Notebook: Plant-Truax, TV undercard official
Top Rank, Queensberry sign top amateurs & more
Super middleweight world titlist Caleb Plant will make his third defense when he takes on former titlist and mandatory challenger Caleb Truax on Jan. 30 in a fight Premier Boxing Champions formally announced on Tuesday, even though it has been scheduled since mid-December.
The fight will headline a PBC on Fox card (8 p.m. ET) at the Shrine Auditorium and Expo Hall in Los Angeles, where no spectators will be permitted due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m facing Caleb Truax who is going to be coming with everything he’s got, so I’ll be prepared to go to battle with everything that I got,’’ Plant said. “Everyone knows I’m on a mission to be the first undisputed super middleweight champion in boxing history. With that being said, fans can expect to see me at my absolute best. This fight ends in a knockout.”
Truax will be Plant’s second mandatory defense in a row but a win would free him for a potential big-money unification fight with Canelo Alvarez later in the year if Alvarez makes a deal with PBC. He is in talks with PBC and Matchroom Boxing.
Plant (20-0, 12 KOs), 28, of Las Vegas, has won both of his defenses by knockout, stopping Mike Lee in the third round in July 2019 and mandatory challenger Vincent Feigenbutz in the 10th round on Feb. 15 in Nashville, the region where Plant grew up.
Truax (31-4-2, 19 KOs), 32, of Osseo, Minnesota, won a majority decision over James DeGale on DeGale’s home turf in London to take his belt in a major upset in December 2017. DeGale outpointed him in an immediate rematch in Las Vegas in April 2018. Since then Truax is 2-0 with a no contest and aiming to reclaim his old belt.
“I’m hungry and I’m treating this like my last opportunity to win my title back,” Truax said. “I’m going in as the underdog, but I’ve been in that position before and I’ve beaten the odds.”
PBC also announced two undercard bouts that will be on Fox.
In the 10-round heavyweight co-feature, Michael Coffie (11-0, 8 KOs), 34, of Brooklyn, New York, will take on Darmani Rock (17-0, 12 KOs), 24, of Philadelphia.
"I think this is going to be a really good fight. We match up with our physical stature both height and weight. It should be a tough and gritty fight for the fans," Coffie said. "My thought is that Rock is a good fighter. He has never been put in a position where he has had to dig deep. I feel like that I always have had to dig deep because I never had a huge amateur background. Every fight I have had to will myself. A win will be another step closer to fighting the fights that people want to see.”
Rock has not boxed since October 2019 and recently split from Roc Nation Sports when it closed its boxing division.
“The layoff might have a little impact on me, but I don’t think it will be a big problem. I just got to do what I got to do,’’ Rock said. “I don’t really know much about him. I know he looks strong. The main thing I have to do is get the feel back and listen to my corner. I want to be as busy as possible this year and make up for that year layoff that I had and stay in shape.”
In the opener, junior middleweight Joey Spencer (11-0, 8 KOs), 20, a Linden, Michigan, native, will fight Isiah Seldon (14-3-1, 5 KOs), 32, of Somers Point, New Jersey, the son of former heavyweight titlist Bruce Seldon, in an eight-rounder.
Top Rank signs Isley
Top Rank announced Tuesday that middleweight Troy Isley, 22, an amateur standout from Alexandria, Virginia, has signed a multi-year deal to be co-promoted by Top Rank and Antonio Leonard. Isley will make his professional debut Feb. 13 on the undercard of the Joe Smith Jr.-Maxim Vlasov vacant light heavyweight world title fight.
Isley, a bronze medalist at the 2017 world amateur championships, is trained by Kay Koroma, a longtime U.S. amateur and head trainer for Shakur Stevenson. Koroma, who is based in Northern Virginia, has trained Isley since he entered the Alexandria Boxing Club at age 9.
“I’m ready to turn over a new leaf,” Isley said. “I wanted to go to the Olympics, but I did everything an amateur could possibly do. I want to hit the pro scene, showcase my talents, and pursue a world title. I naturally have a pro style. I can box when I want to box. If I have to fight on the inside, I can do that as well. I’ve fought every style, so I feel like I’ll be able to adjust to anything.”
Top Rank chairman Bob Arum was pleased to add another young prospect to his stable.
“We’ve been following Troy’s progress, and we believe he’s one of the very best amateurs this country has produced in quite some time,” Arum said.
Isley’s dream of making the 2020 U.S. Olympic team ended with two losses at the Team Trials but his list of accolades is notable. He won gold at the 2016 and 2017 U.S. Championships, bronze at the 2019 Pan American Games and silver at the 2016 National Golden Gloves. He owns wins against Devin Haney, Israil Madrimov, Austin “Ammo” Williams and Sebastian Fundora.
Teofimo conqueror goes pro
Promoter Queensberry Poland on Tuesday announced it has signed French amateur standout Sofiane Oumiha 26, who claimed the 2016 Olympic lightweight silver medal, defeating unified lightweight world champion Teofimo Lopez in the round of 32. Oumiha remained amateur following the Olympics and won a 2017 amateur world championship gold medal.
