Boxing Insider Notebook: Kikland, Hernandez, Conlan, Stevenson, Jones, Rigondeaux, and more…


Compiled By: William Holmes

The following is the Boxing Insider notebook for the week of January 28th to February 4th; covering the comings and goings in the sport of boxing that you might have missed.

Photo Credit: Hosanna Rull/iRULL FOTOS

Shakur Stevenson-Miguel Marriaga and Michael Conlan-Belmar Preciado Headline Separate Hulu Theater at MSG Shows March 14 and March 17

Shakur Stevenson, the 22-year-old phenom on the cusp of pound-for-pound greatness, will make the first defense of his WBO featherweight world title Saturday, March 14, against three-time world title challenger Miguel “Escorpión” Marriaga at Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden.

Three days later, Irish featherweight Michael “Mick” Conlan will make his annual St. Patrick’s Day pilgrimage at Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in a 10-rounder against hard-charging Colombian veteran Belmar Preciado.

The Stevenson-Marriaga co-feature will see former junior featherweight world champion Jessie Magdaleno fight the unbeaten Sakaria Lukas in a 10-round featherweight showdown. Stevenson-Marriaga and Magdaleno-Lukas will be televised LIVE on ESPN and ESPN Deportes beginning at 10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. PT.

Conlan-Preciado and a 10-round female super featherweight showdown between the unbeaten Mikaela Mayer and former featherweight world champion Melissa Hernandez will stream live in English and Spanish on ESPN+ beginning at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.

Promoted by Top Rank, tickets for the Stevenson-Marriaga and Conlan-Preciado cards are priced at $200, $100, $70, $40 and $30 (not including applicable fees) and go on sale Friday, Feb. 7 at 12 p.m. ET. Tickets can be purchased at the Madison Square Garden Box Office, all Ticketmaster outlets, Ticketmaster charge by phone (866-858-0008) and online at www.ticketmaster.com or www.MSG.com.

For a limited time, when purchasing a ticket online to one of these cards, you will then be given the option to purchase discounted tickets to the other event.

“What a great two nights of boxing on ESPN and ESPN+, as we get to see Shakur Stevenson defend his title against the big-punching Marriaga and Mick Conlan continue one of boxing’s great traditions,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “New York is going to turn out in force to watch two of boxing’s great young stars.”

Stevenson (13-0, 7 KOs), the pride of “Brick City”, Newark, N.J., was the first male boxer from the 2016 Rio Olympics to win a professional world title. Last October, he bested Joet Gonzalez via unanimous decision to win the vacant WBO featherweight world title. The Gonzalez win punctuated a banner year for the Olympic silver medalist, who also defeated former world title challenger Christopher “Pitufo” Diaz on the Terence Crawford-Amir Khan PPV undercard. Last July, he headlined an ESPN telecast in front of an adoring hometown crowd of more than 5,000 at Prudential Center, knocking out Alberto Guevara in three rounds.

“We’ve been trying to make this fight with Miguel Marriaga for a long time now,” Stevenson said. “I wanted a strong opponent for my first title defense. He’s been in the ring with multiple world champions, and I am ready to prove that I am the best featherweight in the world. This is my fourth fight at Madison Square Garden, but my first as a world champion, and it will be my best performance yet. I know all of my East Coast fans will come out and support on March 14.”

Marriaga (29-3, 25 KOs), one of the division’s hardest punchers, is hoping the fourth time’s a charm. He fell short in previous world title challenges against Vasiliy Lomachenko, Oscar Valdez and Nicholas Walters, but he’s riding a four-bout winning streak (all by KO). He last fought in December 2019, knocking out Alfredo Mejia Vargas with a body shot. A native of Arjona, Colombia, he’s been scouting Stevenson as a potential foe.

“I always wanted this fight, and the time is right now that he’s a world champion,” Marriaga said. “He speaks often about how people are ducking him, but here I am. Colombia will have a new world champion March 14.”

