Lightweight titleholder Jorge Linares is headed to mandatory challenger Kevin Mitchell's turf to defend against him in the main event of a world title doubleheader on May 30 at the O2 Arena in London.
In another world title bout on the card, revealed Thursday by Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn, featherweight titleholder Evgeny Gradovich will make his mandatory defense against Lee Selby. That fight was initially scheduled for April 25 in London but the card was scrapped when Hearn lost a purse bid for the vacant super middleweight title bout between James DeGale and Andre Dirrell, which he was planning to have headline the card.
The May 30 card will also feature top heavyweight prospect Anthony Joshua, the 2012 British Olympic super heavyweight gold medalist, taking on American Kevin Johnson, a former world title challenger who has never been stopped, but whose career is in free fall.
"This is a huge night for British boxing, and today's announcement is just the beginning," Hearn said. "I'm delighted to deliver shots for Kevin and Lee in the U.K. and they have every chance of becoming world champions on May 30."
Venezuela's Linares (38-3, 25 KOs), 29, who has fought regularly in Japan and the United States, is a former featherweight and junior lightweight titleholder who won a vacant lightweight belt by dominant four-round knockout of Javier Prieto on Dec. 30 in Tokyo. He will be making his first 135-pound title defense against Mitchell.
Mitchell (39-2, 29 KOs), 30, of England, knocked out Daniel Estrada in the eighth round on Jan. 31 at the O2 Arena in the title eliminator to earn the shot at Linares. Mitchell has had one previous world title opportunity, but was knocked out the fourth round by then-titleholder Ricky Burns in 2012. He has won six fights in a row since.
"Linares is an incredible fighter, a three-weight world ruler, but Kevin has been exceptional with us and I truly believe he is going to do it," said Hearn, who made a deal for the fight with Golden Boy Promotions, which represents Linares, and avoided a purse bid.
Gradovich (19-0-1, 9 KOs), 28, who is from Russia but trains in Oxnard, California, with Robert Garcia, will be making his fifth title defense. He is no stranger to traveling for his title fights. Three of them have taken place in Macau and one in Omaha, Nebraska. He won the 126-pound belt in Connecticut.
Gradovich is coming off a draw in November with Puerto Rico's Jayson Velez in a fight most felt Gradovich won easily.
Selby (20-1, 8 KOs), 28, of Wales, stopped Australia's Joel Brunker in the ninth round in October to become the mandatory challenger for Gradovich's belt.
"Lee has been virtually punch-perfect over the last few years, but now it's his moment against one of the best fighters in the division in Gradovich," Hearn said.
The 25-year-old Joshua (10-0, 10 KOs) is in need of rounds, which is why Hearn has matched him with Johnson. Joshua, who first has a fight on April 4 against an opponent to be determined, has yet to go past three rounds, while Johnson (29-6-1, 14 KOs), 35, of Atlanta, is known for his iron chin.
Johnson has lost three fights in a row and four of his last five but has gone the distance with top fighters, including in a 2009 shot against then-world titleholder Vitali Klitschko, Tyson Fury and Dereck Chisora.
"Kevin is a big step for Anthony Joshua and signifies his first real challenge in the pro ranks," Hearn said. "He brings personality and attitude as well as plenty of ring craft. I'm buzzing for this show already, and fans can expect plenty of other major announcements for the card."