Top Rank on ESPN Preview: Rob Brant vs. Khasan Baysangurov
By: Sean Crose
WBA “Regular” Middleweight Champion Rob Brant, 24-1, will defend his title against the 17-0 Khasan Baysangurov at Minnesota’s Grand Casino on Friday night, headlining a card to be aired lived as part of ESPNs Top Rank Boxing programming. A native of Minnesota himself, Brant will be making his first defense in front of what is essentially a local audience. Brant won his title by besting then-titlist Ryoto Murata last October in Last Vegas. The undefeated Baysangurov will be making his first attempt at a major title. Brant is clearly the Ukrainian fighter’s biggest test to date.
Without doubt, he may have his hands full. For Brant will be making his 12th appearance at the Grand Casino on Friday. Considering the fact that Baysangurov has only knocked out roughly 40% of his opponents (scoring just two stoppages in the six fights he has engaged in during the past two years) he may not be able to rely on a knockout. The Brant-Baysangurov match is scheduled for 12 rounds.
Chicago’s 19-1-1-Joshua Greer Jr will be on the card, as well. The bantamweight will be facing the 19-3 Giovanni Escaner in a scheduled 10 round contest for a stepping-stone belt, the World Boxing Council Continental Americas Bantamweight Title. Escaner, who hails from the Philippians, hasn’t lost since 2014. The only loss on Greer Jr’s record came courtesy of a majority decision being handed to Stephen Fulton in 2015. The man stopped all four of his opponents in 2018, along with three of his four opponents in 2017. This will be Escaner’s fight bout in the US. All of his previous 17 fights have occurred in the Ukraine, Russia, and Azerbaijan respectively.
The first match on the televised card will feature the 9-0 2016 American Olympian Mikaela Meyer, as the Colorado native faces the 13-1-1 Yareli Larios of Mexico in the second defense of her NABF Female Super Featherweight Title, which she won via unanimous decision over Vanessa Bradford last October in Omaha, Nebrasksa.
The televised portion of the card will begin at 9 PM Eastern Standard Time on ESPN and ESPN Deportes, while the preliminaries will be aired live on ESPNs streaming service, ESPN+ starting at 6 PM, Eastern Standard Time. A total of twelve fights are scheduled to go down on the card, which his being presented by Bob Arum’s Top Rank Promotions, which has a lucrative broadcast deal with ESPN.
UFC on ESPN 1: Velasquez vs Ngannou
By: Jesse Donathan
Very respected people in the mixed martial arts community consider Cain Velasquez (14-2) to be greatest heavyweight fighter the sport has ever seen. The former Arizona State collegiate wrestler is known for his relentless pace, incredible cardio and stifling pressure inside the cage. A former two-time UFC Heavyweight champion, Velasquez’s career has been marked with injuries which has left fans and pundits alike questioning what could have been rather than what actually was unfortunately. Velasquez last competed in July of 2016, defeating Travis Browne by TKO.
Few fighters will ever know what it means to have a promotion completely behind them, in the not too distant past Francis Ngannou (12-3) was thought to be a world beater who enjoyed the UFC’s complete backing all the way up to meeting Stipe Miocic for the UFC Heavyweight title and getting dominated in convincing fashion. Ngannou possesses incredible power, in a sport marked with athletes Ngannou is the type of mixed martial artist who could clean house in the roughest of neighborhoods. Unfortunately for Ngannou, the same problems he faced against Stipe Miocic are going to be the same problems he will have to face in Cain Velasquez, which is an athletic, wrestling based big man who has the ability to stand with Ngannou or take him down virtually anytime he wants too.
The good new for Ngannou is that Velasquez won’t be afraid of him and will be willing to stand and trade punches with “The Predator.” What this means for Ngannou is opportunities, opportunities to do what Ngannou does best and that is lay people out. The bad news is Velasquez has proven to be athletic enough with a high enough fight IQ to weather the storm and bulldoze his way right through Ngannou. They key’s to victory for Ngannou will be to put his hands on Velasquez, maintain proper striking distance and to avoid the takedown.
Ngannou cannot afford to allow Velasquez to close the distance, failure to stop what is surely the inevitable will mean Ngannou will likely suffer PTSD based flashbacks of how badly Stipe Miocic beat him up. This means Ngannou will need to improve his foot work, ensure he makes Velasquez pay for closing the distance on him and work hard to stuff any takedowns coming his way which will almost assuredly be chained in combinations. Ngannou will absolutely need to rely on an offensive based game plan, developing a momentum stopping jab would go a long way in making opponents think twice about exploiting his lack of grappling acumen and takedown defense.
For Velasquez, he has been here before. The ankle pick or any other number of takedowns will be there for Velasquez essentially anytime he wants them to be. Using his athleticism to close the distance, applying a pace and pressure Ngannou will find difficult to maintain for any meaningful amount of time and bringing the hurt in classic Velasquez fashion are his keys to victory. Ngannou has incredible power, it is not in Cain’s best interest to test the waters but should he find his way through the absolute bombs sure to come his way Velasquez can be expected to ragdoll Ngannou and showcase a violent all-around mixed martial arts game.
The blueprint to defeat Ngannou has already been written, he is going to need to close the holes in his game and develop additional tools such as a jab and solid takedown defense in order to compete in the UFC Heavyweight division. Other fighters in the past such as former UFC fighter Cheick Kongo were able to successfully add a wrestling based offensive attack to their arsenal in addition to being feared strikers so it is entirely possible for Ngannou to continue to evolve as a mixed martial artist. For Velasquez, expectations are high for the former champion. Anything short of getting Ngannou out of there convincingly will be viewed with disappointing eyes. This fight will not be a repeat of Ngannou vs Lewis, which was a real snooze fest. The forecast on Sunday night the 17th on ESPN will be violence.
UFC Fight Night 144 on ESPN+ Results: Aldo Emerges Victorious
By: Jesse Donathan
There didn’t appear to be an empty seat in the house Saturday night at UFC Fight Night 144 in Fontaleza, Ceara, Brazil. The main event saw Raphael Assuncao (27-6) lose to the surging Marlon Moraes by submission in the first round of the 135-pound bantamweight division featured contest. “Magic” Moraes (22-5) has won four in a row, bringing an end to Assuncao’s own four fighting winning-streak, securing victory in front of the packed house with a mounted guillotine choke. The finish was set up by some vicious striking from Moraes, creating a scramble with Assuncao that culminated in the fight hitting the mat and Moraes wrapping up his opponent like an Anaconda, constricting his opponents will to fight. Resistance proved to be futile, coaxing the tap at 3:17 into the first round.
As reported in a cbssports.com article titled, “UFC Fight Night 144 results, highlights: Marlon Moraes makes quick work of Raphael Assuncao” by Brian Campbell, “Magic” went on to state after the bout, “You almost lost the main event. I had diarrhea all week bad.” According to Moraes, “I caught the mosquito here and it messed me up bad. “It was a very tough week for me. I was really tested and it was really God that made me come here tonight.”
Catching the mosquito, an apparent allusion to Malaria perhaps? Bringing into focus some of the hurdles professional fighters face beyond just having to worry about another trained killer attempting to separate them from consciousness in the ring or cage. If true, the fact Moraes was able to secure victory Saturday night is no small feat to have accomplished, bordering on the incredible in fact.
