Edgar Berlanga Returning to Ring for Next Boxing Match

Edgar Berlangais heading back to the ring…

The 22-year-old Puerto Rican hard-hitting super middleweight boxer will be featured on the undercard of featherweight world titlist Shakur Stevenson‘s first defense, on March 14 at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York, according to Top Rank.

Edgar Berlanga

Top Rank said Berlanga’s opponent for the scheduled eight-round bout will be finalized next week, but the fight will be one of the preliminary bouts that’ll be streamed live on ESPN+beginning at 7:00 pm ET, ahead of the main card on ESPN at 10:30 p.m. The main card includes the previously announced meeting between Stevenson and challenger Miguel Marriagaand former junior featherweight world titlist Jessie Magdalenosquaring off with Sakaria Lukasin a 10-round featherweight fight.

Berlanga (13-0, 13 KOs), who hails from New York, has won all of his fights by first-round knockout.

“Hopefully, I can get in some rounds on March 14,” said Berlanga, who turned pro in 2016. “I want to show everyone I’m more than a one-round fighter. This is my time to shine.”

Berlanga’s longest ring appearance came in his most recent fight, when he needed 2 minutes, 45 seconds to knock out Cesar Nunezon December 14 at Madison Square Gardenon the Terence CrawfordEgidijus Kavaliauskasundercard.

Oscar Rivas Signs Multi-Fight Contract with Top Rank

Oscar Rivas is headed to the Top

The 32-year-old Colombian professional boxer has signed a multi-fight co-promotional contract with Top Rank.

Oscar Rivas

“Top Rank is in the heavyweight business, and we are pleased to be partnering with Yvon Michel to help Oscar get to the next level,” Top Rank chairman Bob Arum said. “He fits right in the heavyweight picture and has the skills and toughness to compete against anyone in the division.”

Rivas, who’ll continue to be co-promoted by Michel, doesn’t have his next fight set, but it’ll take place later this year on an ESPN platform.

“I am very proud and excited to join forces with Top Rank. I thank Top Rank for believing in me,” Rivas said. “I also want to thank my manager, Stephane Lepine, and my promoter, Yvon Michel, for their leadership and guidance from the beginning of my career.”

Rivas (26-1, 18 KOs), 32, was a 2008 Colombian Olympian but has boxed out of Montreal since turning pro in 2009. He notched his biggest win in January 2019 when he stopped former world title challenger Bryant Jenningsin the 12th round in Verona, New York.

In his next fight, for a vacant interim heavyweight world title, Rivas traveled to London and lost a competitive unanimous decision to Dillian Whyte, whom he knocked down in the ninth round. However, the fight was tainted in controversy because Whyte had been allowed to fight by British regulators despite having tested positive for a banned substance, which the Rivas team had not been informed of.

“I am still a bit bitter over the circumstances surrounding my last fight in London against Dillian Whyte, and I hope that one day we will fight a rematch on an even playing field,” Rivas said.

“As for Dillian, I know he will do all he can to avoid this, but nothing will ever stop me from becoming a world champion. I am ready to take on any challenge.”

Rivas joins a Top Rank heavyweight stable that also includes lineal champion Tyson FuryKubrat PulevJarrell “Big Baby” MillerAgit KabayelCarlos Takam and prospects Guido VianelloSonny Contoand Jared Anderson. As an amateur, Rivas scored victories against Pulev and former unified world titleholder Andy Ruiz Jr.

“Oscar Rivas is ready to send a strong message, as he has the style to beat any heavyweight on any given day,” said Michel.

Jose Ramirez to Defend His Junior Welterweight Title Against Jose Zepeda 

Jose Ramirezis going on the defense…

The 26-year-old Mexican American boxer and Junior welterweight world titleholder will make his second defense against contender Jose Zepeda on February 10 at the Save Mart Center, the arena in Ramirez’s hometown of Fresno, California, where he has drawn sellout crowds.

Jose Ramirez

Top Rankannounced the bout, which will headline Top Rank Boxing on ESPNspecial Sunday edition (ESPN and ESPN Deportes, 7:00 pm ET, with the entire undercard streaming on ESPN+beginning at 4 p.m. ET).

Ramirez is known for his copious amount of public service in his community and it will continue with this card. Top Rank announced that a portion of each ticket sold will benefit the Community Cancer Institutein Clovis, California. Ramirez also will auction off his fight-worn trunks, gloves, shirt and shoes, with all proceeds to benefit the Community Cancer Institute.

“I feel blessed to defend my title a second time at home against a great opponent and also support an issue that affects everyone and their families,” Ramirez said. “Let’s all band together to KO cancer and remember that every moment counts.”

Top Rank chairman Bob Arumhas regularly lauded Ramirez’s charitable efforts.

“Jose Ramirez is a great young champion and an even better person,” Arum said. “We are proud to be involved with an event that will raise a tremendous amount of exposure for cancer research. Zepeda is a really tough fighter who will give Jose an excellent fight. The fans in the Central Valley have supported Jose since day one, and I expect another fantastic crowd at the Save Mart Center.”

