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

Fightful Boxing Newsletter (2/21/2019) Table Of Contents:

  1. Tyson Fury Signs With Top Rank, ESPN (Page 1)
  2. Billy Joe Saunders Moves Up In Weight, To Challenge For WBO Super Middleweight Title (Page 2)
  3. Anthony Joshua vs. Jarrell Miller Set For June 1 At MSG (Page 3)
  4. Claressa Shields vs. Christina Hammer Finalized (Page 4)
  5. James DeGale vs. Chris Eubank Jr. Preview (Page 5)
  6. Anthony Dirrell vs. Avni Yildirim Preview (Page 6)
  7. USA Boxing Roundup (Page 7)
  8. Asian Boxing Roundup (Page 8)
  9. Matchroom Boxing USA in Mexico Preview (Page 9)
Jorge Masvidal Not Expecting Much From Leon Edwards At UFC 269: "He's Going To Hit And Run”

Tyson Fury Signs With Top Rank, ESPN

In the midst of what is starting to feel like a drawn-out negotiation battle, lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury put a wrench into a possible rematch against Deontay Wilder and signed a co-promotional deal with Top Rank and ESPN.

The contract is a multi-year deal that calls for a minimum of two fights in the United States per year and his fights are going to be co-promoted by Top Rank Boxing and Queensberry Promotions.

While the signing is big for Top Rank and ESPN, which acquires one of the three biggest heavyweight stars in boxing today, it does present some problems between him and Wilder in regards to getting a deal done for a WBC heavyweight title bout.

The main issue that arose with the Fury-ESPN signing is that there is now a secondary battle between Top Rank Boxing/ESPN and PBC/Showtime. When the two boxers fought in December 2018, the U.S. broadcast was done in pay-per-view and produced on Showtime. After a relatively successful event in terms of buyrate (around 325,000 buys at roughly $75 per unit), everyone was under the assumption, including Wilder and co-manager Shelly Finkel, that the rematch would take place in May or June on a Showtime pay-per-view.

Now everything is up in the air.

More often than not, the reason why most big fights don’t happen today is because promoters and the network they are affiliated with are not willing to compromise and work towards making the fights fans want to see. From the promoter and network’s standpoint, allowing their own fighters to compete on other network would mean losing out on a lot of money by not having the fight on their broadcast platform.

From a business standpoint, it is understandable where they are coming from, but it hurts the sport nonetheless.

That isn’t to say the rematch between Wilder and Fury is impossible to make. The most direct way to get the fight underway is to go to a purse bid, but the date is still up in the air. The purse bid was suppose to take place in early February, but then it got delayed for February 12 only for it to get delayed once more. The reason why the purse bid was delayed twice was because it was believed that the two sides were close to a deal.

They may still be close to a deal, but now the added layer of battling networks could jeopardize the whole event. Now some may suggest that the two could work out some kind of deal, whether it would be ESPN airing the fight live on pay-per-view with Showtime getting the rights to air it on tape delay.

Such deals among promoters and networks are rare, but they have occurred before. Technically, the last time this happened was in August 2017 with the Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor, which was a joint event done by Showtime and UFC. But if we were to stick to strictly events between boxers, the two most recent examples are Anthony Joshua vs. Wladimir Klitschko in 2017 and Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao in 2015, both of which were HBO/Showtime joint ventures. Given that Bob Arum has also done several co-promotional fights with Don King since the 1970s as well as other promoters, there is hope that the fight can be salvaged.

But in today’s climate, nothing is a guarantee, especially in the heavyweight division. After all, we were certain that we would get Joshua vs. Wilder in 2017 and then in 2018 with nothing to show for. If Wilder vs. Fury 2 does not happen next, then it would be another blow to a division that has been teetering on the verge of a resurgence for years, but failed to do so due to the lack of fights between its three biggest stars (Joshua, Wilder and Fury).

Right now, it’s no longer about building up to the fight. There’s no need to wait for the fight for months. Fans want to see the fight now and anything less than Wilder vs. Fury 2 within the next couple of months will serve as a reminder of why boxing is still fighting to get back into the mainstream consciousness.

Billy Joe Saunders Moves Up In Weight, To Challenge For WBO Super Middleweight Title:

On February 17, the WBO rankings were updated with two very interesting changes. The first one was that super middleweight champion Gilberto Ramirez is no longer listed as the champion and instead the No. 1 contender for the light heavyweight title currently being held by Sergey Kovalev. The second change, which is the more surprising and newsworthy, is that Billy Joe Saunders, the mandatory challenger for the middleweight title, was then ranked No. 2 at super middleweight.

These two changes are related as Ramirez’s ascension to light heavyweight meant the super middleweight title is vacant and thus, the governing body’s top two super middleweights -- Shefat Isufi and Saunders, are ordered to fight for the belt. A day after the new rankings were revealed, it was announced that Isufi and Saunders will fight for the belt on April 13 at the SSE Arena in Wembley.

The 24 hours that led to this were very shocking considering that Saunders was recently named the mandatory challenger to Demetrius Andrade’s middleweight title after the WBO ended his suspension for failing a drug test back in January.

In a sense, this makes perfect sense for Saunders to move up in weight. From a business perspective, Saunders and promoter Frank Warren have never been big fans of fighting Andrade due to the fact that Warren would have had to make a deal with long-time promotional rival Eddie Hearn, Andrade’s promoter. It was already considered a major surprise that the fight was even made for last October in the first place and that Saunders, the champion, would be fighting on the broadcast platform Hearn is affiliated in (DAZN). When Saunders was suspended and not given a license to box in Boston for the fight against Andrade, it was thought to believe that the fight wasn’t going to happen.

Now even if the fight was to get made under the same circumstances and if Saunders were to reclaim his middleweight belt, he would be stuck in a rut in terms of getting big fights for later in the future.

Since Canelo Alvarez and Daniel Jacobs, who collectively hold the WBA “Super,” WBC and IBF middleweight titles, fight for DAZN for the next 10 and three fights, respectively, a unification bout would have to go through DAZN. Doing that would be asking a lot for Warren and Saunders and they would almost certainly not be willing to go through with those fights. It would cause far less headaches in the short term future for Saunders to take advantage of the super middleweight title being vacant.

At super middleweight, Saunders does have some interesting matchups, but they’re not as intriguing as a potential fight against either Alvarez or Jacobs. There’s also the fact that the 168-pound division is currently busy at the moment as the WBC title will crown a new champion on February 23, the IBF title is in PBC territory and the WBA “Super” title is being held by Callum Smith, another fighter promoted by Hearn.

Saunders did reveal that he wishes to go back to middleweight, likely to challenge the winner of Alvarez vs. Jacobs taking place on May 4. Assuming Alvarez, the favorite in that fight, were to beat Jacobs, Saunders could get his big-money fight while not dealing with Hearn as Alvarez is promoted by Golden Boy Promotions. A deal between Warren and Golden Boy Promotions on DAZN is far more likely to happen than a Warren-Hearn partnership.

While Saunders going to super middleweight is all well and good, the move up in weight might have unintentionally caused major consequences for the sport itself.

With Saunders moving up in weight, the No. 1 spot in the WBO middleweight rankings now belongs to Golovkin, the biggest free agent in the sport. Now DAZN was the frontrunner to sign Golovkin and it still is, but it may have pushed for an unintended title fight between Andrade and Golovkin.

The WBO could likely order the two boxers to fight, which would push Golovkin to finally sign with DAZN. The original plan for Golovkin to sign with DAZN was to simply have him fight once before moving on with a third fight against Alvarez. Golovkin signing with DAZN, beating Andrade for the WBO title and having Alvarez defeat Jacobs, would start the build to an undisputed middleweight title bout during Mexican Independence Day weekend this September.

A third fight, with the proper build and for the undisputed middleweight title, will almost surely be the fight that would turn DAZN into a mainstream product and not something only hardcore boxing fans currently have.

Anthony Joshua vs. Jarrell Miller Set For June 1 At MSG:

One of boxing’s biggest open secrets of the past few weeks has officially been revealed as unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua will be coming to the United States for his next title defense.

Joshua will defend his WBA “Super,” WBO and IBF heavyweight titles against undefeated contender Jarrell Miller at Madison Square Garden in New York City on June 1. The fight will headline a Matchroom Boxing card that will be streamed on DAZN in the United States.

The fight will be Joshua’s first pro fight outside of the United Kingdom, where he has been one of the biggest boxing draws in history. Joshua’s last four fights, taking place at either Wembley Stadium in London or Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, drew a total attendance of more than 300,000 fans. Joshua last fought in September at Wembley when he defeated Alexander Povetkin to retain his unified titles.

