Notebook: 'Zurdo' vs. Joe Smith being finalized for October
Baumgardner on positive test; 160 unification set; another Canelo-Charlo PPV undercard bout; Rocha-Santillan made; TR cuts trio; Smith-Eubank 2 in U.S.; Conwell free agent; Quick hits; Show & tell
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Former world titleholders Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez and Joe Smith Jr., both seeking to rebound from one-sided losses, will fight each other.
Ramirez promoter Golden Boy and Smith promoter Joe DeGuardia of Star Boxing are in the process of finalizing the fight, which is due to take place in early October in Las Vegas, sources with knowledge of the deal told Fight Freaks Unite on Thursday.
The bout would headline a Golden Boy card on DAZN and take place at a contract weight still being hammered out but one that will be in the 190s as an accommodation to Ramirez, the sources said.
Ramirez (44-1, 30 KOs), 32, a Mexican southpaw and former WBO super middleweight titleholder, moved up to light heavyweight in 2019 and won five of bouts in a row by knockout to earn the WBA mandatory position.
But when he challenged the unbeaten titleholder Dmitry Bivol in November, he was outclassed in a lopsided decision loss in Abu Dhabi.
Ramirez was due to return from that defeat against Gabriel Rosado on March 18 in a DAZN headliner at The Walter Pyramid in Long Beach, California, but that was a disaster. Ramirez was unofficially 7.6 pounds overweight at 182.6 and did not even attend the weigh-in because he was so over the contract limit of 175. The fight was canceled and Ramirez lost out on a $400,000 purse while the dramatically downgraded card still went on.
Smith (28-4, 22 KOs), 33, from Mastic on New York’s Long Island, won the vacant WBO light heavyweight title in April 2021 via majority decision over Maxim Vlasov and made one successful defense against Steve Geffrard in January 2022.
But next Smith was paired with WBC/IBF champion Artur Beterbiev in a three-belt unification fight at The Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York in June 2022 and Beterbiev blew him away in the second round.
Smith, who has not boxed since, is mourning the untimely death of his of his younger brother, Alex Smith, who was 30 when he was shot and killed in May in the parking lot of a bar in Mastic Beach, New York.
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Baumgardner on positive test
Hours after Fight Freaks Unite broke the news on Wednesday that undisputed women’s junior lightweight world champion Alycia Baumgardner tested positive for the banned steroid mesterolone in conjunction with a one-sided unanimous decision over Christina Linardatou on July 15, Baumgardner addressed the issue in a statement and admitted to testing positive for two banned substances.
“On August 12, 2023, I was informed that an ‘A Sample’ provided on July 12, 2023 resulted in an ‘Adverse Analytical Finding’ of mesterolone and methenolone acetate metabolites, two substances I’ve never heard of or used in any way,” Baumgardner said. “The sample provided immediately after my fight on July 15, 2023 tested clean and negative for all banned substances, as did my sample on June 16, 2023, which makes the July 12th result essentially impossible.”
Baumgardner may have had two negative tests on both sides of her positive test but that does not mean she couldn’t have also had a positive test in between and it was out of her system by the time she provided a second sample to Drug Free Sport, a testing company her promoter, Matchroom Boxing, sometimes uses to drug test for its events.
Baumgardner (15-1, 7 KOs), 29, who provided a urine sample, avenged her only career defeat in a rematch against former WBO junior welterweight titlist Linardatou in the Matchroom Boxing main event on DAZN in a Detroit homecoming fight.
“To be abundantly clear, I know that I never have, never would, and never will take this or any other drug,” Baumgardner said. “Not only would doing so be unethical, but it would also be completely contrary to how I’ve trained my entire career.
“As a professional athlete, I and I alone am responsible for what I put in my body, and my body is a temple. I am also a proud role model for any young woman or girl who seeks to follow in my footsteps. I take those responsibilities very seriously – which is why I know that I did not and would never put these substances in my body.
“I have a lot more to say about my journey and why the very idea of me taking an illegal, banned, or even dangerous substance would never make sense. So I have no intention of sitting back in silence and letting this ‘play out.’ I plan to keep you all updated every step of the way as I work to ensure my reputation as a clean athlete remains fully intact.”
WBO middleweight titlist Janibek Alimkhanuly and newly crowned IBF titleholder Vincenzo Gualtieri have agreed to terms for a unification fight, sources with knowledge of the deal told Fight Freaks Unite on Thursday.
The bout will headline a Top Rank Boxing on ESPN card Oct. 14 at a site in Texas.
With the 160-pound division very shallow and lacking big names other than the semi-retired former unified titleholder Gennadiy Golovkin, the winner of the bout should at least raise his profile considerably.
Alimkhanuly (14-0, 9 KOs), 30, a southpaw from Kazakhstan, will make his third title defense. He is coming off a second-round destruction of Steven Butler on May 13 in Stockton, California.
Gualtieri (21-0-1, 7 KOs), 30, who has never fought outside of his home country of Germany, will make his first defense. He outpointed Esquiva Falcao on July 1 to win one of the two belts vacated by Golovkin earlier this year.
Garcia-Ramos on Canelo-Charlo PPV
Middleweight up-and-comers Elijah Garcia and Armando Resendiz are finalizing a deal to fight each other in one of the bouts that will be on the televised undercard of undisputed super middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez’s defense against undisputed junior middleweight champion Jermell Charlo on Sept. 30 (Showtime PPV and PPV.com, 8 p.m. ET) at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, a source with knowledge of the bout told Fight Freaks Unite.
BoxingScene first reported news of the impending clash.
Garcia (15-0, 12 KOs), 20, a southpaw from Phoenix, and Resendiz (14-1, 10 KOs), 24, of Mexico, are both coming off their biggest wins on the same March 4 Showtime card at Toyota Arena in Ontario, California.
Garcia stopped then-unbeaten Amilcar Vidal Jr. in the fourth round and Resendiz knocked out former unified 154-pound champion Jarrett Hurt in the 10th and final round of their non-stop slugfest.
Garcia has boxed once since, winning a 10-round unanimous decision over Kevin Salgado on the Gervonta Davis-Ryan Garcia undercard on April 22. Resendiz has not fought since the March bout.
Garcia-Resendiz will join the junior middleweight co-feature between southpaws Jesus Ramos Jr. (20-0, 16 KOs), 22, of Casa Grande, Arizona, and Erickson Lubin (25-2, 18 KOs), 27, of Orlando, Florida, which Fight Freaks Unite reported on Tuesday. Neither undercard bout has been formally announced yet.
Rocha vs. Santillan in October
Welterweight contenders Alexis Rocha and Giovani Santillan are finalizing a deal to square off in the main event of a Golden Boy card on DAZN, Golden Boy president Eric Gomez told Fight Freaks Unite.
The target date is Oct. 21 pending finalizing a site, Gomez said of a fight he worked with Santillan promoter Top Rank to put together.
“There was interest on both sides and you know us — we always want to try to make the best fights,” Gomez said. “And we are willing to work with anybody to make fights.”
Rocha (23-1, 15 KOs), 26, a southpaw from Santa Ana, California, is undisputed champion Terence Crawford’s mandatory challenger. He agreed to step aside, which allowed Crawford’s July 29 victory over Errol Spence Jr. in the year’s most significant fight to be for all four major titles.
The ever-improving Rocha has won seven fights in a row since a 12-round decision loss to Rashidi Ellis in October 2020.
Santillan (31-0, 16 KOs), 31, a southpaw from San Diego, who has been with Top Rank since 2020, owns a decision win over former lightweight titlist Antonio DeMarco and is coming off a decision over Erick Bone on July 22.
Top Rank cuts three
Top Rank has released a trio of fighters coming off disappointing losses last month. Given the pink slip were lightweight Karlos Balderas, junior lightweight Xavier Martinez and heavyweight Stephan Shaw.
Balderas (14-2, 12 KOs), 26, of Santa Maria, was a 2016 U.S. Olympian who did not come close to living up to the hype. He was first with promoter Richard Schaefer before losing in 2019 and then signed with Top Rank in 2021. He won five in a row and then lost an eight-round decision in an upset to Nahir Albright on July 28 on the Seniesa Estrada-Leonela Yudica undercard.
Also on that card, Martinez (18-2, 12 KOs), of Sacramento, California, suffered a seventh-round knockout loss to unbeaten Andres Cortes for his second defeat the three fights he was with Top Rank.
Shaw (18-2, 13 KOs), 30, of St. Louis, was co-promoted by Top Rank and Lou DiBella and remains with DiBella. Shaw has lost two in a row, a 10-round decision to the favored Efe Ajagba in January followed by an upset decision sixth-round knockout to Joseph Goodall in a woeful performance on July 22.
Junior middleweight Charles Conwell (18-0, 13 KOs), 25, of Cleveland, a 2016 U.S. Olympian and the WBC’s No. 1 contender at 154 pounds, and Lou DiBella, his career-long promoter, have agreed to a separation agreement that will see Conwell become a free agent despite there being time remaining on his contract, a source with knowledge of the deal told Fight Freaks Unite. Conwell has not boxed since winning a hard-fought 10-round majority decision over Juan Carlos Abreu on Nov. 26. Efforts to have the WBC order him to face interim titleholder Brian Mendoza have thus far been unsuccessful.
The rematch between British middleweight rivals Liam Smith (33-3-1, 20 KOs), 34, and Chris Eubank Jr. (32-3, 23 KOs), 33, who are set to meet again Sept. 2 at AO Arena in Manchester, England, will stream live on ESPN+ in the United States, sources with knowledge of the schedule told Fight Freaks Unite. The American plans have not yet been formally announced. The fight will headline a Boxxer card on Sky Box Office pay-per-view in the United Kingdom. Smith-Eubank I on Jan. 21 was carried by DAZN in the U.S.
