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Top Rank formally announces Lomachenko vs. Martinez for June 11

Fighters Network
Photo: Chris Farina/Top Rank

Vasyl Lomachenko tangles with Orlando Salido in his second fight. Photo: Chris Farina/Top Rank

Top Rank formally announced a press conference for Vasyl Lomachenko to face junior lightweight titleholder Rocky Martinez on June 11 at Madison Square Garden’s Theater on HBO, ending one of the more entertaining progressions to a fight notice.

The presser will take place on Thursday to hype the next step in Lomachenko’s remarkable ascent as he moves up to challenge Martinez (29-2-3, 17 knockouts), the WBO Junior lightweight champion. The highly-regarded lightweight Felix Verdejo (21-0, 14 KOs), whose momentum has slowed of late, is penciled in for the other televised bout against an opponent to be determined to coincide with the Puerto Rican Day Parade the next day.

Top Rank CEO Bob Arum had tried to match Lomachenko (5-1, 3 KOs) with former featherweight titleholder Nicholas Walters but Walters was asking for more than was in the card’s budget, Arum said. Arum then went to Showtime to see if there was any interest before returning to HBO, where he has primarily done business over the years.

Arum then moved to make a match with Martinez and seemed close to finalizing a deal only for the “regular” WBA junior lightweight champion Javier Fortuna to suddenly emerge as a possible, 11th hour candidate to face Lomachenko – who won a featherweight title against Gary Russell Jr. in just his third fight. Arum eventually returned to Martinez, who finally agreed to terms.

Chinese flyweight Zou Shiming (7-1, 2 KOs) will make his American debut on the non-televised portion of the undercard, Top Rank VP Carl Moretti confirmed. The two-time Olympic gold medalist has fought exclusively in China, where he is an icon and has been a forerunner for the sport.

Shiming’s status took a hit after he lost a title shot to Amnat Ruenroeng for his IBF belt in March of last year, tearing his rotator cuff in the process. But after successful surgery, the 34-year-old won in January and his handlers hope to make a splash in New York with his first fight stateside.