The Co-main event saw mixed martial arts legend Jose Aldo compete against Renato “Moicano” Carneiro in what was reported to have been the originally planned main event for UFC Fight Night 144 before Aldo is said to have declined to participate in the mandatory five round affair. Round one proved to be a feeling out process for Aldo, who remained rather disciplined in his approach, pumping the jab throughout the round in an attempt to control the distance against the lengthier “Moicano” who was the far more active fighter throughout the first five minutes.
Round two saw the former UFC champion turn up the volume. Ditching the more disciplined approach from round one, Aldo went right after Carneiro with a blitzkrieg style offensive barrage of punches and knees. “Moicano” was overwhelmed, unable to turn the tide of Aldo’s relentlessly high pace, referee Jerin Valel was forced to intervene and call an end to the contest at just 44 seconds into round two. The crowd was ecstatic with the victory, the atmosphere very reminiscent of a World Cup soccer event, with Aldo himself overwhelmed with joy as if a great burden had been lifted off his shoulders.
Leaping over the cage and into a sea of a thrilled spectators, shades of the UFC lightweight champion Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov infamously taking flight up and over the chain link fence at UFC 229 flashed before my eyes. Only Aldo’s intentions were anything but nefarious, showing and receiving great love from those in attendance. This was the true main event at UFC Fight Night 144 and if the crowd’s reaction to Aldo’s TKO victory was any indication of success, the UFC knocked it out of the park with Saturday night’s co-main event.
In other news from UFC Fight Night 144, Demian Maia (26-9) proved to be too much for Lyman Good, who falls to 20-5 overall, succumbing to a rear naked choke at 2:38 into round number one to the Brazilian Jiu-jitsu master. In victory, the 41-year-old Maia snaps a three-fight losing streak, having lost to a deaths row of competitors in the welterweight division to include the champion Tyron Woodley, former interim champion Colby Covington and the divisions number one contender Kamaru Usman back-to-back-to-back.
An immense amount of recognition and respect needs to be given to an almost pure Brazilian Jiu-jitsu master for competing at the sports highest level in mixed martial arts competition with what is an almost purely submission-based plan of attack. In an era where conventional wisdom holds that the Royce Gracie’s of the world are a thing of the past, Demian exists to show the experts that Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is sill a force to be reckoned with in the modern era. For this reason alone, Demian Maia is a modern-day Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, mixed martial arts hero.
UFC Fight Night 144 on ESPN+ Preview
By: Jesse Donathan
The UFC returns to ESPN+ Saturday night, February 2nd as bantamweights Marlon Moraes (21-5-1) and Raphael Assuncao (27-5) collide in the main event. Both fighters are vying for an opportunity to face bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw (16-4), in their way oddly enough is flyweight champion Henry Cejudo who recently bested Dillashaw in a failed attempt to claim Cejudo’s 125-pound title. In the co-main event, former longtime featherweight champion Jose Aldo (27-4) faces Renato “Moicano” Carneiro (13-1-1) in a three-round 145-pound featherweight contest.
According to Bellator light heavyweight fighter and ESPN host Chael Sonnen stated via his January 31, 2019 Bad Guy Inc. YouTube video titled, “Jose Aldo said publicly what a lot of fighters say privately…” Aldo was offered the main event slot but declined, preferring to take a three-round fight over a lengthier five round war of attrition. Sonnen would go on to add, “Jose has been the first one to put his foot down and push back and a lot of the fighters are going, ‘hey, this is weird, why are we doing that?’ Why do we have to go on for 70% longer?”
Aldo has had his problems with cardio in the past, with his tendency to put a high pace on his opponents the very real possibility of gassing out can have the effect of changing game plans and the way fighters approach the fights. Without an additional two rounds to worry about, Aldo has more freedom to practice his particular brand of violence which has served him well throughout his legendary career. Considered by some to be the greatest featherweight of all time, anytime you get a chance to watch Aldo compete the very real possibility of a stoppage exists win or lose making him a perennial fan favorite.
Renato Moicano has other plans however, with a lengthy, piston like jab the 5’11” Moicano enjoys a 75-inch reach, a full five inches greater than the 5’8” Aldo. Fighting tall and long will be the keys to victory for Moicano, something easier said then done against an opponent like Jose who is great at closing the distance and with deadly kicks and offensive barrages. Aldo is the more experienced and technical fighter, but the years of consistently fighting some of the best fighters in the world have taken their toll on the once dominant champion. The 32-year-old champion has twice as many fights as his younger, 29-year-old opponent and that kind of mileage will begin to break down even the best of fighters. We will find out if Aldo has what it takes to turn back ‘Moicano’ Saturday night.
Miguel Berchelt-Francisco Vargas Rematch Set, 3/23 on ESPN; Winner Could Get Lomachenko
By Jake Donovan
Miguel Berchelt and Francisco Vargas are prepared to do it all again—and this time, with even more at stake than just the 130-pound title.
A rematch to their Jan. ’17 thriller—which Berchelt won by 11th round knockout to dethrone the previously unbeaten Vargas—is set for March 23 at The Forum in Inglewood, California. The bout will air live on ESPN, with the event to be presented by Berchelt’s U.S. promoter Top Rank, who’ve already teased a loftier prize for the winner.
“It’s very possible that the winner of this terrific rematch will go on to face lightweight champion Vasiliy Lomachenko later this year,” promoter Bob Arum said of the bout.
Berchelt (35-1, 30KOs) has exploded onto the 130-pound scene, beginning with his systematic dismantling of Vargas in their first meet. The bout was competitive early and befitting their all-action styles, but with Berchelt eventually wearing down his battered countryman in lifting the title.
Four defenses have since followed, most recently scoring a 9th round knockout of countryman Miguel Roman in an entertaining—if not one-sided—ESPN+ streamed bout this past November in El Paso, Texas.
With the historic Forum playing host to the rematch, Merida, Mexico’s Berchelt plays the California circuit for the third time in his two-plus year title reign. His title win over Vargas took place in Indio, Calif., while The Forum itself played host to his first defense, a points win over former titlist Takashi Miura in July ’17.
Miura was responsible for the all-action title reign of Vargas (25-1-2, 18KOs), who overcame a 4th round knockdown to drop and stop the reigning champ from Japan in the 9th round of their unforgettable Nov. ’15 war.
The savagely brutal war not only stole the show from the evening’s far more prolific headliner—Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez’s historic World middleweight championship win over Miguel Cotto—but would go on to gain universal recognition as 2015 Fight of the Year.
It also appeared to take quite a bit out of Mexico City’s Vargas, who was sidelined for much of the first part of 2016 to allow several cuts to heal.
His ring return was hardly a let-up in competition, once again thrown the wolves in fighting former two-division titlist Orlando Salido to a 12-round draw in June. Once again, Vargas managed to produce a Fight of the Year-level performance, but the back-to-back wars showed its effect by the time he got to Berchelt.
Two wins have followed for the 34-year old slugger, scoring a technical decision win over veteran contender Stephen Smith in Dec. ’17 and—in his lone ring action of 2018—slaughtering overmatched Rod Salka in six rounds last April.
