Compiled By: William Holmes
The following is the Boxing Insider notebook for the week of May 7th to May 14th; covering the comings and goings in the sport of boxing that you might have missed.
Rio Revenge? Michael Conlan to Face Olympic Nemesis Vladimir Nikitin August 3rd in Belfast
Michael “Mick” Conlan’s amateur career ended in controversy and a pair of middle fingers. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Conlan appeared to have bested Russian standout Vladimir Nikitin in the 56-kilogram quarterfinals. The judges disagreed, and Conlan responded with a memorable double middle-finger salute.
Almost three years to the day since Conlan flashed those digits, the Olympic rivals will run it back in the paid ranks, this time on Irish soil.
Conlan will face Nikitin in a 10-round featherweight bout Saturday, Aug. 3 in a massive outdoor fight at Falls Park in his home city of Belfast. Conlan-Nikitin will take place as part of the annual Féile an Phobail, Europe’s largest community festival.
Conlan-Nikitin will stream live in the United States beginning at 3 p.m. ET/12 p.m. PT on ESPN+, the leading multi-sport streaming service, on a special international edition of Top Rank on ESPN.
“This is the opportunity for Mick Conlan to right what most observers felt was an injustice,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “That being said, Nikitin is a real aggressive fighter, and he believes that a victory over Conlan in August would cement the one he was given in the Rio Olympics.”
“I am delighted that I will be fighting Vladimir Nikitin in front of 10,000 fans,” Conlan said. “This is literally home turf for me and it is absolutely huge. I am West Belfast and Falls Road born and bred so this means everything to me. Vladimir Nikitin and I have unfinished business from the 2016 Olympics, and I can’t wait to set the record straight.”
“When I turned professional last year, the man I wanted to fight most was Michael Conlan,” Nikitin said. “Michael has said a lot of things since the Olympics about how he was robbed of a medal. Well, I am coming to his hometown during their biggest festival to show everyone my Olympic victory was not a fluke. This is going to be repeat, not revenge. Conlan will regret pushing for this fight. I beat him twice in the amateurs and will do the same as a pro. It will feel even sweeter to beat him in his hometown. Belfast, here I come!”
“The fight with Vladimir Nikitin has been talked about for a long time now, and MTK Global and Top Rank have worked extremely hard along with Féile an Phobail to make it happen,” said Jamie Conlan, Professional Development Manager, MTK Global. “Michael Conlan is coming home for one of the biggest fight nights Belfast will have ever seen.”
Conlan (11-0, 6 KOs) entered the pro ranks as one of Ireland’s most beloved sporting figures, having earned an Olympic bronze medal in 2012 and gold medals at both the European and World Championships in 2015. He was favored to win Olympic gold in 2016, but Nikitin and the judges thwarted those plans. “The Conlan Revolution” turned pro in front of a sold-out Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden crowd on St. Patrick’s Day in 2017. He won the vacant WBO Intercontinental featherweight belt last December in Manchester, England, besting Jason Cunningham via unanimous decision. In his last bout, in front of a raucous St. Patrick’s Day crowd at Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden, Conlan defeated Ruben Garcia Hernandez over 10 rounds.
Nikitin (3-0, 0 KOs) did not turn pro immediately following the 2016 Olympics, electing to fight as an amateur throughout 2017. He signed a professional contract in 2018 with Top Rank, in large part because he wanted to face Conlan as a pro. Nikitin’s come-forward style has translated to the pro ranks, as he’s won a trio of clear-cut unanimous decisions. He has fought on the same card as Conlan twice as a professional. The message was clear: Conlan and Nikitin were destined to meet again.
It will finally happen, in front of more than 10,000 of Conlan’s rowdiest supporters. Will it be Rio Revenge or another shining moment for Nikitin?
Josh Kelly to Face Ray Robinson on June 1st
Josh Kelly will make his US debut against Philadelphia’s Ray Robinson on the undercard of Anthony Joshua’s Heavyweight World title clash with Andy Ruiz Jr. at Madison Square Garden in New York on June 1, live on DAZN in the US and Sky Sports Box Office in the UK.
