Notebook: Navarrete-Valdez penciled in for Aug. 12 in Arizona
Fury making noise about Usyk again; Baumgardner to defend against Linardatou in homecoming; Hitchins-Love, Andy Cruz's pro debut on card; Quick hits; Show and tell
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The much-anticipated fight between WBO junior lightweight titleholder Emanuel Navarrete and Mexican countryman Oscar Valdez is penciled in for Aug. 12 at the Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona, sources with knowledge of the plans told Fight Freaks Unite.
The fight, which has long been intended to take place in August, will headline a Top Rank card on an ESPN platform.
Navarrete (37-1, 31 KOs), 28, and Valdez (31-1, 23 KOs), 32, were scheduled to fight for the vacant WBO title on Feb. 3, but Valdez withdrew due to a back/rib injury and Navarrete stopped replacement Liam Wilson in the ninth round of a rousing battle to claim the 130-pound belt with Valdez watching at ringside knowing he would get the first crack.
But first Valdez had to win his return fight, which he did on Saturday night, shaking off the rust of a 13-month layoff in the co-feature of the Devin Haney-Vasiliy Lomachenko pay-per-view card at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Valdez, a former junior lightweight and featherweight titlist, came off the layoff and his first loss, a decision to Shakur Stevenson in a junior lightweight unification bout, to handily outpoint Adam Lopez in a 10-round rematch of a seventh-round knockout victory over Lopez in 2019.
“We all want (Navarrete), man,” Valdez said after Saturday’s fight. “Nothing but respect for him. He’s a great champion.”
Navarrete has won world titles in three divisions, junior featherweight, featherweight and junior lightweight.
Fury making noise
WBC/lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury is back to calling out Oleksandr Usyk for an undisputed championship fight.
Fury is anxious to get back in the ring after having been out since beating down buddy Derek Chisora in a one-sided 10th-round knockout in December.
Fury and Usyk were close to a deal to meet for all the belts on April 29 at Wembley Stadium in London, but it fell apart when Fury’s untenable demands related to terms of a rematch clause caused Usyk to walk away.
“I’m sick of all this back and forth he said, she said,” Fury said in a video addressed to Usyk and posted on his social media. “Why don’t we just do this? Why don’t we fight this summer, me and you, at Wembley Stadium for the percentage you’ve already agreed. And if you want the rematch so desperately, you can have one. I don’t need rematches. I don’t need nothing because I’m going to cut you down like cheese.
“So here’s the offer: Let’s do the fight at Wembley this summer, me and you. Forget about fighting Deontay Wilder, who I’ve knocked out twice, and forget about fighting Daniel Dubois, who’s not on our level. You’ve already beat (Anthony) Joshua. The only fight left is me and you for undisputed. I know you didn’t fancy it the first time, so let’s see if we can rekindle it and have a good fight for the fans. Let’s get it on! Make the right decision.”
Whether England’s Fury (33-0-1, 24 KOs) is being serious is unclear but he knows that after their deal fell apart the WBA ordered Usyk (20-0, 13 KOs), 36, of Ukraine, to make his overdue mandatory defense against regular titlist Dubois. There is a purse bid scheduled on Thursday in Houston. If Usyk was to make a deal to face Fury instead of facing Dubois he likely would be stripped of the WBA belt, meaning Fury-Usyk would not be for the undisputed title.
Fury has hoped to fight in July but name opponents are hard to come by with Zhang Zhilei having to face Joe Joyce in a rematch after Joyce invoked his immediate rematch rights. Former titlist Andy Ruiz Jr. reportedly asked for $20 million, dramatically pricing himself out. Joshua has long been a huge fight for Fury but that fight, for numerous reasons, has no chance to happening this summer.
Baumgardner homecoming card
Undisputed women’s junior lightweight champion Alycia Baumgardner will defend against Christina Linardatou — the only woman to beat her — in the main event of a homecoming card on July 15 (DAZN) at The Masonic Temple in Detroit, Matchroom Boxing announced.
The card will also feature a key junior welterweight fight between Richardson Hitchins and Montana Love in the 12-round co-feature and the professional debut of decorated Cuban amateur Andy Cruz, a 2020 Olympic gold medalist, taking on veteran Juan Carlos Burgos in a 10-rounder.
Baumgardner (14-1, 7 KOs), 28, unified her WBC belt with the IBF and WBO titles by split decision over Mikaela Mayer in October in London and then routed Elhem Mekhaled on Feb. 4 in New York to add the vacant WBA title to become the undisputed champion.
“It was a blessing to be able to fight overseas in front of an international audience to unify titles, and then to finally become undisputed in my home country was so amazing,” Baumgardner said. “But to come back home to the Midwest, where I grew up, where I learned how to work, where my life was shaped, where my faith was forged, and then to headline in my adopted home of Detroit for my first undisputed title defense, I am truly realizing a dream come true.
“In one of the world’s most storied cities for boxing, I get to put on show and show out in front of the people who’ve supported me and know me best. I get to thank the region that helped make me who I am. I get to show the world that a little girl from Fremont (Ohio), came back home as the undisputed champion of the world, and let all those other Midwestern little girls like me know that they can reach any dream they can imagine.”
The rematch with Linardatou is a chance for Baumgardner to avenge an eight-round split decision loss to her in July 2018. Baumgardner has won eight fights in a row since.
Linardatou (14-2, 6 KOs), 35, of Greece, is a two-time WBO junior welterweight titlist who will drop down two divisions to challenge Baumgardner. Linardatou has won two fights in a row since losing her belt to Katie Taylor by decision in November 2019.