Given his lofty ranking among the World Boxing Council—whom recognizes Berchelt as its 130-pound champ—it was a matter of time before Vargas found himself back in the title picture. Still, it took for rival promoters to put aside their differences for the sake of reaching a deal as Top Rank (Berchelt’s co-promoter), with whom Vargas began his career before eventually moving onto Golden Boy Promotions in 2011.
“Look what’s happening in boxing. All the other promoters are cooperating with each other, Arum said of doing business with Golden Boy, while also taking a shot at another rival in adviser Al Haymon. “This show, we have our kid, Miguel Berchelt against Oscar de la Hoya’s fighter, Francisco Vargas.
“To survive at this level and in today’s market, you have to work with other promoters. We have a commitment to deliver the best fights in the world to ESPN and that’s what we’re doing here. The winner will have another big fight to look forward to, as we’d love to match (whomever is victorious) with our lightweight champion, the great Vasiliy Lomachenko.”
Top Rank Boxing Preview: Jennings vs. Rivas
By: Hector Franco
This upcoming Friday at the Turning Stone Resort & Casino perennial heavyweight contender Bryant “By-By” Jennings (24-2, 14 KOs) will make his return to the squared circle when he takes on undefeated Columbian Oscar Rivas (25-0, 17 KOs) in a twelve round bout.
Jennings is coming off of a busy 2018 where he fought three times in the calendar year. In his previous bout, Jennings took on Alexander Dimitrenko in a tougher than expected match. The Philadelphia fighter was knocked down in the fourth round and rallied back scoring three knockdowns en route to a ninth round stoppage victory.
Photo Credit: Top Rank Boxing Twitter Account
At this time Jennings isn’t considered one of the elite heavyweights in the division who should be up for a title shot. However, his resume is undoubtedly one of the best in the division with victories over Mike Perez and Artur Szpilka. In 2015, Jennings took on two of the best heavyweights in the world back to back when he faced Wladimir Klitschko in April of 2015 and ended the year by taking on the perceived most feared heavyweight at the time, Luis Ortiz. Jennings lost to Klitschko via unanimous decision, but had his moments against the future Hall of Famer in a competitive bout. Jennings did not fair better against Ortiz who stopped him in seven rounds in one of the best performances of his career.
At age 34, Jennings still has plenty of time in continuing to rebuild his career to earn another world title opportunity. In the heavyweight division, many of the top fighters are in there 30’s giving Jennings more time to perfect his craft rather than keep up with younger opponents. However, Jennings has to continue winning against the pugilists Top Rank puts him in the ring against.
As for Jennings opponent, Oscar Rivas, the bout with Jennings will be just his second fight in the United States. Rivas is Columbian, but fights out of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. He has only had two matches outside of Canada one of them being in France in late 2017. Not much is known about Rivas, which could be used to his advantage if Jennings is not prepared for his style.
Jennings does have the height and reach advantage standing at six foot three with an 84-inch reach compared to Rivas standing at six feet with a 76 and a half-inch reach. The goal for Top Rank will be to get Jennings back into contention for a heavyweight title. On Friday night another roadblock will be put in front of Jennings to push down.
On the undercard, Newark, New Jersey’s Shakur Stevenson (9-0, 5 KOs) will step back into the ring for the first time in 2019 against Jessie Cris Rosales. In 2018, Stevenson showed vast improvements with each fight. In his last contest, Stevenson scored his most impressive victory to date when he defeated Romania’s Viorel Simon by first round stoppage. Much of the criticism laid towards Stevenson is for his lack of punching power. At just 21 years of age, the number of knockouts will likely increase as he gets older more into his prime.
Also on the undercard, will be former WBA 130-pound champion, Jason Sosa (21-3-4, 15 KOs). Sosa will be taking on Mexico’s Moises Delgadillo. Sosa is still on somewhat of a comeback after two back to back losses to Vasiliy Lomachenko and Yuriorkis Gamboa in 2017. Against Delgadillo, he will be facing an opponent who has lost six of their last eight bouts.
Artur Beterbiev To Leave DAZN For New Deal With Top Rank and ESPN
By Jake Donovan
A new year, another new platform for Artur Beterbiev.
Just one fight into his recently signed deal with Eddie Hearn and sports streaming service DAZN USA, the unbeaten light heavyweight titlist from Canada has decided to sever all ties and start fresh in 2019. That path will lead to a lucrative pact with Top Rank and ESPN.
Le Journal de Montreal was the first to report this development.
Photo Credit: Artur Beterbiev Twitter Account
Beterbiev (13-0, 13KOs)—who has for years has held a tumultuous relationship with promoter Yvon Michel signed a three-fight co-promotional agreement with Hearn last summer, leading to his appearance on the stateside launch of DAZN USA’s boxing content.
The 33-year old retained his perfect 100% knockout-to-win rate, but had to climb off the canvas before putting away previously unbeaten Callum Johnson in the 4th round of their title fight last October in Chicago, Ill.
His next fight was to come in December at New York City’s Madison Square Garden, where Beterbiev would’ve faced Long Island’s Joe Smith Jr. The light heavyweight title fight would’ve been the perfect complement to the debut of Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez both at MSG and on DAZN, but Beterbiev balked at the fight, instead electing to sit out the rest of 2018.
The new year only produced the same tricks.
A second attempt to reschedule Beterbiev-Smith led event handlers to tentatively set aside a late February date at Nassau Coliseum, less than an hour from Smith’s eastern Long Island hometown of Mastic, New York. Beterbiev once again reversed course, this time with the real reasons revealed—his intentions to fight elsewhere.
Despite a three-fight deal in place, the light heavyweight titlist found a loophole that could potentially end the deal. According to a report from The Ring senior writer Mike Coppinger, Beterbiev’s promotional pact with Michel only remained in place through his alignment with adviser Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) platform.
Haymon agreed to release Beterbiev in lieu of going to court over failure to meet his mandatory minimum of contractually guaranteed fights, which in turn nullified the boxer’s existing agreement with Michel. In turn, it would also effectively terminate any such arrangement with Hearn and DAZN, although that side is still being sorted out.
While there remains a chance that Beterbiev and Michel—who has a strong relationship with Top Rank founder Bob Arum—will remain in business together, his next move in the ring won’t take place until past business is cleared up.
What’s abundantly clear is that his next fight won’t come against Smith Jr., who is now being steered towards a March 9 title challenge of unbeaten Dmitry Bivol.
ESPN+ Boxing Results: Warrington Defeats Frampton in Thriller
By: Oliver McManus
A night of unprecedented drama, history and patriotism saw Carl Frampton challenge Josh Warrington for the IBF Featherweight Championship of the World. The Manchester Arena was the venue for this sumptuous all-British title fight but you’d be forgiven for thinking we were in Belfast, such was the atmosphere.
Warrington, confident as ever, entered the ring with a determination to forever erase the ‘underdog’ tag and, to be fair, bought a fair crowd from Leeds with him. Walking to the music of the Kaiser Chiefs, the passion from the Leeds man was clear to see. One of the most keenly anticipated fights of the year, of recent memory, this was not merely Warrington vs Frampton but a case of fighting cities going up against each other.
The first bell sounded at just after 10.30pm and Frampton immediately took to the centre of the ring. Rocking on the balls of his feet, the Northern Irishman kept his left hand out in trademark fashion. Warrington began with his hands high, head tucked behind, and landed some serious shots within the first round to send Frampton stumbling backwards.
