Discover more from Fight Freaks Unite
Notebook: WBC wants Haney pick: Shakur at 135 or Prograis at 140?
DAZN puts out feelers for Munguia-Berlanga; Wilder update; Aug. 12 Showtime tripleheader announced; Top Rank releases Falcao; Quick hits; Show and tell
A note to Fight Freaks Unite readers: I created Fight Freaks Unite in January 2021 and eight months later it also became available for paid subscriptions for additional content — and as a way to help keep this newsletter going and for readers to support independent journalism. If you haven’t upgraded to a paid subscription please consider it. If you have already, I truly appreciate it! Also, consider a gift subscription for the Fight Freak in your life.
The WBC has set a Friday deadline for undisputed lightweight champion Devin Haney to let the organization know whether he plans to remain at lightweight or move up to junior welterweight, WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman told Fight Freaks Unite on Monday.
Haney (30-0, 15 KOs) could ignore the WBC. Even if he fails to respond, vacates or is ultimately stripped, he is still the lineal champion and holds the other three major belts, although the other organizations will also want some clarity as well.
But if Haney does notify the WBC that he plans to stay at lightweight he will be on the clock to make a mandatory defense against former two-division titlist Shakur Stevenson (20-0, 10 KOs) or a purse bid would be ordered.
Former junior lightweight and featherweight titlist Stevenson moved up to lightweight and became the WBC mandatory challenger by knocking out Shuichiro Yoshino in the sixth round in a final eliminator on April 8.
If Haney decides to move up to junior welterweight, he will be the mandatory challenger for WBC titleholder Regis Prograis (29-1, 24 KOs), who will be ordered to face him next. That is a fight Prograis and his promoter, Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing, are interested in making. Haney also seems interested.
Prograis tweeted to Hearn on Monday, “Yoo, Eddie Hearn, I’m fighting Devin Haney in November or what? It’s on you.”
Haney responded to the tweet by writing simply “October.”
There has also been back and forth between Haney and lineal/WBO junior welterweight champion Teofimo Lopez about a possible fight. Haney is a promotional and broadcast free agent. His co-promotional deal with Top Rank and Lou DiBella expired after his last fight and he can go in any direction he prefers — be it remain with Top Rank and fight Lopez, who is also with Top Rank; go back to his former promoter, Matchroom Boxing, for a Prograis fight; or talk to any other promoter with an opponent he is interested in and money to pay him.
Haney is coming off a unanimous decision win over former unified champion Vasiliy Lomachenko on May 20 in their first pay-per-view headliner.
Listen to the new podcast, including my interview with Stephen Fulton
Munguia vs. Berlanga?
While super middleweight contenders Jaime Munguia and Edgar Berlanga would both love a shot at undisputed champion Canelo Alvarez, neither is on track to get one now that Alvarez has signed a three-fight deal with PBC and will now fight on Showtime PPV rather than be promoted by Matchroom Boxing and box on DAZN PPV.
Munguia, who is with Golden Boy, and Berlanga, who is with Matchroom Boxing, both fight on DAZN and the streaming service has begun to lay the groundwork for a fight between them, although it is in the embryonic stages of discussion.
DAZN has reached out to both camps to assess their interest in a fall fight but money has not yet been discussed, sources with knowledge of the particulars told Fight Freaks Unite. Both sides, according to the sources, are interested in the bout as long as they are satisfied with the money.
Keep in mind that when Berlanga signed a three-fight deal with Matchroom Boxing in mid-February one of the big reasons was because Matchroom said it could deliver him a fight with Alvarez, who it had worked with for many fights, that would be worth many millions. But that will not come to pass now that Alvarez has changed promoters and broadcasters.
Munguia (42-0, 33 KOs), 26, of Mexico, and Berlanga (21-0, 16 KOs), 26, a Puerto Rican from Brooklyn, New York, both have fan-friendly styles and want a bigger fight.
The first fight of Berlanga’s deal with Matchroom took place on June 24 in New York, where he scored four knockdowns against Jason Quigley in a unanimous decision win.
After the fight, Berlanga and Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn named Munguia as one of their top targets for Berlanga’s next bout.
Two weeks earlier, on June 10 in Ontario, California, former junior middleweight titlist Munguia scored a 12th-round knockdown for the margin of victory in a tight unanimous decision over Sergiy Derevyanchenko in an action-packed slugfest for which both moved up from middleweight to super middleweight and put on a strong contender for fight of the year.
There has also been conversation among the parties about a possible Munguia-Derevyanchenko rematch, but DAZN prefers Munguia-Berlanga instead, the sources said.
