By Jake Donovan
One way or another, Dejan Zlaticanin remains determined to fight for the lightweight title.
From a financial perspective, “another” was the less desired option but the path he is now forced to travel. The unbeaten contender from Montenegro will move towards a vacant title fight after reigning World Boxing Council (WBC) lightweight titlist Jorge Linares was forced to withdraw from their mandatory title fight and conditionally relinquish his title due to a fractured right hand suffered during training camp.
Zlaticanin will next face Italy’s Emiliano Marsili in a WBC-sanctioned title fight matchup of unbeaten lightweights. The winner will then have to face Linares, who has been downgraded to “champion in recess” and is entitled to fight for his old title upon his ring return.
The WBC informed BoxingScene.com on Tuesday that a 30-day negotiation period has been ordered between their respective camps.
Zlaticanin (21-0, 14KOs) earned the title shot in his last fight, which came last June in his first fight in the United States. He made the most of the moment – which aired live on SHO Extreme – scoring a 4th round knockout of Ivan Redkach, unbeaten at the time and who has campaigned for a rematch ever since.
The rebuilding contender from Ukraine – now based out of Los Angeles – has actually returned to the ring sooner than Zlaticanin, scoring a 3rd round knockout of Erick Martinez last October on the non-televised portion of a Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) on ESPN telecast in Glendale, Arizona. His hope – as the #3 ranked WBC lightweight – was that Marsili would pass on the opportunity, which would allow him to slide into position for a vacant title shot.
Alas, that scenario never came close to playing out, as talks have already jumped out to a promising start.
“We’re confident a deal will be reached and we can finalize terms for the fight,” Lou DiBella, Zlaticanin’s promoter told BoxingScene.com on Tuesday. “Marsili is a good little fighter. It should be an interesting scrap.”
Marsili (32-0-1, 14KOs) is unbeaten through nearly 13 years as a pro, but largely untested and with the 39-year old southpaw having fought just once outside of Italy. That moment came four years ago in England and produced his most notable win to date, a 7th round stoppage of Derry Mathews, who has a title fight of his own as he faces unbeaten World Boxing Organization (WBO) lightweight titlist Terry Flanagan in March.
The most recent win for Marsili came last August, outpointing former 130 lb. titlist Gamaliel Diaz in Italy. With the win, he became the #2 contender in the WBC, left to wait out plans for an eventually ordered Linares-Zlaticanin clash.
The mandatory title fight made for interesting bedfellows. Linares – who hails from Venezuela but has also spent a significant portion of his career in both Japan and the United States – is co-promoted by Teiken Promotions and Golden Boy Promotions. The latter endured a bitter split in 2014 with high-powered adviser Al Haymon, who signed Zlaticanin last spring.
Golden Boy has since filed a $300 million antitrust lawsuit versus Haymon, but didn’t affect negotiations with DiBella, as the two reached terms in avoiding a purse bid hearing.
Plans called for the title fight to land sometime between late-March and mid-April, with Showtime to have televised. One floated suggestion was to pair the matchup with a super featherweight title fight between IBF champ Jose Pedraza (who is also promoted by DiBella) and mandatory challenger Stephen Smith.
Such hopes were dashed once Linares reportedly suffered his injury and withdrew from the fight.
It remains unclear whether Showtime will remain involved in the modified matchup between Zlaticanin and Marsili, or if the fight winds up on another network as part of a PBC event.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox