Notebook: DAZN schedule taking shape as Stanionis-Ortiz gets date
TR eyes Lopez-Conlan; WBC update on mandatory fights; Rigondeaux ending year layoff; Top Rank signs heavyweight prospect; Quick hits; Show and tell
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Eimantas Stanionis, the WBA secondary welterweight titlist, and mandatory challenger Vergil Ortiz Jr. will meet March 18 (DAZN) at a location to be determined in Ortiz’s home region of Dallas, sources involved in the event told Fight Freaks Unite.
Golden Boy, which promotes Ortiz and has a deal with DAZN, won the purse bid in mid-December for $2.3 million to beat an offer of $2,100,100 made by TGB Promotions.
Golden Boy and DAZN are still working out the budget for the event because Golden Boy is obligated to pay Ortiz far more than $575,000 (the 25 percent he is entitled to under the purse bid) and there is still an undercard to put together. Stanionis’ share of the purse bid is $1.725 million.
The winner of the fight, which looms as one of the most intriguing so far this year, will be mandated to next face WBA “super” titleholder Errol Spence Jr., a three-belt titlist, although Spence is likely to first WBC mandatory challenger and former unified titlist Keith Thurman when he returns in the spring.
Stanionis (14-0, 9 KOs), 28, of Lithuania, and Ortiz (19-0, 19 KOs), 24, of Grand Prairie, Texas, were both limited to just one fight apiece in 2022. Stanionis won the belt by split decision over Radzhab Butaev in April. Ortiz dominated and knocked out Michael McKinson in the ninth round in August.
Lopez-Conlan in works
Newly crowned IBF featherweight titlist Luis Alberto Lopez’s first defense likely will be against Michael Conlan in Conlan’s home country of Northern Ireland in a fight their promoter, Top Rank, hopes to put on in the spring, sources with knowledge of the plans told Fight Freaks Unite.
Lopez (27-2, 15 KOs), 29, of Mexico, won the belt by upset majority decision over Josh Warrington in his hometown of Leeds, England, on Dec. 10.
Top Rank hoped to finalize Lopez-Conlan for St. Patrick’s Day weekend, either March 17 or March 18, but Lopez suffered a cut against Warrington and could not be ready by then after such a hard-fought win, so if they are able to finalize the bout it would be later in the spring, the sources said.
Conlan (18-1, 9 KOs), 31, has won two fights in a row — most recently a first-round knockout of Karim Guerfi on Dec. 10 in Belfast, Northern Ireland — since he was ahead of WBA titleholder Leigh Wood on all three scorecards going into the 12th round before Wood’s big comeback to knock Conlan out of the ring for the 2022 knockout of the year with 95 seconds left in the fight.
The WBC has offered a division-by-division update since its annual convention in early November.
Most notably, it announced it has vacated the bridgerweight title because Oscar Rivas (28-1, 19 KOs), the inaugural titlist in the 224-pound division, is sidelined indefinitely due to a detached retina that caused him to pull out of a nontitle heavyweight bout against Efe Ajagba on Jan. 14.
“His future at this time is uncertain,” the WBC said of Rivas. “The WBC will order a series of fights to fill the vacant title and set the mandatories for the new champion.”
The WBC also said that at light heavyweight, the winner of the Jan. 28 fight between unified champion Artur Beterbiev and WBO mandatory challenger Anthony Yarde is obligated to next face WBC mandatory challenger Callum Smith.
Other updates since the convention:
Middleweight: Titleholder Jermall Charlo can make an optional defense when he returns from injury as can interim titlist Carlos Adames and, assuming they win, they have to fight each other.
Junior middleweight: A final eliminator between Robson Conceicao and Muhammadkhuja Yakubov was ordered.
Featherweight: A final eliminator between former junior featherweight titlist Isaac Dogboe and former featherweight titlist Mark Magsayo was ordered.
Flyweight: Titleholder Julio Cesar Martinez and interim titlist McWilliams Arroyo, whose rematch has been postponed several times for various reasons, is still mandated now that Arroyo has been medically cleared following his recent injury. The Martinez-Arroyo winner will have to face mandatory challenger Angel Ayala.
Former junior featherweight and bantamweight titlist Guillermo Rigondeaux is set to return in the 10-round bantamweight main event on Feb. 24 at Hialeah Park in Hialeah, Florida, Warriors Boxing announced.
Rigondeaux, the 42-year-old Miami-based Cuban southpaw and two-time Olympic gold medalist, will face an opponent to be determined.
Rigondeaux (20-3, 13 KOs) has lost two fights in a row, a split decision challenging John Riel Casimero for his WBO bantamweight title in a sleep-inducing fight in August 2021 followed by a 10-round decision to Vincent Astrolabio in February in a bout in which he dropped Rigondeaux in the eighth round. The knockdown was the difference in the 95-94 scorecards across the board.
