Boxing Insider Notebook: Ramirez, Postol, Ali, Frazier, Vargas, Conlan, and more…
Compiled By: William Holmes
The following is the Boxing Insider notebook for the week of March 3rd to March 10th; covering the comings and goings in the sport of boxing that you might have missed.
Jose Ramirez-Viktor Postol & Jose Pedraza-Javier Molina Super Lightweight Double Header Set for May 9th on ESPN
It took a little longer than expected, but WBC/WBO super lightweight world champion Jose Ramirez, the pride of California’s Central Valley, is set to return. Ramirez will defend his titles against mandatory challenger and former world champion Viktor “The Iceman” Postol Saturday, May 9 at Save Mart Center in Fresno, a short drive from Ramirez’s hometown of Avenal. Ramirez and Postol were set to fight Feb. 1 in China, but the bout was postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Ramirez-Postol and a 10-round super lightweight battle between former two-weight world champion Jose “Sniper” Pedraza and surging 2008 U.S. Olympian Javier “El Intocable” Molina will be televised LIVE on ESPN and ESPN Deportes beginning at 10 p.m. ET, with the undercard bouts scheduled to stream in English and Spanish on ESPN+ starting at 7 p.m. ET.
Promoted by Top Rank, in association with TGB Promotions, tickets priced at $206, $131, $96, $66 and $31 go on sale Tuesday, March 10 at 10 a.m. PT and can be purchased at the Save Mart Center box office, Ticketmaster.com, or by calling 800-745-3000.
“We are pleased that Ramirez and Postol will finally fight May 9 from the great city of Fresno,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “Viktor is a worthy mandatory challenger who earned his title shot, and Jose will be fully prepared to make a statement. And for Jose, this could be his last fight in Fresno for a long time, so I expect the Central Valley faithful to fill up the Save Mart Center for a special evening.”
Ramirez (25-0, 17 KOs) is one of two unified junior welterweight champions. He won the WBC world title in March 2018, prevailing via 12-round shootout against Amir Imam in New York City. He defended that belt twice before stepping up to fight Maurice Hooker in a highly anticipated title unification bout. In one of the best fights of 2019, Ramirez knocked out Hooker in six rounds. A 2012 U.S. Olympian, Ramirez has headlined at Save Mart Center five times previously and has drawn a total of 65,794 fans through the arena’s turnstiles. Last time he fought at Save Mart Center — February 2019 against Jose Zepeda — he drew a career-high turnout of 14,034.
“It is always a blessing to fight at Save Mart Center in front of my loyal fans,” Ramirez said. “I prepared for Postol once, and I will be in top form May 9. My trainer, Robert Garcia, will have me ready for whatever he brings to the table. He is a former world champion who I cannot underestimate.”
Postol (31-2, 12 KOs) has spent the majority of his 12-year career as a super lightweight and nearly a decade at, or near, the top of the division. He stunned the boxing world in October 2015 when he dethroned Lucas Matthysse via 10th-round KO to win the WBC world title. In his next fight, he was blunted over 12 rounds by Terence Crawford in a unification bout. He is 3-1 since the Crawford defeat, dropping a 2018 decision to Josh Taylor, who is now the division’s other unified champion. He earned the WBC’s mandatory shot at Ramirez in April with a unanimous decision over Mohamed Mimoune.
“I am glad the new fight date is set. I’m already in gym, and camp is going really well,” Postol said. “I was ready to fight on Feb. 1 and now I’m focused on May 9. The fight is taking place in his hometown, but that does not bother me because I have the experience to fight on away soil. I am looking forward to become a champion again.”
Pedraza (26-3, 13 KOs), from Cidra, Puerto Rico, held the IBF junior lightweight world title from 2015-2017 and then upset Ray Beltran in August 2018 to capture the WBO lightweight world title. He came up short in a valiant effort against Vasiliy Lomachenko in a toe-to-toe unification bout in December 2018 before knocking out Antonio Lozada Jr. in nine rounds the following May. Pedraza then moved up to 140 pounds last September and was outboxed by southpaw spoiler Jose Zepeda. He’s taking another shot as a super lightweight, this time against Molina (22-2, 9 KOs), a native of Norwalk, Calif. Molina, winner of five in a row, is coming off a pair of signature victories.
Last November, he knocked out Japanese veteran Hiroki Okada in just 65 seconds in an ESPN-televised co-feature. He followed that up with gritty eight-round decision over Imam on the Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder II undercard.