Sunderland star Kelly (9-0, 6 KOs) outclassed the previously undefeated Pole Przemyslaw Runowski on his big ring return at The O2 in London last month, flooring the gutsy challenger three times to defend his WBA International title with a classy unanimous verdict after winning all ten rounds.
Kelly was due to face former World Champion David Avanesyan on the undercard of Kell Brook vs. Michael Zerafa in Sheffield, but an illness scuppered a December dust-up between the pair. A showdown with the now European Champion is at the top of Kelly’s wish list should he come through his test against Robinson.
Robinson (24-3-1, 12 KOs) has lost only three times in his 28-fight career, one of those losses coming to current WBC Welterweight World Champion Shawn Porter in 2010, and the 33-year-old southpaw earned an impressive draw in his last outing in March against the undefeated and World rated Egidijus Kavaliauskas.
“To be boxing at the Mecca of boxing Madison Square Garden is pretty serious isn’t it,” said Kelly. “I’ve never been there before so I’m going to enjoy the experience and put a performance on. To be fighting at a venue like that so early on in my career is another box ticked on my journey.
“Things change and titles switch hands but the majority of World titles are held in the US at the moment so I could end up boxing there a lot more in the future. I just take things fight by fight and I never overlook anyone because I’d be doing myself and my opponent an injustice.
“Robinson is a very good opponent. He’s a good boxer with an awkward southpaw style so it’s another good test for me. It’s going to be a great fight and a night to enjoy. I get a lot of support from people in the US so it’s nice to have an opportunity to put on a performance in front of them.
“What happened with the Avanesyan fight was unfortunate but it’s a fight that’s still 100% on my radar. Adam has got a plan for it and I’ll just go with what he says. It’s definitely more than likely going to take place. June 1 is going to be the start of something big.”
“This is a great fight and a huge step-up for Josh on the biggest stage possible,” said promoter Eddie Hearn. “Robinson clearly won last time out and is an accomplished fighter that will test him in every department. This is the stage for him to shine, in front of a sold out MSG broadcast all over the World – June 1 we will really find out what PBK is all about.”
Adam Smith, Head of Sky Sports Boxing, said: “Josh Kelly is one of the hottest talents in Britain – and Madison Square Garden is a perfect venue for him to showcase his skills.
“We’ve covered Kelly’s exciting career from the very start. ‘PBK’ can now show American fans why he’s a name to watch in that red-hot Welterweight division.
“It will be a bumper evening of boxing as Katie Taylor bids to become the undisputed World Lightweight champion, and then AJ can mark his US debut with a bang against Andy Ruiz Jr!”
Kelly and Robinson clash on a huge night of action at Madison Square Garden where Joshua’s World title defense against Ruiz is supported by Irish sensation Katie Taylor clashing with Delfine Persoon for the undisputed Women’s World Lightweight championship and Chris Algieri and Tommy Coyle meeting in a crossroads Lightweight fight – with more undercard fights to be announced shortly.
Tickets for the huge night of World title action in New York are on sale now via Madison Square Garden and StubHub (www.stubhub.com)
Billy Joe Saunders and Ryan Burnett to Headline ESPN+ Cards this Weekend
Champions Weekend is coming to ESPN+, as two of the United Kingdom’s most dynamic fighters — former WBO middleweight world champion Billy Joe Saunders and former unified bantamweight world champion Ryan Burnett — are set to headline separate shows.
Burnett will battle Jelbirt Gomera for the vacant WBC International super bantamweight title Friday at Ulster Hall in his hometown of Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Burnett-Gomera live stream will begin at 3 p.m. ET/12 p.m. PT exclusively on ESPN+ and will also feature a compelling vacant IBF European junior lightweight title fight between Declan Geraghty and Marco McCullough. Geraghty and McCullough were roommates in the Irish amateur ranks and will renew acquaintances with a world ranking on the line.