Rigondeaux is returning from what could have been a career-ending injury nine months ago when he suffered severe facial burns and eye injuries in a freak kitchen accident when a pressure cooker he was using exploded in his face.
TR signs heavyweight Knyba
Top Rank announced it has signed 6-foot-7, 245-pound Polish heavyweight Damian Knyba (10-0, 6 KOs), 26, to a multi-year promotional agreement. His first fight of the deal will be on a Top Rank card in Aprill.
“Damian Knyba is a supremely talented heavyweight, and he is already a fan favorite among the passionate and knowledgeable Polish fans,” Top Rank chairman Bob Arum said in announcing the signing. “I expect Damian to take a big leap forward in 2023.
Top Rank put Knyba on the Teofimo Lopez-Sandor Martin card at New York’s Madison Square Garden on Dec. 10 and he looked good in a second-round knockout of Emilio Salas, which earned him the promotional contract offer. He is the first Polish heavyweight signed by Top Rank.
“I’m looking to follow in the footsteps of Andrew Golota, Tomasz Adamek and Adam Kownacki,” Knyba said, referring to the best-known Polish heavyweight contenders. “With all due respect to those who paved the way, my dream is to surpass them and become the first Polish heavyweight world champion. I know there is a long road ahead of me, and I am ready for this journey. This is another milestone I’ve hit with my team, including my manager Lukasz Kownacki. With Top Rank behind me, the sky’s the limit.”
Golden Boy and DAZN are moving ahead with a show on Jan. 28, a source with knowledge of the plans told Fight Freaks Unite. Initially, junior welterweight star Ryan Garcia was to face Mercito Gesta as a Garcia tune-up fight for an April showdown with Gervonta Davis, but when Garcia decided to forego the bout and wait for the big fight, Golden Boy still wanted to put on a show with many fighters to keep active. DAZN eventually agreed to do a show that now will be headlined by welterweight Alexis Rocha (21-1, 13 KOs), 25, of Santa Ana, California, at a site to be determined in Southern California, the source said. Rocha will face Anthony Young (24-2, 8 KOs), 34, of Atlantic City, New Jersey, who took the fight this week.
Showtime will stream three preliminary bouts from the Gervonta Davis-Hector Luis Garcia undercard beginning at 6:45 p.m. ET on the Showtime Sports YouTube channel and Showtime Boxing Facebook page on Saturday ahead of the start of the PPV broadcast at 9 p.m. ET. The bouts on the stream will be junior middleweight Vito Mielnicki Jr. (13-1, 8 KOs) against Omar Rosales (9-1-1, 5 KOs) in an eight- or 10-rounder, junior welterweight Brandun Lee (26-0, 22 KOs) versus Diego Luque (21-10-2, 10 KOs) in an eight-rounder and junior middleweight Travon Marshall (5-0, 4 KOs) against Shawn West (7-2-1, 4 KOs) in a six- or eight-rounder.
The IBF canceled a scheduled Tuesday purse bid for the fight between unified junior featherweight titlist Murodjon Akhmadaliev (11-0, 8 KOs), 28, of Uzbekistan, and mandatory challenger Marlon Tapales (36-3, 19 KOs), 30, of the Philippines, because the sides notified the sanctioning body that a deal was made. Akhmadaliev promoter Matchroom Boxing will promote the fight and likely put it on a DAZN card in early April. Akhmadaliev boxed just once in 2022, a 12th-round knockout of previous mandatory challenger Ronny Rios in June. Tapales also had just one fight in 2022, a second-round knockout of journeyman Jose Estrella in May.
Top Rank announced that Brooklyn, New York, featherweight prospect Bruce “Shu Shu” Carrington (5-0, 3 KOs), 25, a 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials champion, has been added to the Efe Ajagba-Stephan Shaw undercard on Jan. 14 at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York. Carrington’s six-rounder against Juan Antonio Lopez (17-12-1, 7 KOs), 29, of Dallas, will be part of the ESPN+ stream of preliminary bouts. Carrington was due to meet Juan Tapia on the Teofimo Lopez-Sandor Martin undercard on Dec. 10 at New York’s Madison Square Garden but the bout was canceled the day before when Tapia was not cleared to fight by the New York commission. “I had an exciting 2022, but it’s time to step on the gas even more in 2023 and take over the featherweight division,” Carrington said. “I can’t wait to put my hands on somebody because I couldn’t fight on Dec. 10.”