Springing the surprise from behind his guard, Warrington pushed forward on his lead foot, forcing Frampton backwards as the champion sat down on his shots, targeting the body of his challenger. Frampton doubled up on the jab but, almost immediately, Warrington return with a flurry to the body. Every shot seemed to toll the body of Frampton who, let’s not disregard, landed some high quality shots of his own.
Round two began with Frampton returning to the ring, unperturbed by the ferocious start being made by his counterpart. Warrington, possessing the reach advantage, was beating The Jackal to the punch, out-jabbing throughout the early stages. Forcing Frampton to cover up, Warrington simply refused to stop swinging as he landed with alarming consistency, digging deep to the sides of Frampton. The pain on the face of the former unified champion was clear to see but the grit showed to hang in, despite constant pressure, was phenomenal.
Fighting like a man possessed is an accurate depiction but, let’s be clear, Warrington was not reckless. He was in control, biding his time before looking to push his case. The third round produced a similar story albeit with a slower rhythm. Frampton emerged unscathed but it was Warrington who sustained the pressure. An opportunity for Frampton to regroup and secure a foothold in the fight after a bumpy, bumpy opening two rounds.
Admirable consistency saw Frampton return to the centre of the ring in the fourth round and, after a hurricane-like start from Warrington, he began to relax into a rhythm of his own. Measuring the distance well with that lead left of his, he was able to find his range easier and land some noteworthy shots of his own. More measured, in terms of tempo, Frampton returned to the basics that had served him well throughout his career.
A tempting jab set up the hook to the body. Whilst Warrington still had pockets of success, funnily enough, in the pocket, Frampton seemed better-equipped to navigate through them than in rounds previous.
The fifth round saw Warrington looking to up the tempo, yet again, and bully Frampton into submission. Both men landed some superfluous left hands and whilst the weight of the punches came from the challenger, the Champion had more eye-catching aggression and damage infliction.
Back in the sixth and Warrington looked to engage in a firefight once more. With 40 seconds to go, Frampton was forced backwards onto the ropes as the Leeds warrior set off on another crazy flurry. The challenger jostled his way the correct side of the ropes and began to work the body, himself, but a round for the Champion, you’d imagine.
Just past the halfway stage and, already, this fight had it all. The makings of an all-time classic. Neither man gave quarter as they met at the centre of the ring, slinging shots towards the body of one another.
Frampton dug deep in the 8th, looking to enforce his own power onto the fight. A significant exertion of energy that had results, Warrington caught by heavy shots but not looking entirely troubled. Every time The Jackal landed strong shots, Warrington returned fire with a courageous salvo of his own. Toe-to-toe combat, a sensational fight.
Round nine lulled you into a false sense of security, starting off slower with both men visibly sore around the body. Despite the lessoned pace the quality of work was still there from each fighter. Frampton landed, arguably, the better punches but Warrington refused to yield ground. Frampton would have to TEAR this belt away from the Champion.
After such a gruelling encounter it would come as no surprise that fatigue looked like setting in during the championship rounds. But both these men are championship fighters and they continued to engage in an enthralling fight. Warrington, undoubtedly, the fresher fighter turned the screw and landed some flush shots that saw Frampton scamper towards the ropes.
At no point could you say Frampton boxed poorly, save for a shell shocked couple of rounds, but Warrington – as he did against Lee Selby – produced something on another level.
The final round began with a sterling display of respect. Both fighters, supremely talented, had produced a simply sensational fight. Warrington continued to look the fresher man but Frampton made no bones about the position he found himself in. The former champion looked to land quality shots of his own, as he always does, boxing for quality. Warrington, defending champion, bounced on his toes and landed the more youthful, sprightly combinations. Questions raised, before the fight, about whether this fight would live up to expectations were firmly put to bed.
What can possibly be said but, WHAT. A. FIGHT. Frampton produced high-quality punches but was beaten by a younger, hungrier fighter who just refused to give in. A man forever an underdog came out and shut the critics right up. If ever Josh Warrington is called an underdog again then something is seriously wrong with the sport.
After 12 epic rounds, the fight went to the scorecards 116-113, 116-112, 116-112 in favour of Josh Warrington who retains the IBF Featherweight Championship of the World. Josh Warrington, what more can you say? The perennial underdog turned British great.
In the co-main event, Mark Heffron and Liam Williams took to the ring for the vacant British middleweight title; Williams, moving up in weight, stood on the scales the heavier man, both of them looked in impressive physique.
Liam Williams, who partnered up with Dominic Ingle earlier this year, started off as the livelier boxer with a perpetual jab to showcase his technical abilities. Circumnavigating the ring constantly, Williams looked laser-focussed as Heffron found himself unable to get past the jab of his counterpart.
Heffron, himself, looked busy in the footwork but seemed to be finding difficulty in placing his shots. With intentions to load up on the left hand, he was frequently scuppered by the well timed jabs of WIlliams. A couple of head-clashes in the second round seemed to spark a bit of spite in Heffron – who’s right eye was nicked in the process – with the Oldham man still searching for his rhythm.
The third round brought more of the sound with Williams, whose two losses come at the hands of Liam Smith, looking to focus on out-boxing his man as opposed to brawling in the pocket. The pace of the fight was being dictated by the Welshman, not only in through shot-selection but in terms of movement as well.
Almost a forgotten man over the course of 2018, as harsh as it sounds, Williams was pecking away with his jab, a vintage performance began to unfurl from him. Stalking his man, often from the outside of the ring, it was the former British Super Welterweight champion that racked up the rounds with consummate ease. Heffron, meanwhile, seemed reluctant to force the tempo and experiment with punches.
It wasn’t purely a case of out-boxing Heffron, The Machine landed heavy right hands to keep Heffron in check with more shot variety coming from the Clydach Vale fighter. Heffron, who prepared for this fight with Liam Smith, appeared to be on the wrong side of a boxing lesson. Williams maintained at range to force Heffron to reach into his shots. Whilst a low-blow in the 8th prompted a telling off for the Welshman, he continued to land the superior punches.
The final third of the fight loomed with Heffron, seemingly, needing a knockout to prevail in his quest for the British belt. Williams continued to piece together lovely combinations but Heffron, to his credit, looked more willing to push the punches. Targeting the body, Heffron began to find WIlliams with a degree of regularity, working his way into the pocket.
A ferocious, lurching left hook clattered Heffron into the ropes with a standing eight count following. Williams sensed blood in the water and went for the kill, hitting Heffron at will with a series of punches landing square to the face. The head of Heffron began to bounce backwards with venom as the accurate punches of Williams failed to relent. Howard John Foster jumped in, understandably, at 1.55 of the 10th round. Liam Williams, the new British middleweight champion, thanks to the best performance of his career.
The extended undercard saw Martin Murray looking to force himself back into world title contention. A win over, former champion, Hassan N’Dam would do just that but the French-Cameroonian had ambitions of his own to return to title contention. The St Helens fighter, a pre-fight favourite, started off slower than expected but dropped N’Dam in the fourth. With that it looked as though Murray may, perhaps, ease into his rhythm but N’Dam persevered with the slicker work.
