Notebook: Joshua, Wilder eye separate fights on Dec. 23 card
De Los Santos focused on upsetting Stevenson; Walsh gets tough test in New York debut; Quick hits; Show and tell
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While Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk won’t fight for the undisputed heavyweight championship on Dec. 23 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as initially planned, a major pay-per-view card is in the process of being finalized for the same date and site that is expected to feature the division’s two other major stars.
Former heavyweight titleholders Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder are both working to finish deals with Turki Alalshikh of Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority, which has been bankrolling a variety of significant sports and entertainment events, to fight in separate bouts on the card, multiple sources with knowledge of the plans told Fight Freaks Unite.
Also possible for the card, according to a source with knowledge of the talks, is WBA light heavyweight titlist Dmitry Bivol (21-0, 11 KOs), 32, of Russia, who has yet to fight in 2023 but was the consensus 2022 fighter of the year thanks to an upset decision over Canelo Alvarez and a one-sided rout of then-unbeaten top challenger Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez.
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A fight between Joshua and Wilder has been discussed on and off for years, including in recent months to take place in Saudi Arabia. But when the financing of that bout for the end of this year or early next year could not be worked out, the plan for separate bouts on the same card — with the hope they will eventually fight each other — was hatched once Fury-Usyk was delayed.
Fury-Usyk was supposed to take place on Dec. 23, but it has been pushed back until at least February. The reason is because Fury had a much harder fight than expected when he faced former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou on Oct. 28 in the opening event of the annual Riyadh Season cultural festival.
Fury was shockingly dropped by a clean left hook in the third round, had his left eye swollen and was banged around before eking out a disputed 10-round split decision over Ngannou, who was crossing over from MMA for his pro boxing debut, via scores of 96-93 and 95-94 for Fury and 95-94 for Ngannou.
Lineal/WBC champion Fury and WBO/IBF/WBA titleholder Usyk have already signed to fight each other for the undisputed title in Riyadh with the winner becoming the first-ever four-belt heavyweight champion and the first undisputed champion in the division since Lennox Lewis outpointed Evander Holyfield in the three-belt era in their 1999 rematch.
With Fury-Usyk delayed, the Saudis still wanted a major boxing event at the end of the year as part of the ongoing Riyadh Season, which ends in February, and have been working on the new-look Dec. 23 event, according to sources.
Frank Warren, Fury’s co-promoter, said in a recent interview on British sports radio giant TalkSPORT that there would be a “historical” boxing event in Saudi Arabia next month, apparently alluding to the Dec. 23 card in the works.
“There’s gonna be a big night in December,” Warren said in the interview. “We’ll be announcing it very soon and it will be massive. You’re gonna love it, I promise you you're gonna love it.
“I can’t give you all the information at the moment, but everything’s going in the right direction for something to be a historical night of boxing. It’s gonna feature boxers from all over the world. You will be surprised by the names.”
Since losing his three title belts to Usyk by decision in 2021 and another decision in their 2022 immediate rematch, Joshua (26-3, 23 KOs), 34, of England, has won two fights this year working with new trainer Derrick James. He outpointed Jermaine Franklin in April and stopped Robert Helenius, who accepted the bout on five days’ notice after Dillian Whyte was dropped due to a failed drug test, in the seventh round in August.
Wilder (43-2-1, 42 KOs), 38, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, has been very inactive, having boxed just once in each of the last three years: a seventh-round knockout loss to Fury that cost him the WBC title in their February 2020 rematch; an 11th-round knockout to Fury in their all-time classic third bout in October 2021; and a first-round knockout of Helenius in October 2022.
De Los Santos aims for upset
Lightweight contender Edwin De Los Santos is a prohibitive underdog going in against former featherweight and unified junior lightweight titleholder and fellow southpaw Shakur Stevenson, whom he will face for the vacant WBC lightweight title on Thursday (ESPN, ESPN Deportes, ESPN+, 10:30 p.m. ET) at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, where the city will host the Formula 1 Las Vegas Grand Prix next weekend.
De Los Santos, who accepted the fight after Vasiliy Lomachenko, Isaac Cruz and Frank Martin all turned it down, knows he faces a formidable task against Stevenson.
“This is the most difficult and important challenge of my career,” De Los Santos said after a recent training session in Las Vegas. “Winning this fight will change my life forever. I know Shakur is a great champion, and I understand I will need my entire arsenal to defeat him. It is a huge challenge, but not impossible.”
