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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.

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Jose Manuel Urtain, EBU Boxing, Rock Lifting Champion, Held Ali Overhead


By: Ken Hissner

In the country of Spain besides boxing, bull fighting and soccer there is a sport called Rock-Lifting. Jose Manuel “El Tigre de Cestona” Urtain not only won the EBU Heavyweight Champion but was the Rock-Lifting Champion in Spain.

Rock-lifting from the age of 14 to 25 Urtain once lifted a 220 lb. rock over his head with one arm and a 400 lb. rock with two arms over his head. In 1971 when Muhammad Ali was in Spain to fight an exhibition with Gregorio Peralta, Urtain entered the ring and lifted Ali over his head.

As a boxer Urtain made the cover of The Ring Magazine, and Nat Fleischer the editor of the Ring said, “No man who ever held the world heavyweight title cold match Urtain’s feats of strength.”

With only three amateur bouts, all knockouts, including one in seventeen seconds over Tony Rodri, Urtain turned professional in December of 1968 and would go onto win his first twenty-eight fights all by stoppage except one by decision and one by DQ. In his twenty-fifth fight he won the European Heavyweight Title knocking out German southpaw Peter Weiland, 23-4-2, for his title in seven rounds in April of 1970 in Barcelona, SP, in front of 13,000 fans.

After scoring a pair of knockouts the following month Urtain made his first defense defeating German Champion Juergen Blin, 20-7, over 15 rounds gaining Ring’s “Fighter of the Month”. In his next fight he lost for the first time due to a low blow by DQ to Italy’s Alfredo Vogrig, 31-17-4. Three knockout wins later he lost his EBU Title to Henry Cooper, 39-13-1, by technical stoppage in seven, in London, UK.

Four wins later Urtain drew with the Spanish Champion Mario Echevarria, 46-51-7. In his next bout he was stopped by Argentina’s Gregorio “Gora” Peralta, 84-7, in eight rounds. In his next fight he stopped British and Commonwealth Champion Jack Bodell, 58-11, in two rounds.

In 1972 Urtain would lose to Puerto Rico’s Jose Roman, 39-7-1, by decision in San Juan, PR, and draw with Roman in 1974 in SP. Also in 1972 after the first Roman fight he lost his EBU Title to Blin in their rematch over fifteen rounds. In 1975 some seven years after losing his first fight to Vogrig he knocked out Vogrig, 37-18-4, in two rounds.

Urtain would later post wins over former Light Heavyweight Champion Vicente “El Muchachote de Barlovento” Rondon, 36-8-1, of VZ, Jan Lubers, 28-5-2, of the Netherlands, Italy’s Dante Cane, 40-12-5, and UK’s Richard Dunn, 26-8. His career ended in March of 1977 in an attempt to regain the EBU Title, finishing up at 53-11-4 (38).

The government of Spain was reportedly willingly to pay “Smokin” Joe Frazier over one million dollars to defend his title against Urtain in Spain. He may not have lifted Frazier’s title from him but I bet he could have lifted Frazier over his head!

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PBC on FS1 Results: Caleb Plant Dethrones Jose Uzcateguihas


By: Hans Themistode

The Super Middleweight division has a new champion to contend with.

Caleb Plant (18-0, 10 KOs) outclassed Jose Uzcategui (28-3, 23 KOs) tonight as he won a unanimous decision and picked up Uzcateguis IBF title in the process. The scorecards read 115-111 and two scores of 116-110 all in favor of the new champion.

Plant did an excellent job of boxing and moving all night. Uzcategui just couldn’t seem to find a rhythm as Plant made him miss countless shots. It was no surprise that Uzcategui would be at a major disadvantage in the boxing department. However it was believed that he had the edge in terms of power. That seemed to be in favor of Plant as well as he knocked Uzcategui down early in the second round. He then placed the former champion on the canvas for the second time in the fourth round. The rest of the fight played out mostly under Plants terms. Hitting Uzcategui whenever he wanted while causing his opponent to hit nothing but air.

The first half of the fight was all Plant but the second half however saw things become a lot more competitive. Uzcategui managed to his opponent with huge bombs as Plant seemed to be winded going down the stretch. Although Uzcategui came on strong during the championship rounds he gave away too many rounds in the first half of the fight to complete his comeback.

Just a few short months ago Uzcategui was viewed as possibly the best at the Super Middleweight division. His ability to come forward and land big power shots were thought to have a damning effect on anyone he would be matched up with. Tonight Plant showed that the former champion is too one dimensional and took full advantage.

A win over Uzcategui is impressive but it becomes even more eye opening when you consider just how dominant Plant was tonight. The Super Middleweight division has a ton of great fighters. However Plant might just be better than the rest.

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PBC on FS1 Preview: Uzcategui vs. Plant


By: Hans Themistode

The first PBC on Fox card of the 2019 year kicks off this Sunday January 13th from Los Angelos California at the Microsoft Theatre when defending IBF Super Middleweight champion Jose Uzcategui (28-2, 23 KOs) takes on mandatory challenger Caleb Plant (17-0, 10 KOs) in a clash of completely opposites styles.

For Uzcategui he will be looking to defend his title for the first time and continue his recent run of domination. Since losing to Mat Korobov in 2014, Uzcategui has gone on to mow down his opposition. A flukey loss to Andre Dirrell by disqualification which he later amended in an immediate rematch, winning that bout by stoppage has the champion in the best form of his career. There has been very few that have been able to deal with the champions power and constant pressure.

Uzcategui’s mandatory challenger Caleb Plant however will present the champion with a different style. One that could ultimately prove to be tricky for him to solve. Plant is a pure boxer and one who would prefer to not get involved in slugfests. He has not scored a stoppage victory since a 2016 fourth round knockout win over Carlos Galvan. Plant’s game plan is simple, hit and don’t get hit in return.