An underwhelming performance from Murray matched by an impressive one from N’Dam saw the decision go to the away corner, 117-112, 116-112 and 114-114. N’Dam moves back into the title mix, for Murray it’s a question of how much belief he still has. A glittering career, no doubt, but perhaps the final curtain?
Nathan Gorman started off fast in his first, scheduled, 12 rounder with Razvan Cojanu in the opposite corner. Scheduled to face Alex Leapai, Cojanu filled the spot when Daniel Dubois withdrew from their respective encounter and Leapai, also, pulled out. Gorman started off in keeping with his age, fast with the hands and landing significant shots. After round six, the 22 year old fought at a noticeably slower pace and began to box with repetition. Leading with the left hook as opposed to the jab, a tad more variety would have been nice but, regardless, Gorman looked mature beyond his years. Victory by scorelines of 119-109, 119-109 and 120-108.
Michael Conlan boxed for his first title, the WBO Inter-Continental Featherweight title, against Jason Cunningham. Cunningham, a former Commonwealth champion, came into the bout a live threat but was nullified by the counter-punching of Conlan. In only his second fight on British soil, Michael Conlan looked within himself throughout the contest and boxed really nicely. A point deducted in the sixth, for repeated low blows, the only blemish on an, otherwise, beautiful performance. Michael Conlan jumps into the world rankings via a win by 98-92, 97-92 and 97-92. Well deserved.
A fight for the ages, forget the hype surrounding a certain heavyweight match down at the O2, this was boxing as it should be. Pure, relentless passion. Carl Frampton, take a bow. Josh Warrington, take a bow. SImply sensational.
Top Rank Loads Up Alvarez-Kovalev II Card On Super Bowl Weekend
By Jake Donovan
Cognizant of its placement on the eve of Super Bowl Sunday, the Top Rank staff have made significant additions to its super Saturday night of boxing.
A February 2 date long reserved for the light heavyweight title fight rematch between Eleider Alvarez and Sergey Kovalev has now turned into a live quadrupleheader spanning ESPN and its streaming platform ESPN+.
Alvarez-Kovalev II will now headline the ESPN+ portion of the evening (12:00am ET). That portion of the loaded card from The Star in Frisco, Texas will be accompanied by the quick return of unbeaten lightweight Teofimo Lopez, who is fresh off of a highlight reel 1st round knockout of Mason Menard earlier this month in New York City.
An opponent has yet to be announced for Lopez. Sources with knowledge of the show have informed BoxingInsider.com that it will be a step up in class, as the 2016 Honduras Olympian and fast-moving prospect is eager to transition to rising contender.
“I took over my last show, and I am going to do it again,” Lopez (11-0, 9KOs) said. “‘The Takeover’ is coming to Texas, and I can’t wait to get back in the ring.”
Preceding the livestream will be the awaited ring return of unbeaten featherweight Oscar Valdez. Sidelined while recovering from injuries sustained in an ESPN-aired 12-round win over Scott Quigg in March, the two-time Olympian for Mexico returns in a title defense versus unbeaten Carmine Tommasone, who represented Italy in the 2016 Rio Olymnpics.
The bout will headline a live doubleheader on ESPN (10:00pm ET). In chief support to Valdez’ return comes a vacant lightweight title fight between Ghana’s Richard Commey and Russia’s Isa Chaniev.
Moving the Alvarez-Kovalev rematch to ESPN’s live-streaming service was undoubtedly motivated by a desire to boost subscriptions. Top Rank and ESPN continue to search for the proper balance in what will air live on ESPN’s flagship network and what to dedicate exclusively to its subscription-based streaming service.
This particular show will actually provide the best of both worlds. With the ESPN linear platform preceded by ESPN+ live coverage of the preliminary undercard action (7:00 pm-10:00pm ET), boxing fans will get seven hours of live boxing between the services, including three title fights and the latest step in the career of a blue-chip prospect.
“It’s Super Saturday, and by syncing the ESPN linear and ESPN+ platforms for one night, fans have an incredible opportunity to watch a stacked show with many of the world’s best fighters and rising superstars,” said Todd duBoef, president of Top Rank in a statement released through the company’s press office in announcing the full show on Wednesday.
The addition of Valdez (24-0, 19KOs) comes in the wake of the decision to forego a planned January 12 showcase in his adopted hometown of Tucson, Arizona. He was originally due to face Spain’s Andoni Gago, but issues in getting a travel visa in time along with other unbuttoned issues with the remaining undercard prompted an outright cancellation.
It gives Valdez an additional three weeks to further enhance his craft under new trainer Eddy Reynoso, while also providing an upgrade in competition.
“The fans can expect the same Oscar Valdez as far as being an aggressive and exciting fighter,” said Valdez, who looks to make the fifth defense of his featherweight title. “They are also going to see a different side that nobody has seen, which is the boxing skills that I also have and that I’m perfecting and learning with my new trainer, Eddy Reynoso.”
Tommasone (19-0, 5KOs) has yet to make his full mark in the pro ranks. However, the unbeaten featherweight is in the history books as becoming the first pro boxer to participate in—and win—an Olympic boxing match, doing so in 2016 while representing his native Italy.
The 2016 Rio Olympics marked the first year in which pro boxers were able to participate in competition previously limited to amateur boxers. Tommasone joined former flyweight titlist Amnat Ruenroeng (Thailand) and Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam (representing his native Cameroon, but who lives in France) as the three to break ground, winning his opening round bout before being sent home in the Round of 16 by Cuba’s Lazaro Alvarez, who went on to capture the Bronze medal.
Tomassone—who was 15-0 prior to his 2016 Rio tour—has since won four bouts in his return to pro competition. All have come versus non-descript competition, as he steps way up in class while fighting outside of Italy as a pro for the first time in his eight-year career.
Still, he comes with greater appeal than Valdez’ originally selected opponent—not to mention it’s a great opportunity for Top Rank to showcase one of its brightest young stars for the third time on ESPN, the latest coming on a busy sports weekend.
“It will be great to see our little warrior, Oscar Valdez, back in action on Feb. 2 after his full recovery from a broken jaw and a courageous victory over Quigg,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “Oscar always brings thrills and excitement to his fights.”
The ESPN-televised co-feature figures to serve as the perfect primer.
Ghana’s Commey (27-2, 24 KOs) has patiently waited for his crack at a lightweight title, which he originally believed would come versus Mikey Garcia. Those plans fell apart, however, after the unbeaten pound-for-pound entrant vacated his title in favor of a high-profile showdown versus unbeaten welterweight titlist Errol Spence.
The move left Commey as the highest-rated contender in his pursuit of winning a title on his second try. His previous effort came in a hard-fought split decision loss to Robert Easter Jr. in their Sept. ’16 vacant title fight, which was followed by an equally heartbreaking narrow defeat at the hands of Denis Shafikov just three months later.
Three straight wins have followed, including a six-round destruction of previously unbeaten Alejandro Luna this past March to earn his place as the mandatory challenger.
“When I started working with Richard in September 2016, our plan was to give him another chance to fulfill his dream of becoming a world champion,”said Lou DiBella , Commey’s promoter. “While Chaniev is a very tough Russian fighter, I’m confident that Richard has the skills, punching power and the mental toughness to come out victorious.”
DiBella’s efforts have not at all been lost on his lightweight client.
