Notebook: Lopez headed to Belfast to defend vs. Conlan, per sources
Valdez opponent set; Joshua-Franklin undercard finalized; Gesta upsets Diaz; latest on Fury-Usyk; Quick hits; Show and tell
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IBF featherweight titlist Luis Alberto Lopez’s first defense will come against Michael Conlan on May 27 in Conlan’s hometown of Belfast, Northern Ireland as Top Rank is in the process of finalizing the deal, sources with knowledge of the agreement told Fight Freaks Unite.
The match, which will stream on ESPN+ in the United States, comes as little surprise as FFU reported in January that the fight was in the works for the spring. The sides had hoped to have had it this past weekend on St. Patrick’s Day in Belfast but Lopez was not able to be ready by then so May was the target.
Lopez (27-2, 15 KOs), 29, of Mexico, won the 126-pound belt by upset majority decision over Josh Warrington in his hometown of Leeds, England, on Dec. 10, but it was a punishing fight and Lopez suffered a cut, which prevented the fight from taking place in March.
The bout will mark Lopez’s third trip to the United Kingdom for a fight. In December 2021, Lopez knocked out Tyson Fury pal Isaac Lowe in the seventh round in London in the elimination bout that earned him the shot at Warrington.
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 — since he was ahead of then-WBA secondary titlist 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.
Former junior lightweight and featherweight titlist Oscar Valdez, who is due to return from a back/rib injury in a 10-round junior lightweight bout in the co-feature of the yet-to-be-announced ESPN+ PPV main event between undisputed lightweight champion Devin Haney and former unified titlist Vasiliy Lomachenko on May 20 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, will have a rematch with Adam Lopez, multiple sources with knowledge of the deal told Fight Freaks Unite.
When Valdez moved up to 130 pounds and made his debut in the division in November 2019, Lopez (16-4, 6 KOs), 26, of Glendale, California, knocked him down in the second round but Valdez (30-1, 23 KOs), 32, of Mexico, rebounded to stop him in the seventh round. Lopez accepted the bout on one day’s notice and moved up from the undercard when Valdez’s original opponent, Andres Gutierrez, missed weight by 11 pounds.
A win by Valdez will propel him into a title shot later this year against countryman Emanuel Navarrete (37-1, 31 KOs).
Valdez and Navarrete were scheduled to fight for the vacant WBO title on Feb. 3, but Valdez withdrew due to injury and Navarrete stopped replacement Liam Wilson in the ninth round of a rousing battle to claim the belt with the plan to make his first defense against Valdez.
Valdez and Lopez are both coming off losses. Valdez dropped a lopsided decision to Shakur Stevenson in a junior lightweight title unification fight last April at the MGM Grand and Valdez lost a wide 10-round decision to Abraham Nova on Jan. 14 at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York.
British heavyweight champion Fabio Wardley will take on American Michael Polite Coffie on the undercard of former two-time unified heavyweight titleholder Anthony Joshua’s return against Jermaine Franklin on April 1 (DAZN) at The O2 in London, Matchroom Boxing announced Sunday as it finalized the lineup for the show.
Wardley (15-0, 14 KOs), 28, of England, knocked out Nathan Gorman in the third round to win the vacant British title on Nov. 26 on the Dillian Whyte-Franklin undercard at London’s Wembley Arena.
Bronx, New York, native Coffie (13-3, 10 KOs), 36, will look to rebound from a sixth-round knockout loss to Gurgen Hovhannisyan in October on the Deontay Wilder-Robert Helenius undercard at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Also announced was that Houston southpaw middleweight up-and-comer Austin “Ammo” Williams (13-0, 9 KOs), 26, will take on River Wilson-Bent (14-2-1, 6 KOs), 29, of England. It will be Williams’ third fight in England.
A Williams win will propel him into a fight later this year with Felix Cash (16-0, 10 KOs), 29, of England, who would need to also win his undercard bout. Cash will challenge European middleweight champion Matteo Signani (32-6-3, 12 KOs), 43, of Italy, in a previously announced fight.
In another bout, junior welterweight Campbell Hatton (10-0, 3 KOs), 22, the son of British legend Ricky Hatton, will face countryman Louis Fielding (10-7, 1 KOs), 32, in Hatton’s first scheduled eight-rounder.
Matchroom Boxing also said that the previously announced light heavyweight fight between former world title challenger Craig Richards (17-3-1, 10 KOs), 32, of England, and Ricards Bolotniks (19-6-1, 8 KOs), 32, of Latvia, has been postponed due to Richards suffering a hand injury.
Gesta edges Diaz
In an entertaining junior welterweight bout, Mercito Gesta edged fellow southpaw Joseph Diaz Jr. by split decision in the main event of a revamped Golden Boy card Saturday night on DAZN at The Walter Pyramid in Long Beach, California.
Former lightweight world title challenger Gesta, who was 1-2-1 in his previous four bouts, won the back-and-forth battle 99-91 and 98-92 while one judge had it 97-93 for Diaz, a former junior lightweight world titlist and 2012 U.S. Olympian, who lost his third fight in a row.
“He gave me a hell of a fight,” Gesta said. “We gave the fans a good fight right here. I’m happy with the outcome. I’m a professional and a gentleman.
