<
>

Nicholas Walters signs contract to fight Vasyl Lomachenko on Nov. 26

Junior lightweight titlist Vasyl Lomachenko and Nicholas "Axe Man" Walters, who had been on track to fight this past June, will get it on after Walters finally came around and agreed to the bout, one of the best that can be made in the weight division.

Walters signed a contract for the long-awaited fight on Tuesday, Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti told ESPN.com. Lomachenko and Walters will meet for Lomachenko's 130-pound world title on Nov. 26 in the main event of an HBO-televised card, probably at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas.

"Much thanks and appreciation must be given to HBO management for stepping up and getting this done," Moretti said of the network, which has had budget issues all year. "We're talking Lomachenko, who is the best boxer, bar none, from 126 to 135 pounds, against Nicholas, who is a vicious puncher at any weight. Walters is as tough as they come and is so motivated for this fight. Walters has a Ph.D. in boxing -- poor, hungry and determined."

Top Rank tried to make the fight for this past June 11, but issues over the weight for the bout and then over Walters' unhappiness with the purse killed it. The 28-year-old Lomachenko (6-1, 4 KOs), a featherweight world titleholder at the time, agreed to move up in weight because he wanted to fight Walters. He even offered to supplement Walters' purse by an additional $300,000 out of his own purse if Walters were to win the fight. Walters, who initially asked for $1 million, turned down a career-high $550,000 as well as the opportunity to add the $300,000 extra with a victory.

With Walters rejecting the fight, Lomachenko, a two-time Olympic gold medalist from Ukraine and one of the greatest amateur boxers in history, moved up to junior lightweight anyway and scored a spectacular fifth-round knockout of Roman "Rocky" Martinez on June 11 in New York to win a world title, which he will defend for the first time against Walters.

"We tried before to make this fight but we didn't have enough funds to do the fight based on what Nicholas was asking for, and now we've increased what we originally offered and we can do the fight," Top Rank chairman Bob Arum told ESPN.com, adding that Walters would earn more than the $550,000 he turned down last time but that Lomachenko is not offering him a win bonus. "For me it's the best fight we could put on at this point with Lomachenko. He is in my mind the best fighter in the world. I enjoy watching him so much. I get such a kick out of him and all the things he can do in that ring. He's the best in the world, so the challenge is to get him the biggest possible test in every fight because that then corroborates my view of him.

"Unlike some fighters, who like to go easy once in a while, we look to get him the toughest possible guy out there to fight him because that is what he wants -- the toughest, most dangerous guys. In this case, it's Walters."

Walters won a featherweight world title in 2012 and defended the belt three times, including what served as his coming-out party: a blistering sixth-round knockout of titleholder Nonito Donaire in October 2014.

But in his next fight, Walters (26-0-1, 21 KOs), 30, of Jamaica, failed to make weight for a June 2015 defense against Miguel Marriaga and was stripped of the title, although he easily outpointed Marriaga while the title remained vacant. In December, he moved up to junior lightweight and fought Jason Sosa to a wildly controversial majority draw in a bout virtually everybody had Walters winning easily.

The issue over his purse has kept him idle since, but now he has agreed to face Lomachenko, who won a world title in his third professional bout to tie a 39-year-old record for fewest bouts needed to win a world title.

Lomachenko easily outpointed Gary Russell Jr. to win a vacant featherweight belt in June 2014 and made three successful defenses before blasting out Martinez for the junior lightweight belt. Lomachenko, a 2008 and 2012 Olympic gold medalist, equaled the record set by Thailand's Saensak Muangsurin, who won a junior welterweight title in 1975 in his third professional fight.

Arum said Lomachenko is driven by history and titles more than money.

"He wants the best challengers and for him the titles mean everything," Arum said. "So if he goes up to lightweight, I'd have to match him with a champion. But right now we're at the point where he has a top challenger in Walters.

"Last time we tried to make the fight it didn't work out and maybe it wound up working out for the better because Lomachenko got the opportunity to fight for a world title against Martinez. Now Walters will make more money than we could offer him before because HBO is willing to pay more now."