Magdaleno (27-1, 18 KOs) is 2-0 as a featherweight since losing his junior featherweight world title to Isaac Dogboe in one of the best fights of 2018. A native of Las Vegas, he is coming off a unanimous technical decision over Rafael Rivera last August in Los Angeles. Lukas (23-0, 16 KOs), from Namibia, is one boxing’s best-kept secrets, a nine-year pro who has three knockouts in his last four fights.

“The guys people don’t know about are the dangerous ones,” Magdaleno said. “With the mindset I have now, I don’t think anybody can beat me. “My trainer {Jorge Capetillo} and I are looking ahead. I’m just waiting on what’s next, but we have to take care of business against Lukas first. Once we do that, I have every right to call out all of the champions.”

“There is a Desert Storm coming to New York in the name of Sakaria Lukas, and this storm is targeting the destruction of Jessie Magdaleno,” Lukas said.

Conlan (13-0, 7 KOs) has made Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden his professional home, as he turned pro in front of a sold-out St. Patrick’s Day crowd there back in 2017. In the years since, he has graduated from prospect to contender, as he’s the No. 1 contender for the title held by Stevenson. He went 3-0 in 2019, including a decision win in December over Olympic nemesis Vladimir Nikitin. Preciado (20-2-1, 13 KOs) will be making his third ring appearance outside of his native Colombia, and he has won two in a row since a KO loss to former world title challenger Hiroshige Osawa. 

“I’m honored to return to the Mecca of Boxing, Madison Square Garden, and fight for the fourth straight St. Patrick’s Day,” Conlan said. “I know how tough Preciado is, but this fight is a great test as I continue on my path towards becoming a world champion. Fighting in New York City is very special for me. The fans have been very supportive right from the beginning at my pro debut on St. Patrick’s Day in 2017, and I look forward to putting on another tremendous show for them this year.”

“The fans will be there to see Conlan, but mark my words, they will remember me,” Preciado said. “I am more than just another ‘opponent.’ When I win, I won’t be surprised. I am prepared for a hard 10 rounds.”

Mayer (12-0, 5 KOs), who turned pro in August 2017 after representing the United States at the 2016 Rio Olympics, has been dominant in the paid ranks. One of the 130-pound division’s top contenders, she last fought Oct. 26 on the Shakur Stevenson-Joet Gonzalez undercard, knocking out Alejandra Zamora in six rounds. Hernandez (23-7-3, 7 KOs), winner of four of her last five, won the WBC female featherweight world title in 2012. Last April, she dominated then-unbeaten Selina Barrios over eight rounds. “I’m excited to be fighting again in New York City, especially on St. Patrick’s Day at Madison Square Garden,” Mayer said. “I love that I’m going up against a former world champion because it’s going to make for a very competitive, exciting event. I’m also happy to be on a Mick Conlan card. He has a huge

Guillermo Rigondeaux Training Camp Quotes


Former world champion Guillermo Rigondeaux will seek to become a three-time, two-division world champion when he moves down to bantamweight to challenge former champion Liborio Solis for the vacant WBA title live on SHOWTIME this Saturday, February 8 in a Premier Boxing Champions event from PPL Center in Allentown, Pa.

“I’m trying to make history by winning a third world title in a second weight class, while also matching my two [Olympic] Gold Medals,” said Rigondeaux, who will fight at bantamweight for the first time in his career. “I want to make a statement and solidify my legacy as one of the best Cuban fighters ever. I want the boxing world to be talking about me, as I seek to become a world champion once again. February 8 will be a special day for me and my family.

“I know at super bantamweight I am a force to be reckoned with. Now that I’m moving down to bantamweight, I feel stronger and I’m getting the most out of my skills. The bantamweight and super bantamweight divisions are filled with great fighters to test myself against. It’s a very exciting time and I am training very hard for each opportunity that is granted to me.”

This will be Rigondeaux’s second straight fight working with the renowned head trainer Ronnie Shields, and conducting training camp at Shields’ gym in Houston.

“Ronnie and I are working very hard and smart,” said Rigondeaux. “We have put together a great game plan that we are going to execute on fight night. All of my tools are getting sharpened up and everyone will see that the hard work we’ve put in will pay off. Ronnie is a great coach and I’ll be fighting with something to prove on fight night.”

