Boxing promoters are beginning to plan for the sport’s return, scheduling a number of postponed fights for new dates in the summer and fall in Las Vegas and other locations.

boxing return Las Vegas
Lightweight champion Vasiliy Lomachenko (pictured) could fight fellow champion Teofimo Lopez in September, one of many rescheduled boxing matches being added to the calendar in the months to come. (Image: Rich Schultz/Getty)

Las Vegas stands out as a focal point of these efforts, with Top Rank Boxing’s Bob Arum having already announced that he’s building cards for June 9 and future dates in the city.

Nevada Combat Sports Decision Weighs Heavily on Boxing

The Nevada Athletic Commission will have plenty to say about precisely when boxing can return. On Wednesday, the commission will have a virtual meeting to determine if the state is ready to host combat sports events again. The UFC has already requested permission to host events on May 30 and June 6 from its Apex facility in Las Vegas, and Top Rank wants cards on June 9 and June 11, among others.

The commission will have to approve new COVID-19 protocols before any events can move forward. But given the UFC’s confidence that its May 30 event will take place in Las Vegas, it appears likely that the NAC will authorize combat sports in the state.

Promoters have already linked some notable names with boxing events that could take place in Las Vegas. Both Top Rank and manager Sam Katkovski told ESPN that junior welterweight Alex Saucedo (29-1, 19 KOs) will face Sonny Fredrickson (21-1, 14 KOs) at a Las Vegas venue on June 30.

Saucedo, a former title challenger, could still fight multiple times in 2020, depending on just how many cards Top Rank wants to put on, according to Katkovski.

“If their schedule continues to have this many dates, we’ll go again in the fall, I hope, if Alex comes out clean and healthy,” Katkovski told ESPN. “Then we can come back with a much bigger fight, maybe against Arnold Barboza or someone like that.”

WBO junior lightweight champion Jamel Herring (21-2, 10 KOs) told ESPN that he plans to fight in Las Vegas on July 2. Herring doesn’t yet know who his opponent will be, but the 34-year-old has been training in Omaha to prepare for his return to the ring.

“It’s funny, I actually felt good for my first sparring session,” Herring told ESPN. “So that tells you that even though I haven’t been in a gym setting, the workouts I had been doing at home during my free time, they’ve been paying off.”

Lomachenko, Lopez Look to Reschedule Unification Bout

The biggest fight to gain traction over the past week is a potential lightweight unification bout between champions Vasiliy Lomachenko (14-1, 10 KOs) and Teofimo Lopez (15-0, 12 KOs). The fighters considered booking a matchup in May, but while the coronavirus scuttled those plans, both fighters want to go forward in the fall.

“Neither of them want an interim fight,” Arum told ESPN. “So we would plan to do that in September, with or without an audience.”

The first test of how boxing will handle the COVID-19 era will come on Saturday in the Dominican Republic. The WBA will use the event to test its new protocols, including pre-fight tests of the fighters and screening of all individuals who enter the building. Fans will not attend the event.

“They have been tested, they’ll be tested before the fight, they’re going to be screened at the weigh-in, people have to wear masks,” said WBA president Gilberto Mendoza, via ESPN.

The card’s main event, which takes place in Santo Domingo, will feature junior bantamweights Norbelto Jimenez (29-9-5, 16 KOs) and Eliezer Aquino (21-4-1, 14 KOs).