Notebook: Matias, Ponce expect fireworks in battle for 140 title
Keyshawn Davis foe set; BetUS show; Murata retiring; Boxing Social appearance; key Matchroom signing; Quick hits; Show and tell
A note to Fight Freaks Unite readers: I created Fight Freaks Unite in January 2021 and eight months later it also became available for paid subscriptions for additional content — and as a way to help keep this newsletter going and for readers to support independent journalism. If you haven’t upgraded to a paid subscription please consider it. If you have already, I truly appreciate it! Also, consider a gift subscription for the Fight Freak in your life.
If junior welterweight contenders Subriel Matias and Jeremias Ponce are true to their word about what kind fight they plan to engage in buckle up for a barnburner.
“I’m 30 years old and to this day, I don’t know what the canvas feels like,” Puerto Rico’s Matias said through an interpreter on Friday. “I’m going to be the one knocking him out. I told my mom ever since I was 12 or 13 years old that I was going to make her proud and become a world champion. This is my chance.”
They will meet for the vacant IBF junior welterweight title in the main event of a Premier Boxing Champions tripleheader on Saturday (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET) at The Armory in Minneapolis.
“I’m very proud to write a new chapter in the Puerto Rico versus Argentina rivalry,” Argentina’s Ponce said through an interpreter on Friday. “I’m looking forward to showing everybody what Argentina can do inside the ring on Saturday night. I’m going for the knockout.”
The big-hitting Matias (18-1, 18 KOs) has won all of his fights by knockout, including avenging a 10-round decision loss Petros Ananyan in February 2020 via ninth-round knockout in January 2021, which is when Matias last fought.
He has KO on his mind once again as he preps for Ponce.
“It would be very exciting for me to win this fight by knockout, and I think that’s the way it’s going,” Matias said. “(I am) going to win by knockout before the seventh round.”
Matias is aiming for the KO but explained his ample respect for Ponce.
“Ponce is tough and he possesses a unique style,” Matias said. “I would compare him to (Argentine former welterweight and junior welterweight titlist) Marcos Maidana, who’s shocked the boxing world plenty of times. I don’t see a lot of people similar to him in boxing nowadays. Ponce is a great fighter, and I respect both him and Argentina. But my goal is to not let this fight go the distance.”
Matias said if he wins his ideal next fight would be a unification bout with WBC titleholder Regis Prograis.
“When I finish this fight with my arm raised high I’ll have only one name in mind: Regis Prograis,” Matias said. “Prograis thinks that he’s the only character in boxing, and I respect him a lot. But I want to show him that there are people in this world that can be even crazier than he is.”
Ponce (30-0, 20 KOs), 26, earned the title shot when he traveled to Newcastle, England, the hometown of Lewis Ritson, and knocked him out in the 10th round of a dominating performance in a June 2021 title eliminator. That victory made Ponce the IBF mandatory challenger for then-undisputed 140-pound champion Josh Taylor. But when Taylor vacated the title to pursue a higher profile and more lucrative fight, Matias was next in line and ordered to face Ponce for the vacant strap.
It is a fight Ponce was happy to accept as he makes his United States debut, although he has fought in several other countries.
“I didn’t come here on vacation,” Ponce said. “I want everyone to see that I’m here to win and prove that I’m the best. It’s going to be an outstanding fight. The fans are going to love it. We’re both winners and we both came here to win. You’re going to see an all-out battle.”
Also on the card:
Former WBA “regular” welterweight titlist and Minneapolis native Jamal James (27-2, 12 KOs), 34, who is coming off losing the belt by ninth-round knockout to Radzhab Butaev in October 2021, will face southpaw Alberto Palmetta (18-1, 13 KOs), 32, a 2016 Argentine Olympian, who has won 12 fights in a row, in the 10-round co-feature.
Junior welterweights Elvis Rodriguez (13-1-1, 12 KOs), 27, a southpaw from the Dominican Republic, and Joseph Adorno (17-1-2, 14 KOs), 23, of Allentown, Pennsylvania, both one-time highly regarded prospects, clash in the 10-round opener.
Davis to face Yigit
Lightweight Keyshawn Davis, the 2022 Fight Freaks Unite prospect of the year, will face Anthony Yigit in the opener of the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN tripleheader April 8 (ESPN) at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, a source with knowledge of the bout told Fight Freaks Unite on Friday, confirming a BoxingScene report.