“This May 9 fight against Javier Molina will be crucial for my career. This is a crossroads fight, and I will do everything in my power to return to the winning route against a world-class opponent,” Pedraza said. “I know Molina very well. I saw him fight while we were at the 2008 Olympics in China. He is coming off a couple of big wins and is looking for a world title shot at 140. I’m also looking for a world title shot at super lightweight, and that makes this fight a significant and interesting one. I’m working extremely hard because I know that to get a world title opportunity, I can’t have another loss on my record. I will get a big win against Javier Molina on May 9, and after that, the ‘Sniper’ will aim for a world title at 140.”
“I’m happy to get right back in the ring with another tough opponent. With a win over Pedraza, I feel like it should definitely set me up for a title shot next,” Molina said. “I’m excited to be on ESPN once again and continue to get that exposure. I’m just ready to go. 2020 will be my year.”
Josue Vargas, Julian Rodriguez, Paddy Donovan and Christopher Zavala Added to Michael Conlan’s St. Patrick’s Day Garden Party
Before Irish sensation Michael “Mick” Conlan enters the ring against Colombian slugger Belmar Preciado in front of a raucous St. Patrick’s Day crowd at Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden (ESPN+, 8 p.m. ET), many of the sport’s brightest young stars will look to steal the holiday spotlight.
Josue “The Prodigy” Vargas will make the first defense of his IBF North American 140-pound belt Tuesday, March 17 against Salvador Briceno in a 10-rounder. Vargas (16-1, 9 KOs), from the Bronx, N.Y., has won 10 consecutive bouts since an October 2016 disqualification defeat. Briceno (17-5, 11 KOs), from Guadalajara, Mexico, has won two of three since pushing undefeated prospect Gabriel Flores Jr. the distance last June in Reno, Nev.
Vargas-Briceno, along with the returns of top prospects Julian “Hammer Hands” Rodriguez, Paddy “Real Deal” Donovan and Christopher “The Boy” Zavala, will stream live on ESPN+ starting at 5 p.m. ET.
“I’m excited to be fighting in my hometown on such a stacked card,” Vargas said. “It’s an honor to defend my belt in front of my friends, family and biggest supporters. I can’t wait for another spectacular fight night and to put on a show for everyone who will be watching on ESPN+.”
Rodriguez (19-0, 12 KOs), the fighting pride of Hasbrouck Heights, N.J., will face former top prospect Dannie Williams (24-3, 18 KOs) in an eight-rounder at super lightweight. Rodriguez fought three times in the last five months of 2019 after nearly two years out of the ring due to assorted injuries. Williams, from Saint Louis, returned to the ring last April following more than five years away from it. He last fought in January, notching a 10-round decision over Andre Keys (12-1 at the time).
Donovan (3-0, 2 KOs), a 13-time national amateur champion from Limerick, Ireland, will be making his American debut in a six-round welterweight contest against Gregory Young (4-3, 1 KO). Donovan is trained and managed by former middleweight world champion Andy Lee.
“I can’t wait for my U.S. debut. I learned so much from training alongside Tyson Fury recently,” Donovan said. “I’m taking that experience into this fight. Thank you to Top Rank for putting me on this card. Conlan’s St. Patrick’s Day cards are always exciting, and I’m happy to be part of the festivities.”
Zavala (6-0, 3 KOs), a 20-year-old from Long Beach, Calif., will fight Rennard Oliver (7-2-3, 0 KOs) in a six-rounder at super featherweight. Oliver has never been knocked out as a pro and is coming off a draw against Raul Manrique Jr. (4-0 at the time).
In other action on the undercard stream:
Feargal McCrory (11-0, 5 KOs), one of Ireland’s top young prospects, will make his United States debut against the durable Juan Tapia (9-3, 3 KOs) in a six-rounder at super featherweight. Tapia, who has fought the likes of current WBO featherweight world champion Shakur Stevenson, has never been knocked out as a pro.
Matthew Tinker (2-0, 2 KOs), from Scarborough, England, will face Esai Herrera (2-1, 1 KO) in a four-rounder at light heavyweight. Tinker has scored a pair of first-round knockouts to begin his career.
Hrgovic and Yeleussinov Step Up in Maryland
Filip Hrgović will take on Jerry Forrest and Daniyar Yeleussinov will meet Julius Indongo in big step-up bouts for the talented pair on Friday April 17 at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, live on DAZN.
