By Jake Donovan
A clear path has been provided for Jorge Linares to attempt to win a title in three weight classes. The former featherweight and super featherweight titlist will face fringe contender Javier Prieto for a lightweight title, the World Boxing Council (WBC) announced on Monday.
"The WBC Board of Governors has voted unanimously to support Omar Figueroa while he is recovering from an injury sustained in his mandatory title defense of August 16 vs. Daniel Estrada" WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman announced through his press office. "After the fight, his cut was infected and had to receive additional treatment. He has been placed as Champion in Recess, which will allow him to take the necessary time to heal and to begin training without any time pressure."
Figueroa (24-0-1, 18KOs) was granted an interim version of the title following his thrilling 12-round points win over Nihito Arakawa last July. He was elevated to full title status once Adrien Broner formally relinquished the crown, making two successful defenses, both coming in 2014.
The win over Estrada cast Figueroa back in a favorable light following his struggling points win over Jerry Belmontes in April. Figueroa broke down Estrada before stopping him in nine rounds, but was forced to overcome a gruesome cut that still hasn't fully healed.
Linares (37-3, 24KOs) has been chomping at the bit for another crack at the WBC lightweight title, having seemingly rebounded from a disastrous portion of his career. The supremely athletic ex-champ from Venezuela was well on his way to a vacant title win in his Oct. '11 war with Antonio DeMarco before falling apart late and suffering an 11th round knockout.
Efforts to get him back in the mix proved unsuccessful, as Linares was dropped and stopped in a bizarre two-round affair with Sergio 'Yeyo' Thompson the following March.
Six straight wins have followed, including a 10-round win over Arakawa in March, and a 2nd round knockout of overmatched mid-South clubfighter Ira Terry in August.
Prieto (24-7-2, 18KOs) entered the title picture with an upset points win over Alberto Mosquera last November. He has been held to consecutive 12-round draws with Ivan Cano in June and September, both representing his lone bouts of 2014.
Despite not managing a win in either fight, the fact that Prieto also didn't lose was enough to keep him towards the top of the heap long enough to land his first crack at a major title.
The winner of the eventual showdown between Linares and Prieto will have to defend against Figueroa, in the event that Figueroa chooses to remain at lightweight upon his eventual ring return.
"The WBC has ordered the two highest available contenders to fight for the WBC lightweight championship, with the condition that the winner must fight Figueroa whenever he is ready to return to the ring," Sulaiman confirmed. "Jorge Linares vs. Javier Prieto has been ordered and is expected to be promoted within 2014."
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox