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Notebook: Jake Paul, Tommy Fury scheduled again, this time in Saudi Arabia on ESPN PPV
Ramirez-Dogboe for interim featherweight belt; Matchroom's next Mexico card on tap; BetUS boxing show; Quick hits; Show and tell
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Perhaps the third time will be the charm for Jake Paul and Tommy Fury. Twice before they were due to meet but Fury withdrew both times. Now, for the third time, the expected bout was formally announced on Friday.
They will meet in an eight-round cruiserweight fight contracted at a maximum weight of 185 pounds on Feb. 26 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
The fight will headline a pay-per-view card that will be distributed by ESPN in the United States through its deal with Top Rank. It will be available via ESPN+ as well as on linear TV on cable and satellite services (2 p.m. ET, $49.99). The card will headline a BT Sports Box Office event in the United Kingdom.
Paul’s previous three bouts were boxing matches against MMA fighters — two against Tyron Woodley and in October against Anderson Silva — done in conjunction with Showtime PPV. Now, for the first time, Paul will face an opponent who is a full-time boxer as opposed to the series of MMA fighters and non-boxers he has fought.
“The moment of truth has finally arrived,” Paul said. “On Feb. 26th, I will get in the ring with a ‘real boxer,’ an 8-0 fighter from a storied fighting family and show the world the truth about who Jake Paul, the boxer, really is.”
It’s not like Paul (6-0, 4 KOs), 26, of Cleveland, a social media influencer, YouTuber and actor, who made his pro boxing debut in 2020, hasn’t tried to fight a full-time boxer.
He and Fury, who have trash talked for more than a year, were supposed to fight in December 2021 in Tampa, but Fury pulled out claiming a chest infection and a rib injury. He was replaced on short notice by Woodley, who Paul knocked out in devastating fashion in the sixth round.
Paul-Fury was rescheduled for this past Aug. 6 at New York’s Madison Square Garden but Fury again withdrew when he was not allowed to board his flight for New York for the kickoff press conference due to visa issues reportedly related to his ties to wanted mobster Daniel Kinahan. Fury was replaced by full-time boxer Hasim Rahman Jr., who was dropped from the fight due to his weight issues and the card was canceled. Paul returned in November and outpointed Silva. Now, Paul and Fury head to the Saudi Arabia, where Fury’s via issues should not be a problem.
Fury (8-0, 4 KOs), 23, of England, who is the younger half-brother of heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, is coming off a six-round decision over Daniel Bocianski on April 23 on the undercard of his brother’s knockout of Dillian Whyte at Wembley Stadium in London. Now he is promising to retire Paul.
“Jake Paul’s boxing career ends on Feb. 26th and I can finally move on with mine,” Fury said. “Every time I go out right now, everybody asks me about the Jake Paul fight. After this fight is done, everybody will be asking me how it felt to knock Jake Paul out. The world is about to see what happens when a proper boxer faces a YouTuber.”
Paul’s MVP Promotions also announced two of the PPV undercard bouts:
WBC cruiserweight titlist Ilunga Makabu (29-2, 25 KOs), 35, a southpaw from Congo, will make his third defense when he faces former light heavyweight and super middleweight titlist Badou Jack (27-3-3, 16 KOs), 39, of Las Vegas, who has won five fights in a row, in the co-feature.
Junior lightweight prospect Ashton Sylve (8-0, 8 KO), 18, of Long Beach, California, who is signed to MVP, will face former world title challenger Maxwell Awuku (48-5-1, 33 KOs), 39, a southpaw from Ghana.
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Ramirez-Dogboe title bout
Two-time Cuban Olympic gold medalist Robeisy Ramirez and former junior featherweight titlist Isaac Dogboe will meet for the vacant WBO interim featherweight title on April 1 in the main event of a Top Rank Boxing on ESPN+ card at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Top Rank announced.
By the time the bout takes place it could be fore the full title. It will depend on what happens Feb. 3 in the Top Rank on ESPN+ main event between reigning WBO featherweight titlist Emanuel Navarrete and Liam Wilson, who meet for the vacant WBO junior lightweight title in Glendale, Arizona.
