Though a WBA final eliminator against Michel Rivera was on the table, Jorge Linares is taking a different road. RCC Boxing, with whom Linares recently signed, has confirmed that he’ll face Zaur Abdullaev in Russia on February 22nd.
The WBC previously affirmed that the bout will be considered a “semifinal eliminator.” Linares (47-6, 29 KO) and Abdullaev (14-1, 8 KO) respectively sit at #3 and #4 in the sanctioning body’s lightweight rankings behind Vasiliy Lomachenko and Ryan Garcia.
You may recall Abdullaev from his destructive 2019 loss to Devin Haney, which was originally supposed to send the winner into a title shot against the aforementioned Lomachenko. Then “franchise” shenanigans got involved, Haney was handed the title, and Abdullaev returned to his hometown of Ekaterinburg to win three straight, most notably over the faded Pavel Malikov and Dejan Zlaticanin.
The 36-year-old Linares will fight for just the second time in 24 months when he laces them up, as myriad misfortunes scrapped a planned eliminator against Javier Fortuna. He ultimately cut out the middleman and faced Haney in May, badly hurting “The Dream” but failing to find the finish he needed to overcome Haney’s massive lead.
Not as immediately intriguing as the Rivera fight, but still a pretty solid matchup.