Jose Zepeda Beats Kendo Castaneda by Unanimous Decision to Bolster World Title Hopes

Jose Zepeda has bolstered his world title hopes…

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.

Jose Zepeda

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,WBOIBF 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 Ring and ninth by the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.

Jorge Linares to Fight Javier Fortuna in August

Jorge Linaresis heading back to the ring this summer…

The 34-year-old Venezuelan professional boxer and three-time world champion will fight Javier Fortuna (35-2-1, 24 KOs) on August 28 at the Fantasy Springs Resort and Casinoin Indio, California.

Jorge Linares

After Linares (47-5, 29 KOs) dispatched Carlos Morales in four rounds on February 14, a showdown with the undefeated Ryan Garcia was heavily rumored for the summer. That fight never materialized, and Linares and his representatives shifted their focus to another fight.

“We wanted that fight [with Garcia], Jorge wanted that fight more than anybody,” said Jose de la Cruz, who manages Linares. “I guess their camp is not being reasonable with Golden Boy.”

In regard to the potential July 4 fight, Garcia representative Lupe Valencia said, “What they offered Ryan was not acceptable. We can’t just accept it if we know it’s not reasonable.”

Eric Gomez, the president of Golden Boy Promotions, told ESPN, “Fortuna was willing to fight pretty much anybody, he was available. So we made the offer to Linares, and he took it right away.”

Gomez said there is a chance that this bout could be contested for the WBC interim lightweight title.

“It was a no-brainer,” said de la Cruz. “I think it’s the right time for Jorge to fight for a world title, and to stay active, number one. He’ll be 35 by the time he fights. How many fights does he have left? We all want to know.”

Linares, who is ESPN’s No. 6 lightweight, has had a memorable career, filled with substantial victories and mind-boggling defeats. 

He’s captured world titles at 126, 130 and 135, but never had a long title run with any of those belts. Linares has victories over the likes of Oscar LariosKevin MitchellAnthony Crolla and Luke Campbell, and gave Vasiliy Lomachenko his toughest test to date as a professional. 

But Linares has also been knocked out in all five of his losses, the latest of which was when he was stopped in the first round by Pablo Cesar Cano in an ill-fated experiment at 140 at the beginning of 2019.

The 31-year-old Fortuna, who is ESPN’s No. 8 lightweight, once held the WBA 130-pound title and had a strong showing as he knocked out a faded Jesus Cuellar in two rounds last November. 

Fortuna, a southpaw from the Dominican Republic presents a formidable challenge for Linares with his above-average power. Should Linares overcome the challenge of Fortuna, he’ll be in line for even bigger fights.

“There’s [DevinHaney,” said De La Cruz, mentioning the current WBC lightweight titleholder as one option. ”If Golden Boy can make the Ryan Garcia fight, if the virus doesn’t affect us late in the year, everything goes well, we want a championship fight or a big fight at the Staples Center. That’s what Golden Boy wants.”

The August 28 Golden Boy card is scheduled to be the promotion’s second of the summer, following a July 24 show headlined by Vergil Ortiz and Samuel Vargas.

Jose Zepeda to Fight Ivan Baranchyk in July

Jose Zepeda is ready to rumble…

The 31-year-old Mexican American boxer is set to fight Ivan Baranchyk in a 10-round junior welterweight matchup on Thursday, July 9 in Las Vegas, according to ESPN.

Jose Zepeda

Zepeda (31-2, 25 KOs) is a well-schooled southpaw with solid boxing skills. In February 2019, Zepeda lost a disputed majority decision versus WBC titleholder Jose Ramirez in Fresno, California. In his most recent bout, in September, he won a unanimous decision against Jose Pedraza.

Baranchyk, 27, (20-1, 13 KOs), the former IBF junior welterweight titleholder, is coming off a fourth-round stoppage of Gabriel Bracero in October. His lone loss came against Josh Taylor in May 2019 in the semifinals of the World Boxing Super Series.

Oscar Valdez Defeats Adam Lopez to Earn Shot at World Title

Oscar Valdez has earned his shot at another world title…

The 28-year-old Mexican former featherweight world titlist made a successful move up to the junior lightweight division on Saturday night to earn a shot at a world title in a very tough fight.

Oscar Valdez

Valdez survived a second-round knockdown and some shaky moments, but stopped Adam Lopez in the seventh round of their 130-pound world title elimination bout in the main event of the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN+ card inside The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitanof Las Vegas.

