Boxing Insider Notebook: Taylor, Usyk, Spong, Prograis, Guerrero, and more…
Compiled By: William Holmes
The following is the Boxing Insider notebook for the week of August 27th to September 3rd; covering the comings and goings in the sport of boxing that you might have missed.
Usyk to Face Spong in Heavyweight Debut
Usyk (16-0 12 KOs) joins the big guns having dominated the Cruiserweight division, leaving the 200lbs scene as the undisputed champion after knocking out Tony Bellew in Manchester in November, his first fight in a multi-fight deal with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing USA.
That win for the Ukrainian 2012 Olympic king was a remarkable fourth in a row in hostile territory having won the first Cruiserweight installment of the World Boxing Super Series by beating Marco Huck, Mairis Breidis and Murat Gassiev in their backyards, unifying the division in two of those fights to lead to his clinical win in England.
Now the pound-for-pound master will look to translate his incredible success into glory at the Heavyweight division, but faces a stiff examination of those goals in the form of Spong (14-0 13 KOs).
The 33 year old Florida-based contender can make a huge statement in the Windy City and risks his #4 rating with the WBO to take on Usyk. The Surinamese-Dutchman was taken the distance for the first time in Suriname where he successfully defended his WBO and WBC Latino titles against Ytalo Perea in December, and comes into the bout on the back of a 13th KO win from 14 fights with a second round victory in Mexico on Saturday.
Spong joined the sweet science after leaving a stellar kickboxing career behind, winning 91 of his 100 bouts in a 13-year career littered with accolades and titles before officially retiring from kickboxing in April 2016 after his last bout in December 2014, turning pro in the boxing ring in March 2015.
Usyk’s status as the former long-reigning WBO king means he is the mandatory challenger for that title that Andy Ruiz Jr sensationally ripped from Anthony Joshua in New York in December along with the IBF and WBA straps, so the stakes are high for both Usyk and Spong ahead of the Ruiz Jr-Joshua rematch in December.
“I am very excited to make my Heavyweight debut in Chicago on October 12, live on DAZN,” said Usyk. “Spong is a fast and powerful Heavyweight who has had much success in the ring. I must come through this test to challenge for the World Heavyweight title I look forward to seeing everyone there.”
“After achieving most of my goals as a kick boxer and becoming one of the most decorated champions in the history of the sport, I wanted to test myself in the difficult and challenging sport of boxing. I have worked tirelessly during the last three years and now have the opportunity to prove my worth as a boxer against perhaps the best pound for pound, and most technically sound boxer in the World. Some may think the challenge may be too difficult, but I believe in myself, and look forward to being victorious on October 12.”
“Usyk’s Heavyweight debut is one of the most hotly anticipated boxing moments of 2019 and personally, I can’t wait to see it,” said Hearn. “Oleksandr is a phenomenon who dominated the Cruiserweight division becoming undisputed after just 15 fights. Now, as he prepares to challenge for the World Heavyweight title, he must first overcome Tyrone Spong in Chicago. Spong will be explosive and dangerous and we expect an electric heavyweight battle at the Wintrust Arena, live on DAZN.”
Prograis and Taylor Clash for the Ali Trophy at the O2
The World Boxing Super Series Super-Lightweight Ali Trophy Final between USA’s Regis Prograis (24-0, 20 KOs) and Scotland’s Josh Taylor (15-0, 13 KOs) lands at The O2 in London on Saturday October 26, as Derek Chisora (31-9, 22 KOs) and Joseph Parker (26-2, 20 KOs) meet in a crunch Heavyweight showdown, shown live on Sky Sports Box Office in the UK and DAZN in the U.S.
WBA World Champion & WBC Diamond Champion Regis ‘Rougarou’ Prograis will be travelling to the UK after having fought the quarter and semi-final in his home state of Louisiana. IBF World Champion & WBC Silver Champion Josh ‘The Tartan Tornado’ Taylor boxed both of his preliminary bouts in Glasgow, and is now moving to neutral ground.
Prograis and Taylor entered the WBSS and the quest for the Ali Trophy as the two highest-seeded boxers in a loaded Super-Lightweight bracket. No.1 seed Prograis earned his spot in the final by outdoing Terry Flanagan on points last October, and then went on to stop Kiryl Relikh in six rounds and take the WBA World title in the semi in late April. Meanwhile, No.2 seed Taylor stopped Ryan Martin in round 7 last November, and then proceeded to decision Ivan Baranchyk to claim the IBF World title in May.
“I’m very excited to get everything settled for this fight,” said Prograis. “This is the fight I wanted the most and it’s the fight to prove who is the best in the division. My goal has always been the same and that’s to prove I’m the best 140lbs fighter in the world and to become undisputed.
