England's Terry Flanagan will be on home turf in his hometown of Manchester when he challenges Jose Zepeda for a vacant lightweight world title on July 11 at the Velodrome, promoter Frank Warren announced on Wednesday.
"I've delivered Terry his world title shot on home soil," Warren said. "He's now got all the home advantages, and he has to translate that in the ring and beat Zepeda, who will certainly give Terry plenty to think about with that huge knockout punch he carries."
Flanagan (27-0, 10 KOs) and Zepeda (23-0, 20 KOs), who is from Long Beach, California, will be squaring off for the 135-pound world title recently vacated by 2014 fighter of the year Terence Crawford, who moved up in weight and claimed a vacant junior welterweight world title on April 18.
"It's a dream to fight for the world title on my own doorstep and it will be an electric atmosphere on the night at the Velodrome," Flanagan said. "I'd have fought Zepeda anywhere because to get a world title fight has been my dream since first putting on the gloves, but my promoter, Frank Warren, has really pulled out all the stops to get me my chance in my backyard as he believes in me and I'll repay that faith by becoming world champion."
Flanagan, a 25-year-old southpaw, earned the shot at the belt with his 10th-round disqualification victory against Ireland's Stephen Ormond on Feb. 14 in a title eliminator. Ormond was disqualified for repeated head-butting. Zepeda (23-0, 20 KOs), 25, has scored knockouts in 16 of his last 17 bouts and is coming off a first-round knockout of Armando Robles on April 25.
"Zepeda can certainly punch," Flanagan said. "He's stopped nearly all of his opponents, with the majority coming inside three rounds. It's not just about being able to punch at this level though. What happens when I start dragging him into the later rounds, and he's going into uncharted territory? Can he cope with the pace I'm going to set?
"These are all questions he's going to be asked of him and, remember, I can bang as well. I'm not saying it's going to be an easy fight. It's the biggest and hardest night of my life and I'm going to train and prepare for this like never before and do everything I can to win that belt."
Raymundo Beltran and Takahiro Ao were supposed to fight for the vacant lightweight belt on May 1 in Las Vegas. Beltran knocked Ao out in the second round but the title remained vacant because Beltran was over the 135-pound weight limit at the weigh-in the day before the fight, paving the way for Flanagan to face Zepeda for the still-vacant title.
The undercard will include middleweight contender Billy Joe Saunders (21-0, 11 KOs), 25, of England, in a warm-up fight for his mandatory shot at world titleholder Andy Lee (34-2-1, 24 KOs) of Ireland. Saunders' opponent has not been determined.