“I know how hard it is for Ghanaian fighters to get promoted by the top promoters, but Lou has consistently shown that if he thinks you’re the man, then he will be the man for you,” said Commey, who last fought in August in a 2nd round knockout of journeyman Yardley Cruz in Long Island, New York. “He has shown this by the investment DiBella Entertainment has put in me and by getting me this shot at the title and securing it in the United States.”
While it won’t be Commey’s first stateside appearance, his opponent stamps his passport for his first world title fight.
Chaniev (13-1, 6 KOs) has fought exclusively in Eastern Europe as he travels to the U.S. for the first time as a pro. The 26-year old Russian lightweight earned his place in the title mix after a strong showing in his career-best win, outpointing former titlist Ismael Barroso in his most recent bout this past May.
“I have the biggest motivation ever to win, and there is no other result that will satisfy me,” Chaniev said. “On Feb. 2, I will demonstrate all my skills and hard preparation. Some people don’t think I will win, but they will be shocked.”
BT Sport/ESPN+ Boxing Preview: Warrington vs. Frampton
By: Oliver McManus
An all-action, all-British grudge match to close the year out in style, listen not to the murmurings of a heavyweight event down South, Josh Warrington vs Carl Frampton is the only fight you need this Saturday night.
Headlining a wonderful fight card at the Manchester Arena, Warrington-Frampton is the epitome of a 50-50 domestic clash. Neither fighter had to take this bout, there were options out there, but a desire to prove themselves as number one in 126lb division prevailed.
Warrington, the defending champion, has enjoyed a faultless career to date with an unblemished record after 27 bouts. Debuting in October 2009, Warrington made a name for himself on the small hall scene for the first four years in the paid ranks, gaining the experience at a young age.
Winning the English Featherweight belt over Chris Male in the back end of 2012, followed up by defences against Jamie Speight and Ian Bailey, elevated him to a position whereby Eddie Hearn came a-calling. The rest, as they say, is history. The perennial underdog, Warrington added the Commonwealth, British, European and WBC International straps to his name before he finally got a world title shot last year.
May 19th, a night that will go down in Leeds folklore, Warrington faced an embittered Lee Selby in front of a raucous home crowd. Few gave him the nod pre-fight but the underdog came out and fought masterfully on the front foot – a split decision win, one that few could argue with.
Against Carl Frampton, Josh Warrington retains that moniker of underdog, the asterisk against his name that has followed him his whole career. Warrington will go in as he always does, hungry. For many Carl Frampton has little left to prove, he’s had a dazzling career and is, arguably, Britain’s number one pound-for-pound but Josh Warrington is still that ‘lucky lad from Leeds’, isn’t he?
Far from it, the lucky lad is now a bona fide champion having done it the hard way. My expectation is that Warrington will approach this contest looking to take it to Frampton, try and force his opponent into faltering. Warrington will be in Frampton’s face from the off, there little chance of this being a highly-technical encounter. That’s not a slur on the ability of Warrington, by no stretch, but he performs better when setting a high-tempo, fighting hard and giving no quarter.
Carl Frampton, then. The challenger. And what a challenge it is as he faces the toughest domestic opponent possible, his toughest night since Leo Santa Cruz, but the route back to where he wants to be. Unification fights with Oscar Valdez, Santa Cruz and Gary Russel Jr will await the winner, Frampton is no stranger to that glory.
Four months on from a devastating beat-down of Luke Jackson – the Australian a hardy warrior – Frampton will enter the ring in Manchester looking to claim the fourth different world title to his name. The last two fights – Nonito Donaire and Luke Jackson – have seen Frampton return to form approaching his best and that consistency over the year, a fight every four months – will stand him in good stead.
The Jackal looks relaxed when he’s fighting, he looks content, and the style of Warrington has potential to play into his hands. Demonstrating a wonderful ability to box on the back foot, Frampton has landed some beautiful counter-right hooks in his last couple of fights. Oftentimes an opponent has looked to be in the clear, with Frampton at range, but before you know it he’s in your face.
Styles produce great fights and Josh Warrington and Carl Frampton have the perfect styles to produce a genuine Fight of the Year – what more could you ask for?
How about a sensational dust-up between Mark Heffron and Liam Williams for the British middleweight title? A long time mandatory, Heffron was granted a “free shot” at the title after Jason Welborn relinquished the crown in order to fight Jarrett Hurd.
Make no mistake, though, Williams will be as strong a challenger as they come and the Welsh boxer will enter the ring on the back of two thunderous knockout victories this year. The rebuild from back-to-back losses against Liam Smith saw Williams join Dominic Ingle and the boxer has looked crisp and rejuvenated in the ring.
Having been in camp preparing for a 50-50 clash with JJ Metcalf, Williams steps up in weight to challenge for the British title and will carry his power into the new division with relative ease. With Williams looking to pursue higher honours, the change in weight seems a sensible move and the former British & Commonwealth super-welterweight champion is jumping straight into the deep end.
Heffron, himself, has been preparing for a British title for the best part of four months and produced a super performance back in June when he stopped Andrew Robinson in the 6th. That fight saw Heffron claim the WBC International strap and Kid Dynamite looked classy in the ring with a strong control of the tempo, working the angles and remaining patient before seizing his opportunity.
Martin Murray, WBC Silver middleweight champion, takes on Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam in a fight that packs fireworks. Murray, scheduled to face Billy Joe Saunders on two occasions this year, has not hidden the fact that this is his last crack at the route to a world title. N’Dam, WBA Regular champion last year, lost the title in a rematch with Ryota Murata last October but is a fighter who knows nothing but aggression. The French-Cameroonian offers Murray the opportunity to enhance his spot in the rankings ahead of a 2019 world title tilt but, make no mistake, this isn’t going to be one-way traffic.
Nathan Gorman was scheduled to take on Alex Leapai until the Australian withdrew last week. The challenge in front of Gorman, now, is Razvan Cojanu who faced Joseph Parker for the WBO title last year. Scheduled for 10 rounds and in defense of his WBC International Silver title, Nathan Gorman has a real opportunity to add a scalp to his record – by no means someone to be sniffed at – and move one step ahead of Daniel Dubois on the heavyweight ladder.
Michael Conlan will look to go 10 and 0 in only his second professional fight in the United Kingdom as he takes on, former Commonwealth champion, Jason Cunningham whilst the stacked undercard is completed by the additions of Billy Joe Saunders, Lyndon Arthurt, Jack Massey, Paddy Barnes, Tommy Fury, Sam Maxwell, Troy Williamson and Danny Wright.
Box Office entertainment at its finest… I hope you’ve got your purple card ready because it’s going to be a blockbuster!
Edwards dominates Granados, Skeete’s comeback scuppered – BT Sport & ESPN+ Review
By: Oliver McManus
A veritable curtain-raiser for the next Saturday’s show-stopper at the 02, Frank Warren promoted at the Brentwood Centre tonight (15th December) with a whole host of fighters looking to set up a huge 2019. Sam Bowen was scheduled to defend his British title against Ronnie Clark and Daniel Dubois was due to face Razvan Cojanu but both fights were pushed back due to injury / illness.
Headlining instead were a pair of WBO International title fights with Bradley Skeete taking on Diego Ramirez and Sunny Edwards facing Junior Granados. Both men were ranked 13th with the WBO prior to fight night – in the super-fly and welterweight divisions, respectively – and looked to build on this ahead of next year.