It was previously announced that Joshua would fight at Wembley Stadium on April 13 as the venue was reserved for that date for his next fight. Originally, it was hoped that Joshua would fight WBC champion Deontay Wilder this April to crown an undisputed heavyweight champion, but Wilder elected to move forward with a title rematch against Tyson Fury, set to be announced soon. Joshua then looked towards a rematch against Dillian Whyte but that fight also fell through after negotiations went awry.

As such, Joshua and promoter Eddie Hearn looked towards Miller as Joshua’s next challenger. The undefeated British champion had no real intentions of fighting in the United States any time soon, but after he attended the December 15 Golden Boy Promotions card at Madison Square Garden, Joshua warmed up to the idea of fighting in that venue in the future.

With an April 13 date at Wembley no longer possible, the idea of Joshua fighting in the Big Apple became more plausible as Hearn believed fighting in the United States would help solidify Joshua as a global boxing star.

Miller, a former kickboxer who has ascended through the heavyweight rankings in the last couple of years, will finally get his chance at fighting for a world title. Miller has a 23-0-1 record with 20 knockout wins, two of which took place in 2018. Miller last fought on November 17 when he knocked out Bogdan Dinu in the fourth round of their fight which took place in Kansas. Miller is currently ranked in the top three in both the WBA and WBO heavyweight rankings.

The two held a press conference on February 19 which ultimately ended up being an unmitigated disaster. The presser started close to 20 minutes later than originally intended and over on the YouTube stream, the quality of the video was that of a 1980s VHS tape.

There were volume issues and when the two boxers hopped into the stage, the end result was full of sophomoric humor, chaos and a failed attempt to generate any extra interest in the fight. The press conference started with Joshua and Miller staring each other for a brief moment until Miller pushes Joshua, leading to a near brawl between the two that had to be controlled by several people, including Hearn. It got so out of hand, that Hearn decided that everyone will speak from their own seat instead of going to the podium, a suggestion Miller defiantly ignored for several minutes before ultimately taking his seat.

Once the actual presser started, Joshua and Miller would mainly spend their time exchanging vulgarities and crude, sexual humor, most of which came from Miller. It appeared as if they tried to adopt the Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor style of promoting their fight, but failed on virtually every single level.

Hopefully, the public will forget about this isolated presser and I doubt that this will be the reason the fight doesn’t sell out if it were to not sell out. So far, ticket sales have gone well with the pre-sale ticket sales being the highest-grossing for a boxing event at Madison Square Garden. General tickets have gone on sale. Tickets are priced, $106, $156, $206, $306, $406, $506, $756, $1,006, $1,256 and $2,506 plus applicable booking fees.

Claressa Shields vs. Christina Hammer Finalized:

Claressa Shields and Christina Hammer will finally get their fight to crown women's boxing's best middleweight underway this spring.

Showtime announced that Shields and Hammer will fight for the undisputed WBA, WBO, WBC and IBF middleweight titles on April 13. The fight will headline a Showtime-televised card from the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

The two champions were originally scheduled to fight in November 2018, but it was postponed due to a now-resolved medical issue suffered by Hammer. Hammer, the current WBO champion, was moved to WBC Champion in Recess as a result of her medical issue and the WBC title became vacant.

Shields, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, would go on to win a fight against Hannah Rankin on a Matchroom Boxing on DAZN card in November to unify the WBC, WBA and IBF titles. Shields fought three weeks later on HBO's final boxing card of 2018, retaining her titles with a unanimous decision win over Femke Hermans on December 8.

Hammer has held a world title since 2010 and is undefeated in 24 pro bouts with one no contest. Hammer returned to the ring on February 9 in her home country in Germany, easily defeating Elene Sikmashvili less than a minute into the second round of a non-title fight.

As of this writing, there are two other active undisputed champions in boxing today: cruiserweight king Oleksandr Usyk and long-time welterweight champion Cecilia Braekhus. The last time an undisputed middleweight champion was crowned regardless of gender was Jermain Taylor in 2005. The winner of Shields vs. Hammer will join Terence Crawford, Bernard Hopkins, Taylor, Usyk and Braekhus as the only boxers in history to unify the WBA, WBO, WBC and IBF titles in any weight class.

The fight could potentially be an under-the-radar ratings success for Showtime given that Shields’ last fight on the network was the most-watched fight on Showtime that isn’t a part of its “Showtime Championship Boxing” series. With the proper buildup, it could potentially send Shields into the next level of being a star in boxing.