Davis (7-0, 5 KOs), 23, a 2020 U.S. Olympic silver medalist from Norfolk, Virginia, shut out former world title challenger Juan Carlos Burgos in an eight-rounder in his last fight Dec. 12. The fight with Yigit will be Davis’ first scheduled 10-rounder.
Yigit (26-2-1, 10 KOs), 31, a southpaw from Sweden, is the former European junior welterweight champion. His two losses were by seventh-round knockout challenging Ivan Baranchyk for the vacant IBF junior welterweight title in 2018 and a seventh-round knockout to Rolly Romero in a WBA interim title fight in 2021.
After that loss, Yigit dropped down to lightweight and has won two fights in a row against low-level opposition.
The card is topped by a WBC lightweight title eliminator between Newark’s Shakur Stevenson and Japan’s Shuichiro Yoshino and will also include heavyweight Jared Anderson, probably against George Arias, in the 10-round co-feature.
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 Subriel Matias-Jeremias Ponce vacant junior welterweight title bout that headlines Showtime’s card Saturday night and then two fights on Sunday, the Jake Paul-Tommy Fury pay-per-view main event and the Ilunga Makabu’s cruiserweight title defense against Badou Jack in the co-feature. We also took viewer questions and comments! Please check out the show here:
Ryota Murata retiring
Former WBA middleweight titlist Ryota Murata, a mainstream star in Japan, told Japanese media this week he is retiring from boxing.
“Inside my head I’m thinking that was my last one,” Murata said in comments translated by the WBA, referring to his ninth-round knockout loss to Gennadiy Golovkin in their 160-pound title unification fight in April in Saitama, Japan. “I just haven't been able to announce it (until now), but that’s how I’m thinking personally.”
Murata (16-3, 13 KOs), 37, became an instant star in Japan when he won a 2012 Olympic gold medal and spent most of the next decade as the face of Japanese boxing before being replaced by Naoya Inoue.
Murata won the WBA “regular” title by seventh-round knockout of Hassan N’Dam in a rematch in 2017 after having lost a split decision to N’Dam in the vacant title bout earlier that year.
Murata would later lose and then regain the belt in a pair of fights with Robert Brant before eventually losing it to GGG, whom Murata faced coming off of a 2½-year layoff.
Boxing Social appearance
I joined my friends at Boxing Social on Friday for an immediate reaction to the Gervonta Davis-Ryan Garcia fight being finalized for April 22, how big of a fight it will be and should be the favorite. We also discussed Floyd Mayweather’s exhibition against Aaron Chalmers on Saturday in London, the Jake Paul-Tommy Fury cruiserweight bout that headlines a PPV on Sunday and discussion of WBC’s ruling in the Conor Benn doping scandal and what it means.
Matchroom signs McGrail
Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn announced Friday that he has signed junior blue-chip junior featherweight prospect Peter McGrail, who was a 2020 Olympian for Great Britain, to a promotional deal.
McGrail will make his debut for the company on Mach 11 (DAZN) on the Callum Smith-Pawel Stepien undercard at M&S Bank Arena in McGrail’s hometown of Liverpool, England.
The southpaw McGrail (6-0, 5 KOs), 26, was a decorated amateur. Besides his Olympic berth, he won gold medals at the 2017 European Championships and 2018 Commonwealth Games.
“I’m absolutely over the moon to have signed with Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing,” McGrail said. “I’m looking forward to being a part of more huge nights with Matchroom in my hometown and up and down the country and around the world. I always stay ready and I’m ready to go again on March 11 and put on another good performance.”
McGrail comes to Matchroom after having been signed by Probellum, which went on an initial signing binge but recently went out of business.
“Peter McGrail made his professional debut on one of our shows and I class him as one of the best prospects in world boxing,” Hearn said. “We're developing an incredible stable of young talent. Peter is ready for 10-rounders now. Expect big things and big titles for Peter in 2023. I believe this young man will bring world championship boxing to Liverpool for many years to come.”
Weights from Minneapolis for Saturday’s PBC card on Showtime (9 p.m. ET): Subriel Matias 139.25 pounds, Jeremias Ponce 139.5 (for vacant IBF junior welterweight title); Jamal James 146.75, Alberto Palmetta 147; Elvis Rodriguez 139.75, Joseph Adorno 140; Kudratillo Abdukakhorov 146, VeShawn Owens 147; Derrick Jackson 149, Willie Jones 147.8; Mikkel Spencer 139, Margarito Hernandez 140; Breeon Carothers 138, Kevin Schmidt 139.75; Jonathan Lopez 118, Eduardo Diogo 118.