“He is very focused, and one of the hardest workers in the gym,” said Shields. “Rigondeaux is so determined to become a world champion once again. He comes to camp every single day with that goal, and I don’t see any way he doesn’t achieve it.”

Rigondeaux is coming off an exciting knockout win over former world champion Julio Ceja last June. The Guantanamo, Cuba native will look to capture his next world title when he faces Solis, a former super flyweight world champion for the vacant WBA belt.

“Solis is a good opponent and a worthy challenger, but I am ready to reclaim my status as a world champion,” said Rigondeaux. “I’m going to show people why I am one of the best boxers of my generation.

“This is a very big deal for me. For years I was one of the best fighters in the world, if not, the best fighter in the world. When you’re a champion, you only fight the top opponents and those are the type of fights I want. I’m going to start another long reign as champion beginning February 8.”

Uprising Promotions Adds Middleweight Melody Popravak to Roster

Ronson Frank’s Uprising Promotions announced today that it has added middleweight Melody Popravak to its roster. After most recently competing in the Olympic Trials at 165 pounds, Popravak now has her sights set on making her professional debut under the Uprising Promotions banner this spring.

“Uprising Promotions has been an avid supporter of women’s boxing at our shows over the years, and we are excited to sign Melody as the first female boxer officially on our team,” said Ronson Frank, Uprising Promotions President. “Melody is a really hard worker who is dedicated to her craft. She is eager to fight, and we look forward to getting her into the ring as soon as possible.”

Originally from Fort Myers, Florida, Popravak now trains and resides in Brooklyn, New York. A high-level athlete throughout her life, she is a former NCAA Division 1 softball player at Boston University and Florida Gulf Coast University. Additionally, she achieved her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Accounting and has her Personal Trainer Certification from the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

Popravak only started boxing a little over a year ago, but she quickly proved to be a fast learner. During a very successful amateur campaign, she won the 2018 New York Metros Championship, 2019 Ringmasters Silver, 2019 Eastern Qualifier Bronze and 2019 Last Chance Qualifier Silver, which solidified her spot in the 2020 Olympic Trials. She eventually placed fourth at the Olympic Trials, defeating some of the top competition in the country.

Now working towards her professional debut, Popravak is currently training under the tutelage of Steven Frank. A former IBF world title challenger and NBA super middleweight champion, Frank also competed in the 1984 Olympics and was recently inducted into the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame. Assisting him is Thomas Baldwin, who brings a high amateur pedigree and further professional experience to the team.

“I could not be in better hands than having Steven Frank as my mentor and trainer in boxing,” said Popravak. “To move into the professional ranks just as he did, and be working with Uprising Promotions as well, it is a dream come true! The entire female middleweight division is stacked with talent and excitement right now, and I am ready to add my name into the mix.”

Stay tuned as details begin to materialize on the professional debut of Popravak under the Uprising Promotions banner.

Shearns Boxing Promotions to Promote 1st Pro Boxing Show Ever in Framingham, Mass.

Shearns Boxing Promotions (SBP) has announced it will bring professional boxing for the first time ever to Framingham, Massachusetts with “Fight Night In Framingham,” Friday night, March 20, at Sheraton Framingham Hotel.

Proceeds will benefit Fighting Life, an after-school youth boxing and academic empowerment program, available 100-percent free of charge, to students beginning in elementary school through high school education.  With the continuous growth in technology and available access to various social media platforms today, children (especially those ages 11 to 18 years) are easily exposed to and influenced by various social pressures, such as but not limited to, hatred, drug availability, and everyday violence.  Located out of UpperKuts Boxing Club in Ashland, Massachusetts, the Fighting Life Boxing Program was founded by owner and head coach, A.J. Thomas, as a resource and program to provide children with a positive outlet and outlook in life. Visit www.fightinglife.org to learn more about this organization.

