Notebook: Spence-Crawford close as PBC targets November, works on undercard
Diaz-Zepeda lightweight fight set for DAZN; Estrada-Gonzalez III in works; Fundora to headline Showtime tripleheader; Jake Paul shows generous side; Quick hits; Show and tell
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A deal for a unification fight between three-belt welterweight titlist Errol Spence Jr. and titleholder Terence Crawford for the undisputed championship — the most in-demand fight in boxing today — is nearing completion and penciled in to take place either Nov. 12 or Nov. 19 in Las Vegas, multiple sources told Fight Freaks Unite, although Premier Boxing Champions is still exploring other potential venues.
The fight has been in high demand for the past few years but became much more realistic after Crawford stopped PBC fighter and former titlist Shawn Porter in the 10th round in November in Las Vegas and then became a promotional free agent because it was the final fight on his contract with PBC rival Top Rank.
Crawford (38-0, 29 KOs), 34, of Omaha, Nebraska, has been in talks with PBC boss Al Haymon over the past few months as they try to make a fight that Spence and Crawford have long said they wanted. The fight would not only be for the undisputed 147-pound crown but the winner would likely earn wide recognition as boxing’s pound-for-pound king.
According to sources, PBC believes it is so close to finalizing the deal that it is already looking at possibilities for the undercard of what will likely be a Showtime PPV event.
One of the fighters likely to appear on the pay-per-view is WBA “regular” welterweight titlist Eimantas Stanionis (14-0, 9 KOs), 27, of Lithuania, who probably would face contender Cody Crowley (21-0, 9 KOs), 29, a Canadian southpaw, in a fight that shapes up as an action scrap.
Stanionis, who is the WBA mandatory challenger for the Spence-Crawford winner, claimed the secondary belt by split decision over Radzhab Butaev on the undercard of Spence’s last fight, a 10th-round knockout of Yordenis Ugas to unify three welterweight titles on April 16.
Also on that card, Crowley was very sharp in one-sided decision win over former title challenger Josesito Lopez.
In the ring after knocking out Ugas, Spence (28-0, 22 KOs), 32, of DeSoto, Texas, said he wanted Crawford next and has reiterated that over and over.
In mid-May, for example, during an interview with Showtime’s Jim Gray during the network’s broadcast of the rematch between Jermell Charlo-Brian Castano for the undisputed junior middleweight title, Spence said of the Crawford fight, “I think it’s gonna happen. It’s a fight I definitely want. I definitely want it this year. So, hopefully, we can make it happen. But I think we can make it happen because I want it, he want it. I think we can come to terms and we can fight this year.
“It’s just talking stages right now. We’re talking about it now, but he definitely wants the fight. Al told me he definitely wants the fight and he’s been vocal about wanting the fight. I called him out this year after my fight (against Ugas). I said that’s the guy I want to fight. It’s for undisputed. It’s the biggest fight in boxing. I feel like a lot of fans want to see it. It’s a huge fight for both of us. I don’t see any stumbling blocks. I want it. He want it. I got three belts, he got the one belt. That’s the only belt I need to become undisputed welterweight champion of the world. That’s been something I’ve been very adamant about (doing). It’s something I really want to do, so we’re gonna get it done.”
Crawford has also said he wants the fight time and again. When asked about his desire for it during an interview on “The DAZN Boxing Show” in June, Crawford said, “Hopefully. That’s the plan — for us to get the job done on the business side and to be able to share the ring and put on a great performance for each and every one of you guys who want to see us share the ring together. I think the time now is the best time because it’s for all the marbles. Errol Spence got three of the titles, I got one. It would be for undisputed. I feel like this is the biggest moment for us two to fight.”
Diaz-Zepeda to headline on DAZN
Lightweight contenders Joseph “JoJo” Diaz Jr. and William Zepeda will meet in a 12-round fight that will headline a Golden Boy Promotions card on DAZN on Nov. 5, they announced on Monday.
No site has been finalized, but Diaz manager Rick Mirigian told Fight Freaks Unite the fight will be in Las Vegas or Southern California.
With undisputed champion Devin Haney headed to an October rematch with George Kambosos Jr. there are no title bouts available for the top contenders for the rest of the year, but the Diaz-Zepeda winner will at least emerge as a serious candidate to land one when it becomes available.