Ramirez (23-0, 16 KOs), a 2012 U.S. Olympian, will be in his second fight with head trainer Robert Garcia. Ramirez won a vacant 140-pound world title by lopsided decision over Amir Imamin March in New York and then returned to the Save Mart Center in September and outpointed Antonio Orozcoin a one-sided, action-packed fight.

Zepeda (30-1, 25 KOs), 29, a southpaw from La Puente, California, will be getting his second opportunity to fight for a world title.

He is unbeaten in eight consecutive fights — 7-0 with a head-butt induced no contest — since he dislocated his left shoulder and was unable continue against then-lightweight world titlist Terry Flanagan in July 2015, which resulted in a second-round stoppage loss.

“I’ve been waiting for this opportunity since my first world title shot against Terry Flanagan,” Zepeda said. “I’m going to train very hard, better than ever before. I’m very thankful to my team and Jose Ramirez for giving me this chance. I’m not going to waste it, and that’s why I’m training so hard.”

Top Rank Signs Jonathan Guzman

Jonathan Guzman has new representation…

Top Rank, looking to ramp up its roster due numerous dates it has under its seven-year deal with ESPN, has signed four fighters, including the 29-year-old Dominican boxer and former junior featherweight world titlist.

Jonathan Guzman

“All of these guys will fight before the end of the year and a lot more in 2019,” Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti said. “They are all in weight classes we are interested in and they are all solid fighters.”

The biggest name is Guzman (22-1, 22 KOs), who has not fought since losing his 122-pound world title by unanimous decision to Yukinori Oguni in Japan in December 2016. Guzman won a vacant belt in July 2016 by knocking out Shingo Wake in the 11th round, also in Japan, before losing it in his first defense. Moretti said Guzman will fight in either the junior featherweight or featherweight division. He could be a potential opponent for junior featherweight world titlist Isaac Dogboe or featherweight world titlist Oscar Valdez.

“I am excited and fortunate to be given this opportunity by Top Rank,” Guzman said. “This will give me better opportunities in the boxing world. I want to get back to the championship level, and I know Top Rank can get me there.”

Also signing with Top Rank are middleweight Tyler Howard (15-0, 10 KOs), junior welterweight Michael Perez (25-2-2, 11 KOs) and lightweight Eric Puente (0-0).

Howard, 24, of Crossville, Tennessee, has fought mostly as a super middleweight but will drop down in weight to middleweight. He has not yet faced a notable opponent. “Signing with the premier promotional company in the sport of boxing is a huge accomplishment for my team and I,” Howard said. “I trust that my career is in great hands with my manager (Tim Van Newhouse) and Top Rank. I know my team will present me with many opportunities to catapult my career into world contention status.”

Perez, 28, of Newark, New Jersey, who has not boxed since April 2017, has had several televised fights and faced tough opposition at lightweight and junior welterweight but lost to his two best opponents by sixth-round knockout — former lightweight titlist Omar Figueroa Jr.in 2012 and Petr Petrov in lightweight title-elimination bout in 2016. Perez is coming off a 10-round, split-decision victory against Marcelino Lopez.

“I have always respected the way they treat their fighters,” Perez said of Top Rank. “I look forward to adding value and excitement to their already amazing shows.”

Puente, 19, who was born in Mexico and fights out of Vista, California, won a gold medal at the 2016 USA Boxing Youth Championships at 132 pounds. He is turning pro under the management of David McWater‘s Split-T Management, which also represents fighters such as junior welterweight contender Ivan Baranchyk and top prospects Teofimo Lopez, a lightweight, and junior middleweight Charles Conwell, both 2016 Olympians.

“This is an exciting chapter in my life, and I want to make my family and fans happy and hopefully one day become world champion,” said Puente, who likely would have been a contender to make the 2020 Olympic team had he remained amateur. “I know I have the very best promotional company behind me.

“Boxing is everything to me. I live, eat and sleep boxing 24/7. Boxing is always on my mind. When the boxing world sees me fight, they will see an old-school warrior that will do everything he can to come out victorious. I take a lot from all the great fighters of the past like Juan Manuel Marquez, Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales and Sugar Ray Leonard, and put into me, Eric Puente, future superstar in boxing.”

Valdez KOs Matias Adrian Rueda to Win Featherweight World Title

Oscar Valdez is officially a world champion…

The 25-year-old Mexican boxer, who always dreamed of being a world titleholder like his idols Erik Morales, Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. and Jose Luis Castillo knocked out Matias Adrian Rueda in the second round to win a vacant featherweight world title Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Oscar Valdez

“This was my dream since I was 8 years old,” Valdez said, holding back tears. “It is the dream we shared, me and my father. I just work hard in the gym. We got to accomplish our dream. Now I want to fight the best. Whoever it is, let’s do it.”

Valdez won the 126-pound world title vacated last month by Vasyl Lomachenko after he moved up in weight and won a junior lightweight title. And Valdez did it in explosive fashion.