The fight between WBC cruiserweight titlist Ilunga Makabu and Noel Mikaelyan, which promoter Don King announced last month would take place Jan. 21 at the Casino Miami Jai-Alai in Miami, is off, though no specific reason was given. King still intends to go ahead with a card to be headlined by one of the undercard fights moving into the main event spot: former heavyweight titlist Bermane Stiverne (25-5-1, 21 KOs), 44, of Las Vegas, against Jonathan Guidry (18-1-2, 11 KOs), 33, of Houma, Louisiana. Stiverne has lost three in a row by knockout, most recently an 11th-round stoppage versus Trevor Bryan for the vacant WBA “regular” title in January 2021. Guidry dropped a split decision challenging Bryan for the belt last January and rebounded for a seventh-round knockout of then-unbeaten Dacarree Scott in June.
Former longtime junior bantamweight titlist Jerwin Ancajas, who was due to debut at bantamweight in his home country of the Philippines against Thailand’s Songsaeng Phoyaem on Feb. 12, has dropped out of the bout after injuring his back in a recent fall off the top of a chicken coop, MP Promotions CEO Sean Gibbons told Fight Freaks Unite. He said Ancajas is OK but will need some time off. Ancajas (33-3-2, 22 KOs), 31, will try to bounce back from back-to-back decision losses to Fernando Daniel Martinez, who took his IBF belt in February and beat him again in October.
Boxxer announced additional undercard bouts for the show topped by the middleweight fight between Chris Eubank Jr. and Liam Smith on Jan. 21 at AO Arena in Manchester, England. Ekow Essuman (18-0, 7 KOs) defends the British and Commonwealth welterweight titles against Chris Kongo (14-1, 7 KOs); Frazer Clarke (4-0, 3 KOs), a 2020 British Olympic super heavyweight bronze medalist, faces an opponent to be named; British heavyweight Matty Harris (3-0, 2 KOs) faces a TBA foe; and cruiserweight Scott Forrest (3-0, 3 KOs), of Scotland, meets Belgium’s Amine Boucetta (7-5, 0 KOs). In previously announced bouts, cruiserweight contender Richard Riakporhe faces former titlist Krzysztof Głowacki and former heavyweight titlist Joseph Parker fights Jack Massey.
Peter Kahn, the 2022 Fight Freaks Unite manager of the year, announced he has signed junior lightweight up-and-comer Henry Lebron (17-0, 10 KOs), 25, of Puerto Rico. “I am grateful he’s entrusted me to help navigate his path to a world title,” Kahn said. “He has a great work ethic, high boxing IQ and is going to have a big 2023.” Lebron, who is signed to promoter Top Rank, was 3-0 in 2022 and is coming off his most notable win, an eight-round decision over Andy Vences in September. “I am very happy to start working with Peter Kahn,” Lebron said. “He has always provided extraordinary guidance and management for his fighter’s careers. I am very close to a world title fight and I can’t think of anyone better to manage me. This year will be very important to my career.”
Matchroom Boxing announced it has signed Irish lightweight Gary Cully (15-0, 9 KOs), 26, to a multi-fight contract extension. He won both of his 2022 bouts by KO. “I’m delighted to sign a new deal and pledge my long-term future with Matchroom,” Cully said. “I’m only one fight into my first deal so for Matchroom to come to me so soon after initially signing with them and offer me a new deal shows the belief that they have in me. To get this deal across the line is massive for me. As soon as we sat down and talked about the plans for the future it was a no brainer for me.”
Show and tell
Zab Judah was the undisputed welterweight champion and headed to a mega fight with Floyd Mayweather, but first he was going to get a mandatory defense against unheralded and massive underdog Carlos Baldomir out of the way. They met at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York in a Showtime main event and the unthinkable happened. Baldomir, who came into the fight with nine losses, six draws, little power and slow feet and hands, scored a monumental upset over the ill-prepared Judah, winning 115-112, 115-113 and 114-113.
Even though the fight was promoted as being for Judah’s undisputed crown, nobody bothered to mention before the fight that only Judah’s WBC title was contracted to be at stake, so Baldomir claimed that belt and the Ring magazine title. The WBA vacated its “super” title and the IBF absurdly allowed Judah to keep its belt. Judah would go on to lose the belt to Mayweather three months later. Baldomir, meantime, earned the nickname “Cinderella Man” for the huge upset on a card that also included the late O’Neil Bell knocking out Jean Marc Mormeck in the 10th round of an upset in their first terrific battle to retain the IBF cruiserweight title and also take the WBC and WBA titles to become the second undisputed champion in division history and first since Evander Holyfield did it in 1988. The card was on Jan. 7, 2006 — 17 years ago on Saturday. Here’s a very scarce thin cardboard site poster in my collection.
Stanionis photo: Ryan Hafey/PBC; Lopez photo: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing; Rigondeaux photo: Sean Michael Ham/PBC
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We do and I like Ortiz too John b imagine Ortiz Ennius that would be a fight
That is it..... all the boxing news that is fit for print. Just the facts man, just the facts.......
The most important thing about boxing is match making and fight card announcements......
Thanks for the heads up and the run down................