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Lomachenko-Lopez, Inoue-Moloney highlight Top Rank’s October schedule

Fighters Network

After months of stalling and posturing, Vasiliy Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez finally put pen to paper on their contracts, setting a date of October 17 for their unified lightweight championship showdown.

The fight, which will air live on ESPN, will take place from “the bubble” that Top Rank has set up at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. It’s the closest the sport has seen to a legitimate super fight since the pandemic began.

“Teofimo Lopez can talk all he wants. He’s very good at talking. He has done nothing but say my name for the past two years. I am a fighter, and my goal is to win another world title,” said WBA/WBO titleholder Lomachenko (14-1, 10 knockouts) in a press release issued on Tuesday.

Lopez (15-0, 12 KOs), the IBF lightweight titleholder, answered back in kind. “I will beat up Lomachenko and take his belts. Simple as that. I’m coming to Las Vegas to make history. I don’t like the guy, and I’m going to have fun as Lomachenko’s face is beaten and marked up by my hands.”

The show is one of 5 dates lined up for ESPN platforms in October, with three of those coming on ESPN, and the other two on ESPN+.

The month of dates kicks off on Saturday, October 3 with a junior welterweight with Jose Zepeda (32-2, 25 KOs) facing off against Ivan Baranchyk in a bout that was originally scheduled for July 7, but was postponed after the former IBF junior welterweight titleholder Baranchyk (20-1, 13 KOs) withdrew with an injury incurred during sparring. Instead, the former title challenger Zepeda fought his way to a unanimous decision win against Kendo Castaneda. Zepeda-Baranchyk will be shown on ESPN+.

The following week, on Friday, October 9, former WBO junior featherweight titleholder Emanuel Navarrete (31-1, 27 KOs) will jump to 126 pounds to face Ruben Villa (18-0, 5 KOs) for the WBO featherweight title that Shakur Stevenson vacated to pursue other opportunities at 130 pounds. That card will be shown on ESPN.

A week after Lomachenko and Lopez settle their differences, WBC/IBF light heavyweight titleholder Artur Beterbiev (15-0, 15 KOs) will make his first start since unifying last October against Oleksandr Gvozdyk, taking on Germany’s Adam Deines (19-1-1, 10 KOs) in Moscow. Dienes has won two straight against non-descript opposition since his lone career defeat in 2019 to Chinese contender Fanlong Meng.

Then, to cap off the month, Naoya Inoue makes his long-delayed Las Vegas debut on Halloween, defending his IBF/WBA bantamweight titles against Jason Moloney. Inoue (19-0, 16 KOs) was originally scheduled to unify with WBO titleholder John Riel Casimero but that fight fell through amid the pandemic reshuffling, and Casimero has moved on to a defense against Duke Micah on September 26. Moloney (21-1, 18 KOs) had pushed Emmanuel Rodriguez to the limit in his previous title opportunity in 2018, before losing a split decision.

Beterbiev vs. Deines will air on ESPN, while Inoue-Moloney will be on ESPN+.