But the story of an undisputed title fight being made so easily is one that should not be ignored. It would have been easy for one side to think of a reason for not doing the fight and then boxing fans miss out on a potentially big matchup. While women’s boxing may not be at the same level of popularity as the men, it is nice to see big-time fights get made and it is something that their male counterparts should take note.

The rivalry between Shields and Hammer is a genuine one and given how much the sport is always in need of a great rivalry, this fight could pick up a lot of steam during the buildup. With a press conference in New York scheduled for February 26, Showtime is looking to pull out all the stops to ensure that this fight ends up a big success.

Should it result in a big success for Showtime, it could give the network some incentive to give the green light on a rumored all-women’s boxing card that New York promoter Lou DiBella, a long-time advocate of women’s boxing, is planning for this spring.

The winner of this fight also remains a part of the conversation for best pound-for-pound fighter in women’s boxing. With a crowded field that includes undisputed welterweight champion Cecilia Braekhus, unified lightweight champion Katie Taylor and seven-division champion Amanda Serrano gunning for that top spot, the Shields-Hammer winner would make a strong case to be the No. 1 boxer today.

James DeGale vs. Chris Eubank Jr. Preview:

The first Premier Boxing Champions card taking place in the United Kingdom is taking place on February 23 from the O2 Arena in London with a main event of James DeGale vs. Chris Eubank Jr. for the vacant IBO super middleweight title.

The card came together as part of a multi-year deal between PBC and British broadcaster ITV, which meant the company held the rights to broadcast PBC cards across its multiple channels. Its most notable card prior to this Saturday was the Manny Pacquiao vs. Adrien Broner fight, which was shown for free in the UK, but on pay-per-view in the United States.

The deal also calls for special PBC events to take place in the United Kingdom, making way for matchups such as these. While this isn’t exactly a superfight to in British boxing, it certainly does pit two stars who are at a crossroads in their respective careers.

DeGale, the two-time world champion, is at the end of his career and looking for the biggest fights possible to end on a high note. Although DeGale’s career is certainly impressive, the former IBF super middleweight titleholder returns to the United Kingdom for only the second time since 2015. Having not won a fight in the UK since 2014, DeGale knows that a fight against Eubank is not just one that will show the boxing world that he can still be an elite boxer, but one that can potentially win another title before hanging up his gloves.

Meanwhile, Eubank Jr., the son of British great Chris Eubank Sr., has been on the hunt to get that one signature victory that will put him among the British elite today. Unfortunately for Eubank Jr., his two biggest fights, against Billy Joe Saunders and George Groves, ended in defeat and has many calling his ability to get to the next level in question.

There’s no doubt that Eubank Jr. has the physical tools to be a champion. In fact, he pretty much has every possible physical attribute needed to be called an elite boxer. But it’s his boxing fundamentals that has been plagued his career. Having not gotten truly elite training throughout his career and getting mostly by with just his physical gifts alone (27 wins in 29 pro bouts), Eubank Jr. has yet to acquire the necessary boxing skills needed to win a world title. There’s also the lack of any big names on his resume with Arthur Abraham and Avni Yildirim being his biggest wins. While those are solid names, they’re not exactly ones that people would call career-defining. A win over DeGale would change the opinions of many.

On the undercard, British heavyweight prospect and rising star Joe Joyce will fight former world champion Bermane Stiverne in a matchup that could serve as Joyce’s first true test in his pro career. A win over Stiverne could be the catalyst of a run to a world title opportunity within the next 12 months as the fight is rumored to be for the WBA Gold title with the winner getting an eventual shot at the WBA “Regular” title being held by Manuel Charr.

While Stiverne has the right to say he was once a world champion, the last couple of years revealed that Stiverne today is a shell of his former self. Stiverne has not fought since being knocked out in the first round of his rematch against Deontay Wilder back in November 2017. Having fought just three times since the start of 2015, it’s hard to say whether or not Stiverne can even be called a good heavyweight nowadays. A win over Joyce would immediately bring Stiverne back to glory and on the verge of a potential title shot. But the clock is ticking on the 40-year-old’s career and so, a loss could very well mean the end of his career for good.

Also on the card is the return of former featherweight world champion Lee Selby, making his lightweight debut against Omar Douglas. The fight carries some intrigue as it’s not only been nine months since Selby was in a fight but also the fact that Selby is jumping up two weight classes could spell the birth of a new contender at 135 pounds. Douglas is a decent first test for Selby and unless we see an incredible performance from Selby, it’s tough to say whether or not he can be a world champion once again.