The constant pressure that Uzcategui employs throughout a fight can make Plant’s game plan much more difficult to execute. The lack of power the challenger possesses will allow the champion to walk right through his shots and land crushing blows of his own. This may seem like a recipe for disaster for Plant but he has in fact shown to have a good chin and is very hard to hit cleanly. Both men will also be looking to close the mouths of their respective doubters.

After winning the IBF interim title last year from Andre Dirrell, Uzcategui was in prime position to challenge than title holder James DeGale. The aforementioned DeGale instead choose to drop the title in pursuit of more lucrative fights which led to Uzcategui receiving full champion status. Many believe that although Uzcategui is a great fighter he did not necessarily earn the gold that presently resides around his waist. A win over plant will go a long way in proving that he is indeed a worthy champion.

Plant on the other hand will be facing a completely different kind of pressure. Sure he has looked tremendous throughout his career but he has never faced someone the calibre of Uzcategui. Plant will be looking to prove that he does in fact belong at the world level.

Ultimately the path to victory for both men are entirely different. Plant will look to establish his jab and ring movement to box his way to victory while Uzcategui will look to apply his trademark pressure and accumulate enough damage to put an end to this contest before it reaches the final bell. How it plays is the burning question.

This Sunday night we will receive our answers.

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Top Rank Boxing on ESPN Preview: Dogboe vs. Navarrete, Lomachenko vs. Pedraza


By: William Holmes

On Saturday night Top Rank Boxing will take two of their top stars, Vasiliy Lomachenko and Isaac Dogboe, to the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City for another Top Rank Boxing on ESPN telecast.

Pound for pound star, Vasiliy Lomachenko, will put his WBA Lightweight Title on the line against WBO Champion Jose Pedraza in the main event of the night. The co-main event of the evening will be between Isaac Dogboe and Emanuel Navarrete for the WBO Junior Featherweight Title.


Photo Credit: Top Rank Boxing Twitter Account

The undercard will feature boxers such as Teofimo Lopez Jr., Mason Menard, Alexander Besputin, Juan Carlos Abreu, Josue Vargas, and Michael Perez.

The following is a preview of the main two fights of the night.

Isaac Dogboe (20-0) vs. Emmanuel Navarrete (25-1); WBO Junior Featherweight Title

Isaac Dogboe burst onto the scene and minds of boxing fans worldwide with his shocking upset of Jessie Magdaleno for the Junior Featherweight Title.

He’s a champion to keep an eye one, and the twenty four year old boxer from Ghana brings into the ring a wealth of amateur experience, including a trip to the 2012 Olympic Games.

His opponent, Emmanuel Navarrete, does not have the amateur experience of Dogboe and has never fought outside of his native country of Mexico.

Navarrete will have a large height advantage over Dogboe, approximately five inches. They both are relatively young, Dogboe is twenty four years old while Navarrete is twenty three.

Dogboe has been fairly active, especially in 2018. He has already fought three times in 2018 and fought once in 2017. Navarrete fought three times in 2018 and five times in 2017.

At this point in their careers, Dogboe has defeated the better boxers. He has defeated the likes of Hidenori Otake, Jessie Magdaleno, Cesar Juarez, and Javier Chacon.

Navarrete has fought exclusively in Mexico and his biggest win to date was over Jose Sanmartin. He has no other notable victories, but it should be noted he has only faced one opponent with a losing record and his lone loss was way back in 2012 to Daniel Argueta.

Both boxers have considerable power. Navarrete has twenty two knockouts on his resume, and he has stopped his past eight opponents. Dogboe has stopped fourteen of his opponents, including five of his past six.

Navarrete isn’t quite yet a well known opponent in the United States and this is first fight in soil outside of Mexico. This is a bout that Dogboe should emerge victorious.

Vasiliy Lomachenko (11-1)vs. Jose Pedraza (25-1); WBA/WBO Lightweight Title

Lomachenko, despite a loss early in his professional career to former world champion Orlando Salido, is considered by many to be the best pound for pound boxer on the planet.

He’s thirty years old and only one year older than his opponent Pedraza. Pedraza will have a slight one inch height advantage and a more pronounces five and a half inch reach advantage.

Lomachenko fought three times in 2017 and only once in 2018. Pedraza has fought three times in 2018 but only once in 2017. Both fighters have been fairly active recently.

Both boxers competed in the 2008 Summer Olympics as an amateur, but only Lomachenko can claim to have won a medal. In fact, Lomachenko has won two gold medals as an amateur boxer.

Lomachenko has defeated the likes of Jorge Linares, Guillermo Rigondeaux, Miguel Marriaga, Jason Sosa, Nicholas Walters, Roman Martinez, Gary Russell Jr., and Jose Ramirez. He has won his last eight fights by stoppage.

Pedraza’s lone loss was to Gervonta Davis by TKO. He has defeated the likes of Raymundo Beltran, Antonio Moran, Stephen Smith, Edner Cherry, Andrey Klimov, and Micahel Farenas. Pedraza, in contrast to Lomachenko, hasn’t had a stoppage victory in eight fights.

Pedraza’s length and height might give Lomachenko some problems early on, but Lomachenko is too good of a technical boxer to not figure out the reach and timing of Pedraza. Pedraza is a boxer with heart and will likely make it an entertaining fight, but he has little to no chance of beating Lomachenko.

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Boxing Insider Interview with Jose Pedraza: Ready to Put on A Great Show


By: Henry Deleon

Brooklyn’s most famous Boxing gym, Gleason’s Gym hosted Top Ranks meet and greet event on Wednesday December 5th. Here the fighters from the Lomachenko vs. Pedraza card met with the kids from Gleason’s “Give a Kid a Dream”, a nonprofit corporation in where they provide mentorship to disadvantaged youths through the sport of boxing.

