Felix Verdejo will be returning to the ring next month…
The 27-year-old Puerto Rican professional boxer and lightweight contender will fight Masayoshi Nakatani on December 12, Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti has told The Athletic.
The fight will be the co-main event of a Top Rank card at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas.
Verdejo (27-1, 17 KOs) was injured in a motorcycle accident in August 2016 but returned to the ring six months later and has a record of 5-1 since then, including an impressive first-round TKO victory over Will Madera in July.
Japan’s Nakatani (18-1, 12 KOs) made his U.S. debut in July 2019 and was the first fighter to take Teofimo Lopez the distance, losing a hard-fought unanimous decision at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland.
Top Rank is still looking for a replacement main event after Miguel Berchelt tested positive for COVID-19 and his fight against Oscar Valdez was postponed.
Former featherweight titlist Shakur Stevenson offered to step in for Berchelt and told ESPN on Tuesday that he had asked his team to inquire about the possibility of fighting Valdez on short notice.
The 25-year-old Mexican boxer defeated Ruben Villa by unanimous decision to win the vacant WBO featherweight title on Friday night at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas.
Navarrete, a former junior featherweight world titlist, was able to win the fight on the strength of two knockdowns — in the first and fourth rounds — by the scores of 114-112, 114-112 and 115-111.
Navarrete (33-1, 28 KOs) had a decided edge in strength and power. And while the southpaw Villa (18-1, 5 KOs) was effective in spots by moving around the ring, the difference in punching prowess was obvious. At the end of the fight, Navarrete had outlanded Villa 131-58 in power punches.
Navarrete clipped Villa with a long left uppercut that sent him down for the first time at the end of the first round. To his credit, Villa got up and was effective in the next two rounds, but in the fourth another long, lashing left hand from Navarrete sent Villa down for the second time. Without these two knockdowns, this bout would’ve been a majority draw.
Navarrete is not a classic stylist, or the most fundamentally sound fighter you’ll see. He often makes fundamental errors, but he more than makes up for it with his relentlessness and activity. At times he simply swarms his opponents to a point where they get overwhelmed. Villa was the more sound boxer, but he lacked the pop to truly get Navarrete’s respect or ever hurt him.
“I knew that Villa was a fighter that moved a lot and I knew that he was going to move even more once he felt my power,” Navarrete said after the fight. “I didn’t get the knockout, but I got the victory.”
Villa had some good moments in the second half of the fight where he boxed effectively, but he didn’t do enough to turn the tide of this contest.
“I’m very happy with this championship. It’s a reflection of all the sacrifices and all the hard work I put in,” Navarrete said. “I conquered my second weight class because of all that hard work.
“I have my sights set on all the world champions at 126. I would love to face [Josh] Warrington. I think that our styles will make for a great fight.”
The biggest fight of Teofimo Lopez Jr.’s career could be happening soon…
The lightweight unification title fight between the 22-year-old Honduran-American professional boxer, who has held the IBF lightweight title since 2019 and Vasiliy Lomachenko might now take place on October 3 in Las Vegas, Top Rank president Todd duBoef confirmed to ESPN.
DuBoef said “it’s still too early to determine everything” regarding the bout and that he is uncertain as to whether it will be closed to the public.
“I’m not sure that fight happens with fans,” duBoef told ESPN.
Top Rank, which promotes Lomachenko (14-1, 10 KOs) and Lopez (15-0, 12 KOs), has held several cards inside an enclosed area at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. DuBoef said the fight could be a potential pay-per-view bout at the MGM.
Arum told Boxingscene.com he is hopeful to have perhaps 2,000 to 2,500 people in attendance. But those plans could be altered as the pandemic worsens around the United States.
Like many other states, Nevada is experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases. According to the most recent numbers posted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the state has seen an increase of 5,889 cases over the past seven days, which is nearly a quarter of the state’s total cases since the pandemic started.
The October 3 date was originally reserved for the third bout between heavyweights Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder, duBoef told ESPN. That was pushed to December 19, leaving a potential PPV slot available.