For those in the United States, Showtime will televise the card live from the O2 Arena, but unfortunately, only the main event and Joyce vs. Stiverne are going to be the fights shown stateside.

Tale of the Tape:

James DeGale:

Record: 25-2-1 (15 KO)

Age: 33

Height: 6’0”

Reach: 74”

Notable Fights: Badou Jack, Caleb Truax, Lucian Bute, Andre Dirrell, George Groves

Titles Won: IBF Super Middleweight Title

Chris Eubank Jr.:

Record: 27-2 (21 KO)

Age: 29

Height: 5’11”

Reach: 72.5”

Notable Fights: George Groves, Avni Yildirim, Arthur Abraham, Billy Joe Saunders

Titles Won: IBO Super Middleweight Title

Anthony Dirrell vs. Avni Yildirim Preview:

PBC will have its second major show on Fox Sports 1 of 2019 on February 23 with the WBC super middleweight title on the line.

In the main event, Anthony Dirrell and Avni Yildirim will fight for the title that was previously held by David Benavidez. Benavidez tested positive for benzoylecgonine, the central compound in cocaine, last year which resulted in his title reign being over. During the WBC convention earlier this year, the governing body suspended him until February and moved him from world champion to "Champion in Recess," meaning there is no WBC champion at 168 pounds. It was at that point that the WBC ordered both Dirrell and Yildirim to fight for the title. The winner of the fight could be ordered to face Benavidez, who will fight in the co-main event of the Errol Spence Jr. vs. Mikey Garcia pay-per-view taking place on March 16.

Yildirim has been very active in the ring since losing to Chris Eubank Jr. in the quarterfinals of the World Boxing Super Series super middleweight quarterfinals in 2017. Yildirim has won his last five fights, capturing the WBC International super middleweight belt in the process.

Dirrell previously held the WBC world title at 168 pounds from 2014 to 2015, beating Sakio Bika to win the belt. Dirrell would go on to lose to Badou Jack in his first world title and has since then won his last five bouts.

In the co-main event, welterweight contender Jamal James will take on once-beaten Colombian boxer Janer Gonzalez. James has been on a four-fight win streak since losing his first pro bout against Yordenis Ugas and is coming into the bout ranked No. 12 by the WBC and No. 3 by the WBA, meaning a win could put James in a good position to compete for a title later this year or in 2020.

Tale of the Tape:

Anthony Dirrell:

Record: 32-1-1 (24 KO)

Age: 34

Height: 62”

Reach: 74.5”

Notable Fights: Badou Jack, Sakio Bika, Caleb Truax

Titles Won: WBC Super Middleweight Title

Avni Yildirim:

Record: 21-1 (12 KO)

Age: 27

Height: 5’11.5”

Reach: 70”

Notable Fights: Chris Eubank Jr.

Titles Won: WBC International Silver Light Heavyweight, WBC International Super Middleweight Titles

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.

Asian Boxing Roundup:

- On February 16, there was a boxing card at the SM City North EDSA Skydome in Quezon City, Metro Manila in the Philippines that aired on ESPN5 featuring the return of former world champion John Riel Casimero to the Philippines. The main event saw Casimero face off against Japanese fighter Kenya Yamashita in a bantamweight bout. The fight was a one-sided bout that saw Casimero win the fight with a sixth-round stoppage. It was a proper introduction for the former champion to bantamweight, where he looks much better than when he lost to Jonas Sultan in a super flyweight bout in 2017. The card can be seen at the video below and the ESPN5 YouTube channel streams boxing cards fairly often for free and they are enjoyable events to watch for the most part, so I do recommend that any boxing fan that is either looking to branch out and watch Asian events or simply just want to watch more boxing, then the ESPN5 is a great place to check out fights outside of the United States and United Kingdom:

ESPN5 Boxing Results From February 16:

  • John Riel Casimero defeated Kenya Yamashita by TKO, round 6
  • Dave Penalosa defeated Marcos Cardenas by TKO, round 4 to win the vacant WBO Oriental featherweight title
  • Carl Jammes Martin defeated Petchchorhae Kokietgym by corner stoppage after 3 rounds
  • Carlo Caesar Penalosa defeated Watana Phenbaan by KO, round 3
  • Jenel Lausa defeated Rolly Llino by split decision (56-57, 57-56, 59-54)
  • John Mark Tihuk defeated Ruben Traza by unanimous decision (59-55, 60-54, 59-55)