Saunders will take center stage Saturday, as he battles Shefat Isufi for the vacant WBO super middleweight title from Lamex Stadium in Stevenage, England. The Saunders-Isufi live stream will start at 2:30 p.m. ET/11:30 a.m. PT on ESPN+ and will also include the highly anticipated heavyweight showdown between 2016 Olympic super heavyweight silver medalist Joe Joyce (8-0, 8 KOs) and former world title challenger Alexander Ustinov (34-3, 25 KOs).
ESPN+ is the leading direct-to-consumer sports streaming service. Fans can sign up for ESPN+ for just $4.99 a month (or $49.99 per year) at www.espnplus.com.
Saunders (27-0, 13 KOs) made three successful defenses of the title he won from Andy Lee on Dec. 19, 2015, punctuating his middleweight title run with a dominant decision over David Lemieux in December 2017. A 2008 Olympian, Saunders captured British, Commonwealth and European middleweight titles, defeating the likes of Chris Eubank Jr., John Ryder and Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan. Isufi (27-3-2, 20 KOs) has won 10 consecutive fights, most recently defending his WBO Intercontinental super middleweight belt with a unanimous decision over Mohamed El Achi in his adopted hometown of Munich, Germany.
Burnett (19-1, 9 KOs) recently signed a long-term promotional contract with Top Rank and will be competing at super bantamweight after a sterling run at bantamweight. He defeated Lee Haskins via unanimous decision in June 2017 to win the IBF world title, and four months later, he bested Zhanat Zhakiyanov to unify the IBF and WBA super world titles. Burnett suffered his first pro defeat last November when he tore his oblique while throwing a punch versus Nonito Donaire and was forced to retire on his stool following the fourth round.
Gomera (14-5, 7 KOs) is a Filipino southpaw who will be fighting for the first time outside of Asia. He is a former Filipino super bantamweight and featherweight champion and is coming off an eight-round unanimous decision win over Lloyd Jardeliza.
Caleb Plan to Make First Title Defense Against Unbeaten Mike Lee
In the biggest night of boxing this year, boxing’s only eight-division world champion, Senator Manny “Pac Man” Pacquaio, will take on undefeated WBA Welterweight World Champion Keith “One Time” Thurman on Saturday, July 20 in a blockbuster showdown that headlines a Premier Boxing Champions on FOX Sports Pay-Per-View event.
Adding to the excitement of the evening, PBC will present 2-hours of boxing action with undefeated IBF Super Middleweight World Champion Caleb “Sweethands” Plant making his first title defense against unbeaten contender Mike Lee in the main event of PBC on FOX and FOX Deportes show taking place in the same ring where Pacquiao and Thurman will later battle for welterweight supremacy.
Further details will be announced soon.
Jermall Charlo to Make Hometown Return Against Brandon Adams on June 29th
Unbeaten WBC Interim Middleweight Championand Houston-native Jermall Charlo will return to his hometown to defend against middleweight contender Brandon Adams Saturday, June 29 live on SHOWTIME from NRG Arena in Houston and presented by Premier Boxing Champions.
SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING® begins at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT and features hard-hitting super welterweight Erickson “Hammer” Lubin taking on French contender Zakaria Attou in a 12-round WBC title elimination bout in the co-main event. Opening the telecast is a WBA featherweight title eliminator between slick Mexican southpaw Eduardo Ramirez and power-punching Dominican Claudio Marrero.
Tickets for the live event, which is promoted by Lions Only Promotions and TGB Promotions, are on sale Monday, May 13 at 12 p.m. CT and can be purchased through Ticketmaster. Charlo vs. Adams is promoted in association with Banner Promotions and The Tournament of Contenders.
“Jermall Charlo is already a star and on June 29 he gets to bring the excitement that follows him into every fight back to his hometown of Houston,” said Tom Brown, President of TGB Promotions. “We can’t wait to see the fans embrace their champion and push him to another electric performance at NRG Arena and live on SHOWTIME. He’s going to have tricky opposition in middleweight contender Brandon Adams, who’s highly motivated to upset Jermall’s homecoming. It’s going to be a great atmosphere in Houston and I’m sure that will propel each man to be at their very best.”
