Notebook: Taylor eyes undisputed 140 champ Cameron for May 20
Callum Smith fight canceled; Tszyu-Harrison update; Zayas has big 2023 goals; Kambosos fight in works; Quick hits; Show and tell
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Undisputed women’s lightweight champion Katie Taylor still hopes to fight on May 20 despite undisputed featherweight champion Amanda Serrano being forced to postpone their rematch this week due to injury, and she apparently has a willing opponent.
If Taylor has her way she will move up to junior welterweight and challenge Chantelle Cameron, who is the undisputed women’s champion in that division, on May 20 instead.
Taylor and seven-division champion Serrano (44-2-1, 30 KOs) were scheduled to meet May 20 on DAZN in a heavily anticipated rematch of their instant-classic fight on April 30 at sold-out Madison Square Garden in New York. Taylor won a narrow split decision to retain her titles and after each woman fought again — Taylor once and Serrano twice — the rematch was announced following Serrano’s bloody unanimous decision win over Erika Cruz to fully unify the featherweight division on Feb. 4.
The rematch was due to take place at a site to be determined in Dublin, Ireland in what would have been Irish national hero Taylor’s first pro fight at home. But with Serrano out for May, Taylor (22-0, 6 KOs), 36, still wants to fight and posted a message on her Instagram page calling out Cameron and imploring her promoter, Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing, to save the date.
“Let’s get it done Eddie Hearn, this homecoming has waited long enough! 3Arena Dublin is available so let’s give Ireland a night to remember on May 20th,” Taylor wrote. “Let’s go Chantelle Cameron, happy to move up in weight for the opportunity to become a two weight undisputed champ.”
Cameron (17-0, 8 KOs), 31, of England, quickly responded to Taylor, posting a mock poster of their would-be fight on Instagram and writing, “Katie Taylor, I’m more than happy to accept!! Like you, I only want to fight the best. I’m not difficult to deal with so this fight can be signed, sealed and delivered in 24hours. Let's go!”
Among those she tagged in her response are the dealmakers who can make it happen: DAZN, Matchroom Boxing and Hearn.
If the fight does happen it won’t be Taylor’s first foray into the junior welterweight division. The long-reigning lightweight champion made a one-fight step up to 140 pounds in 2019 and outpointed Christina Linardatou to take her WBO title before vacating and returning to lightweight.
Cameron, who held the WBC and IBF titles at 140 pounds, outpointed Jessica McCaskill in November in Dubai to retain her two belts and win the vacant WBO and WBA titles to become the undisputed champion.
Callum Smith fight off
Callum Smith, a former super middleweight champion and current WBC light heavyweight mandatory challenger, suffered an undisclosed injury and his fight with Pawel Stepien was canceled on Thursday, Matchroom Boxing announced.
The rest of the card will still go on March 11 (DAZN) at M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool, England. The two top fights, both scheduled 10-rounders, move up the card with super middleweight up-and-comer Diego Pacheco (17-0, 14 KOs), 21, of Los Angeles, defending a regional title against Jack Cullen (21-3-1, 9 KOs), 29, of England, in the main event position and junior welterweight Robbie Davies Jr. (23-3, 15 KOs), 33, who is from Liverpool, taking on Darragh Foley (21-4-1, 9 KOs), 34, an Irish southpaw, now the co-feature.
Smith (29-1, 21 KOs), 32, was to have boxed in his hometown against Stepien (18-0-1, 12 KOs), 32, of Poland, ahead of a probable mandatory challenge against three-belt unified light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev later this year.
Showtime’s Tszyu-Harrison plans
Showtime has outlined its coverage plans for the Tim Tszyu-Tony Harrison WBO interim junior middleweight title fight, which will take place on March 12 (March 11 on Showtime in the United States) at Qudos Bank Arena in Tszyu’s hometown of Sydney.