After the fight, Navarrete will have to decide whether to remain at 130 pounds or return to 126 to defend his title in that division. He is expected to stay at 130, which would leave the full title up for grabs between Ramirez and Dogboe. On the off chance Navarrete decides he will return to featherweight, he would have to defend against the Ramirez-Dogboe winner.
In the co-feature, red-hot junior middleweight prospect Xander Zayas will face Ronald Cruz in an eight-rounder.
“We have seen Robeisy Ramirez grow from a decorated Olympian to a young man on the verge of stardom. Isaac Dogboe is no pushover and represents the toughest test of Ramirez’s career,” Top Rank chairman Bob Arum said. “I expect an exciting, dramatic fight. 2023 will be a huge year for Xander Zayas, a superstar in the making, who I believe will be Puerto Rico’s next champion.”
Since losing a four-round decision in his 2019 pro debut in a shocker, Ramirez (11-1, 7 KOs), a 29-year-old southpaw, has won all of his fights, including the last three in a row by knockout.
“I have been boxing for more than 20 years and have been a fighter every step of the way,” Ramirez said. “I never forgot where I came from, but I refuse to define myself by past accomplishments. Even after winning my second Olympic gold medal, I endured hardships. I embraced the challenges ahead of me and know that my greatest tests and most significant accomplishments in boxing are still ahead of me.
"On April 1, I will enter the ring with the hunger that has brought me here and the hunger that comes with knowing that there is still much to achieve. This is just the beginning for Robeisy ‘El Tren’ Ramirez.”
Dogboe (24-2, 15 KOs), 28, of Ghana, has won four fights in a row since being stopped in the 12th round by Navarrete in a 2019 rematch in an attempt to regain the WBO junior featherweight title that he lost to Navarrete in the previous fight. Dogboe then moved up to featherweight and linked up with trainer Barry Hunter.
“Nearly five years ago, I became the WBO junior featherweight champion of the world, to the shock of many people. On April 1, I will be crowned a two-time, two-division champion,” Dogboe said. “Ramirez is a good fighter, and I commend him for his achievements. I've waited patiently for this opportunity.”
Zayas (15-0, 10 KOs), 20, is coming off a near-shutout decision over Alexis Salazar on Dec. 10 on the Teofimo Lopez-Sandor Martin card at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Cruz (18-2-1, 12 KOs), 31, of Los Angeles, is 0-1-1 in his past two fights.
“2023 is going to be big for my career,” Zayas said. “I'm going into the new year with all the power and the mindset needed to make a name for myself in the division. I'm locked in. Laser focused. It all starts on April 1.”
In preliminary bouts that will also stream on ESPN+:
Junior middleweight Jahi Tucker (9-0, 5 KOs), who has called out for a fight with Zayas, will face Nikoloz Sekhniashvili (8-1, 6 KOs), a Zayas training partner.
Two-time world title challenger Joet Gonzalez (25-3, 13 KOs), of Glendora, California, will face Mexico’s Jose Enrique Vivas (22-2, 11 KOs) in a 10-round featherweight bout. Gonzalez is coming off a split decision loss to Dogboe in July.
Junior welterweight Tiger Johnson (7-0, 5 KOs), a 2020 U.S. Olympian, will box in an eight-rounder.
Tulsa heavyweight Jeremiah Milton (8-0, 6 KOs), Cleveland lightweight Abdullah Mason (6-0, 5 KOs) and Cleveland light heavyweight Dante Benjamin Jr. (5-0, 3 KOs) will face opponents to be named in six-rounders.
Matchroom in Mexico
Lightweight contender Angel Fierro (20-1-2, 16 KOs), 24, of Mexico, will defend a regional title against Eduardo Estela (14-1, 9 KOs), 33, of Uruguay, in the main event of Matchroom Boxing’s next card in Mexico on March 4 (DAZN) at the Polideportivo Arena in Culiacan.
“I am very happy to fight again in Mexico with my people,” Fierro said. “I am going to show them that I am ready for a world title. I am preparing for that, and I am excited to return to the ring on March 4.”
Estela, who is promoted by welterweight and junior welterweight titlist Marcos Maidana, has won four fights in a row since his lone defeat by eighth-round knockout to top contender Mauricio Lara in 2019.