“We are extremely happy to bring professional boxing to Framingham for the first time,” SBP president Chuck Shearns said, “in addition to teaming with such a great cause in Fighting Life. “We believe that there are plenty of boxing fans in the community who will enjoy a quality show. The early support for this event has been amazing and local businesses have been extremely charitable.

“On a personal note, SBP and Framingham have a very important history together. It is where I first met my wife, Karen, and lived when starting our family. I also boxed in Framingham when I was younger.”

The City of Framingham, located 20 miles southwest of Boston, dates back to the American Revolution and, perhaps, may be better known as being part of the famed Boston Marathon course. Framingham may never have had a pro boxing show held there, but it doesn’t necessarily mean boxing isn’t popular in the city of nearly 69,000 residents.

“We’ve had amateur boxing shows in Framingham, but this will be the first professional event,” Thomas explained. “Kids here are into boxing even though they may not be as knowledgeable about boxing as elsewhere. If more kids understand what boxing can do to better their lives, boxing would have and will get bigger with more exposure to the sport, and that’s why it’s so important to support this show.”

Framingham’s most notable boxer is 2008 USA Olympic Team alternate, Danny O’Connor, who has 30-3 (11 KOs) as a pro. Many Framingham-area boxers now have an opportunity to establish their own names in that market, starting with the March 20th show, including unbeaten super featherweight Timmy Ramos (5-0-2, 5 KOs).

Ramos, a two-time New England Golden Gloves champion, plans to grab the local spotlight in the 6-round, main event against Carlos Marrero, III (2-3-1), of Bridgeport, Connecticut. In 2017, Ramos fought to a 4-round, majority draw with Philip Davis, who Marrero upset in his last fight by way of as 4-round, split decision.

In the co-featured event, undefeated super featherweight Nelson “Chino” Perez (2-0, 2 KOs) faces an opponent to be determined in a 6-tound match. Another New England Golden Gloves champion, Puerto Rico-native Perez fights out of nearby Marlboro, MA.

In a battle of quality MMA fighters in a boxing ring, Albania-born super middleweight Kastriot “Slaughterhouse” Xhema, fighting out of Greenwich, CT, makes his pro boxing debut versus Framingham favorite Saul “The Spider” Almeida (0-10-3, 20-11 in MMA), who hails from Brazil.

Also fighting on the undercard is Southbridge, MA welterweight Wilfredo “El Sucaro” Pagan (6-1, 3 KOs) vs. Tyrone “Hands of Stone” Luckey (9-12-4, 7 KOs), in a 6-round bout; Worcester, MA super welterweight Hansen Castillo (0-3), Worcester super featherweight Ranse Andino (1-1) and pro-debuting Hartford, CT super flyweight Angel Gonzalez, Jr. against opponents to be determined in 4-round fights.

All fights and fighters are subject to change.

Tickets prices are $75,.00 ringside (rows 1-3), $60.00 (seated), $45.00 standing room, and VIP tables (of 10) for $1000.00 and may be purchased HERE, at UpperKuts gym, or from any of the local fighters on the card.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. ET, first fight at 7 p.m. ET.

Street Light Ventures is the presenting sponsor. Other sponsors include Bernardi Auto Group, East Coast Herbalist, Tecate, Ashwood Advisors LLC and A Affordable Insurance.

Split-T Management’s Otha Jones III and Hurshidbek Normatov Gain Midweek Wins

Two members of the Split-T Management management stable, junior lightweight Otha Jones III and middleweight Hurshidbek Normatov scored big wins over the past five days.

Normatov got things started on Tuesday night when he gained a eight-round unanimous decision over Uriel Hernandez in Toronto.

Normatov resisted a knockdown in round seven en-route to the shutout victory by scores of 80-71.

The 27 year-old native of Brooklyn via Uzbekistan remained perfect as record jumped to 10-0.  Hernandez falls to 13-6.

Thursday night in Miami, Jones stopped 35-fight veteran Juan Santiago in round two of their scheduled six-round bout.