TICKETS START AT JUST $43 (PLUS FEES)
Hrgović (10-0 8 KOs) made his debut under the Sauerland-Matchroom Boxing USA co-promotional banner in the same venue in May, hammering Gregory Corbin in the first round in his first defense of his WBC International title, and has added two more big KO wins since then, stopping Mario Heredia in Mexico in August in three rounds and then needing under nine minutes once again to blast away former World title challenger Eric Molina in Saudi Arabia in December.
Hrgović expects tough resistance from Forrest (26-3 20 KOs) in his first fight in 2020, with the Virginia man having ran unbeaten Jermaine Franklin close in July and returning to action in September to record his 20thKO win from 23 fights.
“I am looking forward to getting back in the ring,” said Hrgović. “I have good memories from fighting at the MGM National Harbor. This is where I made my American debut when I knocked out Gregory Corbin in the first round, and I’ve been training hard to give the fans another exciting performance on April 17.
“Jerry Forrest is a good boxer. He is a southpaw with a good record, and I’m expecting a tough fight, but I’m confident I will beat him.
“2019 was a great year for me. I fought in America, Mexico and Saudi Arabia. I had three fights against three strong opponents and got three knockouts wins. This year will be even better. My goal has always been to become World Champion, and I’m now closing in on that goal. I’m coming for belts!”
Promoter Nisse Sauerland said: “Filip is in fantastic shape and ready to start his 2020 campaign in style. Last time out at the MGM National Harbor he introduced himself to the American fight fans with an explosive first-round knockout, and they can expect a similar display this time round. Whenever Filip steps into the ring you’re guaranteed excitement. He is the future of the Heavyweight division and it’s only a matter of time before he’s fighting for World honors.”
Yeleussinov (9-0 5 KOs) looked explosive in his last two outings of 2019, hammering Reshard Hicks inside the opening round of their September clash in New York before stopping Alan Sanchez in the fifth round of their clash in Phoenix in September.
The Kazakhstan 2016 Olympic gold medal man now faces a stiff test of his talents in his first action of 2020 against Indongo (23-2 12 KOs). The rangy Namibian rose to prominence in December 2016 when his stunning first round one-punch KO win saw him rip the WBO World Super-Lightweight title from Russia’s Eduard Troyanovsky in Moscow and then unified the division against Scotland’s three-weight World champion Ricky Burns in Glasgow in April 2017.
The 37 year old faced Terence Crawford for the undisputed Super-Lightweight title in August 2017 and then met former World Super-Lightweight champion and Maryland headliner Regis Prograis in March 2018. Indongo fell to both champions but bounced back with a 12th career KO win in Alabama in August, and Yeleussinov has vowed to shine against the former World ruler.
“This is the most important fight of my career,” said Yeleussinov. “I had a great end to the year, and I feel I am building real momentum in the pro game now, but this is a big leap in quality of opponent. Julius is a former unified World champion and has huge experience at the very top level, so I will need to put on a career-best performance to keep my run going.”
One of Matchroom Boxing USA’s bright young talents joins Hrgovic and Yeleussinov in the shape of Raymond Ford (5-0 2 KOs), who will be eager to build on an explosive performance in December in destroying Francisco Mura in the first round in Phoenix.
“This is a big night in the careers of Filip Hrgovic and Daniyar Yeleussinov,” said promoter Eddie Hearn. “Filip is a big problem for the Heavyweight division. The Croat is gaining valuable experience with every camp and fight, and all eyes will be on the 27 year old in Maryland as he looks to make another statement in boxing’s glamour division.
“Daniyar is really growing in the paid ranks and has been impressive in his recent outings, but Julius Indongo is a big step-up for the ‘Kazakh Thunder’. The former unified World champion will look to carry his power up to 147lbs so Daniyar will be under pressure to both impress again and stave off the attack of the dangerous Indongo.
“Our young stable of fighters is the best in the States, and Raymond continues his pro education on what promises to be another exciting night of action on DAZN.”
Ali-Frazier 50th Anniversary Save the Date
The World Boxing Council, The New York Athletic Club and Madison Square Garden join forces to honor the Fight of the Century, arguably the most celebrated boxing event in the history of sports!
Mark your calendars for March 2021 when one year from today, the world will commemorate this majestic battle with a variety of great events, recreating the thrill and breathtaking majesty of the Fight of the Century. Once again, New York will be the capital of boxing, and this time…. you’re invited.