Edwards, fresh off the back of a dominant victory over Ryan Farrag, was originally slated to contest the WBC International belt against his Mexican counterpart but opted to strengthen his reputation with the WBO, instead.
Granados returned to British Isles for the first time since 2015 when he took on Jamie Conlan – that particular contest held in Dublin. A thrilling fight over 10 rounds, Granados dropped Conlan twice in the seventh round before narrowly losing on points. A classic display of Mexican grit and, you suspected, the blueprint for Granados’ fight at Brentwood.
The fight began with Edwards, newly a father, beating Granados to the jab as both men looked get it popping. Circling in the middle of the ring, it was a tepid opening three minutes but Edwards landed the more meaningful punches.
Having found his range in the first round, Edwards looked lighter on his feet in the second and registered some accurate right hands to signal his intentions. Having pawed out with the left hand, he left himself open to a clubbing right hand from Granados. The first punch of significance from the Mexican sent the home fighter to the canvas, bolt from the blue, but a flash-knockdown rather than anything serious.
Edwards seemed to regain composure quickly and the 22 year old showed maturity to stick to his gameplan, not letting the adrenaline alter his mindset. As with his fight against Farrag, Edwards was showcasing his fluid footwork that marks him out as a technical threat – capable of fighting in the pocket and on the back foot.
The Croydon-man was easing through the rounds, staying alert to Granados’ attempted aggression, and began to tee off when up close. Granados, if we’re honest, showed a fraction of the heart we had expected and, for the most part, was being out-boxed by his younger counterpart. Less of an explosive performance than against Ryan Farrag but, still, an impressive body of work from Edwards.
An argument could be made for an increased work rate as the fight rattled into the final third as Edwards, up on the scorecards, could have looked to force the case. All being said, there was no real need to do so but it would have been good to see how much he had left in the tank. A switch-hitter, Edwards was predominantly impressing from the southpaw stance and looked comfortable throughout.
A rhythm emerged throughout the rounds as Edwards continued to walk down his opponent, out-boxing the South American, with bursts of trading occurring periodically. A cruising night of work for the super-flyweight, Edwards added the WBO International strap to his collection via scorecards of 99-91, 97-92 and 98-91. But surely, surely, Jay Harris and the British title await in 2019?
Bradley Skeete was attempting to capture the first new title of his career since he won both the British and Commonwealth belts from Sam Eggington in March 2016 – though, of course, he defended the British belt three times thereafter. Against Diego Ramirez he faced a former WBO Latino champion who had amassed 48 rounds in the last 12 months.
Ramirez was fighting in his trademark camouflage shorts, Skeete in a coral blue. The opening bell rang and Skeete took to the centre of the ring, keeping his hands around the midriff and looking to work an opening. In his last fight, against Demian Fernandez, the Argentine was guilty of him planting his feet a little too firmly and Skeete was clearly the lighter-mover through the opening phases.
A confident left jab opened up the body of Ramirez, allowing Skeete to land a couple of hooks to the exposed region. Ramirez offered little resistance, keeping his head tucked behind the guard and simply trying to evade the shots of Skeete. With a minute to go of the second round, the Argentine suddenly sprung to life with a looping left hook landing plumb to the face of Skeete – good timing, more than anything.
The Brit hit the floor heavily, seemingly dazed, and sought to hold on for dear life having beat the count. Ramirez continued his onslaught but with Skeete in the corner, Bob Williams was forced to intervene as Skeete struggled to find his bearings. A freakish recreation of his bout against Kerman Lejarraga, almost shot-for-shot.
Diego Ramirez pulled out a performance of a lifetime as scars remain from Skeete’s contest with Lejarraga. A rebuild mission for 2019 but the remaining question is, how much does he want it?
For Sunny Edwards it is onwards and upwards, the super-flyweight looks technically world class but will do well to get experience before pushing on. Skeete, on the other hand, his future is up in the air. For such a nice guy it would be an awful shame were this to be his final memories in the ring. Who said boxing was a simple sport?
Top Rank Boxing Results: Ramirez Defeats Hart
By: Hans Themistode
Gilberto Ramirez (39-0, 25 KOs) retained his WBO Super Middleweight title with a majority decision nod over Jesse Hart (25-2, 21 KOs) in their rematch Friday night.
Hart fought a much better fight this time around in comparison to their first bout. However he did not do quite enough to sway the judges in his favor tonight.
It was a nip and tuck affair as Hart used his reach advantage to keep Ramirez on the end of his punches. That success wouldn’t last long as Ramirez began to get closer and landed hard shots.
As the rounds went by a similar theme began to develop. Hart would do a good job of boxing and landing effective shots but Ramirez’s constant pressure and volume punching would wear Hart down as the rounds went on.
Towards the later rounds Ramirez aggression suddenly slowed and his punch output diminished as well. It was later found out that Ramirez injured his left elbow. That explained why we seldom saw the champion through a left hook throughout the rest of the contest. When we did see this punch thrown it wasn’t thrown with much aggression. It became clearer and clearer that the champions elbow was causing him serious issues. Hart took advantage by beginning to bank the latter rounds.
In round 11 the challenger was the most aggressive. He pinned the champ on the rope several times and unloaded shots on him. Ramirez responded with punches of his own but it was clear that he lacked the punching power at the moment to keep Hart off of him. The last round is where Ramirez shower true champion mettle. With essentially one hand he was beating his man to the punch by landing big blows.
At the end of the bout the scorecards were 114-114 and two scores of 115-113. It was another very entertaining bout by these fighters. The most intriguing part of this contest was the post fight commentary.
Ramirez revealed his plans to move up the 175 pound weight division. There will be no shortage of big name fighters he will be able to take on. If Ramirez can perform the way he did tonight while sustaining an injury during the contest then the rest of the 175 pound division will need to be on notice.
They seem to have a new intriguing fighter added to the already stacked division.
Top Rank Boxing on ESPN+ Preview: Hart vs. Ramirez 2
By: Hans Themistode
WBO Super Middleweight champion Gilberto Ramirez (38-0, 25 KOs) will step into the ring for third time this year when he takes on the man that gave him his toughest bout of his career in Jesse Hart (25-1, 21 KOs). The matchup is scheduled to take place tonight in Corpus Christi Texas at the American Bank Center.
For Ramirez his reign as champion has spanned over two years but has featured underwhelming competition as he was able to blow through his opponents. His first bout against Hart last year however was his toughest to date. The victory presented Ramirez with the best win of his career.
The first fight between these two can be deceiving. Two judges scored the contest 115-112 while the third judge had it 114-113 all in favor of the champion. The nature of the close scorecards did not seem indicative of how the actual bout played out. Although Hart undoubtedly has his moments it was the champion who seemed to be in much more control. An early knockdown in round two for the champion followed by several punishing blows almost forced the referee to put a stop to the contest. The compubox numbers also spoke to the dominance of Ramirez. The champion connected on almost 100 more punches than his opponent, 220 to 132 while also connecting at a higher percentage. In short, Ramirez seemed to dominant.
Since Hart’s decision loss to Ramirez he has gone on to fight three times with all three fights ending in a knockout victory. Hart will not only be looking for his fourth straight stoppage victory of this calendar year but he will also look to even up the score with Ramirez while capturing his first world title.