- Korakuen Hall recently hosted a boxing card on February 18 that featured a 140-pound title eliminator in the main event. Apinun Khongsong knocked out Akihiro Kondo in five rounds to win the eliminator for the IBF title. The result is surprising given how close Kondo was to winning the title in 2017 when he lost a narrow decision to Sergey Lipinets. Kondo was considered the favorite in the fight and seeing him get knocked out may have destroyed Kondo’s chances of ever getting another title opportunity. Kondo is 33 years old, but has been fighting professionally since 2006 and in a deep junior welterweight division, a loss at this stage of his career is devastating for the former title challenger.

Korakuen Hall Boxing Results From February 18:

  • Apinun Khongsong defeated Akihiro Kondo by knockout, round 5 in an IBF junior welterweight title eliminator
  • Kazunori Yorimasa and Naoki Kabayama fight to a split draw (58-56, 57-57, 57-58)
  • Kosuke Ando defeated Kodai Gushiken by unanimous decision (39-36, 40-35, 39-37)
  • Kei Sugimoto defeated Michiko Abiru by split decision (39-37, 39-37, 38-39)
  • Grappler Hokuto defeated Mao Tameda by unanimous decision (40-37, 37-39, 38-39)
  • Ai Sugimoto defeated Emi Unuma by majority decision (39-38, 38-38, 39-37)

- While no official announcement has been made regarding broadcast plans for the WBO flyweight title bout between Kosei Tanaka and Ryoichi Taguchi, there appears to be plans of streaming the fight internationally. Asian Boxing, the website that covers boxing in the region for English readers, did say that they, through a working deal with CBC, will likely stream the fight. On Twitter, Asian Boxing said all will be revealed when they are given permission to do so. For those that are not aware, Asian Boxing was instrumental in streaming the excellent bout between Kosei Tanaka and Sho Kimura internationally outside of Japan. From the looks of things, it appears that CBC was happy with the numbers the Tanaka vs. Kimura did last year which is why the company is looking to stream the Tanaka vs. Taguchi fight next month.

Matchroom Boxing USA in Mexico Preview:

DAZN and Matchroom Boxing USA is heading to Mexico for the first time on February 23 at the Auditorio Municipal in Tijuana.

The main event is a matchup between Brandon Rios and Humberto Soto, both men looking to make one final run at a title shot. As far as main events are concerned, this one might not be attractive on paper considering that the two of them are past their primes and not in title contention.

But in boxing, it’s those types of fights among veterans with nothing to lose and a lot to gain that produce surprisingly great bouts when it is all said and done. Even so, one has to wonder how much both men have left in the tank. Rios is 2-2 in his last four fights with both of his losses coming by TKO. Soto, on the other hand, is 38 years old and has not fought any noteworthy boxers since Antonio Orozco all the way back in 2015 (a fight that Soto lost by a wide margin in the scorecards). If you are a fan of Mexican boxing, however, the card itself might still be worth watching.

While the main focus of the card is on the main event, a secondary goal is to expose some of Mexico’s top prospects in the hopes of turning them into future stars down the road. The co-main event of the card is a rematch between Jose Quiniro and Joel Cordoba. The two had a surprisingly good first fight last December that ended in a draw.

On the undercard, a number of prospects will take the stage, some of them competing on a broadcast platform for the first time in their pro careers. Alexis Espino will make his pro debut while eight-time national champion Diego Pacheco will fight for the second time in the paid ranks. Other coveted prospects, such as 2016 Olympian Joselito Velasquez, Omar Aguilar and Sulem Urbina have been previously announced to be fighting on the card.

Tale of the Tape:

Brandon Rios:

Record: 35-4-1 (26 KO)

Age: 32

Height: 5’9”

Reach: 68”

Notable Fights: Danny Garcia, Timothy Bradley Jr., Mike Alvarado, Manny Pacquiao

Titles Won: WBA Lightweight Title

Humberto Soto:

Record: 68-9-2 (37 KO)

Age: 38

Height: 5’7.5”

Reach: 69”

Notable Fights: Antonio Orozco, John Molina Jr., Lucas Matthysse

Titles Won: WBC Super Featherweight, WBC Lightweight Titles

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