Ali and Frazier fought three times, the first time on March 8, 1971 to a sold-out Madison Square Garden. The tension was high as Ali, attempting to recover his WBC World Heavyweight Title, stepped back into the ring after his absence for political and legal reasons.
Broadcast live, the fight, promoted by Jerry Perenchio, broke all existing, audience records, and was aired worldwide, in 50 countries and in 12 different languages to over 300 million fans.
The referee was Arthur Mercante, who also scored the fight. The other two, acclaimed New York judges were Artie Aidala and Bill Retch.
A spectacular war ensued, between two undefeated champions (Ali 31-0 and Frazier 26-0) resulting in the first time Muhammad Ali was ever knocked down.
That was a magical night, rich with celebrities participating in the spectacle; Frank Sinatra, the accredited photographer for Life magazine, Burt Lancaster the color commentary and Leroy Neiman, the official artist. And now, fifty years later, we will create the feeling of boxing at its best, again!
We are thrilled to begin the journey to commemorate the greatest fight of history, get ready! The countdown to greatness, begins!
DiBella Entertainment’s Broadway Boxing Coming to Atlantic City on March 19th
DiBella Entertainment’s acclaimed Broadway Boxing series, celebrating its 17th year, has moved its scheduled March 12 event in Miami, FL, to Thursday, March 19 at the Showboat Atlantic City in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The event will still be headlined by Ghanaian lightweight contender Emmanuel “The Gameboy” Tagoe (31-1, 15 KOs) battling Filipino veteran Rey “The Technician” Perez (24-11, 8 KOs) and live streamed exclusively on UFC FIGHT PASS®, the world’s leading digital subscription service for combat sports, beginning at 8:00 p.m. ET/5:00 p.m. PT.
Advance tickets, priced at $100 (Ringside), $65 (Reserved) and $35 (General Admission), may be purchased on Eventbrite HERE or by calling DiBella Entertainment at (212) 947-2577. Doors on the night of the event will open at 6:30 p.m. ET with the first bell at 7:00 p.m. ET. The Showboat Atlantic City is located at 801 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, NJ 08401. More information can be found on their website, www.ShowboatHotelAC.com.
“I’m thrilled to bring the next Broadway Boxing event to the Showboat Hotel in Atlantic City, NJ, on Thursday, March 19. World ranked Ghanaian lightweight contender Emmanuel Tagoe faces Filipino Rey Perez in a terrific main event, streamed live on UFC Fight Pass,” said 2020 International Boxing Hall-of-Fame Inductee Lou DiBella, President of DiBella Entertainment. “The stacked undercard includes two exciting female fights, featuring former world champion Kali Reis and rising prospect Logan Holler. Colombian Olympian Juan Carlos Carrillo will take on Demetri Bentley in a battle of unbeaten light heavyweight prospects and the popular Dusty Harrison, from Washington, D.C., will see action as well.”
Fighting out of the talent-laden region of Accra, Ghana, world-ranked lightweight Emmanuel “The Gameboy” Tagoe (31-1, 15 KOs) will seek to keep his remarkable winning streak intact, facing Rey “The Technician” Perez (24-11, 8 KOs), of North Hollywood, CA, by way of Sindangan, Zamboanga del Norte, Philippines, in the 10-round main event. Tagoe has won 31 fights in a row since his lone defeat in his 2004 pro debut.
Ranked #2 by the WBO, #6 by the IBF, and #10 by the WBC, Tagoe will be fighting in the United States for the first time in seven years. Most recently, the heavy-handed Ghanaian knocked out Ishmael Aryeetey in the sixth round, on July 20, 2019, in Accra. He also holds victories against former world champions Moses Paulus and Mzonke Fana.
Said Tagoe manager, Peter Kahn, “Emmanuel has been in camp in Florida for four months away from home in Ghana, away from his family. He has been working hard, he’s in excellent condition and ready to fight on March 19 in Atlantic City. As the WBO #2 rated lightweight in the world, Emmanuel is in line for big fights in 2020.”
The 30-year-old Perez hits the ring following a hard-fought decision loss to undefeated contender George Kambosos on January 19, 2019, in Las Vegas. Perez has been tested against solid opposition throughout his 11-year career, facing Jessie Magdaleno, Lamont Roach, Chris Avalos and Oscar Duarte. Prior to the loss against Kambosos, Perez stopped Christian Gonzalez in the seventh round on October 18, 2018, in Los Angeles, CA.