“It has always been a dream for me to fight in London. The boxing fans in the UK are some of the best in the world and I can’t wait to go and put on a show. I know once they see me fight they’ll be fans for life.
“Taylor is in my opinion is the 2nd 140lbs in the world after myself. He had two great performances leading into the finals and I’m looking forward to fighting the best Josh Taylor on October 26th.”
“I’m massively excited,” said Taylor. “I want to prove that I’m the best in the division by taking on the best fighters. Now it’s finally over the line I can concentrate on getting to work in the gym and going full steam ahead again.
“I’m very confident that I can outbox him and outfight him as well, I can’t see anything other than a Josh Taylor win on October 26. It will be a huge buzz to fight for the Muhammad Ali trophy in front of a huge crowd at The O2. I believe that I am the best fighter in the division and now it’s time to prove it.”
Derek Chisora will be targeting another explosive victory in his showdown with New Zealand’s Parker, a former WBO Heavyweight World Champion, as two exciting contenders collide in the Capital. ‘WAR’ Chisora is back at the scene of last month’s dramatic knockout triumph over Poland’s Artur Szpilka while Parker returns to Britain after back-to-back stoppages of Alexander Flores and Alex Leapai.
“I’ve wanted this fight over a year now, Parker the Ozzie kangaroo fled for the bush once already this year, complaining he didn’t have enough time to prepare,” said Chisora. “I’ve now given him all the time he needed. I’m a real fighter, I’m always ready to go to WAR. Szpilka felt what Derek WAR Chisora is all about, and he was my friend, and trust me that was just 30% of what I’ve got ready for that Aussie bum.
“I’m gonna to do what Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz both couldn’t do, I’m gonna knock Parker’s dingo a** clean out, and send this Aussie chump back to the other side of the planet, where he belongs.”
“Chisora will come with experience and he will come with pressure,” said Parker. “He’s coming off two good wins, so he’ll be full on confidence and out to make a statement. As always, I back myself against any fighter on this planet and I’m expecting an exciting war on October 26.
“I’ve always had a lot of love and support from my UK fans and I can’t wait for my return. A win here takes me another step towards targeting the other top names in the division and becoming a two-weight World Champion.”
Elsewhere on an unmissable night of action, three weight World Champion Ricky Burns (43-7-1, 16 KOs) tackles former IBF Lightweight ruler Lee Selby (27-2, 9 KOs) in an intriguing match-up at 135lbs and Hackney’s Lawrence Okolie (13-1, 10 KOs) steps up again as he challenges undefeated European Cruiserweight Champion Yves Ngabu (20-0, 14 KOs).
“What an absolute banger!” said Eddie Hearn. “This card is epic, and we’ve only announced 4 fights. Prograis vs. Taylor is such a wonderful unification match up and Chisora vs. Parker is nothing but Heavyweight fireworks. Three weight World champion Ricky Burns tackles former World Champion Lee Selby in a brilliant domestic Lightweight battle and Lawrence Okolie faces a big step up against European Champ Yves Ngabu. There’s plenty more to be added on this massive night of boxing at The O2.”
“This is a true super fight and another huge Ali Trophy moment,” said Kalle Sauerland. “Two unbeaten, in-prime World Champions meet to settle who is best in the division, two boxers who have performed at the very highest level in this tournament.
“In this terrific match-up of two undefeated gladiators it is very difficult to predict who will be raising the Ali Trophy in the end. One thing is sure, it is going to be an enthralling showdown not to be missed!”
Adam Smith, Head of Sky Sports Boxing, said: “We’re delighted to announce another huge night of boxing as Josh Taylor’s World Boxing Super Series final against Regis Prograis is joined by Derek Chisora’s Heavyweight showdown with Joseph Parker at The O2, live on Sky Sports Box Office.
“Josh Taylor has become Scotland’s latest boxing hero, showing his class to win the IBF belt in the semi-final, and victory over the excellent Regis Prograis will take his career to new heights.
“Derek Chisora reminded us of his destructive power with that crushing knockout of Artur Szpilka last month, and we’ll welcome back Joseph Parker to these shores for another exciting shootout. With that crucial domestic clash between Ricky Burns and Lee Selby, and Lawrence Okolie taking a step-up to European level, it should be an enthralling evening of action at The O2.”
David Haye, manager of Derek Chisora, said: “Derek Chisora reminded us of his destructive power with that crushing knockout of Artur Szpilka last month, and we’ll welcome Joseph Parker back to these shores for another exciting shootout. With more big names to be added, it should be an enthralling evening of action at The O2.