Former junior lightweight titleholder Diaz (32-2-1, 15 KOs), 29, a southpaw from South El Monte, California, is coming off a decision loss to Haney in a WBC lightweight title challenge in December and anxious to get another shot.
“I am very excited to be back in the ring and do what I love,” Diaz said. “I’m going to take on the toughest challenge that will bring out the best in me. I’m going to show the shrimp what it's like to swim with the sharks.”
Zepeda (26-0, 23 KOs), 26, a southpaw from Mexico, has been scoring one knockout after another, although his streak of 15 in a row came to an end on May 14 when he handily outpointed former junior lightweight titleholder Rene Alvarado over 10 rounds.
“I am ready to dance with ‘JoJo’ and give him trouble,” said Zepeda, who will be taking on by far the most notable opponent of his seven-year professional career.
Golden Boy CEO Oscar De La Hoya said the match lives up to his longtime mantra of matching his fights in legitimate fights.
“This fight proves that Golden Boy Promotions isn’t scared to put its fighters in tough matches to give fight fans the boxing entertainment they’re looking for,” De La Hoya said. “JoJo Diaz Jr. and William Zepeda are both hungry fighters ready to put their reputation on the line to prove they are worthy contenders in the lightweight division. Both are aggressive southpaw fighters who come forward and are unafraid to give fans a show.”
Estrada vs. Chocolatito III?
In May, junior bantamweight champion Juan Francisco Estrada and secondary titlist Joshua Franco signed for a WBA mandatory fight after Golden Boy, Franco’s promoter at the time, won the purse bid. Golden Boy was planning to put the fight on July 16 but it did not come off.
Now, it appears as though it will not happen at all with Estrada planning to vacate the belt to instead face rival and four-division champion Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez in a rubber match, a source with knowledge of the plans told Fight Freaks Unite.
Estrada (42-3, 28 KOs), 32, of Mexico, plans to take a tune-up fight in September and then face Gonzalez in December, the source said. Estrada and Gonzalez are both aligned with DAZN.
When Estrada vacates, the WBA would elevate Franco (18-1-2, 8 KOs), 26, of San Antonio, who became a promotional free agent last month after the expiration of his Golden Boy deal, manager Rick Mirigian told Fight Freaks Unite.
Estrada has not fought since a controversial split decision win over Gonzalez to unify the WBC and WBA 115-pound titles in March 2021 in a contender for fight of the year. He later vacated the WBC belt and was given the “franchise” title.
The third fight between Estrada and Gonzalez was initially ticketed for this past October but postponed when Gonzalez came down with Covid-19. It was then scheduled for March 5 in San Diego but called off six weeks beforehand when Estrada pulled out after contracting Covid-19.
Gonzalez (51-3, 41 KOs), 35, of Nicaragua, instead faced late replacement Julio Cesar Martinez, the WBC flyweight titlist, who moved up for the fight, and dominated him in a lopsided decision win.
In their first meeting in 2012, Gonzalez and Estrada produced a barnburner in which Gonzalez won a decision to retain his junior flyweight title.
Fundora to top Showtime tripleheader
Sebastian Fundora will defend the WBC interim junior middleweight title against an opponent to be determined on Oct. 8 in the main event of a Showtime tripleheader, a source with knowledge of the plans told Fight Freaks Unite. The site has not been determined.
Fundora (19-0-1, 13 KOs), 24, a southpaw from Coachella, California, claimed the vacant interim belt by ninth-round knockout of Erickson Lubin on April 9 in a fight of the year candidate in which both fighters were knocked down.
The card will also feature a middleweight fight between Carlos Adames (21-1, 16 KOs), 28, of the Dominican Republic, and Juan Macias Montiel (23-5-2, 23 KOs), 28, of Mexico, the source said.
Adames is coming off his biggest win via 10-round decision over three-time title challenger Sergiy Derevyanchenko in December. Macias has won his only fight since showing enormous heart in a lopsided decision loss challenging WBC titlist Jermall Charlo 14 months ago.
The third fight on the telecast will be an immediate rematch between IBF junior bantamweight titlist Fernando Martinez and Jerwin Ancajas, multiple sources said.
Martinez (14-0, 8 KOs), 31, of Argentina, scored a wide decision over Ancajas (33-2-2, 22 KOs), 30, of the Philippines, to claim the 115-pound title in an upset on Feb. 26. Ancajas had held the belt since 2016 and made nine successful defenses.