“March 4 is my time to shine,” Estela said. “I’m coming off the biggest victory of my life (an eight-round decision over unbeaten Ruben Torres in November) and I’m ready to deliver another spectacular performance. A win over Fierro puts me right in line amongst the top tier of the 135-pound division and there is no way he’s going to stop me from achieving that.”
In the all-Mexican co-feature, junior lightweight Eduardo Nunez (23-1, 23 KOs), 25, will meet Rodolfo Bustamante (18-1-1, 11 KOs), 27, in a 10-rounder.
Also, 2016 Mexican Olympian Misael Rodriguez (12-0, 7 KOs), 28, will fight southpaw Rafael Ortiz (16-4-1, 9 KOs), 27, in an eight-round middleweight bout.
BetUS Boxing Show
If you missed the BetUS Boxing Show live at 1 p.m. ET on Friday on YouTube, please check out the replay (and also subscribe to the YouTube channel). We previewed three fights that will take place Saturday: unified light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev’s mandatory defense against Anthony Yarde and flyweight titlist Artem Dalakian’s mandatory defense against David Jimenez on the ESPN+/BT Sport undercard and welterweight Alexis Rocha vs. George Ashie in the DAZN main event. We also took viewer questions and comments! Please check out the show here:
Weights from London for the Queensberry Promotions/Top Rank card Saturday (ESPN+/BT Sport, 2:30 p.m. ET): Artur Beterbiev 174.5 pounds, Anthony Yarde 174.25 (for Beterbiev’s WBC/IBF/WBO light heavyweight titles); Moses Itauma 248, Marcel Bode 220; Tommy Fletcher 199.4, Darryl Sharp 188.5; Karol Itauma 174.1, Ezequiel Maderna 174.7; Artem Dalakian 111.6, David Jimenez 111.1 (for Dalakian's WBA flyweight title).
Weights from Inglewood, Calif., for Golden Boy’s card Saturday (DAZN, 8 p.m. ET): Alexis Rocha 146.4 pounds, George Ashie 146; Floyd Schofield 134.8, Alberto Mercado 134.8; Bektemir Melikuziev 167.7, Ulises Sierra 167.4; Oscar Collazo 104.6, Yudel Reyes 104.2 (WBO strawweight eliminator); Alejandro Reyes 139.6, Joe Zaragoza 138.8; Adan Palma 123.2, Pedro Salome 125; Danny Garcia 129.6, Jonathan Perez 130.6.
Per the California State Athletic Commission, official contract purses for the Golden Boy card: Alexis Rocha $300,000, George Ashie $35,000; Floyd Schofield $20,000, Alberto Mercado $18,000; Bektemir Melikuziev $20,000, Ulises Sierra $27,000; Oscar Collazo $25,000, Yudel Reyes $20,000; Alejandro Reyes $3,500, Joe Zaragoza $5,000; Adan Palma $2,500, Pedro Salome $2,000; Danny Garcia $2,500, Jonathan Perez $1,500.
Former light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal (36-6-1, 20 KOs), 40, has recovered from a bout with Covid-19 and his IBF title eliminator against Michael Eifert (11-1, 4 KOs), 24, of Germany, has been rescheduled for March 16, it was announced Friday. The card will still take place at Place Bell in Pascal’s hometown of Laval, Quebec, just outside of Montreal. The fight was originally scheduled for Feb. 9 but Pascal became ill earlier this month. The winner will become the WBC mandatory challenger.
Flyweight Yankiel Rivera, 25, the only Puerto Rican boxer to qualify for the 2020 Olympics, signed a multi-fight deal with Matchroom Boxing and will make his debut for the company Feb. 4 (DAZN) at New York’s Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden on the card topped by the Amanda Serrano-Erika Cruz undisputed women’s featherweight title fight. Rivera (2-0, 2 KOs), who was 133-14 as an amateur and turned pro in September, meets Fernando Diaz (11-2-1 3 KOs), 25, of Riverside, California, in an eight-rounder. “Today is a date I will never forget,” said Rivera, who is managed by 2022 BWAA manager of the year Peter Kahn. “Although this is not my ultimate goal in the sport, signing with Matchroom constitutes a landmark in my career and a dream come true. I am humbled and excited to now be part of this great team. This is the best motivation to keep working hard and keep learning. I am ready to deliver.”