Jose “Sniper” Pedraza who will be fighting in the main event Saturday, was among those fighters at the meet and greet. In the midst of it all, Boxing Insider had the opportunity to catch up with Jose on his upcoming bout.

Boxing Insider – Jose how do you feel for your fight against Lomachenko this Saturday?

Jose Pedraza – I feel great. I’m excited for it to be the 8th of December already so I can put on a great show for you all.

Boxing Insider – How do you feel to be fighting here in Madison Square Garden? Where fighters like Miguel Cotto have created a grand legacy.

Jose Pedraza – I feel very excited to be fighting here where not only Cotto has fought, but many other Puerto Ricans have fought. Like Tito Trinidad who is one of the biggest names in Puerto Rican Boxing. I feel very excited to be part of that history.

Boxing Insider – Without giving too much of your game plan away, I’m curious on knowing on how you are going to approach and counter Loma’s movement come Saturday?

Jose Pedraza – well I’m definitely the taller fighter in this fight, so I am going to have to use my distance to my advantage. We need to have great conditioning, which we do, to be able to fight at his pace and to make good usage of my speed.

Boxing insider – Going into this fight, what do you think would be Lomachenko’s most difficult attribute to adjust to?

Jose Pedraza – well we are going to see how the fight unfolds. My team and I have studied Lomachenko really well. So, we are going to see how the fight unfolds and make the proper adjustments as the rounds go by.

Boxing Insider – This is a big fight for you to end the year with. God willing, you come out victorious this Saturday, who else out there would you like to face?

Jose Pedraza – well after this fight, which I’m a 100% sure I will be victorious, we’re going to go after all those great champions in the division. We’re going to continue unifying the belts. So, we are going to make sure we keep training hard so we’ll be ready to take on these fights.

Boxing Insider – Thank you Jose. All the best for this Saturday!

Jose “Snipper” Pedraza (25-1 12 KO’s) is currently the W.B.O World Lightweight Champion. He is only the second Puerto Rican boxer to win world titles at 103 and 135 pounds. Jose will be taking on 2-time Olympic gold medalist and currently the W.B.A Super World Lightweight Champion Vasiliy “Hi-Tech” Lomachenko (11-1 9 KO’s) in a unification bout Saturday December 8th at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden. The fight will also be live on ESPN at 9 p.m ET. Tune in for another exciting night of Boxing!

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IBF Orders Jose Uzcategui-Caleb Plant Super Middleweight Title Fight


By Jake Donovan

Jose Uzcategui has served nearly all of 2018 as a super middleweight titlist despite having yet to make a single defense.

The International Boxing Federation (IBF) is ready to change that status.

The New Jersey-based sanctioning body has ordered Uzcategui to make his first mandatory defense, naming unbeaten Caleb Plant as the leading contender to the throne. A 30-day free negotiation period has been ordered between the two camps, with a December 5 purse bid hearing set aside in the event they cannot come to terms.


Photo Credit: Premier Boxing Champions Twitter Account

Representatives for Uzcategui and Plant were notified by the IBF earlier in the month.

“(Uzcategui’s) mandatory defense is due on or before January 5, 2019,” the IBF reminded Uzcategui’s promoter, Fernando Beltran in an official letter—of which a copy was obtained by BoxingInsider.com—to representatives for both sides. “The leading available contender is Caleb Plant…represented by TGB Promotions.

“Negotiations should commence immediately and be concluded by December 5, 2018. In the event that you are unable to come to an amiable agreement with Plant, the IBF will call for a purse bid.”

Uzcategui (28-2, 23KOs) claimed the interim title in an 8th round stoppage of Andre Dirrell in their rematch this past March. The Mexico-based Venezuelan—who turns 28 later this year—was elevated to full titlist after James DeGale vacated the belt this past summer in lieu of a mandatory title defense.

The turn of events was sweet redemption for Uzcataegui, who was cheated out of the title in his first fight with Dirrell last May. He was winning the bout and on his way to a stoppage win when he was suddenly disqualified for an official ruling of hitting Dirrell after the bell to end the 8th round. The sequence prompted a brief riot, infamously sparked by Dirrell’s uncle and head trainer Leon Lawson who attempted to sucker punch Uzcategui in his corner.

Lawson fled from the scene and was a wanted fugitive before eventually surrendering to authorities on an outstanding warrant.

Despite realizing his dream of winning a major title, it’s been hurry up and wait for Uzcategui. A mandatory title defense was desired, but Plant (17-0, 10KOs) has been out for most of the year while recovering from a hand injury. The Tennessee product hasn’t fought since a 12-round win over Rogelio Medina this past February.

Meanwhile, Uzcategui’s only piece of ring action since becoming full titlist came in the form of a stay-busy non-title fight this past September. It was a well-served purpose, easily outboxing Argentina’s Ezequil Maderna over 10 rounds in their ESPN+ streamed main event.

Uzcategui is co-promoted by Top Rank, which provides him with a major network outlet in ESPN. However, he is represented by his main promoter, Zanfer Promotions in this current round of negotiations.

Plant is represented by TGB Promotions but technically a free agent. His only contracted affiliation is through manager Luis DeCubas and adviser Al Haymon, fighting under the latter’s Premier Boxing Champions’ umbrella, which has lucrative long-term deals with Showtime and Fox.

Given that, the eventual clash will undoubtedly benefit from major televised coverage.

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Jose Benavidez Jr. Has No Intentions To Lose


By: Rich Mancuso

Jose Benavidez Jr. has seen adversity out of the ring and the challenge to take the WBO Welterweight title from Terence Crawford will not be easy. Perhaps to those that take rankings serious the top pound-for-pound fighter in the business is Terence Crawford.