Lomachenko is ESPN’s top pound-for-pound fighter, while Lopez won the IBF’s lightweight belt in December, when he stopped Richard Commey in the second round for his first major professional championship.
The 31-year-old Mexican American junior welterweight title contender earned a unanimous decision Tuesday night over Kendo Castaneda after easily outpointing his opponent over 10 rounds in a clinical performance inside “The Bubble” at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Convention Center.
Zepeda (32-2, 25 KOs) kept his focus and won by scores of 97-93, 98-92 and 98-92. He was sharp in the early going, boxing out of his southpaw stance as he established his right jab and then alternated planting straight lefts to the body and head of Castaneda (17-2, 8 KOs) — boxing freely at his own pace.
Castaneda was a step behind Zepeda from the start, and he failed to find a consistent answer for Zepeda’s variety of punches with great speed and precision. Castaneda eventually had some moments in the sixth and seventh rounds, but Zepeda quickly reasserted control in the eighth and cruised to victory through the last few rounds.
“I think it was good,” Zepeda said of his performance. “Since he hasn’t been on the big stages, nobody knows anything about him. But today I noticed that he can get hit. He can [take] some punches. It was a good performance, [but] I can do better. Every time the level goes up, I go up, too.”
Zepeda was originally slated to face fellow junior welterweight contender Ivan Baranchyk, who pulled out of the fight due to an injury suffered in training. Zepeda has been angling for a world title fight against one of two fighters who each hold two belts — Jose Ramirez, to whom Zepeda dropped a close split decision loss, or Josh Taylor.
“Like I said before, I have four names in mind — WBC,WBO, IBF and WBA,” Zepeda said.
Zepeda challenged for the WBO lightweight title in 2015 and the WBC light welterweight title in 2019. He’s currently ranked as the world’s fourth best active light welterweight by BoxRec, eighth by The Ringand ninth by the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
The 24-year-old Latino fighter, USA Boxing‘s top-rated boxer at 165 pounds, has signed a multiyear contract with Top Rank.
The Milwaukee native will make his professional debut on June 30 in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand Conference Center.
Martinez won the 2020 U.S. Olympic trials, but he was only selected as an alternate for the team. When that decision was made, Martinez decided to turn professional.
“I knew it would be hard for me to qualify for the Olympics, so when I found out they chose someone else, it made no sense for me to stay,” Martinez said. “I got this opportunity from Top Rank, so why not? I have a great promotional company and manager behind me.”
“I’ve just been beating everyone in the country the past three, four years, so the time was right to make my next move,” he added.
“With Javier’s amateur credentials, fan-friendly style and Top Rank’s amazing track record at developing amateurs into champions, this is a win-win for everyone,” said Tim VanNewhouse, Martinez’s manager. “I look forward to a big future for Javier, and I’m eager for everyone to see his pro debut on ESPN June 30.”
VanNewhouse scouted Martinez extensively before signing him to a management contract after the Olympic trials back in December.
“When you’re watching the amateurs, when you’re looking at the kids, you want to figure out who’s really trying to hurt somebody from the opening bell,” he said. “Javier’s looking to hurt you.”
Martinez, who is trained by Javier Capetillo, captured his first of five national titles at age 13 and won a USA Elite National Championship in 2018.
VanNewhouse says he will be competing as a middleweight as begins his professional journey.
“I do this for my family. I do it for my kid,” said Martinez, a father to a 7-year-old son. “I want to represent Milwaukee and my parents, who came to this country with nothing and built a life for my brothers and me.”
The 29-year-old Mexican boxer and former WBO featherweight champion will face veteran Jayson Velez on July 21 at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas.
The bout will take place at 130 pounds, according to Frank Espinoza, Valdez’s manager.
“The fight is done, we’re excited about it, Oscar is very happy to be back doing what he loves,” Espinoza told ESPN.
Top Rank officials confirmed that the fight has been finalized, while the rest of the card is still being formulated.