Flyweight Gabriela Fundora (8-0, 4 KOs), 20, of Coachella, California, who is Sebastian’s sister, will also appear on the undercard against an opponent to be determined.
Jake Paul’s generosity
In the wake of Jake Paul canceling his fight with Hasim Rahman Jr. due to Rahman’s inability/refusal to make the 200-pound contract weight — which had already been moved up five more pounds to 205 to accommodate him — Paul announced he will at least partially compensate the fighters who were scheduled to appear in bouts on the non-pay-per-view portion of what was supposed to have been a Showtime PPV card this past Saturday night at Madison Square Garden in New York.
“The undercard boxers who were set to fight (Saturday) as part of the Jake Paul & Amanda Serrano MVP event spent countless hours training both physically and mentally to prepare to fight on one of the biggest stages of their careers,” Paul’s MVP Promotions said in a statement. “These undercard fighters abided by the terms of their contracts and Jake and MVP are extremely disappointed that the event cancellation adversely impacted them.
“Amanda Serrano, Ashton Sylve and Brandun Lee are in the process of rescheduling their bouts against their respective opponents. All other undercard fighters of the event will be receiving a payment directly from Jake Paul of 50% of their contracted purse amount and are free of any contractual obligations to the promotion.
“We remain committed to ensuring fair fighter compensation and look forward to putting together our next event.”
Paul was under no obligation to pay anything to the boxers and it is unheard of for a promoter to pay fighters a portion of their purse if there is no event. Paul has been an outspoken advocate for fair fighter pay, especially as it relates to the UFC.
Oscar Rivas’ first WBC bridgerweight title defense against Poland’s Luckaz Rozanski (14-0, 13 KOs), 36, will be rescheduled for Oct. 15 in Cali, Colombia, a source with knowledge of the plans told Fight Freaks Unite. The fight, a homecoming for Rivas (28-1, 19 KOs), 35, who is from Cali but has boxed his entire career out of Montreal, was initially slated for Aug. 13 in Cali. However, on July 25 promoter Yvon Michel announced the card was postponed and that a new date would be forthcoming.
Probellum and promoter Lou DiBella, who announced a promotional alliance in February that Probellum hailed as “a landmark day” for the company in a deal under which it would co-promote about a dozen DiBella fighters, have dramatically amended the agreement, sources told Fight Freaks Unite. Probellum has amicably released most of the fighters involved, although three DiBella fighters in the deal will continue to be co-promoted by Probellum: Bakhodir Jalolov (11-0, 11 KOs), the 2020 Olympic super heavyweight gold medalist from Uzbekistan; junior middleweight Charles Conwell (17-0, 13 KOs), a 2016 U.S. Olympian; and women’s heavyweight titleholder Hanna Gabriels (21-2-1, 12 KOs) of Costa Rica.
Show and tell
Brazilian star Acelino “Popo” Freitas is my second all-time favorite fighter behind the late Arturo Gatti. I even named two of my beloved cats (who sadly died in recent years), Popo and Thunder after them. The former lightweight and junior lightweight titleholder was charismatic, exciting and for pure one-punch power one of the biggest hitters of the early 2000s. Having covered some of his fights and having also gotten to know him a bit, he is a very nice and humble guy. His most significant win was a decision victory over Joel Casamayor to unify junior lightweight titles in a fight between unbeaten champions, but his most exciting and dramatic victory came 19 months later. Freitas was at his peak when he defended the unified 130-pound belts against Jorge Barrios in Miami in a fight that was also a major nationalistic rivalry bout pitting Brazil against Argentina, Barrios’ home country.
They put on an awesome battle in which Freitas badly cut Barrios, who at one point used the shirt of referee Jorge Alonso to wipe away the blood pouring from his cuts in an unforgettable moment. Freitas got knocked down in the eighth and 11th rounds but he also dropped the battered and bleeding Barrios at the end of the 11th and again in the 12th round, securing the knockout victory at 50 seconds of the final round of a fight that was a split draw going into the 12th round. It was one of the best fights of the 2000s and it took place on Aug. 9, 2003 — 19 years ago on Tuesday. Here is a beautiful glossy and scarce site poster in my collection.
Estrada-Gonzalez II photo: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom Boxing; Fundora photo: Esther Lin/Showtime; Paul photo: Amanda Westcott/Showtime
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fingers crossed for Crawford vs Spence, this year for boxing has been best in a long time.