Benavidez Jr. is focused on changing that thinking about Crawford. Top three fighter or number one, the challenger does not care. Saturday night at the CHI Health Center in Omaha Nebraska, regardless of rankings, Benavidez Jr. has no intentions of leaving Crawford’s hometown without the title.


Photo Credit: Top Rank Twitter Account

Bob Arum of Top Rank, the promoter with rights to Crawford, always says the best fights are being delivered to fans on the ESPN televised platform. There is no debate about what is being delivered here and this is one of those fights, and partly because Jose Benavidez presents the challenge.

There is the height and reach advantage of Benavidez. There is also the anticipation of Terence Crawford and facing the toughest challenge of his title reign in this elite division of welterweight champions.

Insiders at Top Rank, and when asked, well they are skeptical because they are aware that Benavidez Jr. will not be easy. Basically it has nothing to do with their champion. This is a fight that will present the biggest challenge to date for Terence Crawford.

“Now he has grown into a man,” Arum said about Benavidez Jr. The often troubled and talented fighter has grown with Top Rank and Arum took him in at the age of 16.

There have been ups and downs with a fighter that never looks for attention. But those at Top Rank knew about the troubled past and they took a chance. Saturday night two of the best will put their differences aside and for Top Rank it means good business. This fight will be the center of attention from all perspectives.

“Things happen in life, good and bad,” Benavidez Jr. said Thursday afternoon. “I don’t try to use that as an excuse or anything. I know what I have to do.”

A leg with stitches above his right knee, that still bothers him. He survived and fought back from a bullet wound two years ago and that incident is still not clear. The question is, will Jose Benavidez Jr. survive 12-rounds with Terence Crawford?

“The leg, I block it out,” he said. “I just focus 110 percent. I know what we have to do. We train to win, and that’s what I am going to keep doing.”

There is no talk about looking ahead. This is a determined and hungry fighter and just looking at Terence Crawford, though a win would change the scope of this welterweight division. In fact, Arum would not discuss the options for both fighters and the focus is all about Saturday night.

But there is that concern of animosity as Benavidez Jr. made this personal. There were harsh words exchanged the day before at final workouts, and of course there is that call for the challenge to Terence Crawford.

“I don’t think Crawford is as good as people say,” said Benavidez Jr. “He is decent and not great. I came here to knock him out in his hometown. He is in a bigger weight division now and we have a lot more firepower than we ever had.”

And the firepower was evident. Those in the gym, in and out of the Benavidez Jr. camp, they saw that aggression and power. It was something they have never seen from the undefeated challenger but in boxing believe what you hear because the fighter has to convince the believers in the ring.

Yes, Benavidez Jr. is undefeated, But the opponent is Terence Crawford who can also come with that firepower and slowly get what he wants.

“Terence is the best fighter in the world,” says Brian McIntyre the trainer and manager of Crawford. He also said about Benavidez Jr. “He came here to fight hard which is okay with us.”

So there was never that disrespect from Terence Crawford or his team. This is all about a championship and one of prestige with that welterweight division always the talk in boxing circles. But hearing words from Benavidez Jr. and you wonder is there respect on the other end?

Or is this another way to promote a fight that has caught the interest of many? Sounds like a confident fighter and with the aggression, but this all about a championship and determination to get it Saturday night.

“Everyone is sleeping and soon they’re going to wake up and I’m going to beat his ass Saturday night,” Benavidez Jr. said. The reality can be a win and more of the elite will be in line to unify the titles.

This has always been the goal for Jose Benavidez Jr. to be in the ring with the best and the opportunity awaits. That troubled past will always be there and all he has to do is look and feel the pain from that wound to the leg.

Now it is close to reality. One punch or a decision in his favor and the pain will briefly go away. The troubled past is personal but being a champion leads to more opportunity.

Comment: [email protected] [email protected] Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso

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Top Rank Boxing on ESPN Preview: Stevenson vs. Simion, Benavidez vs. Crawford


By: William Holmes

Top Rank Promotions will promote a card featuring arguably their best pound for pound fighter, Terence Crawford, in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska in the main event of an ESPN televised card.

Crawford will face fellow undefeated welterweight Jose Benavidez for Crawford’s WBO Welterweight title.

The co-main event of the night will be between former Olympian and high level prospect Shakur Stevenson and Viorel Simion in a junior lightweight bout.


Photo Credit: Top Rank Boxing Twitter Account

The undercard will feature several intriguing fights, including a junior middleweight bout between Carlos Adames and Josh Conley, ad junior welterweight bout between Mike Alvarado and Robbie Cannon, and a female junior lightweight bout between Mikaela Mayer and Vanessa Bradford.

The following is a preview of the co-main event and main event of the evening.

Shakur Stevenson (8-0) vs. Viorel Simion (21-2); Junior Lightweights

Shakur Stevenson is one of Top Rank’s most coveted prospects, and he was a silver medalist in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. On paper he’ll be facing the toughest test of his career, Viorel Simion, a former Olympic participant in the 2004 Summer games.

Stevenson is still very young and will be sixteen years younger than his 37 year old opponent. He will also have a two inch height advantage.

Stevenson, a Newark, New Jersey native, has won three of his past five fights by stoppage and has never faced anyone with a losing record. He only has four stoppage wins on his resume, but has been very active since turning pro. He fought four times in 2017 and has already fought four times in 2018.

Simion, from Romania, has nine KO wins on his resume and isn’t known for his power. This Romanian boxer lost the two fights where he stepped up in competition, to Scott Quigg and Lee Selby. Simion has fought mainly in Eurpe and fought once in 2017 and twice in 2016.

Stevenson has defeated the likes of Carlos Ruiz, Aelio Mesquita, Roxberg Patrick Riley, and Juan Tapia. He also went 2-0 n the World Series of Boxing.

