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Light heavyweight Oleksandr Gvozdyk will meet Mehdi Amar for interim title

Light heavyweight contender Eleider "Storm" Alvarez wanted no part of Oleksandr Gvozdyk and pulled out of a mandated fight for an interim world title, so Mehdi Amar, the next leading available contender, will face him for that belt instead.

Gvozdyk and Amar will square off on March 17 at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York in one of the televised bouts on the Top Rank on ESPN card that also will feature a vacant junior welterweight title bout between Jose Ramirez and Amir Imam in the main event. That bout is in the process of being finalized.

"We are trading paperwork with Amar's management, but the fight is agreed to," Carl Moretti, vice president of Gvozdyk promoter Top Rank, told ESPN on Thursday. "Gvozdyk relishes the opportunity to fight for the interim belt and he's more locked in than a CPA on April 14."

Gvozdyk (14-0, 12 KOs), 30, a 2012 Ukrainian Olympic bronze medalist who fights out of Oxnard, California, had been ordered to face Alvarez (23-0, 11 KOs) for the WBC's vacant interim light heavyweight title, but Alvarez bailed out on the fight a few weeks ago. France's Amar (34-5-2, 16 KOs), 35, the former European light heavyweight champion, was the one who accepted the bout as Top Rank made its way down the WBC rankings.

Alvarez was the mandatory challenger for world champion Adonis Stevenson (29-1, 24 KOs), but he agreed to step aside to allow him to fight former two-division titlist Badou Jack (21-1-3, 13 KOs) first and was ordered to fight Gvozdyk. Stevenson-Jack was announced on Wednesday as Showtime unveiled its schedule for the first half of the year. They will meet on May 19 in Stevenson's home region of Quebec.

The winner of that fight will be mandated to face the Gvozdyk-Amar fight, which was stipulated in a WBC ruling announced on Thursday. In the ruling, the WBC confirmed that it will sanction Stevenson-Jack and Gvozdyk-Amar and that should the fight between the winners go to a purse bid, in the event the promoters cannot strike a deal, the champion would be entitled to 65 percent of the money and the interim titleholder would get 35 percent.

In addition, the WBC ruled that Alvarez, who will box on the Stevenson-Jack undercard, will maintain his status as the mandatory challenger to meet the fighter who emerges as champion.

Gvozdyk would have been happy to face Alvarez and is just as pleased to face Amar. He just wants to get his hands on a title belt.

"I can't explain my excitement of how happy I am seeing some bright light at the end of tunnel," he said. "It means I am getting one more step to a world title shot. Fighting for the interim title and mandatory position in the WBC will bring me in position to fight the champion, whoever it will be at that time. I would like to thank the WBC for giving me this opportunity, my promoter Top Rank, my manager, Egis Klimas, all my team who is working hard to get me in this position.

"My dream is slowly coming true. I also am excited to fight in Madison Square Garden, New York, the mecca of boxing. As far as my opponent, I don't know much about him, but I'll be ready to find out on March 17th at MSG."

Said Klimas, the 2016 and 2017 Boxing Writers Association of America manager of the year: "I'm very happy for Oleksandr, getting him into this WBC interim/mandatory position and getting in position in the next fight [after March 17] to fight a champion and to become one. He is a hard-working and smart boxer and he deserves to be where he is now."

Amar won his only fight in 2017 against a low-level opponent in his first fight since losing a decision and his European title fight to former super middleweight world titleholder Robert Stieglitz in November 2016.

"This guy [Amar] has experience and he fought Stieglitz in a good fight," Moretti said. "If Gvozdyk takes care of business, which we expect him to, he'll fight the winner of a sensational fight between Adonis Stevenson and Badou Jack, which is a true 50-50 fight. We look forward to making that fight."

Author: Dan Rafael, ESPN

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