Valdez was supposed to face Adrian Gutierrez, but he showed up at Friday’s weigh-in at a shocking 141 pounds, 11 over the contract weight.

Oscar Valdez

Lopez was supposed to face Luis Coriain a 10-round preliminary bout at featherweight, but with Gutierrez so heavy, Top Rank offered Lopez the opportunity to face Valdez, whom he has known for years and wanted to fight. Lopez consulted with trainer Buddy McGirt and agreed to the new assignment and a bigger paycheck.

Lopez (13-2, 6 KOs) gave a tremendous effort and had his moments, but Valdez (27-0, 21 KOs), a two-time Olympian from Mexico, drew on his vast in-ring advantage.

“My experience made me win the fight,” Valdez said. “I have a great amateur background and a lot more experience than him, and I think that’s what made me win the fight. He’s a great fighter, but I think my experience made me win.”

The victory propelled Valdez, who earned $300,000 to Lopez’s $75,000, into a mandatory shot against countryman Miguel Berchelt, who was all smiles in the ring after the fight when he and Valdez embraced.

Lopez looked like he might pull the upset against Valdez when he connected with a clean left hook to the chin that knocked him down with about 50 seconds to go in the second round. Valdez, who hit the mat awkwardly, never saw the shot coming and looked a little unsteady when he got to his feet, but he made it through the round without taking too much more damage.

“I was very surprised [by the knockdown],” Valdez said. “I take my hat off to Adam Lopez. He’s a great fighter, great warrior, just like his father [the late Hector Lopez] was. I just got hit. This is boxing. I prepared myself for two, three months for Gutierrez. Got a new opponent, but that’s no excuse. This kid is a warrior.”

According to CompuBox statistics, Valdez landed 91 of 330 punches (28%) and Lopez connected with 92 of 436 blows (21%). Although Valdez had some problems, he closed the show by outlanding Lopez 21-7 in power shots in the seventh round.

“I would love a rematch with Oscar. He’s a true fighter,” Lopez said. “I’m not a 130-pounder, but I’m a real fighter as well, so I’ll take on anybody, anywhere. Let’s get a rematch. I’m glad people know who I am now. I can fight. People love my style. This is what I do. It’s in my blood.”

Indeed boxing is in his blood. His father, the late Hector Lopez, was a 1990s lightweight and junior welterweight contender and 1984 Olympic silver medalist for Mexico. He died at age 44 in 2011.

Valdez, who was in his third fight since switching trainers to Eddy Reynoso— who also trains Canelo Alvarez— made six featherweight title defenses before vacating his 126-pound belt in early August to move up in weight. With Lopez vanquished, Valdez will next get a shot at Berchelt (37-1, 33 KOs), 28, who has made six title defenses and is generally considered the No. 1 fighter in the world at 130 pounds.

“Miguel Berchelt is a true champion inside the ring and outside the ring,” Valdez said. “The fans love him. He’s a champion. That’s the one I want to fight. He has that WBC belt, and he’s trying to take it back home.

Julio Cesar Martinez to Fight Flyweight World Titleholder Charlie Edwards

Julio Cesar Martinez is ready to take on the champ…

The 24-year-old Mexican boxer is set to fight flyweight world titleholder Charlie Edwards on August 31 at the O2 Arena in London, as Edwards makes his mandatory title defense, according to Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn.

Julio Cesar Martinez

The bout, Edwards’ second title defense, will be part of the card headlined by pound-for-pound king Vasiliy Lomachenkodefending his unified lightweight world title — and an attempt to claim a vacant belt as well — against England’s Luke Campbell.

Martinez (14-1, 11 KOs) earned the title shot by knocking out then-undefeated Andrew Selby, of Wales, in the fifth round on March 23 in Mexico.

“He’s a very tough Mexican who can bang with both hands,” Edwards said of Martinez. “His record shows that he’s a massive puncher and we saw that in his last fight against Andrew Selby. He got him out of there in the fifth round and was hurting him on a number of occasions. He’s coming to bring it and he’s going to try and rip that WBC title off me. This is his World Cupfinal.

“He’s going to put it all on the line. He’s going to be coming hard and fast from early to try and put me under pressure, but I believe my boxing skills and the experience that I’ve gained throughout my short pro career will see me through. I expect to have a punch-perfect performance. I believe that he will bring out the very best in me.