“It’s going to be much better than the first one,” Linardatou said. “She has shown signs of improvement, but I have a new purpose to fight for — my son. And as much as she improved with her skills, her ego and head has grown with it. She does a lot of things for social media and to get attention. I’m doing this for the legacy of my son.”
The winner between Hitchins (16-0, 7 KOs), 25, of Brooklyn, New York, and Love (18-1-1, 9 KOs), 28, a southpaw from Cleveland, is a likely candidate for a title shot against WBC 140-pound titlist Regis Prograis later this year as long as Prograis defeats Danielito Zorrilla on June 17 (DAZN).
“This is the fight I have been wanting since I signed with Matchroom and finally we’ve got him,” said Hitchins, who is coming off a one-sided battering of John Bauza in a February decision. “To say there is bad blood between us is an understatement. This is personal for me. I genuinely cannot stand the guy and come July 15, he’s going to feel all that anger come out. This is my time. This is going to be a showcase performance for me and put me in line for a world title.
“He isn’t on my level. He doesn’t belong in the ring with me. I’m giving him this opportunity for no other reason than that I want to smash him to pieces.”
Love suffered his lone loss last time out when he was disqualified in the sixth round for throwing Steve Spark over the top rope onto the arena floor in November.
“I’m gonna give you this ass whoopin’ you been asking for,” Love said. “This is just the fight I need to get back into the mix, and when I deal with him, I’ll be back on track for world titles.”
Cruz, 27, won the lightweight Olympic gold medal by outpointing Keyshawn Davis, the 2022 Fight Freaks Unite prospect of the year. Cruz beat Davis four times in the amateurs. In his last fight in December, Burgos (35-7-3, 21 KOs), 35, of Mexico, lost an eight-round decision to Davis.
“I’m pumped and ready,” Cruz said. “Everything I wanted is about to become a reality. Now, it is time for me to show the world what I am made of. I want to give my fans the best of me, and I’m ready to do in pro boxing the same I did in the amateurs, be the best in the world.”
Besides Olympic gold, Cruz won three consecutive light welterweight gold medals at the World Amateur Championships (2017, 2019, 2021) and two gold medals at the Pan American Games (bantamweight in 2015, light welterweight 2019).
WBA women’s junior middleweight titlist Terri Harper has been added to the Mauricio Lara-Leigh Wood II card Saturday (DAZN, 2 p.m. ET) in Manchester, England, Matchroom Boxing announced. England’s Harper (13-1-1, 6 KOs), 26, was due to make her first defense versus former longtime undisputed welterweight champion Cecilia Braekhus this past Saturday on the Katie Taylor-Chantelle Cameron card but Braekhus woke up ill on fight day and withdrew. Matchroom secured former welterweight titlist Ivana Habazin (21-4, 7 KOs), 33, of Croatia, on short notice. Habazin, who lost a shutout decision to then-unified junior middleweight champion Claressa Shields in January 2020, has fought once since, a decision over Diana Prazak in October.
Showtime will debut “S.O.G.: The Book of Ward,” a documentary described as “an intimate portrayal of the improbable rise of boxing great Andre Ward” on June 2 (8 p.m. ET/PT) on the network and its streaming platform. The film is produced by Uninterrupted, which was founded by LeBron James and Maverick Carter, who serve as executive producers. According to Showtime, the network on which Ward ad several of his biggest fights, said in the film that “reveals in personal terms his journey from a turbulent childhood in Oakland, California, through the pressures of world championship expectations and ultimately to his induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2021.” Ward, a 2004 Olympic gold medalist, was a unified champion at super middleweight and light heavyweight and retired undefeated (32-0, 16 KOs).
Show and tell
Roy Jones Jr. and Bernard Hopkins were both all-time great fighters and are enshrined in the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Jones won world titles in four divisions (middleweight, super middleweight, light heavyweight, heavyweight) and reigned for about a decade (from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s) as the pound-for-pound king. Hopkins made a record 20 consecutive middleweight title defense, won the light heavyweight title, was a regular near the top of the pound-for-pound list throughout the 2000s and set various age-related records as he fought effectively into his 50s. They were also fierce rivals who had their first significant fight against each other when they squared off for the vacant IBF middleweight title in an HBO opening bout at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. It was the co-feature of then-heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe’s mismatch/second-round destruction of Jesse Ferguson two bouts after he had taken the title from Evander Holyfield in their first bout.
Jones, who injured his right hand before the fight but did not want to pull out, relied virtually entirely on his left hand and won a clear unanimous decision in a dreadfully boring fight. They would both go on to greatness and a rematch was in heavy demand in the early 2000s. However, they constantly bickered over the weight (Jones was already at light heavyweight and Hopkins was still at middleweight) and the financial split, so a rematch didn’t happen until it was way too late. Hopkins easily outpointed the long-faded Jones by ugly decision in 2010 in a disastrous pay-per-view I covered at ringside in Las Vegas, where nobody seemed to give a damn. But the first fight, when they were young men on the way to stardom, took place on May 22, 1993 — 30 years ago on Monday. Here is a scarce site poster in my collection.
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Photos: Valdez/Navarrete and Fury: Mikey Williams/Top Rank
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I can see why Fury has been circumspect about Usyk.
Fury’s brain: The big guys? Easy pickings. Usyk? Fast as f*ck, and very very highly skilled, what if he outruns and outboxes me?
Glad he’s had a change of heart. “Undisputed” has a nice ring to it, but maybe he screwed that up already.
Fury vs McKean? Please NO!!!