De Los Santos (16-1, 14 KOs), 24, of the Dominican Republic, who has won three in a row since an eight-round decision loss to then-unbeaten William Foster III in January 2022, scored his most notable win last September when he knocked out unbeaten prospect Jose Valenzuela in the third round.
After another win, a near-shutout 10-round decision over former prospect Joseph Adorno in July, De Los Santos got the unexpected opportunity to face Stevenson (20-0, 10 KOs), 26, of Newark, New Jersey, for the 135-pound title vacated by Devin Haney, who is moving up to junior welterweight.
“I am extremely focused on being crowned world champion and giving a world title to the Dominican Republic,” De Los Santos said. “A victory over Shakur would go down as one of the greatest in the history of Dominican boxing. That motivates me.”
In the co-feature, Mexico’s Emanuel Navarrete (38-1, 31 KOs), 28, a three-division titleholder, will make his second junior lightweight title defense against Robson Conceicao (17-2, 8 KOs), 34, a 2016 Olympic gold medalist for Brazil, who is getting his third 130-pound title shot, having lost by disputed decision to Oscar Valdez in 2021 and by clear decision in 2022 to Stevenson, who failed to make weight and was stripped of the unified title.
Walsh wins New York debut
Touted Irish junior middleweight prospect Callum Walsh survived the first knockdown of his pro or amateur career in the 10th round and held on to win a unanimous decision over Ismael Villarreal on Thursday night before an announced crowd of 3,014 at The Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Walsh won 97-92, 97-92 and 96-93 to edge Villarreal (13-1, 9 KOs), 26, of Bronx, New York, who gave Walsh the toughest fight of his career. It was Walsh’s first time going past six rounds.
“I wanted to get the knockout but I’m happy with my overall performance,” Walsh said. “I got hit too much, which is something to work on. I’m going to learn and come back better.”
The fight headlined a 360 Promotions card on UFC Fight Pass with Walsh (9-0, 7 KOs), 22, a southpaw from Ireland, who fights out of Hollywood, California, and is trained by Hall of Famer Freddie Roach, coming in as the favorite of a crowd that had many Irish on hand as well as UFC officials, who have backed him.
“I was very happy with the crowd,” Walsh said. “There was a lot of loud support for both of us. I thought I won every round but one or two.”
Walsh showed toughness dealing with a low blow late in the fourth round as well as shoves to the canvas at different times in the bout. Referee Steve Willis ruled a knockdown against Walsh in the final round though it was viewed as a push by many.
“I wasn’t hurt, more of a push and a trip that put me down,” Walsh said. “You could see when I got up I was fine. It happens. I have a good chin.
“It took a little for me to get warmed up but this was a real fight against a real fighter. I’m not here to take easy fights. You’re bound to get hit at this level but I proved that I can fight and win. I’m 22-year-old and this fight will only make me better. We clashed heads and he hit me low but it’s a fight, so you keep on going and throwing your best shots.”
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 and picked three fights: the junior featherweight bout between prospect Shabaz Masoud and veteran Jose Sanmartin, which headlines the Matchroom Boxing prospect card on Saturday in Newcastle, England; Shakur Stevenson against Edwin De Los Santos, who meet for the vacant WBC lightweight title in the Top Rank main event on Thursday in Las Vegas; and WBO junior lightweight titlist Emanuel Navarrete’s defense against Robson Conceicao in the co-feature. We also took viewer questions and comments and discussed the latest boxing news! Please check out the show here:
Listen to the latest podcast! It includes my interview with Shakur Stevenson; plus news of the week with thoughts on Jared Anderson’s arrest, Jake Paul’s upcoming fight, and the final Showtime card; and we shared memories on the anniversary of three major fights. Also subscribe to the pod for an alert as soon as the next episode drops.
With three-belt unified junior middleweight champion Jermell Charlo and longtime IBF mandatory challenger Bakhram Murtazaliev failing to make a deal by an IBF-imposed deadline, the IBF on Friday scheduled a purse bid for Nov. 21 at 12 p.m. ET at the organization’s Springfield, New Jersey offices. Bids, accompanied by a non-refundable $5,000 participation fee, must be submitted by 11 a.m. ET on bid day. Murtazaliev (21-0, 15 KOs), 30, a Russia native fighting out of Oxnard, California, has taken multiple step-aside deals that allowed Charlo (35-2-1, 19 KOs), 33, of Houston, to unify the division and then challenge Canelo Alvarez for the undisputed super middleweight title in a lopsided decision loss on Sept. 30, after which Charlo committed to returning to 154 pounds to defend his three remaining sanctioning organization belts.