It came as no surprise that the IBF canceled a 12 p.m. ET purse bid Thursday for the vacant interim heavyweight title bout between Filip Hrgovic (15-0, 12 KOs) and former unified titlist Andy Ruiz Jr. (35-2, 22 KOs). Ruiz’s camp notified the IBF Thursday morning that it would not participate in the bid or fight, even though it was initially interested. The likely reason was because the day before the IBF, which broke multiple rules in sanctioning the fight in the first place, set the purse split at 60-40 in Hrgovic’s favor. It remains to be seen if the IBF will order another interim title bout, which was done to placate Hrgovic’s team since he had won a final eliminator versus Zhang Zhilei in August but the title shot was likely at least a year away with unified titlist Oleksandr Usyk trying to finalize an undisputed title fight with Tyson Fury and the WBA mandatory defense on the clock ahead of the IBF’s.
Earlier this month Boxxer announced that junior welterweight contender Jack Catterall (26-1, 13 KOs), a 29-year-old British southpaw, would appear on the undercard of Lawrence Okolie’s WBO cruiserweight title defense against David Light on March 25 at AO Arena in Manchester, England. However, Catterall is now off the card. “We are working on opportunities for Jack and hope to have some news in due course,” a Boxxer spokesman told Fight Freaks Unite. Catterall was due to have a long-awaited rematch with WBO champion Josh Taylor on March 4, but it was delayed yet again and ultimately canceled because Taylor suffered a foot injury, at which point the WBO, tired of waiting for the rematch, ordered Taylor’s mandatory defense against Teofimo Lopez. Taylor claimed an extremely controversial split decision against Catterall in defense of the undisputed title last February.
WBA strawweight titlist Knockout CP Freshmart (24-0, 9 KOs), 32, of Thailand, and secondary titlist Erick Rosa (5-0, 1 KO), 22, of the Dominican Republic, had their long overdue mandatory fight scheduled for March 1 in Nakhon Sawan, Thailand, canceled this week. The reason was because Rosa arrived in Thailand after a 20-hour-plus trip and was detained for more than a day because he did not have the proper visa, which Rosa’s team blamed on the Thai promoter, and as well as an issue with a soon-to-expire passport. WBA president Gilberto Mendoza Jr. told Fight Freaks Unite that a new purse bid will be ordered that will have “strict conditions,” meaning if they are not met either man could be stripped.
Thompson Boxing will put its first show since the death earlier this month of beloved founder Ken Thompson. The card will take place March 10 at one of its regular venues, the DoubleTree Hotel in Ontario, California, and will stream for free on the company’s Facebook and YouTube channels. In the eight-round welterweight main event, Louis Lopez (13-1-1, 4 KOs), of Corona, California, will face Mexico’s Angel Beltran (15-1, 9 KOs). “It will be a difficult event to produce because we know Kenny will not be with us,” Thompson Boxing general manager Alex Camponovo said. “Nonetheless, he would have never wanted us to stop and dwell for long. He would want us to continue building on his 23-year-old legacy. So all of us at Thompson Boxing will do this one with heavy hearts, but proud to have worked for a great man.”
Show and tell
The legendary Roberto Duran was 84-7, had been a pro for 21 years and was past his prime at age 37. He was in the twilight of his career but still a big name when he got a shot at newly crowned WBC middleweight champion Iran Barley, who in his previous fight scored a third-round knockout of Thomas Hearns — who owned a crushing KO over Duran — to win the title in upset fashion. Barkley and Duran met in a Top Rank-promoted pay-per-view main event on a bitter cold and snowy night in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and put on an unexpectedly outstanding fight.
The fight was so good that it was picked as fight of the year by The Ring magazine. Duran scored an 11th-round knockdown and won a split decision, 118-112 and 116-112 while one judge had it 116-113 for Barkley. The win, Duran’s last in a world title fight, also made him a four-division champion as he had previously won titles at lightweight, welterweight and junior middleweight. The fight was on Feb. 24, 1989 — 34 years ago on Friday. Here is a program in my collection.
Matias-Ponce photo: Esther Lin/Showtime; Davis photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank; Murata photo: Naoki Fukuda
Please upgrade your subscription here: https://danrafael.substack.com/subscribe
Thank you so much for your support of Fight Freaks Unite!
Follow me on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/danrafael1/
Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/DanRafael1
Follow me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DanRafaelBoxing
Is it just me, or is the “Puerto Rico versus Argentina rivalry” not really a thing?