“We are hopeful that Sofiane can start winning championships and climbing the rankings early in his career,” promoter Francis Warren said. “Queensberry Poland is a great launching pad for his career as he’ll start with TV exposure right away. We are always looking for exciting talent, amateur or professional, and Sofiane is a prime example of that. His experience beating the very best means we can take the Vasyl Lomachenko fast-track route towards a world title.
“The Lightweight division is the hottest in boxing and very soon Sofiane will be mixing and beating those elite fighters. His raw talent is a very rare gift and I’d be comfortable matching him against names like (WBC titlist) Devin Haney very soon. And, of course, I’m sure Lopez will want to settle the score."
Diaz-Rakhimov title bout back on
Initially, the fight between junior lightweight world titlist Joseph Diaz Jr. and mandatory challenger Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov was called off after Rakhimov tested positive for Covid-19 about a week ago. However, after two negative tests in recent days, the Feb. 13 (DAZN) fight is back on. For all the details check out the story I wrote for BoxingScene.com: https://www.boxingscene.com/joseph-diaz-shavkatdzhon-rakhimov-title-fight-back-on--154824
‘Tank’ speaks out
I recently had an extensive interview with lightweight star Gervonta “Tank” Davis. We covered a lot of ground, including his desire to fight Ryan Garcia next and what he thinks about potential bouts with unified world champion Teofimo Lopez Jr. and titlist Devin Haney, and his memories of sparring both of them several years ago. Check it out on BoxingScene.com: https://www.boxingscene.com/gervonta-davis-on-sparring-teofimo-haney-pushing-fight-with-ryan-garcia--154770
The deal is not done yet but heavyweight up-and-comers Filip Hrgovic (12-0, 10 KOs), 28, of Croatia, and Martin Bakole (16-1, 12 KOs), 27, of England, are finalizing a deal to fight in the spring, possibly April 17 or April 24, according to a source with knowledge of the details. Hrgovic, a 2016 Olympic bronze medalist, became the first to stop veteran Rydell Booker, doing so in the fifth round in his last fight in November. Bakole, whose lone loss came by 10th-round stoppage to Michael Hunter in 2018, has won five in a row since, including a unanimous decision over Sergey Kuzmin on Dec. 12 on the Anthony Joshua-Kubrat Pulev undercard.
One of the names I was told was in the running to face Adrien Broner in the Showtime main event Feb. 13 was Argentina’s Juan Jose Velasco (22-2, 14 KOs), 33, who won two fights in 2020 following back-to-back stoppage losses to Regis Prograis in 2018 and Mario Barrios in 2019. However, he apparently is no longer the focus and instead will fight Zachary Ochoa (21-1, 7 KOs), 28, of Brooklyn, New York, in a junior welterweight undercard bout, Velasco promoter Sampson Lewkowicz told Fight Freaks Unite. That eight-rounder won’t be part of Showtime’s telecast but if somebody is forced out of the main event or the junior welterweight co-feature involving Robert Easter Jr., Velasco or Ochoa will be on standby. Broner (33-4-1, 24 KOs) was supposed to face Pedro Campa (31-1-1, 21 KOs) but he fell off the card (which hasn’t been formally announced) after testing positive for Covid-19.
While Showtime will televise a tripleheader on Saturday night from the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, topped by junior featherweight world titlist Angelo Leo’s mandatory defense against Stephen Fulton, a fourth bout is on the card that won’t be televised. It’s an eight-round junior featherweight fight between McJoe Arroyo (18-3, 8 KOs) and Sharone Carter (11-3, 3 KOs) that will also serve as insurance in case one of the fighters is forced out of the main event or the Raeese Aleem-Vic Pasillas co-feature for a vacant interim junior featherweight title.
I’ve been told there’s a Feb. 17 “ShoBox” card in the works for the Mohegan Sun that is slated to be headlined by a welterweight fight between Tampa’s Mark Reyes Jr. (14-0, 12 KOs), 24, and Janelson Bocachica (16-0, 11 KOs), 22, of Detroit.
While Canelo Alvarez is the WBC/WBA and Ring magazine super middleweight champion following his one-sided decision over Callum Smith last month, the WBA eliminated the interim tag from David Morrell and elevated him to its secondary titlist while also ordering him to face mandatory challenger John Ryder (29-5, 16 KOs), 32, of England, on Tuesday. Morrell (4-0, 3 KOs), 23, a Cuba native fighting out of Minneapolis, claimed the vacant interim belt by decision against Lennox Allen in August and scored a third-round knockout of club fighter Mike Gavronski in a nontitle bout Dec. 26. It was changed from a title defense at the last minute because of Morrell’s problems making weight. The WBA gave Morrell co-promoters Warriors Boxing and Ural Boxing 30 days to make a deal with Ryder promoter Matchroom Boxing or the fight will go to a purse bid.
Weights from Mohegan Sun Arena for the “ShoBox: The New Generation” tripleheader on Wednesday (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET/PT) as the series begins its 20th year: Yeis Solano 139.5 pounds, Mykquan Williams 139.5; Jose Nunez 127.25, Aram Avagyan 128; Martino Jules 126.25, Pedro Marquez 126.25.
Photo: Stephanie Trapp/TGB Promotions