Wilder rooting for Joshua
Former WBC heavyweight titlist Deontay Wilder will be an interested observer of the rematch between former two-time unified titlist Anthony Joshua and Dillian Whyte, who meet on Aug. 12 (DAZN) at The O2 in London.
The reason is because Joshua and Wilder are each far down the road in separate deal with Saudi Arabian promoter Skills Challenge that would result in them fight each other there, probably in early 2024.
“It’s a dangerous fight,” Shelly Finkel, Wilder’s manager, said of AJ-Whyte II to Fight Freaks Unite. “I feel Joshua is very brave taking that fight with a fight between him and Deontay being on the line. We hope Joshua wins. He should, but it’s still a dangerous fight. Whyte can still punch.”
Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn, who promotes Joshua, said during interviews surrounding the recent news conference announcing Joshua-Whyte II that the Saudis did not want Joshua to take an interim fight and said that if he loses to Whyte there is no Wilder fight and the riches that will go with it.
Finkel said he is confident the Wilder end of the deal will be finalized.
“Nothing’s done until it’s done but it should be,” Finkel said. “But as Don King would say, ‘It’s a long way from the spoon to the mouth.’”
Initially, the plan was for Joshua-Wilder to take place in December, but Finkel said it will “probably be in January” if the deal is finalized.
He also left open the small possibility that Wilder (43-2-1, 42 KOs) could take his own interim bout, though it seems unlikely.
Wilder has not fought since a first-round knockout of Robert Helenius in a WBC semifinal title eliminator in October, which came one year after Wilder suffered an 11th-round knockout loss challenging Tyson Fury for the heavyweight title in their trilogy fight that was one of the great heavyweight title fights of all time and the 2021 fight of the year.
Showtime tripleheader set
Former IBF bantamweight titlist Emmanuel Rodriguez and Melvin Lopez will vie for that vacant belt in the main event of PBC tripleheader on Showtime on Aug. 12 (9 p.m. ET) at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, outside of Washington, D.C., they announced on Monday, confirming a Fight Freaks Unite report last week.
They will meet for one of the 118-pound belts vacated by undisputed champion Naoya Inoue in January to move up in weight.
“I’m happy to have this chance to become a world champion again,” Rodriguez said. “We’re gonna go out there to win in spectacular fashion and my goal is to show that I’m the best fighter in the world at 118 pounds. My goal is to become undisputed at bantamweight. However, I’m not overlooking Melvin Lopez because he’s a good fighter and will come to give it his all.”
Since losing two fights in a row — his title by second-round KO to Inoue in 2019 and by split decision to Reymart Gaballo in a WBC interim title bout in 2020 — Rodriguez (21-2, 13 KOs), 30, of Puerto Rico, is 2-0 with a no contest.
Lopez (29-1, 19 KOs), 25, of Nicaragua, has won eight fights in a row since a ninth-round knockout loss to Jose Velasquez in 2019.
“I’m very excited that the time is almost here to fight for a world title,” Lopez said. “We’ve had a great training camp and everyone has sacrificed and worked hard so that we’re at our best. I’m going to show everyone why I earned this opportunity and repay my team for all of their efforts. I have a lot of respect for Emmanuel, but the best man will have his hand raised when we share the ring.”
Two Washington, D.C., area fighters will also be on the broadcast in 10-rounders.
Junior welterweight contender Gary Antuanne Russell (16-0, 16 KOs), 27, of Capitol Heights, Maryland, will face Kent Cruz (16-0-3, 10 KOs), 30, of St. Louis. Russell, the younger brother of former featherweight titlist Gary Russell Jr., will have his first fight in 13 months, since he knocked out former world titlist Rances Barthelemy in the sixth round.
“Kent Cruz has to catch up to me, but there’s no need for me to look back,” Russell said. “The only direction I’m going is forward and that means putting on a spectacular performance and proving I’m the next world champion in this division.”
Cruz is coming off back-to-back eight-round draws with unbeaten Enriko Gogokhia last year.
“I’ve been waiting for a fight like this my whole career, so we didn’t hesitate when offered this one,” Cruz said. “I’m coming in as the underdog and that’s what’s fueling me. I’ve been an underdog my whole life. I’m gonna shock the world.”
Welterweight prospect Travon Marshall (8-0, 7 KOs), 22, of Capitol Heights, Maryland, will face Gabriel Maestre (5-0-1, 4 KOs), 36, a two-time Olympian from Venezuela.
“I’m really excited to be fighting at home in front of my family, friends and fans,” Marshall said. “My goal is to show everyone that I belong on the big stage, and that starts with a victory over Gabriel Maestre.”
Maestre is coming off a third-round knockout of former two-division titlist Devon Alexander in April.