He repeatedly rocked Rueda in the first round with left hooks to the head and then destroyed him in the second round.

Valdez (20-0, 18 KOs), Mexico’s only two-time Olympic boxer (2008 and 2012), began the round by rocking Rueda with a right hand to the head. Then he landed a left hook to the body that forced Rueda to take a knee.

Rueda (26-1, 23 KOs), 28, of Argentina, beat the count, but it was only a matter of time. Valdez went on the immediate attack and lashed him with punches. He put together a five-punch combination, four clean head shots followed by another powerful left hook to the body that dropped him again. As soon as Rueda went down referee Russell Mora waved off the fight at 2 minutes, 18 seconds.

“He caught me with a real good body shot and that was it,” Rueda said through an interpreter. “I could never recover. He really hurt me with that [first] body shot.”

Although Valdez was born in Mexico and still lives there, he spent most of his childhood living in Tucson, Arizona, where he went to school. A delegation of city officials were in Las Vegas for the fight to meet with Top Rank promoter Bob Arum about scheduling Valdez’s first defense in the city on November 26 pending a victory.

Verdejo to Face Daniel Evangelista in 10-Round Bout

Felix Verdejo is ready to rumble on his home turf…

The 22-year-old rising Puerto Rican lightweight boxing star and 2014 ESPN.com prospect of the year will face Daniel Evangelista on April 16 at Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan, according promoter Top Rank.

Felix Verdejo

The scheduled 10-round bout will headline a “Solo Boxeo Tecate” card on Spanish-language network UniMas.

“The name of my opponent makes no difference,” Verdejo said. “I want to fight the best, but I don’t choose my opponents. I leave that to [manager and trainer] Ricky [Marquez] and Top Rank. I always prepare well for any opponent, and this time won’t be the exception. I will be in my best condition to once again bring happiness to my people.”

If he comes through the bout against Evangelista unscathed, Verdejo (20-0, 14 KOs), 22, is due to fight again on June 11, the eve of the annual Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York. That bout, an HBO-televised co-feature at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, is expected to be against a much better opponent than Evangelista.

The leading candidate for that fight is Jose Felix Jr. (33-1-1, 25 KOs), 23, of Mexico, a fringe contender, according to Top Rank chairman Bob Arum.

Evangelista (18-6-2, 14 KOs), 25, of Mexico, is 1-3-1 in his past four fights but has experience against opponents such as former junior lightweight world titleholder Argenis Mendez and unbeaten prospect Casey Ramos.

“I don’t think it would be smart to think that a fighter with some losses on his record doesn’t have the qualities to be a worthy opponent,” Marquez said of Evangelista. “I respect Evangelista for his bravery of coming to our island to try to ruin our plans. I really think he is an opponent that will come to apply pressure, throw a lot of punches and will make Felix work to dominate him.”

Chávez Jr. Retains Middleweight Title

It’s a case of “like father, like son,” as Julio César Chávez Jr. continues his march toward greatness with another victory…

The 26-year-old Mexican boxer—the son of retired boxing champion Julio César Chávez—stopped Andy Lee in a late surge Saturday night at the Sun Bowl in El Paso to remain undefeated and retain his WBC middleweight title.

Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.

Chávez punished Lee in the seventh round with powerful body shots, upper cuts and left and right hands before referee Laurence Cole stepped in to stop the fight at 2:21 of the round. Most of the pro-Chavez crowd of 13,467 at the Sun Bowl roared their approval.

Chavez is now in line to fight lineal middleweight champion Sergio Martinez for the true WBC championship. Martinez owns the WBC diamond belt. Top Rank, which promotes Chavez, announced via Twitter that the fight would be September15 at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas.

Chavez (46-0-2, 32 KOs) started slowly and was outworked by Lee (28-2, 20 KOs) in the first two rounds. But then his powerful punches began to wear down Lee, an Irish boxer who stood two inches taller than Chavez.

Chavez actually landed fewer punches than Lee, 121-116, but connected on 46% of them, while Lee landed just 29%. Chavez connected on 113 power punches to Lee’s 87.

Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.

“In the first round, I was a little cold,” said Chavez. “But then you saw I put my face out to see if he could hit me and he never hurt me.”

Chavez was asked by HBO‘s Larry Merchant how he could follow in the footsteps of his famous father, who is considered perhaps the greatest fighter in Mexico’s history.

“I’m happy to carry on the name,” Chavez said. “And I force myself every day to make history in the world of boxing and every day I’m doing better.”

Chavez said he was suffering from leg cramps from the start of the bout.

“From the first round my legs were bothering me, and I could’ve knocked him out earlier,” Chavez said. “No excuses, but I could’ve knocked him out earlier if it wasn’t for my legs.”

Chavez is now relishing the challenge of facing Martinez, who is No. 3 on most pound-for-pound lists and is 49-2-2 with 28 KOs. At 37, Martinez is 11 years older than Chavez.

“With my legs that night I’m going to knock him out and shut his mouth,” Chavez said.