A victory by Valdez could lead to a showdown with WBC junior lightweight champion Miguel Berchelt. Valdez is No. 1 in the WBC’s 130-pound rankings.
Valdez (27-0, 21 KOs) recently moved up to junior lightweight after making six defenses of his featherweight title between 2016 and 2019. Last November, he had a rocky debut at 130 pounds when he was knocked down early by late replacement Adam Lopez. He rallied to score a seventh-round TKO.
In Velez (29-6-1, 21 KOs), Valdez is facing a seasoned veteran who has been in the ring with a plethora of recognizable names including Ryan Garcia, Ronnie Rios, Joseph Diaz and Rene Alvarado.
In his most recent outing on February 8, Velez had a very strong showing against Jaime Arboleda but lost on a razor thin split decision in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
In the 36 professional outings, Velez has never been knocked out.
It’s a pivotal fight for Valdez, who is still looking to find his groove under trainer Eddy Reynoso, while fine-tuning his skills for the formidable Berchelt.
“That’s the fight we want next, that’s the one Oscar is aiming for,” Espinoza said. “We’re hoping that by the fall there can be crowds at fights, because we know how much fans are anticipating it.”
The third time could be the charm for Jose Ramirez…
The bout between the 27-year-old Mexican American boxer and WBC and IBF junior welterweight champion and mandatory challenger Viktor Postol, twice postponed this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, is now expected to take place this summer, according to Top Rank promoter.
The fight is expected to take place in the first or second week of August, according to Top Rank, but the date would be contingent on Postol getting into the United States from his native Ukraine, where he’s currently training.
Vadim Kornilov, Postol’s manager, said he’s been trying to expedite Postol’s journey to the U.S.
“We have a reserved ticket for him on Monday. We’ve just been a little bit delayed because of the protests,” Kornilov said, referring to the protests that have been taking place across the U.S. in the aftermath of George Floyd‘s death. “We wanted to see that quiet down before we bring him here to the States. It looks like he’s good to enter with no issues.”
Postol (31-2, 12 KOs) once held the WBC 140-pound title. He typically trains under Freddie Roach in Los Angeles, but all gyms in the city are currently closed.
“We definitely have to wait for restrictions to be taken off as far as the quarantine of the gym and Freddie returning, but in my opinion, that should happen pretty soon,” Kornilov said. “Until then, the plan is for Viktor to just start training at a private gym we can find locally and get back into shape, and then wait for the restrictions to be taken off.”
While Top Rank’s June and July schedule in the States will take place exclusively at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas, Ramirez’s manager, Rick Mirigian, who has helped market and promote Ramirez into one of the biggest regional draws in the sport in Fresno, California, is hoping to bring this fight to California’s Central Valley.
”I’m preparing options for Top Rank for California, a casino and an arena,” Mirigian said. “I’m going to prepare those options for them to consider.”
Mirigian has had numerous meetings with venues as well as discussions with Andy Foster, the executive officer of the California State Athletic Commission, in the hopes of staging cards with a limited number of spectators. The Save Mart Center in Fresno is Mirigian’s priority, but he declined to disclose what casino he’s also pursued.
“That is the goal — to have some sort of a California audience with the bare minimum. A small ‘studio’ show, which could be Ramirez’s family, some key sponsors, etc. Keep it small,” said Mirigian, who also reiterated that these events would still have social distancing regulations and mandatory masks in the venue.
Ramirez will be relieved just to get back into action and satisfy this fight against his mandatory challenger. If the fight takes place in August, Ramirez will have been out of the ring for more than a year.
His most recent bout came against Maurice Hooker on July 27, 2019. Since then, he has had his sights set on a fight against Josh Taylor, who has the other two major belts at junior welterweight.
The 25-year-old Mexican boxer and junior featherweight world titlist turned in a workmanlike effort in a one-sided 11th-round knockout victory against Jeo Tupas Santisima to retain his 122-pound title on Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
“As I said during the build-up to the fight, I was coming for another knockout victory, and I got it,” Navarrete said through an interpreter. “It took me a little more time than expected. I hurt him a couple of times during the fight, but I got to give it to him; he is a real Filipino warrior. He took a lot of punches and didn’t go down.
