Fightful Boxing Newsletter (2/21): Tyson Fury To ESPN, Billy Joe Saunders Goes To 168, Joshua vs. Miller

USA Boxing Roundup:

- Premier Boxing Champions recently held a card on Fox on February 16 from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, headlined by Leo Santa Cruz vs. Rafael Rivera for the WBA “Super” featherweight title. The fight was extremely one-sided as Santa Cruz dominated a game Rivera, but the interest in this fight was pretty low considering Rivera did not pose any threat to Santa Cruz. Overall, this was one of the weaker main events PBC has had in some time, but the undercard did save the event in some regards. The co-main event, a fight between Omar Figueroa Jr. and John Molina Jr., has solid action and the opening bout saw a new budding star being created in 6’7” junior middleweight Sebastian Fundora, who took out Donnie Marshall in three rounds. The card averaged 1.376 million viewers and drew a 0.90 rating, both down by a decent margin from the last two boxing cards that aired on Fox.

PBC on Fox February 16 Results:

  • Leo Santa Cruz defeated Rafael Rivera by unanimous decision (119-109, 119-109, 119-109) to retain the WBA “Super” Featherweight Title
  • Omar Figueroa Jr. defeated John Molina Jr. by unanimous decision (99-91, 98-92, 97-93)
  • Sebastian Fundora defeated Donnie Marshall by KO, round 3

- ESPN held a Top Rank card on February 15 at Grand Casino, Hinckley in Minnesota, headlined by Rob Brant's first WBA "Regular" middleweight title defense. Brant dominated Khasan Baysangurov throughout the fight, ending with Brant stopping his opponent in the 11th round to retain the title. The co-main event saw rising women's boxing star Mikaela Mayer defeating Yareli Larios while the opening bout featured WBC Continental Americas bantamweight titleholder Joshua Greer Jr. in action. According to Showbuzz Daily, the card averaged 704,000 viewers on ESPN. The telecast peaked at 769,000 viewers during the main event and drew a 0.48 household rating. The overall story of the card was the focus on Brant's title reign and his future. ESPN and Top Rank are clearly pushing for a rematch between Brant and Ryota Murata as well as a fight between Brant and former welterweight champion Jeff Horn in Australia. ESPN is clearly looking to squeeze as much money out of Brant's title reign given that he is the only middleweight world champion not to be signed with DAZN and given how hot the division has been in recent years, it makes business sense to try and push Brant as a star.

Top Rank on ESPN February 15 Results:

  • Rob Brant defeated Khasan Baysangurov by TKO, round 11 to retain the WBA "Regular" Middleweight Title
  • Mikaela Mayer defeated Yareli Larios by unanimous decision (79-73, 80-72, 78-74) to retain the NABF Female Super Featherweight Title
  • Joshua Greer Jr. defeated Giovanni Escaner by KO, round 8 to retain the WBC Continental Americas Bantamweight Title

- Unified lightweight champion Vasiliy Lomachenko is heading to Los Angeles for his next fight against mandatory challenger Anthony Crolla. Terms for the fight have been officially agreed with promoter Eddie Hearn confirming the bout, for the WBA and WBO lightweight titles, will take place on April 12. The fight will headline a boxing card streamed on ESPN+ from the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Lomachenko was set to fight on April 12, but the original plan called for the unified champion to fight newly-crowned IBF champion Richard Commey. Commey won the title on February 2 in Texas, but suffered an injury during his quick title win over Isa Chaniev. The injury would keep Commey from getting ready in time for April, leaving Lomachenko without an opponent. Crolla is the mandatory challenger for Lomachenko's WBA title and a purse bid had been set for the two boxers, but the WBA granted an exception for its lightweight champion to unify with Commey so long as the fight would take place in April. With Commey out of commission for the time being, Crolla was the next man in line to fight Lomachenko. News of the fight has been met with mixed reception with some criticizing the matchup, saying that Crolla does not deserve a shot at the title. While it is sad that boxing won't get Lomachenko vs. Commey in April, having Lomachenko fulfill his WBA mandatory will go a long way if he hopes to become the undisputed champion at 135 pounds, which is a very real possibility. Assuming Lomachenko eventually fights and beats Commey to unify all three belts, that would leave the WBC title and by the time Lomachenko is a three-belt champion, we would know by then if WBC champion Mikey Garcia has vacated the title or not. If the title is vacant, expect Top Rank star Teofimo Lopez to be in the running, making way for a potential pay-per-view bout in 2020 for the undisputed lightweight titles.

- Canelo Alvarez and Daniel Jacobs will have a three-city press conference tour to promote their upcoming middleweight title unification on May 4. The tour starts on February 27 in New York, followed by a stop in Mexico City, Mexico on Match 1 and concludes with a trip to Los Angeles on March 4. The fight will headline a DAZN card from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and on paper, the fight could end up being an early contender for “Fight of the Year” thanks to both fighters’ skills, power and the raucous Mexican crowd in Las Vegas for Cinco De Mayo weekend, which has become one of the biggest dates of the calendar year for boxing.

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