Simion has defeated the likes of Andoni Gago, Alexander Miskirtchian, and Ryan Sermona. The few times he stepped up his level of competition he was soundly beat.

This is a bout that Stevenson should win comfortably, but Simion is a good experienced boxer to gauge where Stevenson currently is in his professional development.

Terence Crawford (33-0) vs. Jose Benavidez Jr.(27-0); WBO Welterweight Title

Terence Crawford will be stepping into the ring with a younger, taller, and longer undefeated challenger on Saturday.

Crawford is still in his prime, but Benavidez is five years younger than him. Benavidez will also have about a six inch height advantage and a three inch reach advantage.

Crawford does appear to have an edge in power. He has stopped twenty four of his opponents, and seven of his past eight fights were stoppage victories. Benavidez only has eighteen stoppage victories, and three of his past five fights were by way of stoppage.

Both boxers had relatively successful amateur careers. Crawford was a former PAL National Champion while Benavidez was a former US National Golden Gloves Champion.

Both boxers have been fairly active in 2018 but Crawford has been the more active fighter of the two since 2016. Crawford fought once in 2018, twice in 2017, and three times in 2016. Benavidez fought twice in 2018 and only once 2016.

Benavidez was also shot in 2016 and missed all of 2017 as a result.

Crawford has soundly beaten every man he has faced so far. He has beaten the likes of Jeff Horn, Julius Indongo, Felix Diaz, John Molina Jr., Viktor Postol, Hank Lundy, Dierry jean, Thomas Dulrome, Raymundo Beltran, Yoriorkis Gamboa, and Ricky Burns.

Benavidez does not have the professional resume of Crawford, but he has beaten some decent boxers. He has defeated the likes of Frank Rojas, Matthew Strode, Francisco Santana, Jorge Paez Jr., Mauricio Herrera, and Pavel Miranda.

However, his win against Herrera is disputed by many who thought Herrera deserved the decision in that bout.

This is a major, major step up in competition for Benavidez. Unfortunately for him, he has never faced anyone near the level of Terrance Crawford and it is this writer’s opinion that he will be in over his head on Saturday night.

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Terence Crawford Readies for Homecoming Bout Against Jose Benavidez Jr.


Terence Crawford is excited to be back in Omaha, his beloved hometown and the site of many of his greatest fistic moments. The man nicknamed “Bud” will defend his WBO welterweight world title Saturday evening against Jose Benavidez Jr. at the CHI Health Center Omaha (formerly the CenturyLink Center), live on ESPN and ESPN Deportes beginning at 10:30 p.m. ET. His four CHI Health Center outings have drawn nearly 45,000 fans, and another packed house is expected.

The long-simmering animosity between Crawford and Benavidez spilled over into Wednesday’s media day, with the pair and their respective teams exchanging verbal haymakers.


Photo Credit: Mikey Williams/Top Rank

The ESPN broadcast will also include 2016 U.S. Olympic silver medalist and top featherweight prospect Shakur Stevenson (8-0, 4 KOs) in a 10-rounder against the battle-tested Viorel Simion (21-2, 9 KOs).

The action begins on ESPN+ at 7 p.m. ET and features female boxing sensation Mikaela Mayer (7-0, 4 KOs) versus Vanessa Bradford (4-0-2, 0 KOs) for the vacant NABF super featherweight title, former 140-pound world champion Mike Alvarado (39-4, 27 KOs) against Robbie Cannon (16-13-3, 7 KOs), Omaha-born light heavyweight prospect Steve Nelson (11-0, 9 KOs) taking on Oscar Riojas (17-10-1, 6 KOs), and Carlos Adames (14-0, 11 KOs) battling Joshua Conley (14-2-1, 9 KOs) for the vacant NABF super welterweight title.

Terence “Bud” Crawford

On the beef between him and Benavidez

“It’s been real since day one, since the fight has been announced. It ain’t been nothing but real.”

“I’m just going to go out there and shut him up. That’s it. That’s all.”

On whether Benavidez deserves the title shot

“No. Not at all. But that ain’t the point. The point is we’re here now, and we’re fighting on Saturday. Come Saturday, all the talking will be out the window.”

On people asking about future opponents and not Benavidez

“I’m just gonna keep doing what I’ve been doing, and that’s winning the fights and looking spectacular each and every fight. Everything else will fall into place.”

“It’s part of the game, but I’m not worried about that. They do their thing, and I’ll do mine on Saturday.”

“Once he feels them punches going upside his head, I don’t even know if he’s going to want to stand there next to me.”

Jose Benavidez Jr.

“It’s time to show the world what I can do. I’ve been waiting for this my whole life.”

“I am here. I am going to take over this city, and I am going to take his belt. I’m not scared.”

“I don’t see anything special in him. I don’t know why everyone hypes him up so much.”

Shakur Stevenson

On whether it’s a challenge to fight a late-notice opponent in Simion

“Honestly, no, because I come from the amateurs where I went into tournaments and didn’t know who I was fighting. I was fighting randoms, never seen them fight before, and then I get in the ring. I saw them across the ring, and I won. I don’t think it made a difference.”

On Simion as a fighter

“This is my toughest opponent as a pro. I never fought an opponent with this type of record. I’m coming here, as always, to put on a show.”

On fighting as ESPN co-feature

“I love fighting on ESPN. I love the fact that I get to fight on Bud’s undercard, and he’s the main event and I’m the co-main event. I’m ready to open the show.”

Mikaela Mayer

On moving down to 130 pounds

“I’m a lot stronger than ever while fighting at a lower weight. I’m coming into my own as an athlete.”

On adjusting to the pro game

“From my first fight to now, I see such a huge difference. There’s such a big difference between the amateurs and the pros. For each opponent, my team and I look at what they do best and how we can counter it.”