“We want to leave a good impression with the fans and move on to fight the big names in the welterweight division,” Maestre said.
Chris Eubank Jr. said his rematch with British countryman and former junior middleweight titlist Liam Smith has been rescheduled. “Eubank vs. Smith 2 at the 02 September 2nd. #LetsDoThis #NoMoreExcuses #Revenge,” Eubank posted to Twitter. He also tagged Smith. The middleweight fight was slated to top a Boxxer card June 17 at AO Arena in Manchester, England. What was termed a minor injury to Smith caused it to be postponed to July 1 but then it was delayed again. Now it is apparently back on at The O2 in London. They first met Jan. 21 at AO Arena and Smith (33-3-1, 20 KOs), 34, pulled the upset via fourth-round KO in a fight made because Conor Benn failed a drug test, causing a high-profile fight with Eubank set for Oct. 8 to be canceled during fight week. Soon after the loss Eubank (32-3, 23 KOs), 33, exercised his contractual rematch option.
Top Rank has released Brazilian southpaw Esquiva Falcao (30-1, 20 KOs), 33, in the wake of his vacant IBF middleweight title loss to Germany’s Vincenzo Gualtieri (21-0-1, 7 KOs), 30, of Germany, on July 1 in Wuppertal, Germany. Gualtieri scored two knockdowns and won 117-109, 116-110 and 116-110 to claim one of the belts vacated by Gennadiy Golovkin. Falcao claimed an Olympic silver medal at the 2012 Olympics at home in Rio de Janeiro and had been with Top Rank for his entire career since going pro in 2014. A pro rematch between Falcao and Japan’s Ryota Murata, who beat him for the Olympic gold medal and was also with Top Rank, was often discussed, but former middleweight titlist Murata retired earlier this year and it never happened.
IBF strawweight titlist Daniel Valladares and interim titlist Ginjiro Shigeoka will meet in a mandated rematch on Aug.11 at EDION Arena in Osaka, Japan, with the IBF formally sanctioning the bout. Valladares (26-3-1, 15 KOs), 29, of Mexico, will be making his second defense. The first one was against Shigeoka (9-0, 7 KOs), 23, a Japanese southpaw, on Jan. 6 and ended in a third-round no contest with Valadares unable to continue after an accidental head butt. After that Shigeoka won the vacant interim belt by ninth-round knockout of Rene Mark Cuarto on April 16 while awaiting Valladares’ return from the injury.
Show and tell
Junior bantamweight champions Danny Romero and Johnny Tapia were once friends but had become such bitter rivals that it divided their hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico. A fight between them was heavily anticipated and built up over a few years. When they defended their titles in separate bouts on the same HBO card in Albuquerque it was with the plan for Top Rank to finally match them together and that is what happened next after they both retained their belts with knockout victories. But the bad blood was so severe that there were legitimate concerns that staging the fight in Albuquerque would further divide the community.
So, they took the show to the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas (with more security than usual given fears over potential gang violence) for the long-awaited showdown between Romero, the younger man and the bigger puncher, and Tapia, the older guy with more pure boxing skills. It was a good, tension-filled fight but Tapia’s better skills carried him to the victory by unanimous decision — 116-112, 116-112 and 115-113 — to unify the IBF and WBO 115-pound titles in what remains one of the biggest fights in the history of the division created in 1983. The fight was on July 18, 1997 — 26 years ago on Tuesday. Here’s a program in my collection.
A note to subscribers
I sincerely appreciate your readership. If you’re reading, it means you love boxing just like I do. If you’ve been reading you also know the quality and quantity of what I produce. It’s one-stop shopping. Read the newsletters and there is no need to search multiple websites or click a multitude of links to get the latest news, opinion and detailed fight schedule. Everything you need is in one spot and delivered directly to your inbox (or via phone alert if you download for free the superb Substack app). You don’t have to hunt for the news; it comes to you.
I believe that is worth something, so while I will continue providing stories, notes and the schedule for free, I encourage you to upgrade to a paid subscription for the most content. A paid subscription is your way of keeping this reader-supported newsletter going and supporting independent journalism. I am beholden to no network, promoter, manager, sanctioning body or fighter. If you have read my work at all during the past 23 years I’ve covered professional boxing you know that I keep it real and that will not change.
To upgrade your subscription please go here:
Thank you so much for your support of Fight Freaks Unite!
Photos: Haney/Mikey Williams/Top Rank; Munguia: Cris Esqueda/Golden Boy; Wilder: Stephanie Trapp/TGB Promotions
Follow me on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/danrafael1/
Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/DanRafael1
Follow me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DanRafaelBoxing