“I am very happy for Brandon to have this great opportunity,” said Artie Pelullo, President of Banner Promotions. “This is the right fight at the right time in Brandon’s career. I want to thank SHOWTIME for giving Brandon this chance to prove he belongs here.”
“Brandon Adams is out to prove once again that The Contender creates world champions and contenders,” said Jeff Wald of The Tournament of Contenders.
The 28-year-old Charlo (27-0, 21 KOs) won a world title at 154-pounds when he scored a devastating third-round knockout of Cornelius Bundrage to win the IBF Junior Middleweight Title in 2015. Born in Richmond, Texas and growing up in Houston, Jermall still trains in Houston with renowned coach Ronnie Shields. He successfully defended his 154-pound title three times, including a devastating knockout of top contender Julian Williams, before moving up in weight to campaign at middleweight.
Jermall proved to be just as dominant at 160 pounds as he was at 154 pounds when he made his middleweight debut by stopping Jorge Sebastian Heiland in the fourth round of their July 2017 bout. He became the interim WBC middleweight champion with a second round knockout victory over Hugo Centeno, Jr. Jermall is one-minute older than his identical twin brother, former champion Jermell Charlo, and most recently defeated Matt Korobov to retain his interim title in December.
“It’s time for me to put up for my city of Houston,” said Charlo. “George Foreman is back and he’s in the middleweight division. That’s the way I feel about fighting in my hometown. You know how hot it gets down here in the summer and no one is going to be able to take this heat that I’m about to deliver. I’ve been working hard with Ronnie Shields and making some adjustments and now you’re going to see me back with the knockout power. I know Brandon Adams is looking at this as a big opportunity, but it’s a big step up for him. The pressure isn’t on him. It’s on me, because I’m fighting in my hometown and I’m going to deliver what the fans have come to expect from me.”
The Los Angeles-native Adams (21-2, 13 KOs) shot up the middleweight rankings by winning the 2018 reboot of The Contender. He is currently ranked fifth by the WBO and seventh by the WBA after beating Ievgen Khytrov, Tyrone Brunson, Eric Walker to make the series’ final, where he defeated Shane Mosley Jr. by unanimous decision in a 10-round fight.
The 28-year-old’s current run came after a three-year absence from the ring following a loss to John Thompson in 2015. He was 17-1 in his first 18 pro fights after turning pro in 2011, with his only loss coming to Willie Monroe Jr.
“I am very grateful for the opportunity and ready to prove that I belong in the conversation as one of the top fighters in the middleweight division,” said Adams. “This is an opportunity that I couldn’t turn down. They must feel that I am beatable, and want to use my name that I built up on The Contender, so now I need to show why I won The Contender and continue my winning ways. Charlo is a solid fighter and he’s a champion for a reason.I look forward to matching skills with him and showcasing my ability.”
Lubin (20-1, 15 KOs) is coming off an impressive TKO victory of Ishe Smith in which Lubin became the first to ever stop the durable former champion. The 23-year-old from Orlando, Florida is looking to get back into world title contention and a victory over Attou will do just that. The only loss of Lubin’s career came in a world title fight against former champion Jermell Charlo in October 2017.
Born in Paris, France Attou (29-6-3, 7 KOs) will be making his U.S debut, having campaigned primarily in his home country. He is coming off a unanimous decision victory over Stefano Castellucci on March 16. Attou is currently riding a seven-fight win streak after having fought to a draw against Emanuele Della Rosa in 2016.
Ramirez (22-1-3, 9 KOs) has strung together two TKO victories since suffering the only loss of his career, in which he dropped a unanimous decision to Lee Selby in a world title match in 2017. The 26-year-old southpaw from Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico bounced back from the loss with a stoppage victory over Carlos Jacobo in 2018 and stopped Bryan De Gracia in his last fight on March 2 on SHOWTIME.
Marrero (23-3, 17 KOs) is keen to get back into the championship ranks and wants to remove the sting of losing a unanimous decision to Tugstsogt Nyambayar in his last fight in January. The 30-year-old southpaw from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic won the interim WBA featherweight title with a knockout victory over Carlos Zambrano in 2017. Five months later he lost the title to Jesus Rojas, but he bounced back from that loss with an impressive knockout of then unbeaten Jorge Lara in April 2018.
Andrew Cancio to Face Alberto Machado in Rematch for Super Featherweight Title
Andrew “El Chango” Cancio (20-4-2, 15 KOs) and Alberto “Explosivo” Machado (21-1, 17 KOs) will meet again to erase all doubts in a 12-round rematch for the WBA Super Featherweight World Title at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, Calif. The event will take place Friday, June 21, 2019 and will be streamed live exclusively on DAZN.
“Andrew Cancio surprised the world when dominated Alberto Machado in their first fight,” said Oscar De La Hoya, Chairman and CEO of Golden Boy. “This was his toughest fight on paper, and he never looked better. This fight is a rematch, and Cancio is going to prove to himself that he can do it again. This will be an even better fight than the first, so make sure to catch it live at Fantasy Springs or from home on DAZN.”
Cancio is a 30-year-old world champion who recently gave new life to his career after re-signing with Golden Boy. The native of Blythe, Calif. has scored victories against the likes of Rocky Juarez, Jerry “The Corpus Christi Kid” Belmontes and Rene “Gemelo” Alvarado, and he’s also been in tough fights against Joseph “JoJo” Diaz Jr. and Ronny Rios in a professional career that started over 12 years ago. Cancio is coming off his most important victory yet, a fourth-round stoppage victory against Machado, and he’ll look to put all doubts about his win to rest by repeating his performance.
“I’m very excited to be defending my world title against Alberto Machado in the rematch from my knockout victory on February 9,” said Andrew Cancio. “This is my 11th time fighting at Fantasy Springs Casino, and I look forward to defeating Machado again in convincing fashion in front of another huge crowd of my fans.”
Machado, a 28-year-old of San Juan, Puerto Rico, is a big man for his division and boasts explosive power in both hands. After unifying two regional titles with a dominant unanimous decision victory against Carlos “The Solution” Morales, Machado defeated Jezreel “El Invisible” Corrales by way of eighth-round knockout to capture WBA Super Featherweight Title in Oct. 2017. The hard-hitting southpaw had retained his title against the likes of Rafael “Sweet Pea” Mensah and Yuandale “Money Shot” Evans, but in his last fight, he suffered a tough title loss against Cancio.
“June 21 is a great opportunity for me,” said Alberto Machado. “Besides recovering my place as a world champion, a victory will have a special meaning for me, and that makes me very motivated. I hope that Cancio is enjoying his time as a champion because I’m going with bad intentions to bring that championship belt back to Puerto Rico.”
“We are excited to have Alberto Machado back for his world title rematch against Andrew Cancio,” said Hector Soto, Vice President of Miguel Cotto Promotions. “This is an exciting fight that fans can’t miss on DAZN. It will be a classic war of unfinished business. In the first fight, Cancio went toe-to-toe with Machado and took him out. But on June 21, the story will be different. Machado will definitely be ready for war and to put everything on the line in the ring.”
Angel “Tito” Acosta (19-1, 19 KOs) of San Juan, Puerto Rico will make the fourth defense of his WBO Light Flyweight World Title in a 12-round bout. Acosta is a knockout artist who has won all of his victories by knockout.
Jorge “El Niño de Oro” Linares (45-5, 28 KOs) of Barinas, Venezuela will look to bounce back from his fifth career loss in a 10-round super lightweight fight.
Local favorite Rommel “The Legacy” Caballero (5-0, 4 KOs) of Coachella, Calif. will battle in a four-round super featherweight fight against a soon-to-be-announced opponent.
Aaron “Silencer” McKenna (7-0, 4 KOs) will fight in a six-round welterweight clash.
Anthony Garnica (1-0, 1 KO) of Oakland, Calif. will return in a four-round super bantamweight battle.
Emilio Rodriguez (3-1, 2 KOs) of Van Nuys, Calif. will participate in a four-round middleweight bout.