“I don’t feel any added pressure because this is what I wanted. I’m going to go in there and get the job done.”

Mike Alvarado

On returning after less than four months removed from his last fight

“Fighting {in Nebraska} the last time in 2017, I had a good knockout. I’m ready to do it again. From that point until now, I got a new trainer. I’ve been doing new things in training. For me to apply what I’ve been working on, I didn’t really have a chance before the last fight. It’s good. I needed some rounds. I had some inactivity.”

On fighting in front a raucous crowd Omaha

“It gives you more motivation, and I like the intensity. I’m happy to be on this stage again.”

Carlos Adames

“I am 100 percent recovered from my foot injury and ready to show the fans that I am the future of the 154-pound division. It’s a big honor to fight on this card, and I want to give the fans in Omaha and watching on ESPN+ an incredible show.”

“Conley is a tough guy, but I am 100 percent prepared. I feel comfortable at 154 pounds. My power is going to be too much for him.”

Crawford-Benavidez and Stevenson-Simion will air live and exclusively on ESPN and ESPN Deportes at 10:30 p.m. ET with undercards streaming live in the United States at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN+ — the new multi-sport, direct-to-consumer subscription streaming service from The Walt Disney Company’s Direct-to-Consumer & International segment in conjunction with ESPN.

Remaining tickets to this world championship event, priced at $178, $103, $63, and $38, not including applicable fees, can be purchased at the CHI Health Center Omaha box office, all Ticketmaster outlets, by phone at 800-745-3000, or online at ticketmaster.com.

Use the hashtag #CrawfordBenavidez to join the conversation on social media.

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Top Rank Boxing on ESPN Preview: Prograis Defends Title Against Juan Jose Velasco


By: Ken Hissner

Interim WBC Super Lightweight southpaw Regis “Rougarou” Prograis, 21-0 (18), out of Houston, TX, riding a six fight knockout streak defends his title against WBC Latino Champ Juan Jose “El Pitbull” Velasco, 20-0 (12), of Bueno Aires, ARG, over 12 rounds.

This is a “homecoming” for Prograis fighting at the Lakefront Arena in New Orleans, LA. He was born in New Orleans and has always wanted to headline there so Top Rank, DiBella Entertainment and Sampson Boxing has made his dream come true. On Saturday at 7pm ESPN will show this card.


Photo Credit: Top Rank Boxing Twitter Account

“It’s a dream to come here. The Lakefront Arena, I grew up right around the corner from there. I have to hide my excitement for I still have to fight. I hope to bring big time boxing back to New Orleans. Velasco is going to try to knock me out. I’m focused. There are no distractions,” said Prograis.

“Regis is a great fighter. To be a great champion, you have to beat the great fighters. I want to prove that Saturday night, that I’m elite like him,” said Velasco.

There is a strong undercard featuring Lightweight Teofimo Lopez, 9-0 (7), of David, FL, takes on IBO Continental Champion William “Baby Face” Silva, 25-1 (14), of Sao Paulo, BRZ, fight for the vacant WBC Continental Americas Lightweight title, over 10 rounds.

“I definitely want to showcase more of what I’m capable of doing. People have yet to see everything of me. This is a good step up,” said Lopez.

“I’m ready for the fight. It’s a real important fight. I had a really good training camp and I’m ready to go,” said Silva.

Coming off a draw decision super featherweight southpaw Mexican Erik De Leon, 17-0-1 (10), out of Detroit, MI, takes on Adrian “Chinito” Young, 25-4-2 (19), out of Sinaloa, MEX, over 10 rounds.

“I can’t wait to see all my fans. I can’t wait to display my talent and everything I got. It’s going to show Saturday so get there early,” said De Leon.

Also, on the undercard are unbeaten boxers like super welter 2016 Olympian Charles Conwell, 7-0 (5), of Cleveland, OH, taking on Travis “Sweet Feet” Scott, 19-3 (5), of Baton Rouge, LA., over 10 rounds.

Also, Jonathan “The King” Guidry, 10-0-2 (5), out of Dulac, LA., taking on Aaron Chavers, 8-4-1 (3), out of Oklahoma City, OK, over 6 rounds.

Also, super middleweight Tyler Howard, 14-0 (9), out of Crossville, TN, taking on Javier Frazier, 8-3-1 (4), out of SC, over 6 rounds.

Unbeaten boxers facing one another are super lightweight southpaw Fazlidden Gaibnazarov, 4-0 (2), of UZB and living in L.A., CA, against welterweight Kevin Johnson, 5-0 (4), out of Detroit, MI, over 8 rounds.
Unbeaten featherweight PR’s Jean Carlos “Chapito” Rivera, 13-0 (8), out of Orlando, FL, takes late sub Dominican Angel “El Gato” Luna, 11-4-1 (6), over 10 rounds.

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The Champ is Home: Jose Ramirez to Make First Title Defense in Front of Hometown Fans


The dream has been realized. Now, it’s time for Jose Ramirez to get down to business.

Ramirez (22-0, 16 KOs), from Avenal, California, will make the first defense of his WBC super lightweight world title against Danny O’Connor (30-3, 11 KOs) on Saturday in front of a projected sold-out crowd at the Save Mart Center in Fresno. It’s the building Ramirez packed several times on his journey to a world title.


Photo Credit: Mikey Williams/Top Rank

Ramirez-O’Connor and the 10-round welterweight showdown between NABF champion Egidijus Kavaliauskas and Juan Carlos Abreu will be televised live on ESPN and ESPN Deportes beginning at 9:30 p.m. ET.

The entire undercard will be shown on ESPN+ beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET and includes heavyweight contender Andy Ruiz Jr. (30-1, 20 KOs) against Kevin Johnson (32-9-1, 16 KOs) in a 10-rounder, undefeated Andy Vences (20-0-1, 12 KOs) defending the WBC Continental Americas super featherweight title against Frank De Alba (22-3-2, 9 KOs) in a 10-rounder, and 18-year-old wunderkind Gabe Flores Jr. (8-0, 5 KOs) against James De Herrera (4-3, 3 KOs) in a six-round lightweight contest.

The fighters gathered Thursday at the final press conference at Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino. This is what they had to say.

Jose Ramirez

“It’s quite an honor for me to bring this type of fight, this type of entertainment, to Central California. To fight my first title defense in front of my biggest fans, my closest friends and my family, it’s a blessing.”

“We’re calling this event ‘Protecting Home’ because we’re protecting those that belong here in this country, who fight every day and contribute to this community. We’re also protecting what belongs to us, which is a world title.”

On switching from Freddie Roach to Robert Garcia as head trainer

“I think what went on with that change was loyalty and the fact that we do so much outside of the ring as well. Robert is a guy who is from Oxnard, a very similar community to Central California. He understands the work ethic and what we represent, what we do. And he wants to be a part of it. He’s very motivated to train me. He’s very excited to train me. That makes it easier for me to be motivated and to be excited to stay in this sport. Freddie is a great man. He’s very respected. He always respected me as a fighter, but he had so many world champions, and I needed to feel more of that loyalty and excitement from him. And I think I found it now in Riverside with a lot of undefeated prospects, good prospects, and future world champions at the Robert Garcia Boxing Academy.”

Danny O’Connor

“First and foremost, I’m a father and a husband, so that’s the most important thing. After taking a knockout in that form {a first-round stoppage loss versus Gabriel Bracero in October 2015} when I had never even been dropped in the gym before, I had to assess my personal health to make sure I was able to be that father, that husband I needed to be. It wasn’t so much taking time away from the sport, it was kind of just re-evaluating to make sure I was OK mentally and physically and still able to compete at the level I needed to be in a fight like this.”

“I feel grateful to be in this position. I’ve worked very hard inside the ring and outside the ring to overcome so much adversity to be here today. I never quit. I never gave up on myself. I never lost hope.”

Egidijus Kavaliauskas

“I’m just happy to fight in Fresno. It’s close to where I live in Oxnard. It’s very nice here. It’s very hot. On Saturday, it will be even hotter inside the ring. It’ll be a very good fight.”

Juan Carlos Abreu

“I feel very good. I’m ready to take the title back home to the Dominican Republic.”

Andy Ruiz Jr.

“My goal is to fight the big names out there. The main thing is to stay on track, stay on the right side and in shape, and get ready for whatever comes in 2018.”

“I’m in good condition. After my last fight March 10 {a first-round stoppage over Devin Vargas}, I’ve been in the gym ever since. I’m training really hard, taking it more seriously. It’s my time for this year and next year. The main thing is to stay in shape and be prepared.”

Gabe Flores Jr.

“I sold a bunch of tickets out here. I’m glad a lot of people are supporting me, and for my family to see me fight, it’s beautiful. There’s only one person that I wish could be here, and it’s my mother. She’s up there, but she’s going to be watching me, and she’s going to give me the energy I need to fight.”

On building his hometown of Stockton, California, as a boxing market

“I have amazing support in Stockton, California. We’re going to be there eventually. It’s going to take some time, but I can’t wait to fight in front of my people.”

Andy Vences

“{The Erick De Leon fight} was a technical fight. It ended in a draw. I do what I always do. I looked back at the fight, saw what adjustments I could’ve made, and moving forward, those are adjustments I’m going to show for this fight. The fans are in for it. They’re going to get their money’s worth because every time I fight at the Save Mart Center, I bring action, I bring knockouts.”

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Pedraza, Stevenson, Ready To Impress On Horn-Crawford Undercard


By: Sean Crose

“Jose ‘Sniper’ Pedraza is nearing a title shot,” a Top Rank press release declared on Tuesday, “while Shakur Stevenson is well on his way.” Both Top Rank fighters will now find themselves on the undercard of much anticipated WBO welterweight title bout between Jeff Horn and Terence Crawford. Puerto Rico’s Pedraza will put his 23-1 record on the line by facing the 22-0 Antonio Moran. “I am excited because this will be my first fight in Las Vegas, which everyone knows is the fight capital of the world,” Pedraza claims. “I am determined to give a great performance…I know Moran is a good fighter and coming to upset my plans, but I have worked very hard to make sure that does not happen. I expect to be victorious on June 9 and will continue to show I am a force at lightweight.”

The WBO Latino Lightweight title will be at stake when Pedraza faces Moran on June 9th at the MGM Grand in Vegas. The bout will be aired on ESPN+, along with the Crawford-Horn main event. As for Olympic star, Stevenson, the 6-0 New Jersey native will face the 16-1 Aelio Mesquita in an eight round affair in the featherweight division. “I’ve gotten the chance to fight at Madison Square Garden,” says Stevenson, “and now I’m ready for my Las Vegas debut at MGM Grand on June 9…there have been so many historic fights in that arena and now it’s my turn. It’s always fun to fight on Terence’s undercards. The Crawford family has adopted me, so I’m going to put on a great performance for them and everyone watching at MGM and on ESPN+.”

The 26-0 Jose Benavidez will also be battling that night as he faces the 22-0 Venezuelan Frank Rojas. Having won all but one of his fights by KO, the hard hitting Rojas will present quite a challenge for Benavidez when they meet in a 10 round welterweight affair. “I have 21 knockouts in 22 fights,” Rojas claims. “On June 9, I will add another knockout to my record…I’m coming for you, Benavidez! I’m 100 percent ready to give the fans a great fight. I hope you are ready because I’m going to knock you out. I’m going to rip his head off. Get ready.” As for Benavidez, he appears eager to face the challenge. “”I hope that Rojas trained hard and that he comes well prepared,” he says, “because I’m determined to stop him.”

“Rojas will not touch me at all,” Benavidez adds. “He will not rip my head off because I’m going to rip his head off first.”

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USBA Featherweight Champion Jose Haro Fighting a Different Battle


By: Ken Hissner

USBA Featherweight Champion Jose Haro is from West Jordan, Utah, and won the title back in June knocking out Daniel Franco in the 8th round. He won every round up until then and scored a pair of knockdowns with the second one putting Franco out cold.

Haro, 14-1-1 (8), turned professional in August of 2010 winning his first 8 fights in Utah. Taking a fight with Toka Kahn Clary, 11-0, in June of 2014 coming off 10 months of inactivity he lost a hard fought 6 round decision at Bally’s in Atlantic City, NJ. Clary is currently No. 14 in the WBA.

Four months later Haro was in with tough Jorge Diaz, 18-3, in Somerset, NJ, ending in a split decision draw. Each boxer got a vote with the third judge calling it a draw.

It would be 7 months later before Haro fought again defeating Efrain Esquivias, 17-3-1, who had a knockout win over former world champion Rafael Marquez. The Esquivias fight was in Double Tree, Ontario, CA, as was his next fight with Juan Reyes.

Two wins would follow the Esquivias fight starting 2 months later when Haro defeated Miguel Tamayo, 17-13-2, of Mexico, with 15 knockouts. Haro would come back 2 months later defeating Juan Reyes, 12-2-3, a Mexican from CA.

In 2016 Haro finding it hard getting good opposition due to his ring success won a pair of fights 7 months after the Reyes fight defeating Raymond Chaco, 6-17, back in Layton, Utah, in April. He would follow this up in July stopping Sergio Nagera, 11-25-2 in 4 rounds.

Haro would be off close to a year when the fight with Roc Nation’s Daniel Franco was offered for the vacant USBA Featherweight title in June of 2017. Haro won every round starting to hurt Franco as early as the third round. In the fifth round Franco was warned for hitting behind the head of Haro. In the sixth round with Haro working Franco over good the referee warned Franco for holding.

In the fatal 8th round Haro rocked Franco with a hard right spinning him around and down he went which was a delayed knockdown. Franco’s corner could have thrown in the towel then but let it go on with just over 2 minutes left in the round. Haro went right after Franco who was bleeding from the nose. Another hard right and down went Franco face first with the referee immediately waving the fight over at 2:43 of the 8th round in a scheduled 10.

Franco was carried out in a stretcher. Haro told the ring commentator, “if it wasn’t for my wife I couldn’t do it.” They (Yesenia) have 5 children, Evenie 10, Alli 8, Haley 5 “Nugget”, Riley 3 and Louie 7 months. He is up at 3am each morning and off to work at 4. He then finishes his job and comes home so his wife can go to work. There is not much money when you are coming up like Haro is.

Haro has told his trainer Eric, his brother that if he is taking a beating stop the fight. He has a wife and 5 children to think of. He has had a lot on his mind since Franco went into a coma for 9 days and needed 4 brain operations. Franco feels Jay-Z who owns Roc-Nation has thrown him under the bus.

Haro was a victim of a hate crime being shot in both feet and told he may never walk again in 2015. He overcame plenty of troubles but regained his health to fight again. He broke his foot a year later in October of 2016 after this and His agent is Whitfield Haydon. Haro is ranked No. 15 by the IBF due to winning the USBA title. He had plenty of amateur experience with over 100 fights only losing 15 of them. Please keep Haro and of course Franco in prayer. He is currently scheduled to fight for Top Rank in February.

“My main purpose for fighting is to fight the best and hope someday make enough money to pay off my mortgage and leave this sport with good health. Once I am done with my career I would like to open my own boxing gym and help the youth in any way I can and watch my kids grow up,” said Haro.

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Unbeaten Benavidez Brothers Take Different Routes to Success


By: Ken Hissner

In talking to the father and trainer Jose Benavidez, Sr. from their Big Bear, CA, training camp about his sons Jose, Jr. and David Benavidez they have taken different routes from their amateur experiences to their unbeaten professional careers.

Jose Benavidez, Jr., 25-0 (16), at 25 had a 120-5 amateur career and had a fast start in 2010 winning 9 fights that year.

He has had an up and down career but still maintained his unbeaten record. In his last bout in July of 2016 he defeated Francisco Santana, 24-4-1, in Las Vegas, NV. Santana had a draw with recent title challenger Julian Williams of Philadelphia to his credit.

In 2014 Jose, Jr., won the interim WBA World super lightweight title defeating Mauricio Herrera, 21-4, of Mexico, who in a previous fight that year lost a disputed decision to then WBA Super world and WBC super lightweight champion Danny Garcia of Philadelphia, in Puerto Rico.

In his first defense he stopped Jorge Paez, Jr., 38-5-2, of Mexico in the twelfth and final round. He is co-managed by David A. Garcia and promoted by Top Rank.

The younger brother David “El Bandera Roja”, 18-0 (17), only had a 15-0 amateur record but has made the most of it since turning professional in 2013 and in his last bout stopped Rogelio Medina, 37-7, in May to earn a world title fight September 8th for the vacant WBC Super middleweight title against Romanian Ronald Gavril, 18-1 (14), out of NV, in Las Vegas. The latter is filling in for former champion Anthony Dirrell who was injured in training. Benavidez is promoted by Sampson Lewkowicz of Sampson Boxing and also co-managed by David A. Garcia. With a victory on September 8th David would be the youngest boxer not only to be the current youngest but the youngest ever to win the super middleweight championship of all time. His advisor is Al Haymon.

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