“It’s great to be once again working with Eddie and the team at Matchroom in a co-promotion to bring fight fans a show they’ve been calling out for. Eddie and I have been trying to make this fight for sometime now, it’s been almost a year in the making, so we’re excited to finally get it over the line!
“The O2 is Derek’s favourite venue, one which has hosted career defining moments for him. He is a fighter, a performer and he loves to rise to the occasion, especially when in front of his home crowd. Just last month in the very same venue he took on a fight where many felt he had bitten off more than he could chew, but he rose to the occasion and put Szpilka to the canvas in emphatic fashion. ”
USA Boxing Heavyweight Adrian Tillman in US Army
No. 2 rated American heavyweight Adrian Tillman, who is also ranked No. 5 as a light heavyweight, is not only representing his country as a member of USA Boxing’s 2019 Men’s Elite team, he’s also serving in the U.S. Army at the same time.
Tillman, 24, is able to do both, because he’s an active soldier enrolled in the World Class Athlete Program (WCAP), in which qualified athletes have an opportunity to train fulltime for the Olympics.
“As of right now,” Tillman said, “my focus is on the Olympics. I love the military and I love boxing. So, I’ll just see where life takes me. But, as of now, 2020 Tokyo, Japan, is the one thing on my mind.
“Training (in Colorado Springs) with the Elite team has definitely elevated my game all around. The coaches and trainers are always teaching me. It’s a non-stop learning environment with the team.”
Born in Riverside, California, Tillman started boxing in 2008, because he wanted to lose weight and learn how to defend himself and his siblings as he was about to enter high school.
The heavyweight with a stiff jab is a three-time National PAL champion (2018, 2017 and 2015), in addition to capturing a gold medal at the 2017 Eastern Elite Qualifier. His greatest accomplishment, however, may be a little surprising, because it isn’t about winning medals, trophies and belts.
“My greatest accomplishment was being able to qualifying two weight classes (lightweight and heavyweight) for the Olympic Trials.”
Tillman has traveled throughout South America and Europe. He is with his Team USA teammates training in England before going straight to Yekaterinburg, Russia, to compete in the 2019 Elite Men’s World Championships, September 7-21.
“Gaining a medal at the World Championships is important to me because,” he noted, “not only am I representing my country, I’m also representing the Army and my family.”
When he’s in the ring, Tillman adjusts to his opponent, brawling or boxing equally, whatever it takes to win.
Adrian Tillman is a true patriot who also happens to wear boxing gloves. Whether he qualifies as a heavyweight or light heavyweight, all that matters to him is boxing for Team USA at the 2020 Olympics.
Cameron Dunkin Inks Undefeated Lightweight Prospect Alejandro Guerrero
NOW Boxing Promotions, owned and operated by Cameron Dunkin, has announced the signing of undefeated lightweight prospect Alejandro “Pork” Chop” Guerrero to an exclusive promotional contract.
For many years Dunkin was known as one of the preeminent managers and talent evaluators in boxing. The 2007 BWAA Manager of the Year guided the careers of 34 world champions. He has launched his promotional company and is stocking it with some incredible talent such as Guerrero.
The 21-year-old Guerrero (10-0, 8 KOs), fighting out of Houston (TX), joins a growing NOW Boxing Promotions stable of gifted fighters, including a quartet of heavy-handed welterweights – Philadelphia’s Jaron “Boots” Ennis (23-0, 21 KOs), Canadian Mikael Zewski (33-1, 22 KOs), Korean-Mexican Californian Brandun Lee (15-0, 13 KOs) and Georgian Brian “The Assassin II” Norman (14-0, 13 KOs) — along with Hungarian junior middleweight Zsolt Daranyi, Jr. (15-1, 14 KOs), who lives in Toronto.
“I’m really happy that I was able to work out a deal with ‘Pork Chop,'” manager turned promoter Dunkin commented. “He is an excellent young fighter who I think has all the talent in the world. He is as fun fighter and I think fans will have a blast when they get to know him. The working plan is to get him fighting on television. I’d like to get him out there as soon as possible.”
Guerrero, a Mexican American boxer, was a celebrated amateur who won two junior national titles. Under the guidance of Rudy Silva, Guerrero turned professional on June 25, 2016, knocking out Luis Caballero in the second round of their fight in Dallas.
He has gained invaluable experience sparring with Mikey Garcia, Brandon Rios and others at the famed Garcia Boxing Academy in California.
“I knew I was going to be in good hands if I signed with him (Dunkin),” Guerrero said. “I’m going to do my best to do may part to be world champion. I train hard. I’m looking forward to becoming a world champion. That’s what I’ve dreamed of growing up. I love boxing, it’s what I do.”