Amir Imam will have to wait five weeks longer than expected to return to the ring, but will be well worth the delay.
BoxingScene.com has learned that the former title challenger will now appear on the undercard of the February 22 heavyweight title fight rematch between defending titlist Deontay Wilder (42-0-1, 41KOs) and England’s Tyson Fury (29-0-1, 20KOs). Imam is due to face 2008 U.S. Olympian and current welterweight Javier Molina, with the bout to take place at a catchweight of 142 pounds.
The Athletic’s Mike Coppinger was the first to reveal the development through social media.
With the agreed-upon bout in place, it means that Imam (22-2, 19KOs) will no longer appear on the undercard of the January 18 ESPN+ card in Verona, New York, roughly two hours from his Albany hometown. Imam was due to face journeyman Matthew Strode in his planned second fight since returning to the ring last fall, which would have served in supporting capacity to a still-scheduled light heavyweight clash between former titlist Eleider Alvarez and knockout artist Michael Seals.
Instead, he takes on a far more formidable challenge in Molina (21-2, 9KOs), who has won four straight since a hard-fought 10-round loss to bubble contender Jamal James nearly four years ago, The 30-year old from Norwalk, California native is coming off of a 1st round knockout of Hiroki Okada last November in Carson. The bout came one week prior to Imam’s debut under the Top Rank banner, having scored a 4th round knockout of Matthew Mojica last November on an ESPN+ undercard in Fresno, California. It was Imam’s first fight since a 12-round loss to Jose Ramirez in their March 2018 vacant title fight, his last under a suffocating contract with Don King, from whom he broke free last year along with a prior managerial contract with Stacy McKinley as he has since signed with high-powered manager Peter Kahn.
Imam benefits from the move in a big way, as his next fight will now play to a much larger audience as ticket sales continue to move at a rapid rate for the Wilder-Fury rematch. Imam and Fury are both promoted by Top Rank Inc., who is allotted a certain number of undercard slots along with one televised preliminary slot on the Pay-Per-View portion of the event, with the rest of the card going to Premier Boxing Champions (PBC), which represents Wilder.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox