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Notebook: Nery, Figueroa to unify; winner gets even bigger fight vs. Fulton
Charlo undercard; Pacquiao-Garcia update; Ali documentary
Action fighters Luis Nery and Brandon Figueroa are preparing to fight each other in a junior featherweight title unification bout but they’ll do so already knowing who the winner will fight next for even greater stakes.
Nery and Figueroa will meet in the main event of a Premier Boxing Champions tripleheader on Saturday (Showtime, 10 p.m. ET) at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, with the winner committed a further unification battle against titlist Stephen Fulton, who is expected to be ringside.
But first Nery (31-0, 24 KOs), 26, of Mexico, a former bantamweight titlist making his first junior featherweight defense, and secondary titlist Figueroa (21-0-1, 16 KOs), 24, of Weslaco, Texas, who is making his third defense, must deal with each other in what most expect will be a hard-hitting battle.
“My mentality is simple: It’s either me or him,” said Nery, who goes into the fight with a new trainer in Ismael Ramirez. “I don’t get in the ring thinking of getting to the final bell and potentially losing because of the judges. I am not leaving anything in the hands of the judges. I am going to be aggressive and I will be myself. I plan to win fighting in my style.
“I have a lot of respect for Brandon, but inside the ring, I am going to be the rudest person he’s ever met. Respect goes out of the window inside that ring. I am going to do everything to get the win.”
Nery and Figueroa won on the same Sept. 26 card to set up this fight.
“I know Nery is a tough fighter, maybe my toughest test to date,” Figueroa said. “I’m 24 now, so it’s time for me to start fighting these world class fighters and prove to myself that I belong in there with the best fighters.”
The winner is committed to facing Fulton (19-0, 8 KOs), 26, of Philadelphia, in a Showtime main event on Sept. 11 to unify three belts.
Nery and Figueroa, however, both claimed they are not thinking about Fulton, at least not yet.
“I really could not care less about Fulton being ringside on (Saturday),” Nery said. “He’s a blabbermouth anyway. What I am focused on is beating Brandon Figueroa. The time will come to worry about Stephen Fulton. But for right now, I do not care about him.”
Said Figueroa, “I know Stephen Fulton is lined up for the winner of this fight, but I’m preparing 110 percent for Nery. I know he’s not just any fighter, so I’m doing everything I can to come away with the win.”
When I was in Arlington, Texas, last week covering the Canelo Alvarez-Billy Joe Saunders super middleweight unification fight, I had a chance to talk at length with former four-division titlist Mikey Garcia, who updated me on the ongoing talks for a fight between him and Manny Pacquiao.
Garcia, who hasn’t fought since outpointing Jessie Vargas on Feb. 29, 2020, is anxious to get back in the ring and hopes it will be against Pacquiao, although he is ready to seek another fight if they can’t finalize a deal soon.
I wrote a piece on my interview with Garcia. It is my first piece for Word Boxing News, a website I have made a deal with to contributing stories regularly. Please read the story here: https://www.worldboxingnews.net/2021/05/12/exclusive-mikey-garcia-manny-pacquiao/
Charlo site, undercard set
WBC middleweight titlist Jermall Charlo’s hometown defense in Houston against Juan Macias Montiel on June 19 (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET) will take place at the Toyota Center, TGB Promotions and the network announced on Wednesday.
“It’s great to be back in the ring, headlining on Showtime and defending my title in front of my hometown fans in Houston,” Charlo said. “Fighting on Juneteenth means a lot to me because there is a battle going on far greater than this. That said, I have to handle my business on June 19. Montiel is a tough, young, power puncher. I know he wants my crown, but I’m hungrier than ever and ready to put on a show for my fans.”
Charlo (31-0, 22 KOs), 30, will be making his fourth defense — his second in Houston — when he faces heavy underdog Montiel (22-4-2, 22 KOs), 27, of Mexico,
“I know that I am fighting the best middleweight in the world, but he has never faced someone who can punch like I can,” Montiel said. “All my losses in the past are from not training properly and trying to win by one-punch knockout. I’ve grown up and become a man since then.”
Also announced was a pair of televised undercard bouts.
Lightweight contender Isaac Cruz (21-1-1, 15 KOs), 22, of Mexico, will face former junior lightweight titlist Francisco Vargas (27-2-2, 19 KOs), 36, of Mexico, in the 10-round co-feature.