Jones was dominating over the four-and-a-half minute fight,  as he featured a strong right hand that continuously found a home on the head of Santiago.  Midway through the 2nd round, Jones dropped Santiago with that punch, and the bout was stopped at 1:29.

The 19 year-old native of Toledo, Ohio, Jones, who was a 21-time National Amateur Champion, improves his mark to 6-0 with two knockouts.

James Kirkland to Take On Marcos Hernandez on March 14th

Hard-hitting James Kirkland will take on all-action “Madman” Marcos Hernández in a 10-round middleweight showdown that headlines FS1 PBC Fight Night and on FOX Deportes Saturday, March 14 from MGM National Harbor in Maryland.

The action begins at 8:00 p.m. ET/5:00 p.m. PT and features unbeaten top prospect and 2016 Lithuanian Olympian Eimantas Stanionis taking on Justin DeLoach in the 10-round welterweight co-main event.

Tickets for the live event, which is promoted by TGB Promotions, are on sale now and can be purchased by visiting www.mgmnationalharbor.com/.

“James Kirkland and Marcos Hernández both bring exciting styles to the ring that are sure to give the fans an action packed main event Saturday, March 14 live on FS1 from MGM National Harbor in Maryland,” said Tom Brown, President of TGB Promotions. “Combined with Eimantas Stanionis, one of the 2016 Olympics’ most promising prospects, in a tough fight against the battle-tested Justin DeLoach, there will be high stakes drama in the ring for sure.”

Born in Austin and fighting out of San Antonio, Texas, Kirkland (34-2, 30 KOs) has made a name for himself as one of the most exciting and explosive fighters in the sport in a long career that’s only seen him defeated twice. The 35-year-old returned to the ring in 2019 with two knockout victories, his first action since losing to Canelo Alvarez in 2015. Kirkland sports an 83% knockout rate and has previously picked up notable wins against former champion Carlos Molina and Alfredo Angulo.

“I’m very excited to make the most of this opportunity,” said Kirkland. “I want to thank my whole team, Davies Entertainment, PBC and Warriors Boxing, for putting me in this position. It’s truly a blessing to be back in the mix. I’m training hard and perfecting my craft like always. Look for me to bring fireworks on March 14.”

The 26-year-old Hernández (14-3-1, 3 KOs) has faced excellent competition in his career, battling a litany of tough fellow rising contenders. Fighting out of Fresno, California, Hernández has twice faced current unified 154-pound champion Jeison Rosario, fighting to a draw in their first meeting before losing the rematch. He most recently lost a decision to Kevin Newman in November 2019, a rematch of a fight Hernández won in 2017. He has taken down then unbeaten fighters in Newman and Thomas Hill in 2016.

“It’s a dream come true to be in a fight like this against a dangerous man like James Kirkland,” said Hernández. “Everyone knows he has tremendous punching power and can take anyone out with one punch. But my plans are to take him to school and show him what a great boxer I am. At this point in my career, I’m ready to turn the corner and show everyone I have the talent to be a world champion. Everyone watching on FS1 will see a great battle between two warriors. The fans will get their money’s worth, that you can guarantee.”

A native of Lithuania who now lives and trains in the U.S., Stanionis (10-0, 7 KOs) is one of the most promising fighters to come out of the 2016 Olympic games and has continued to impress in the pro ranks. The 25-year-old will step up again in competition for the first time since a hand injury in May 2019 when he goes against DeLoach. Stanionis picked up three victories in 2019, beating Samuel Figueroa in March, before showing he was recovered from the hand injury by stopping Julio Cesar Sanchez and Evincii Dixon.

DeLoach (18-4, 9 KOs) will return to the ring looking to bounce back from a loss to then unbeaten Terrel Williams in April 2019. The 25-year-old put together an impressive run in 2016 and 2017, defeating three-straight unbeaten fighters in Dillon Cook, Junior Castillo and Domonique Dolton, before knocking out Christopher Pearson. The Augusta, Georgia native suffered defeats against now unified champion Jeison Rosario in 2018 and Nathaniel Gallimore in 2017, before rebounding to beat Michael Ogundo in November 2018.

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