The purse bid for the fight between junior welterweight titlist Subriel Matias (19-1, 19 KOs), 31, of Puerto Rico, and mandatory challenger Shohjahon Ergashev (23-0, 20 KOs), 31, a southpaw from Uzbekistan fighting out of Detroit, which was scheduled for Thursday, was postponed when the sides requested that the IBF give them more time to make a deal, the organization said. The IBF granted a one-week delay until Aug. 22. The sides can make a deal until 15 minutes before bids are unsealed. If bid takes place, the split is will 70-30 split in Matias’ favor. Matias won the vacant title by fifth-round knockout in a shootout with Jeremias Ponce in February. Ergashev has not boxed since last August.
Cruiserweight champion Jai Opetaia and former champion Mairis Briedis are on the verge of a deal for a mandatory rematch as their teams asked the IBF on Wednesday to cancel a purse bid scheduled for Aug. 22. Neither Opetaia (22-0, 17 KOs), 27, of Australia, nor Breidis (28-2, 20 KOs), 38, of Latvia, have boxed since Opetaia fought through a broken jaw in a grueling fight to win a unanimous decision and the title from Breidis in July 2022 in Australia. Breidis gained the mandatory spot after Mateusz Masternak and then Richard Riakporhe both pulled out of purse bids for the bout with Opetaia.
Golden Boy Promotions and unbeaten Vergil Ortiz Jr. (19-0, 19 KOs), 25, of Grand Prairie, Texas, will meet in the next two weeks to discuss particulars about his return to the ring for a fight in December, Golden Boy president Eric Gomez told Fight Freaks Unite. Ortiz was schedule to challenge WBA “regular” welterweight titlist Eimantas Stanionis in a much-anticipated bout on July 8, but when Ortiz fainted during a workout three days earlier and wound up in the hospital the fight was called off — the third time that happened, once due to a Stanionis emergency appendectomy and twice because of Ortiz, who has dealt with the blood disorder rhabdomyolysis and had issues making weight. His return likely will come at junior middleweight.
Vincent Astrolabio (18-4, 13 KOs), 26, of the Philippines, and Nawaphon Kaikanha (58-2-1, 48 KOs), 31, of Thailand, will meet in a WBC bantamweight title eliminator Aug. 26 in Bangkok, Thailand. The winner will be the mandatory challenger for Mexico’s Alexandro Santiago (28-3-5, 14 KOs), who won the vacant belt by outpointing Nonito Donaire on July 29. Astrolabio, whose biggest win was a 10-round decision over former champion Guillermo Rigondeaux in February 2022, is coming off a majority decision loss to Jason Moloney for the vacant WBO belt in May. Kaikanha has won two low-level bouts since a decision loss to Moloney in an eliminator in October.
Undisputed women’s featherweight champion Amanda Serrano is getting into the management side of boxing and announced that she has signed junior bantamweight Krystal Rosado, 20, a standout amateur from Puerto Rico, who will make her pro debut in a four-rounder against Tarrethia Dixon (1-0, 1 KO), 27, of Kalamazoo, Michigan, on their promoter Jake Paul’s Most Valuable Prospects II card on Friday (DAZN, 9 p.m. ET) at the Caribe Royale Resort in Orlando, Florida. Serrano will also work in Rosado's corner. “I met Krystal years ago in Puerto Rico when she was 15 years old,” Serrano said. “Krystal and her mother used to attend each of my boxing matches and over time we became incredibly close. She has an immeasurable amount of untapped potential. She has the skills necessary to make it in this business.”
Matchroom Boxing announced it has signed amateur standout Giorgio Visioli, 20, a British lightweight, whose pro debut is targeted for October. Visioli enters the pros having won Senior ABA titles in two divisions. “It’s a dream come true to sign with Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing,” said Visioli, who was 41-4 as an amateur. “I’ve waited a long time for this, trained hard and taken all of my chances.” Hearn said IBF flyweight titlist Sunny Edwards, who he promotes, has raved to him about Visioli.
Show and tell
Mike Tyson’s unanimous decision win over Donovan “Razor” Ruddock in their 1991 rematch was Tyson’s final fight before a four-year layoff. The reason for the inactivity was because Tyson was sentenced to prison on a rape conviction. When he came out of prison there was high anticipation for his return to the ring. He re-signed with promoter Don King, who planned the comeback against the unknown club fighter Peter McNeeley, who talked a great game but couldn’t really fight much. But it was an enormous event, drawing a crowd of 16,113 to the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and selling 1.52 million pay-per-views on Showtime PPV in the United States.
Tyson, as most expected, destroyed McNeeley. He dropped him twice in the first round before McNeeley’s manager, Vinny Vecchione, entered the ring to save his fighter, which forced referee Mills Lane to disqualify McNeeley, robbing Tyson of a probable highlight-reel KO. The ballyhooed comeback fight lasted all of 89 seconds. It took place on Aug. 19, 1995 — 28 years ago on Saturday. Here is a program from the fight in my collection.
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Photos: Ramirez: Matthew Pover/Matchroom Boxing; Baumgardner: Matchroom Boxing; Alimkhanuly and Balderas: Mikey Williams/Top Rank; Rocha: Cris Esqueda/Golden Boy; Conwell: Tom Hogan
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