NEW YORK (December 3, 2009) – World champions JUAN MANUEL “JuanMa” LOPEZ, STEVEN LUEVANO and YURIORKIS GAMBOA, and Top-10 contender ROGERS MTAGWA will kickoff the new decade in separate world featherweight title fights, Saturday, January 23, in the WaMu Theater in the “Mecca of Boxing,” Madison Square Garden. Lopez, the World Boxing Organization (WBO) junior featherweight champion, will be moving up to challenge WBO featherweight titlist STEVEN LUEVANO, while Gamboa defends his World Boxing Association championship belt against top-10 contender ROGERS MTAGWA. Both fights will be televised live on HBO on the 2010 premiere telecast of Boxing After Dark, beginning at 9:45 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast.) These four sluggers boast a combined record of 106-14-3 (71 KOs), a winning percentage of 86% and a victory by knockout ratio of 67%.
Promoted by Top Rank, in association with Arena Boxing U.S. and PR Best Boxing, tickets, priced at $200, $100, $75 and $50, go on sale Today! Thursday, December 3 at Noon, and can be purchased at the Madison Square Garden box office, all Ticketmaster outlets, and online at www.thegarden.com.
“These four exciting fighters are about to usher in a new era at the “Mecca of Boxing” in one of boxing’s flagship divisions,” said promoter Bob Arum. “Like Henry Armstrong, Willie Pep and Sandy Saddler before them, these four gladiators will reunite Madison Square Garden and the featherweight division to their former glory.”
Lopez (27-0, 24 KOs), from Caguas, Puerto Rico, is in the second year of his world title reign, which began on June 7, 2008 when he ended the three-year tenure of defending champion Daniel Ponce De Leon via a first-round knockout. Lopez, already a Top-10 pound for pound favorite, has successfully defended his title five times since, four by knockout. In his last defense, an exciting 12-round unanimous decision victory over Mtagwa, Lopez’s impressive victory by stoppage streak ended at 14. Lopez was named Puerto Rico’s 2008 “Fighter of the Year” where he went 4-0, (4 KOs), including three first-round knockouts, all in world championship fights. Looking to repeat, he posted another perfect year in 2009, having stopped two-time world champion Gerry Peñalosa and undefeated North American Boxing Association (NABA) super bantamweight champion Olivier Lontchi in 10 and 9 rounds, respectively, this year in addition to his points win over Mtagwa.
A native of East Los Angeles, Luevano (37-1-1, 15 KOs), of La Puente, Calif., captured the vacant WBO featherweight title in London in 2007, knocking out undefeated Englishman Nicky Cook in the 11th round. Since then, Luevano has successfully defended his title five times during his two-year reign against top-rated, world-class opposition, including Bernabe Concepcion (21-1-1, 17 KOs), Billy Dib (21-0, 11 KOs), Mario Santiago (19-1, 14 KOs), Terdsak Jandaeng (29-2, 19 KOs), and Antonio Davis (24-3, 12 KOs). Combined, his world title challengers had a combined record of 114-7-1 (73 KOs) – a winning percentage of 93% with a victory by knockout ratio of 64%. In short, Luevano gets his business done. Trained by former world champion Robert Garcia, and Robert’s father Eduardo, Luevano and his corner boasts a team that is poised, confident and experienced against very good opposition.
Gamboa (16-0, 14 KOs), a native of Guantanamo who now hails from Miami, Fla., has been considered one of boxing’s brightest lights dating back to his amateur days, which included winning Olympic gold at the 2004 games. Since making his professional debut in 2007, Gamboa has sought – and defeated – the toughest and most experienced opposition available. In only his second year as a professional he collected the NABF and WBC International super featherweight titles and then moved down in weight to collect the NABO featherweight title in three consecutive fights, with victories over Johnnie Edwards, Darling Jimenez and Al Seeger, respectively, destroying Edwards and Seeger in the first round while winning a 10-round unanimous decision over Jimenez.. He captured the WBA featherweight title on April 17, knocking out four-time world title challenger Jose Rojas in the 10th round. He successfully defended the title on October 10 at The Garden, knocking out Panamanian strongman Whyber Garcia in the fourth round. The two-fisted Cuban KO artist boasts a lethal combination of power and speed, an amateur background second to none (he is a four-time Gold Medal winner in the Cuban National Championships) and a victory by knockout ratio that’s on par with JuanMa Lopez.
Mtagwa (26-13-2, 18 KOs), a native of Dodoma, Tanzania, who has been compared to the great Dick Tiger because of his heritage and his improvement with age, has made Philadelphia, Penn. his base since moving to the U.S. in 2000. The former African Boxing Union super bantamweight champion has incrementally advanced his career by fighting and defeating some of the best competition at 122 and 126 pounds. But his “coming out party” on the world stage occurred in his last fight when he challenged world champion Juan Manuel Lopez for his WBO junior featherweight title at The Garden in October. Mtagwa was the star of the night, trading leather with JuanMa for 12 exciting rounds, pushing the champ to the brink before the final bell rang. Though the judges’ scores reflected a decision loss for Mtagwa, the fight proved he was a winner, earning him another world title shot, this time against Gamboa. Mtagwa’s career highlights include winning the vacant U.S. Boxing Association (USBA) featherweight title in 2005 via a 10th-round TKO of Joe Morales. He successfully defended the title twice, knocking out Art Simonyan and Alvin Brown, both in the fourth round. His come-from-behind 10th-round TKO victory over Tomas Villas last year, ending Villa’s three-year, 12-bout unbeaten streak, was considered a 2008 Fight of the Year candidate. Currently world-rated No. 7 by the International Boxing Federation (IBF) and No. 10 by the WBO, Mtagwa is trained by Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts, one of only three men to have beaten Marvelous Marvin Hagler. For fight week updates, log on to www.toprank.com and www.hbo.com/boxing .
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