The motivation for Hart will be at an all time high. Sure he will be looking to avenge the first defeat of his career and yes the thought of becoming a world champion is tantalizing as well but more then anything he will be looking to do so for not just himself but for his father as well. Eugene “Cyclone” Hart was a former top contender at Middleweight in the 1970s but never received his shot at the title. Winning this title would mean so much to not just Jesse but to his father as well.
Ramirez is not only the WBO champ but he may also be the best current Super Middleweight as well. Hart undoubtedly will have a tough task. Ramirez will be looking to make an emphatic statement this time around.
However with the current roll Hart is on along with the motivation that he will bring into this contest it should lead to another great fight tonight.
BT Sport & ESPN+ Boxing Preview: Edwards vs. Granados, Skeete vs. Ramirez
By: Oliver McManus
Frank Warren returns to the Brentwood Centre this Saturday for a precursor, if you will, to the mammoth Josh Warrington vs Carl Frampton bill on December 22nd. Make no mistake, however, December 15th features some of Britain’s best prospects in action.
Daniel Dubois was originally slated to top the bill in a step-up contest against Razvan Cojanu in a 10 round encounter but, subsequently, has contracted the flu and the bout is set to be rescheduled.
Nonetheless the show still goes on with Sunny Edwards looking to cap off a sensational 2018 by winning the vacant WBO Inter-Continental super flyweight belt against Junior Granados. At the back-end of October, Edwards retained the European version of the title with a comprehensive out-boxing of Ryan Farrag.
Claiming all but one round across the three scorecards, Edwards boxed well of the back foot and was as flamboyant as ever in his footwork, enabling him to jump in and out of the pocket. Taking the step up against Junior Granados is a sign of Edwards’ desire to progress at a fast-rate and the 22 year old now headlines a show for the second time in seven weeks.
Ranked thirteenth with the World Boxing Organization, Sunny looked to enhance his standing with the organization ahead of a 2019 that should see him pushing for higher honours.
Junior Granados, 16-5-1, possesses ability far greater than his record would suggest and despite a relative inactivity, the Mexican will be coming to fight. A trademark brawler, Granados is at his most dangerous when stood stock-square in the center of the ring, throwing with a degree of relaxation.
Holding good power for his weight, Granados throws with a menacing intent to the body and dropped Jamie Conlan twice back in 2017 when the pair were embroiled in a war. The expectation is that Grandos will try to replicate that game-plan, starting off by trying to shock Edwards into freezing.
The British fighter, however, has looked crisp throughout his professional career thus far and has adapted well to the opponents in front of him so will be more than confident of another peerless display come Saturday night.
Bradley Skeete will enter the ring for the second time since his European title defeat to Kerman Lejarraga in April. The Prince from Penge will face Diego Ramirez, 16 and 2, from Argentina over a scheduled 10 rounds.
Skeete looked impressive during his comeback win over Fernando Valencia, dropping his counterpart on two occasions, en route to finishing the bout in the third round. Valencia, 8-6 at the time, had never been stopped whilst Skeete looked relaxed and comfortable in the ring.
Having suffered such a devastating defeat out in Bilbao, you’d forgive Skeete for wanting to ease back into the motions but the welterweight has restated his desire to get back in the immediate mix for that European title. Returning to the WBO rankings last month, Skeete finds himself 13th with the organization, with a plethora of potential opponents ahead of him.
In Ramirez, Skeete will face his first southpaw opponent since Frankie Gavin in 2014 – the a unanimous points decision loss – but for a man of Skeete’s experience and ability this should go down as a minor footnote as opposed to anything particular foreshadowing.
The Argentine, 24 years of age, has already fought five times over the course of the last 12 months and, in the process, has amassed 48 rounds. A former interim WBO Latino Welterweight champion, Ramirez has also held the WBC equivalent but fell unstuck when fighting Demian Fernandez in October.
In that fight Ramirez held a significant height advantage over his compatriot competitor but failed to take advantage, planting his feet into the canvas a little too much and failing to nullify the aggression of Fernandez.
From the two fights with footage available it is hard to see the problems he will pose for Skeete but, then again, that’s the whole point. Ramirez provides a perfect opportunity for Skeete to go into the New Year full of belief and confidence, searching once more for the big fights.
Also on the bill at Brentwood are the highly-touted Willy Hutchinson and Caoimhin Agyarko who take on unbeaten counterparts – Josh Miller and Yasin Hassani, both 3-0, respectively. Harvey Horn will look to cap off a frustrating 2018 with a win over Christian Narvaez with Ryan Garner and Hamzah Sheeraz also in bouts of six scheduled rounds. Completing the card are Jake Pettitt, Mark Chamberlain and James Branch.
The show must go on, and it does… live on BT Sport from 8.30pm in the UK and ESPN+ from 3.30pm E/T.
ESPN Boxing Results: Lomachenko Bests Game Pedraza, Eyes Mikey Garcia
By: Sean Crose
Lightweight supremacy was on the line Saturday night when Vasyl Lomachenko, the man many have claimed is the best fighter on the planet, defended his WBA lightweight championship against WBO beltholder Jose Pedraza in a scheduled 12 round title unifier at New York’s Madison Square Garden. The match was the main event on a three fight card aired live on ESPN.
First, undefeated lightweight phenom Teofimo Lopez, 10-1, slipped between the ropes to battle the 34-3 Mason Menard. The match was as brief as it was violent. Lopez rocked his man with a right almost immediately, unloaded his arsenal, then blasted Menard with a thunderous right. Menard landed flat on his face, forcing the referee to halt the bout almost immediately. It was reminiscent of Marquez’ knockout of Pacquiao or even Hearns’ of Duran. Indeed, it may have been the knockout of the year.
Next up, WBO junior featherweight champion Isaac Dogboe put his title belt and 20-0 record on the line when he faced the 25-1 Emanuel Navarette in a scheduled 12 rounder. Dogboe looked good in the first, though Navarette came on strong at the end of the round. Dogboe got hurt in the second and survived. Navarette nailed the champion with a pair of hard lefts in the third.
Dogboe looked better in fourth, but then got hurt again by Navarette late in the fifth. Things started looking up for the titlist in the eighth, and he even dropped Navarette in the ninth. It was Dogboe’s last big moment. Navarette survived the knockdown and continued to hurt his man on his way to a unanimous decision victory. Dogboe, gracious in defeat, looked as if the fight should have ended sooner than it did.
It was time for the main event. WBO champ Pedraza boasted a 25-1 record while WBA champ Lomachenko entered the bout with a record of 11-1. The first round was a feeling out process, with Loma landing what was essentially the only meaningful shot. Pedraza employed his own effective skill set in the second. The third was also a close affair. The fourth, too, was close…though Loma landed the more telling shots.
The fight remained tight in the fifth, but Loma began to land more regularly in the sixth. Yet Pedraza did enough in the seventh to perhaps win the round on the cards. It was a surprisingly close affair. The eighth and ninth began to tell a tale of Lomackenko edging a closer than expected bout.
Pedraza showed he was still in the fight by seemingly taking the 10th. Loma became explosive in the 11th, taking his man down twice with blistering flurries of punches. Pedraza survived the round, only to be dominated in the twelfth. Loma walked away with a new belt and a UD decision victory.