Weights from Newcastle, England, for Saturday’s Matchroom Boxing card on DAZN (2 p.m. ET): Shabaz Masoud 121.7 pounds, Jose Sanmartin 120.2; Cameron Vuong 137.55, John Henry Mosquera 139.5; Calum French 137.75, Jeff Ofori 138; Mark Dickinson 159.3, Grant Dennis 163.4; Ewan Mackenzie 153.4, Ishmael Davis 153.65; Ben Rees 184.45, Sadaam Moamed Da Silva Caetano 183.6; Jimmy Sains 162.45, Jesus Lobeto 165.75; Owen Rees 141.55, Konrad Czajkowski 141.5.
The debut episode of Showtime’s “All Access” leading up to the fight between WBC interim super middleweight titlist David Benavidez against former two-division titleholder Demetrius Andrade, will debut on Showtime on Saturday (8 p.m. ET). The episode will go behind the scenes in the lives of both fighters and detail their training for the bout, which will take place on Nov. 25 (Showtime PPV, 8 p.m. ET, $74.99) at Michelob ULTRA Arena at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
The WBO has ordered junior flyweight titlist Jonathan “Bomba” Gonzalez and interim titlist Rene Santiago to fight next. They were notified via email that they have until Dec. 8 to make a deal or a purse bid will be ordered with a minimum allowable bid of $80,000. Either side can request an immediate purse bid if they do not want to negotiate. Santiago (12-3, 9 KOs), 31, of Puerto Rico, knocked out Kevin Vivas in the 12th round to win the vacant interim belt on Oct. 27 in Managua, Nicaragua, in a fight elevated to the interim title and main event status after Gonzalez (27-3-1, 14 KOs), 32, of Puerto Rico, fell ill during fight week and was forced to withdrew from a defense against Gerardo Zapata. The fight should not be hard to make as Gonzalez and Santiago are both promoted by All Star Boxing’s Tutico Zabala.
Canadian lightweight Steve Claggett (36-7-2, 25 KOs), 34, who has won seven fights in a row, will meet Mexico native Miguel Madueno (30-1, 28 KOs), 25, in a 10-round regional title bout that will headline the Eye of the Tiger card on Tuesday (ESPN+, 7 p.m. ET) at the Cabaret du Casino de Montreal in Montreal. In the co-feature, two-time middleweight title challenger Steven Butler (32-4-1, 26 KOs), 28, of Montreal, will look to rebound from a second-round destruction at the hands of WBO titleholder Janibek Alimkhanuly in May when he faces Ivan Alvarez (32-14-4, 21 KOs), 35, of Mexico, in a 10-rounder.
Show and tell
If you are a regular reader of “Show and tell” you know by now I have obsessed for most of my life over the round-robin of nine fights between all-time legends Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran and Marvelous Marvin Hagler that carried boxing in the 1980s. One of those fights matched undisputed middleweight champion Hagler with Duran, the former lightweight and welterweight champion, who was moving up to middleweight five months after a memorable eighth-round knockout of Davey Moore to become a three-division champion by winning the WBA junior middleweight title.
Hagler, who was in the midst of a dominating title reign (but still four fights away from his epic shootout with Hearns in his most famous fight), was a significant favorite to beat Duran when they met at the famed outdoor arena at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. I always thought it was one of the lesser fights of the series of “Four Kings” bouts but upon a recent re-watch, this fight has grown on me and is much better than I had always thought. It was a very close fight and while it didn’t have the kind of drama and action of several of the other “Four Kings” fights, it was still a worthy chapter in the series. It was a good fight and highly competitive. In fact, Duran, who had swelled Hagler’s left eye, was ahead by one point on two scorecards after 13 rounds. But Hagler, who was making his eighth defense, was not about to let his title go. He dug deep and won the final two rounds to claim a tight unanimous decision, 144-142, 144-143 and 146-145. Duran, however, fought extremely well in the loss and forced Hagler to go the distance for the first time a title defense. The fight took place on Nov. 10, 1983 — 40 years ago on Friday. Here is a program, which is quite hard to find in such high grade condition due to the all-black cover showing even minor signs of wear, and a full ticket in my collection.
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Photos: Wilder: Stephanie Trapp/TGB Promotions; De Los Santos: Mikey Williams/Top Rank; Walsh-Villarreal: Lina Baker/360 Promotions; Masoud-San Martin: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing
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