May 9, 2021

Linares Out, Fortuna In Search Of New Opponent

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One of the more attractive stateside matchups for this summer is no longer taking place as scheduled.

A planned lightweight showdown between former three-division titlist Jorge Linares and Dominican Republic’s Javier Fortuna is officially off, two sources with knowledge of the development informed on Friday. The bout was due to headline an August 28 DAZN-USA show from Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, California but was forced to hit the scrap heap after Linares tested positive for COVID-19.

Plans for the balance of the show remain in place, according to sources, though it remains unclear whether Fortuna will remain in the main event versus a new opponent or if another bout will now headline the card. Fortuna’s team acknowledged to that the hope existed for a new opponent, but otherwise declined official comment.

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Representatives from event handler Golden Boy Promotions—Linares’ co-promoter along with Teiken Promotions—and DAZN-USA did not respond to an inquiry seeking comment as this goes to publish.

Linares—originally from Venezuela but who now lives and trains in Tokyo, Japan—has been ordered to self-quarantine for 10 days as a result of the test, for which he was asymptomatic and caught off guard by the result. Teiken Promotions—Linares’ Tokyo-based co-promoter along with Golden Boy

Promotions—confirmed the news of his positive test on Friday, along with announcing that its Teiken Gym would have to shut down until cleared by the public health center and medical professionals to reopen the doors to its stable of boxers.

“We are currently awaiting instruction from the public health center,” noted Teiken in an official statement. “Teiken Gym will be closed until instructed by the public health center and doctors.”

Linares (47-5, 29KOs) sought his second fight of 2020, having scored a 4th round knockout win over Carlos Morales this past February in Anaheim, California. The DAZN-streamed win came on the undercard of a show topped by unbeaten lightweight Ryan Garcia (20-0, 17KOs), who scored a 1st round knockout of Francisco Fonseca in the main event. At the time, there were designs on a head-on collision between Linares and Garcia, but those plans fell awry with both boxers moving in a different direction.

Garcia remains in talks for a WBC interim lightweight title fight versus England’s Luke Campbell (20-3, 16KOs). As Campbell was previously due to face Fortuna (35-2-1, 24KOs), it only made sense to move forward with a Fortuna-Linares clash.

At best, those plans will have to be revisited.

Fortuna has been out of the ring since a two-round wipeout of Jesus Cuellar in their title eliminator last November. The win set up Fortuna—a former secondary junior lightweight titlist and interim featherweight beltholder—for what was supposed to be a vacant WBC lightweight title fight versus Campbell. Their planned April 17 clash in Oxon Hill, Maryland was canceled along with the rest of the show due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The belt has since made its way back to Devin Haney (24-0, 15KOs), who is back from injury and in search of a future opponent.

Logic would suggest revisiting old plans for a Haney-Fortuna showdown; the two were ordered to fight last winter, only for Haney to withdraw from talks and vacate his title in order to fully recover from shoulder surgery. Fortuna’s shot at fighting for the vacant title was ruined by the pandemic, as are—for the moment—his plans for a clash with Linares which would have put the winner in a favorable position to challenge for the title.

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for Twitter: @JakeNDaBox