“I hurt my right thumb trying to knock him out, but I knew I was close to stopping him, so I had to keep going.”
Navarrete was making the fifth defense of his junior featherweight belt — all in the past nine months, making him the most active current titlist in boxing.
“This is my fifth successful defense of the world title. Now I want a unification fight,” Navarrete said. “I’ll look at my options, but if I don’t get it soon, I’ll probably move to 126 pounds to challenge the champions at featherweight.”
Navarrete (31-1, 27 KOs), who had the longer reach, established his jab early to keep Santisima off balance while mixing in body shots and left hooks. He pressed forward, throwing combinations while Santisima covered up or threw one punch at a time.
Navarrete had a big fifth round as he landed right-left combinations almost at will. and he had Santisima trapped on the ropes for a large chunk of the round. Navarrete remained in total control with Santisima largely in survival mode during the latter stages of the fight.
Navarrete let his punches fly in the 10th round and appeared to have Santisima (19-3, 16 KOs), 23, of the Philippines, in trouble, but he could not put Santisima away. In the 11th round, Navarrete once again pounded on Santisima, and referee Russell Mora eventually stepped in to stop the fight at 2 minutes, 20 seconds — just as Santisima’s corner was throwing in the towel.
“Navarrete is a great champion, and I gave it my all to bring a world title back to the Philippines. I came up short, but I can hold my head high,” Santisima said.
Miguel is preparing for Latin music’s biggest night…
The 34-year-old Mexican American R&B singer, songwriter, who released the Spanish EP Te Lo Dije earlier this year, is set to perform at this year’s Latin Grammys, according to The Latin Recording Academy.
Miguel is part ofthe final wave of performers and presenters joining the star-studded 2019 Latin Grammys lineup.
In addition to Miguel, who performed “Remember Me” with Natalia Lafourcade on the soundtrack to Disney’s Dia de los Muertos-themed animated film Coco, new additions to the performers roster include Alicia Keys, Farruko, Ozuna, Residente, Beto Cuevas, Calibre 50, Leonel García, Fito Páez, Milly Quezada, Tony Succar, Carlos Rivera, and Prince Royce.
Plus, Ángela Aguilar, Eduardo “Visitante” Cabra,Sofia Carson, Emilio Estefan, Mon Laferte, William Levy, Rudy Mancuso,,Luis Gerardo Méndez, Michael Peña, and Dayanara Torres join as presenters.
Nominees Camilo, De La Ghetto, Paula Fernandes, Kany García, Christian Nodal and Tommy Torres were previously announced as presenters.
Coined as “the biggest night in Latin Music,” the awards show will kick off with a never-before-seen tribute honoring the 20th Anniversary of the Latin Grammys. A group of 20 artists, who’ll perform together for the first time, will interpret multiple iconic songs spanning various genres of Latin music while commemorating the past 20 years of excellence.
The final roster of performers join already confirmed artists Aitana, Anitta, Pedro Capó, Julio Reyes Copello, Darell, Dimelo Flow, Fonseca, Luis Fonsi, Greeicy, Intocable, Nella, Reik, Rosalía, and Alejandro Sanz, who’s this year’s top nominee.
The awards show will also include performances by Pepe Aguilar and Los Angeles Azules, Paula Arenas, Bad Bunny, Alessia Cara, Draco Rosa, Ximena Sariñana, Sech, Sebastián Yatra, Natalia Jiménez, Olga Tañón and Juanes, who as the 2019 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year will perform a medley of his biggest hits.
Vicente, Alejandro, and Alex Fernandezwill also take the stage, becoming the first time all three generations of the Fernandez family will perform at the show. They’ll be joined by Mariachi Sol de Mexico.
The 20th annual Latin Grammys, which will be co-hosted by Ricky Martin and actresses Roselyn Sánchez and Paz Vega, will air live Nov. 14 from the MGM Grand Garden Arenain Las Vegas via Univision.