Showtime will air just the main event live at 10:45 p.m. ET that Saturday night; it will be Sunday afternoon in Sydney.
Undisputed junior middleweight champion Jermell Charlo, who had to pull out of a January mandatory defense against Tszyu because of a broken hand and must next face the Tszyu-Harrison winner (probably this summer) next, will be part of the broadcast team. He will join Brian Custer, Al Bernstein and Abner Mares, who will call the fight from the CBS Studios in New York.
Tszyu (21-0, 15 KOs), 28, and Harrison (29-3-1, 21 KOs), 32, who is the only man to defeat Charlo, with whom he has split two bouts, are primed for the fight.
“I can’t underestimate Tony Harrison, but with the way I’ve been training, I’m extremely confident that I'm going to give my fans a big KO victory,” Tszyu said. “Full credit to him for taking the challenge and coming to Australia, but he's going home empty-handed. It’s exciting that my fans in the U.S. will be able to watch this matchup on Showtime and I hope they're ready to see a great atmosphere and a thrilling fight.”
Said Harrison, who arrived in Sydney a few days ago, “I’m here on a mission. My only focus is on Tim Tszyu. I'm extremely confident in my abilities and in my training, but I know Tim is going to be tough competition. I can’t wait to see the crowd all out there to support him because I’m going to give them no choice but to love me too. I hope he’s ready for 12 grueling rounds because I’m ready to go as long as he can last.”
Zayas aims for big 2023
Blue chip junior middleweight prospect Xander Zayas and his team expect that he will eventually win a world title but for now he is focused on becoming a top contender. He hopes that will be the case by the end of the year.
“I am working extremely hard in the gym because I want 2023 to be the year in which I position myself as one of the top contenders in the division,” Zayas said following a recent training session. “I know what I want, and I know what it will cost me to achieve it, but each of the sacrifices I make every day in the gym are paying off, and I do it with the intention of looking better every time I get into the ring.
“That motivates me. I strive to be better every single day because every time I step into the ring, I do it with the intention of raising the flag of my Island even higher."
Zayas (15-0, 10 KOs), 20, a Puerto Rican from Sunrise, Florida, is training for an eight-rounder against Ronald Cruz (18-2-1, 12 KOs), 31, of Los Angeles, that will be the co-feature of the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN+ card headlined by the vacant WBO featherweight title bout between Robeisy Ramirez and Isaac Dogboe on April 1 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“I respect my opponent, Ronald ‘Diablo’ Cruz. He is an experienced rival; he is a former WBC Latino regional champ,” Zayas said. “I know he is motivated and excited for this opportunity. He will bring out the best of me in the ring. Once the bell rings, I’m there to do a job.”
Promoter Lou DiBella is in the process of trying to finalize an IBF lightweight title eliminator for the No. 2 position between former unified champion George Kambosos and Maxie Hughes, who has already signed for the fight. If the Kambosos end is finalized the bout is targeted for May or June at a site to be determined in Kambosos’ home country of Australia. Kambosos (20-2, 10 KOs), 29, has lost two in a row by decision to Devin Haney, first in a unification fight for the undisputed crown in June and in an immediate rematch in October. Hughes (26-5-2, 5 KOs), 32, a southpaw from England, has won seven in a row, most recently a majority 12-round decision over former featherweight titlist Kid Galahad in September.
The IBF on Thursday notified its registered promoters that Top Rank requested an immediate purse bid for the vacant middleweight title fight between Esquiva Falcao and Michael Zerafa and that it’s scheduled for March 14 at 12 p.m. ET at the IBF headquarters in Springfield, New Jersey. They can still make a deal up to 15 minutes before bids are unsealed. The title became vacant when Gennadiy Golovkin, who still holds the WBA belt, vacated last month when it was clear there was little commercial interest in him facing Falcao, the mandatory challenger. Top Rank-promoted Falcao (30-0, 20 KOs), 33, a 2012 Olympic silver medalist, beat Patrice Volny by sixth-round technical decision to become the mandatory in November 2021. Australia’s Zerafa (31-4, 19 KOs), 30, has won four fights in a row since a majority 10-round decision loss to former welterweight titlist Jeff Horn in December 2019.