“We had our game plan and I listened to my corner. It was a close fight. With coach Marvin Somodio, I have learned that I can move around a lot more and I am excited to have another full training camp with him. If I were to choose my next opponent, I want (unbeaten Golden Boy lightweight contender) William ‘El Camaron’ Zepeda next.”
The fight was supposed to be the co-feature but was moved into the main event position on Friday when light heavyweight contender Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez was dramatically overweight and his 12-rounder against Gabriel Rosado was canceled.
Gesta and Diaz produced a fan-friendly and competitive fight. Diaz consistently landed the bigger shots, especially in a big third round, and backed Gesta up often. But Gesta was extremely busy and appeared to throw and land many more punches.
The divergent scoring seemed to come down to whether a judge was more impressed by Diaz’s bigger blows and accuracy or Gesta’s extreme volume punching but shots that were not as heavy as Diaz’s.
Diaz (32-4-1, 15 KOs), 30, of Downey, California, was hampered by a hurt left hand, which he discussed with his corner after the fifth round and again after the eighth. Gesta (34-3-3, 17 KOs), 35, a Filipino southpaw fighting out of San Diego, seemed to be running out of steam in the final couple of rounds as late in the eighth and in ninth rounds he glanced at the big screen to see how much time was left in each round.
There was much confusion about the number of rounds and weight for the bout. Golden Boy announced it and promoted it as a 12-round lightweight bout, but it wound up as a 10-round junior welterweight fight.
A Golden Boy official told Fight Freaks Unite that it was always a 10-rounder but was listed in pre-fight material as a 12 because of a typo on their end that was never corrected until the last minute. The fight was also contracted at 136 pounds but changed to 140 because Diaz, who has had previous weight issues, could not make it and Gesta agreed at some point during fight week to raise the limit to 140. Diaz was 139.4 pounds and Gesta was 137.2.
Whatever happens in the dragged out talks for an undisputed heavyweight title fight between Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk, whose selected date of April 29 at Wembley Stadium in London is already close to being undoable, have been given an ultimatum by the WBA. It already delayed ordering Usyk’s mandatory defense when the sides said they had agreed and were working on the paperwork, but it is now done waiting. “Usyk v. Fury update: WBA deadline to receive signed bout contracts is April 1st. Otherwise the (Daniel Dubois) mandatory negotiations will be ordered,” WBA president Gilberto Mendoza posted to social media on Sunday. Usyk promoter Alex Krassyuk, in his own social media on Saturday, wrote, “The points for agreement were sent to Fury’s side. The deadline is set. The clock is ticking. The ball is on #Greedybelly’s side now. We did everything in our power to make it happen.”
Heavyweight Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller stopped Lucas Browne in the sixth Saturday at Agenda Arena in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The 6-foot-4, 333-pound Miller (26-0-1, 21 KOs), 34, of Brooklyn, New York, dropped the 6-5, 277-pound Browne (31-4, 27 KOs), 43, of Australia, in the sixth round. He beat the count but Miller teed off on him in the follow-up attack, forcing referee Daniel Van de Wiele to intervene at 2 minutes, 33 seconds. The win was Miller’s biggest of the three fights he’s had since he was relicensed in June following yet another test for performance-enhancing drugs that forced a fight with Jerry Forrest to be canceled in July 2020. That was to be Miller’s first fight since testing positive for a slew of banned substances that forced a shot at then-unified heavyweight titlist Anthony Joshua to be canceled in June 2019. Browne also has a sorted history with PEDs.
Show and tell
The prime Manny Pacquiao was a virtually unstoppable force as he ran roughshod over one future Hall of Famer after another as he moved up the scale from featherweight to junior middleweight to win titles in six of his record eight weight classes. He beat the Erik Morales twice, Marco Antonio Barrera twice, Juan Manuel Marquez (OK, not roughshod in either of his two wins, a draw and loss in their magnificent four-fight series), David Diaz, Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto, Joshua Clottey, Antonio Margarito and Shane Mosley. But the one guy who had one glorious night against Pacquiao and handed him a clear decision loss in a fantastic fight just before Pacquiao’s historic run was Morales in Pacquiao’s first fight at junior lightweight.
It would be the last big win of Hall of Famer Morales’ great career. Pacquiao would knock him out in their second and third fights, but going into their first bout, Morales was coming off a very close and debatable majority decision loss to rival Barrera in their trilogy fight and Pacquiao was the favorite. However, Morales summoned all the guile, heart and firepower he could muster and narrowly outpointed Pacquiao in a fight of the year contender, winning 115-113 on all three scorecards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. This was supposed to be my first fight at ringside after I began working at ESPN, but I got quite ill a few days beforehand and missed the fight. I missed a great one and watched on HBO PPV. I may not have been ringside for the bout, which took place on March 19, 2005 — 18 years ago on Sunday — but I do have a program and this extremely rare site poster (possibly one of a kind) that hung in a light box at the MGM Grand during fight week in my collection.
Lopez photo: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing; Valdez-Lopez: Mikey Williams/Top Rank; Gesta-Diaz photo: Cris Esqueda/Golden Boy
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It should be noted that a Pacquiao/Morales 1 undercard bout nearly stole the show. Jorge “El Travieso” Arce vs Hussein Hussein is one of the best PPV undercard fights I’ve ever seen. And at the time, a legitimate FOTY candidate in its own right 🔥🤠🍭🥊