The co-feature will have former world champion Kali “KO Mequinonoag” Reis (16-7-1, 5 KOs), of Providence, RI, fighting in a scheduled eight-round welterweight bout. Since challenging undisputed champion Cecilia Braekhus in May of 2018, Reis has won three consecutive fights, including a six-round decision on August 29, 2019, against Patricia Juarez.
In a scheduled six-round light heavyweight battle of unbeaten prospects, 2016 Colombian Olympian Juan Carlos Carrillo (3-0, 2 KOs) continues his ascent as a professional challenging hard-hitting Demetri Bentley (8-0, 6 KOs), of Atlanta, GA. The 27-year-old Carrillo is staying busy in 2020, scoring a second-round knockout of Ben Williams on February 8, in Daytona Beach, FL. Following an active 2019, fighting eight times last year, the 24-year-old Bentley returns to action after an eight-round unanimous decision versus Ian Darby on September 29, 2019.
Exciting female junior middleweight prospect and newly signed to DiBella Entertainment, Logan Holler (8-0-1, 3 KOs), of Columbia, SC, clashes with Leslie Pope (4-1, 3 KOs), of Kansas City, MO, in a six-round bout. Fighting for the first time in 2020, the former star college athlete Holler has moved her training to South Florida, where she is guided by Javiel Centeno in a camp alongside Tagoe and Kambosos. She is looking to bounce back following the only blemish on her record; a six-round majority draw to Bertha Aracil on February 23, 2019.
Rounding out the card, undefeated light heavyweight contender Dusty Harrison (34-0-1, 24 KOs) will compete in an eight-round bout. The 25-year-old Washington D.C. resident is currently riding a five-bout winning streak against top-level competition. Most recently, he knocked out Les Sherrington in the second round on February 8, 2020, in Vienna, Virginia. The Harrison bout is presented in association with Lee Baxter Promotions.
WBO 18th Children’s Athletics Invitational Was a Huge Success
In an effort to help in engaging children occupied in positive activities and keeping them drug free, the World Boxing Organization (WBO), chaired by Francisco ‘Paco’ Valcárcel, Esq., held the 18th edition of the ‘WBO Annual Children’s Athletics Invitational’ which took place at the Cupey Alto Sports Complex (Cupey Track) located in the capital of San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The WBO sponsored the event as part of their ‘WBO Kids Drug Free’ program, which is focused on helping to keep the world’s youth healthy and drug free.
The track and field invitational tournament was dedicated to current WBO Mini-Flyweight World Champion, Wilfredo ‘Bimbito’ Méndez, of Trujillo Alto. In and out of the ring, Méndez has been an example of discipline, dedication and sacrifice to reach his goal and win a world championship title.
“Thanks to the WBO for hosting this great activity that brings together lots of children from all over Puerto Rico so they can compete in positive, healthy activities. Thanks to the parents for bringing them to this event. You are also champions, but in life. I will always support events like this, that help kids stay out of trouble” Méndez said.
The tournament was very we’ll attended and involved over 300 boy and girl participants between the ages of 6 and 13, representing 20 athletic clubs around Puerto Rico.
The participants were awarded medals to the first three places per event and cash to the most prominent competitors in each category. Trophies were also awarded to the first three teams in scoring and two bikes were raffled per category.
The event was attended by the WBO Latino Junior Welterweight champion Jean ‘Lobo’ Torres, WBO NABO Interim Junior Welterweight Champion Danielito Zorrilla, former 130-pound world champion Alberto Machado, WBO Latino Junior Flyweight Champion René Santiago, WBO Latino Featherweight Champion Bryan Chevalier, prospects Nicklaus Flaz, Edwin Valentin and Angel ‘Bebito’ Aponte as well as amateur boxer Moisés Zorrilla.
Also present were referee José Hiram Rivera (event coordinator), judge Luis Ruiz, managers Raúl Pastrana and José ‘Pepe’ Ortíz, matchmaker Yoel González and trainer David Oyola.
WBO Treasurer Adolfo Flores and legal advisor Gustavo Olivieri Miranda, Esq. also were present in the tournament.
WBO Kids Drug Free is an international program aimed at children and young people in order to carry a message of drug prevention and motivate them to continue studying, using sports as a tool to stay on the right path, as well that support causes directed to those in need in order to ensure a better quality of life.