The IBF this week ordered Melvin Lopez (29-1, 19 KOs), 25, of Nicaragua, and former titlist Emmanuel Rodriguez (21-2, 13 KOs), 30, of Puerto Rico, to begin negotiations for the vacant bantamweight title fight. They have until March 28 to make a deal or a purse bid will be scheduled on a 50-50 split. Previously the IBF ordered the Philippines’ Vincent Astrolabio (18-3, 13 KOs) and Rodriguez to fight for the title but Astrolabio is going in another direction and likely will face Australia’s Jason Moloney (25-2, 19 KOs) for the vacant WBO title. All four 118-pound title became vacant when undisputed champion Naoya Inoue relinquished all of them in January.
Golden Boy has signed Mexican bantamweight Gael Cabrera, 18, who will turn pro on a date to be announced. “They will guide me, they will polish me, and most importantly, they will be by my side to lead me to become one of Mexico's next great fighters,” Cabrera said. “I promise to work hard. I promise to be committed, and I promise to deliver a world title to my family when the opportunity presents itself.” Cabrera, who has been since age 4. He had 200-plus amateur bouts and was a three-time Mexican national champion. “Gael Cabrera has the amateur pedigree and the heart of a champion that we look for in top prospects,” Golden Boy CEO Oscar De La Hoya. “He has been battle-tested amongst the best in his division in the amateurs and has the discipline to continue to improve his craft. We are excited to launch his professional career.”
Showtime will stream three preliminary bouts on the Showtime Sports YouTube channel and Showtime Boxing Facebook page on Saturday (6:30 p.m. ET) before the 9 p.m. ET start of the network tripleheader topped by featherweight Brandon Figueroa versus Mark Magsayo for the vacant WBC interim title at Toyota Arena in Ontario, California. The three bouts: former junior middleweight title challenger Terrell Gausha (22-3-1, 11 KOs) against Brandyn Lynch (12-1-1, 9 KOs) in a 10-rounder; welterweight prospect Travon Marshall (7-0, 6 KOs) versus Justin DeLoach (19-5, 10 KOs) in an eight-rounder; and junior welterweight Enriko Gogogkhia (13-0-2, 8 KOs) against Samuel Teah (18-4-1, 8 KOs) in an eight- or 10-rounder.
Show and tell
After the great Felix Trinidad unified two welterweight titles via controversial majority decision over Oscar De La Hoya, he moved up to junior middleweight and embarked on a devastating three-fight run over ninth months before heading to middleweight. In his first of those three bouts at 154 pounds, Trinidad challenged WBA titleholder David Reid, the undefeated 1996 U.S. Olympic gold medalist, who was making his third defense. Reid gave Trinidad problems early on and dropped him in the third round, but Trinidad changed the fight — and Reid’s career — with his vaunted left hook, knocking him down in the seventh round and delivering a massive beating for the rest of the fight. Trinidad dropped Reid three more times in the 11th round, won a unanimous decision and essentially ended Reid’s career.
A few weeks before the fight, I had been hired as the boxing writer at USA Today but I would not be moving to Virginia to start the job for a few more weeks. I bought the Trinidad-Reid SET PPV (the old name for Showtime PPV) wishing I had already started, but knowing that I’d have a chance to cover future Trinidad fights. I did, covering his next fight and seven of the final eight fights of his career at ringside. Trinidad’s crushing performance against Reid was on March 3, 2000 — 23 years ago on Friday. Here is a scarce site poster from the fight in my collection.
Taylor photo: Mark Robinson Matchroom Boxing; Zayas photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank
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Tszyu Harrison cannot wait wrong city for me to go but it is going to be a great fight