“Me and Vargas are going to show the fans true Mexican-style boxing,” Cruz said. “He is also from Mexico City, so I know this fight will be toe-to-toe. It’s my time to show the fans that I’m the best Mexican lightweight in the world. In with the new, and out with the old.”
Vargas won the 2015 fight of the year and a 130-pound title from Takashi Miura and fought to a draw in title defense against Orlando Salido in the 2016 fight of the year.
“I only know how to fight wars and the fans should expect nothing less on June 19,” Vargas said. “I am a warrior, and people are going to remember the reasons why I was in two fight of the year battles when they see me in the ring with Isaac Cruz.”
The opener will pit former junior featherweight titlist Angelo Leo (20-1, 9 KOs), 26, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, against southpaw Aaron Alameda (25-1, 13 KOs), 27, of Mexico, in a 10-rounder. Leo will be fighting for the first time since losing his belt by unanimous decision in his first defense to Stephen Fulton on Jan. 23.
“I wasn’t the same fighter in my last fight, as I was when I won the title,” Leo said. “That’s given me a big chip on my shoulder. I figured out my mistakes and learned a lot about myself. I’m here to show people that I’m still a top contender and a threat in this division. Alameda is a real contender and he’s not an opponent I’m taking lightly.”
Alameda is also coming off a decision loss, dropping a vacant junior featherweight title bout to Luis Nery in September.
“I showed that I belong with the best in my last fight against Luis Nery, and I will be even better against Leo,” Alameda said. “My goal is to become world champion and I plan on displaying everything I’ve worked on in this fight. I’m excited to battle Leo and give the fans a great show.”
While there were reports on Wednesday that a deal had been struck for Javier Fortuna and Joseph Diaz Jr. to meet in a lightweight fight on a Golden Boy card on DAZN on July 9, the fight is by no means a done deal, Fortuna promoter Sampson Lewkowicz told Fight Freaks Unite.
Lewkowicz said although he has discussed the possible fight with Golden Boy president Eric Gomez, they are nowhere near a deal yet. Lewkowicz added that if they can make the fight, Gomez told him the date is more likely July 24 and not July 9.
The card would also include the Golden Boy debut of recently signed light heavyweight contender and former super middleweight titlist Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez (41-0, 27 KOs), 29, of Mexico.
“We didn’t talk about the money and Eric doesn’t even know the exact date yet, so that (report) means absolutely nothing,” Lewkowicz. “We had a conversation but I have no contract, no precise date. But we do have interest in fighting anyone who has the balls to fight Fortuna and that is the truth. For everyone Fortuna is the B side but none of the A sides want to fight him.”
Lewkowicz is disappointed and frustrated that WBC interim lightweight titlist Ryan Garcia (21-0, 18 KOs) withdrew from a July 9 DAZN headliner against Fortuna, citing the need to address mental health issues. In the past 18 months or so, former secondary junior lightweight titlist Fortuna (36-2-1, 25 KOs), 31, of the Dominican Republic, has either been ordered by a sanctioning body to fight or had a fight set against Garcia, Devin Haney, Jorge Linares and Luke Campbell but none have come off.
Diaz (31-1-1, 15 KOs), 28, of South El Monte, California, won a junior lightweight belt by upset decision over Tevin Farmer in January 2020 but was stripped ahead of his first defense for not making weight for a mandatory against Shavkatszhon Rakhimov on Feb. 13. The fight went ahead anyway with only Rakhimov eligible to win the vacant title but they fought to a majority draw.
Ken Burns’ Ali documentary
PBS on Wednesday announced it will air the four-part, eight-hour documentary “Muhammad Ali,” which was directed and executive produced by famed filmmaker Ken Burns, from Sept. 19 to Sept. 22 (8 p.m.-10 p.m.). The series, in development for six years, according to PBS, “follows the life of one of the most consequential men of the 20th century, a three-time heavyweight boxing champion who captivated billions of fans with his combination of speed, agility and power in the ring, and his charm, wit and outspokenness outside of it. At the height of his fame, Ali challenged Americans’ racial prejudices, religious biases, and notions about what roles celebrities and athletes play in our society, and inspired people all over the world with his message of pride and self-affirmation.”
The documentary, which also written and co-directed by Sarah Burns and David McMahon, longtime collaborators with Burns, will draw from “an extraordinary trove of archival footage and photographs, contemporary music, and the insights and memories of eyewitnesses — including family and friends, journalists, boxers and historians, among others” to produce a “sweeping portrait of an American icon.”
“Muhammad Ali was the very best at what he did,” said Burns, whose credits also include the acclaimed boxing documentary ‘Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson.’ “He was arguably America’s greatest athlete, and his unflinching insistence that he be unabashedly himself at all times made him a beacon for generations of people around the world seeking to express their own humanity.”
The Ali documentary includes interviews with Ali’s daughters Hana Ali and Rasheda Ali, his second wife Khalilah Ali, his third wife Veronica Porche, and his brother and confidant Rahaman Ali. Others appearing in the film include activist and former basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, longtime Ali promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank, journalist and Ali biographer Jonathan Eig, former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes, childhood friend Alice Houston, sportswriter Jerry Izenberg, civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, friend and business manager Gene Kilroy, sportswriter Dave Kindred, promoter Don King and many others.
Junior middleweight Charles Conwell (14-0 ,11 KOs), 23, a 2016 U.S. Olympian from Cleveland, and one of boxing’s top up-and-comers, has recovered from a hand injury that forced him out of a fight with Ivan Golub that was due to headline the April 8 edition of NBC Sports Net’s Ring City USA. Now that he is good to go, Conwell has been added to the undercard of the Triller Fight Club pay-per-view card on June 19 in Miami headlined by the unified lightweight world champion Teofimo Lopez’s mandatory title defense against George Kambosos, sources told Fight Freaks Unite. According to the sources, Conwell is going to face Mark DeLuca (27-2, 15 KOs), 33, of Whitman, Massachusetts, who has won three in a row since a seventh-round knockout loss to Kell Brook in February 2020. Another prospect is also due to be on the show, according to one of the sources: junior welterweight Keyshawn Davis (3-0, 2 KOs), 22, of Norfolk, Virginia, who is coming off a six-round decision win over Jose Antonio Meza on the Canelo Alvarez-Billy Joe Saunders card on Saturday.
Super middleweight David Lemieux (42-4, 35 KOs), 32, of Montreal, a former middleweight titlist, has parted ways with Golden Boy Promotions, his longtime co-promoter, a source with knowledge of the split told Fight Freaks Unite. Golden Boy has released a handful of fighters in recent weeks as it thins its roster. Lemieux remains with Eye of the Tiger and has is scheduled for his third super middleweight bout against David Zegarra (34-4, 21 KOs), 36, of Peru, in a 10-rounder that headlines a June 4 card in Cuernavaca, Mexico.
Universum Box-Promotion, representing Jeremias Ponce (27-0, 17 KOs), 24, of Argentina, informed the IBF on Tuesday that it has made a deal for Ponce to face Matchroom Boxing’s Lewis Ritson (21-1, 12 KOs), 27, of England, in a junior welterweight final elimination bout. That means the purse bid scheduled for May 25 has been canceled. The promoters informed the IBF the bout would take place June 12 on a Matchroom Boxing card. The winner will become one of the mandatory challengers for the winner of the May 22 undisputed title fight between Jose Ramirez and Josh Taylor.
All Star Boxing announced that junior flyweights Jonathan “Bomba” Gonzalez (23-3-1 13 KOs), of Puerto Rico, and Armando Torres (26-18, 19 KOs), of Mexico, who has won five fights in a row, will meet in the 10-round main event of the “Boxeo Telemundo” card on May 21 (Telemundo, 12 a.m. ET) at the Bryan Glazer Jewish Community Center in Tampa.
Show and tell
On April 3, junior lightweight world titlist Jamel Herring and former two-division titlist Carl Frampton met in their long delayed showdown. Herring put on a dominating performance, dropping Frampton in the fifth and sixth rounds en route to a sixth-round stoppage victory. It was Herring’s career-best performance and sent Frampton into retirement after an outstanding 12-year career. The fight took place before a very limited crowd at Caesars Bluewaters Dubai in Dubai, United Arab Emirates but organizers produced a colorful four-page program on heavy paper stock. A friend of mine was on site and mailed one to me. It took a few weeks to arrive but it did. Here’s the program, which is now in my boxing collection.
Nery photo: Amanda Westcott/Showtime; Ali photo: Michael Gaffney