Junior bantamweight John “Scrappy” Ramirez (10-0, 8 KOs), 26, of Los Angeles, will defend a regional belt versus Luis Villa Padilla (15-3-2, 2 KOs), 22, of Mexico, in the main event of the first “Golden Boy Fight Night” card of 2023 on Feb. 23 (DAZN, 9 p.m. ET), the company announced Friday. It will take place at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, California. In the co-feature, Manuel Flores (14-0, 11 KOs), 24, of Coachella, California, will face Nicaragua’s Marvin Solano (24-8, 8 KOs), 32, in an eight-rounder.
Jake Paul’s MVP Promotions announced it has hired vastly experienced Mike Leanardi as its director of boxing. According to the announcement, “Leanardi will spearhead the scouting and acquisition of new talent, develop and implement career strategies for existing talent, and develop strategic partnerships on behalf of MVP. Additionally, Leanardi will serve as liaison to all relevant sanctioning bodies and handle the day-to-day business of prospect event planning.” Leanardi has worked in various capacities in boxing for years. “As we continue to build and expand MVP, we know we need equally hungry and especially motivated team members on our side,” MVO co-founders Paul and Nakisa Bidarian said in a statement. “He’s successfully managed countless athletes, companies and ventures to high levels of achievement, and we know he’ll be able to use that experience to usher in the next class of incredible MVP athletes.”
The WBC announced a purse bid for the mandatory bout between unified women’s welterweight champion Jessica McCaskill and mandatory challenger Ivana Habazin will be held Monday at the organization’s Mexico City headquarters and via Zoom. McCaskill (12-3, 5 KOs), 38, of Chicago, dropped down to junior welterweight for her last fight in November and lost a decision to Chantelle Cameron for the undisputed title. Losing below 147 pounds caused her to be stripped by the IBF, leaving her with three belts. Habazin (21-4, 7 KOs), 33, of Croatia, has been inactive. Since getting dropped by Claressa Shields and losing by shutout for the unified junior middleweight title in January 2020, she has boxed once, a decision win over Diana Prazak in October.
Golden Boy announced Friday that it has signed junior middleweight prospect Eric Tudor (7-0, 6 KOs), 21, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Tudor, who had more than 200 amateur fights, was born in Romania and boxed on its national team as an amateur. He won Silver Gloves and National PAL amateur tournaments in the U.S. He has boxed on Golden Boy cards but now has a contract with the company. “I want to use this opportunity to show that I’m one of the best prospects in boxing,” Tudor said. “Like many other fighters, my goal is to fight for a world title. Activity was a key factor for me when signing with a promotional company. I want to be in the ring as many times as possible and Golden Boy will make it happen.”
Show an tell
The legendary Julio Cesar Chavez was 89-0-1 and had made 12 successful defenses of the WBC junior welterweight title during his five-year reign when, as a 15-to-1 favorite, he was matched with Frankie Randall. The fight headlined a Don King-promoted card on SET PPV (the old name for Showtime PPV) that marked the first sports event at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden Arena, which is now one of the most iconic boxing venues in the world.
Randall, riding a steady jab, two point deductions and a knockdown, fought the fight of his life and Chavez did not in the massive upset. Referee Richard Steele took two points from Chavez, in the seventh round and 11th round, for low blows. Also in the 11th round, Randall had his biggest moment when he dropped Chavez to his rear end in the center of the ring with a right hand. It was the first time Chavez had ever been knocked down and it sealed Randall’s title-winning split decision victory, 116-111 and 114-113 for Randall and 114-113 for Chavez. The historic fight, on a card that also included Felix Trinidad’s welterweight title defense against Hector Camacho, took place on Jan. 29, 1994 — 29 years ago on Sunday. Here is a program from the fight in my collection, although the Azumah Nelson-James Leija fight pictured on the cover did not take place.
Beterbiev-Yarde photo; Queensberry Promotions; Rocha-Ashie photo: Mandatory Photo Credit: Cris Esqueda/Golden Boy
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