It appears junior middleweight titleholder Sadam Ali will defend his WBO title against former titlist Liam Smith this year.
FightNights.com reached out to Golden Boy Promotions President Eric Gomez Sunday about the possibility of Ali facing WBC 154-pound champion Jermell Charlo, who called out Ali Friday for a unification bout.
"Ali has a mandatory," Gomez said via text message. "He has to fight Liam Smith."
Gomez did not say when the bout is expected to take place, but based on his answer, it will likely happen before a Charlo unification.
Charlo (30-0, 15 KO's), 27, of Houston, Texas, is coming off three highlight-reel knockouts in a row, including a first-round KO of Erickson Lubin in a Showtime main event in October at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Golden Boy doesn't seem too keen on the idea of Ali facing Charlo so soon and understandably so.
Ali (25-1, 14 KO's), 29, the first Arab-American boxer to represent the United States in the 2008 Olympics, moved up from 147 to 154 pounds in December, and defeated Miguel Cotto in a massive upset to win by unanimous decision in an HBO main event at Madison Square Garden.
Smith (26-1-1, 14 KO's), 29, of the United Kingdom, held the WBO junior middleweight title from 2015 to 2016 before losing it by ninth-round knockout to Saul "Canelo" Alvarez. However, he has recovered to win his last three fights consecutively, including back-to-back victories over Liam Williams to set himself up for another world title opportunity.