date, but denied Arum’s allegation that Nelson forbade him from moving forward.

“Bob spoke with Mr. Honda initially, and we were good with it,” Gomez said. “From the beginning, from the get-go, we told Mr. Honda, ‘Let’s do the fight.’ We have been open to doing the fight as long as it didn’t interfere with anything we’re doing with our big pay-per-view. They have a date the weekend before [Alvarez-Golovkin], which will help promote our pay-per-view, and the week after that, historically, there’s the delay.

“We’ve been talking to HBO about getting a live event and it looks like we’re going to have a live fight. So those dates won’t work. Any other dates, we’re good with.”

Gomez said Golden Boy was happy and would go forward on any other date. But he said if it had to be May 12, it could be on HBO that night.

If Jorge Linares doesn’t end up fighting Vasyl Lomachenko, he could face unbeaten Mikey Garcia.(Reuters)

“I have the perfect solution,” Gomez said. “HBO would buy the fight, and then we could do it May 12. If they want to do it on May 12 and it’s a timing issue for Lomachenko that I’m unaware of, HBO would buy it. I spoke to Peter Nelson [Wednesday] and they’ll buy it. They’ll buy the fight and they’ll pay more. So it’s more money for Lomachenko. It’s more money for Arum. We could do a co-promotion and HBO would buy it.

“But if Lomachenko absolutely, positively has to fight on ESPN, then we’ll accept any other date. We’ll do it on any other date they have.”

Arum said if he’s not able to finalize Linares, he’ll most likely pit Lomachenko against the winner of Friday’s fight for the vacant WBO lightweight title in Reno on ESPN between Ray Beltran and Paulus Moses.

“You guys [in the media] are always telling us to work with other promotions when we’re doing something, but what you don’t understand is, this is what happens,” Arum said. “You can lay all this on Peter Nelson with all his machinations. This is what happens. You get other networks involved and they think they’re wise guys and they try to screw it up.

“This is a magic date for ESPN and The Garden has already been reserved for May 12. This is crazy they’d be doing this kind of thing with the merger between AT&T and Time Warner being reviewed by the Justice Department.”

If Lomachenko is out of the picture, Gomez said Golden Boy would re-open talks with representatives of unbeaten Mikey Garcia for a potential Garcia-Linares match.