“Timing is everything. I believe this is my era. I have arrived at my destination at the right time and I’m loving the journey. To fight your mandatory challenger on one of the biggest cards in British boxing this year is brilliant because it showcases my skills around the world.”

Edwards (15-1, 6 KOs) took a 112-pound world title by unanimous decision from Nicaragua’s Cristofer Rosalesin London in December and made his first defense, also in London, by unanimous decision against Spain’s Angel Morenoon March 23.

“I can’t wait to challenge for the WBC flyweight world title in London,” Martinez said. “I’ll be taking that famous green-and-gold belt back to Mexico with me. I have already knocked out one Brit and on August 31 I will make it two.”

The card also will include a heavyweight fight between contenderHughie Furyand former secondary titlist Alexander Povetkin, a bout that Hearn announced Wednesday.

Rey Vargas Defeats Tomoki Kameda to Retain WBC Junior Featherweight Title

Rey Vargasis still the champion…

In what’s described as “an often awkward and ugly affair” over the weekend at the Dignity Health Sports Park, the 28-year-old Mexican professional boxer retained his WBC junior featherweight title by outpointing Japanese challenger Tomoki Kameda.

Rey Vargas

All three judges scored the fight 117-110 for Vargas.

Loud boos poured in at the end of the bout and after the decision was rendered; while Vargas (34-0, 22 KOs) was effective, he was far from exciting. Kameda (36-3, 20 KOs) certainly tried his best to make a fight, but his efforts were mostly futile.

While the decision was unpopular, it was the correct one.

Vargas is one of the toughest matchups in boxing. Listed at nearly 5-foot-11 — significantly tall for a 122-pounder — he can control distance from the outside and is adept at smothering his foes as they get close. While not a particularly crowd-pleasing style, it works for Vargas, who methodically wins one round after another.

That continued Saturday night.

 “The idea was to throw a lot of punches and to have a very intelligent fight,” said Vargas, who made his fifth title defense. “I believe that we made this a very smart fight, an intelligent one. This is a boxer’s style, to fight with precision. I believe that he brought a lot of fans from Japan, and that’s why they don’t agree with the decision.”

Kameda tried his best to close the gap and rush inside on Vargas, but oftentimes he was devoid of the jab and had problems gauging distance. That left him in positions where he couldn’t land clean punches and then ended up in a clinch with the champ.

“First of all, I want to say thank you to everyone,” Kameda said. “I recognize Vargas. I believe that he won the fight tonight, and I respect him as a champion. He won. I need to learn and to practice more in order to get another chance to be champion again. I am very grateful for all the Mexican people. I want to be world champion again.”

Moving forward, Vargas would like to add a couple of more belts to his collection. Asked whom he wanted to face next, he pointed to the IBF and WBAbelt holder.

Danny Roman,” Vargas said. “We need to unify titles — why not? I want all three titles. Danny, we are ready. I am ready whenever you want to fight. You know when a Mexican fights another Mexican, it’s a war.”

Juan Francisco Estrada Defeats Srisaket Sor Rungvisai to Capture WBC Junior Bantamweight Title

 Juan Francisco Estradais sporting a new belt…

The 29-year-old Mexican professional boxer defeated Srisaket Sor Rungvisai by unanimous decision to capture the WBC junior bantamweight title Friday night at the Forum in a rematch of last year’s battle that Sor Rungvisai won by majority decision.

Juan Francisco Estrada

All three judges scored the fight for Estrada, 116-112 and 115-113 (twice). ESPN also had the fight for Estrada 115-113.

It’s rare that a sequel lives up to a highly acclaimed original, but that’s precisely what happened in this anticipated rematch.

When the two fought in February 2018 in the same building, it was Sor Rungvisai (47-5-1, 41 KOs) who built an early lead on the strength of his left cross from a southpaw stance. Estrada (39-3, 26 KOs) closed hard down the stretch, but his rally came up short. Their back-and-forth battle was one of the best fights of the year.

On Friday night, the southpaw from Thailand started off in the orthodox stance and would only sporadically go back to his more natural left-handed stance.

“He surprised me a bit by that. Because he is always lefty, it surprised me that he was righty tonight,” Estrada said. “But I felt him out well when he fought right-handed.”

Estrada capitalized on that odd tactical decision from the outset to consistently beat Sor Rungvisai to the punch, while also boxing him adroitly from the outside.

There were plenty of heated exchanges where punches were landed by both, but it was Estrada usually coming out on top of those battles. Through it all, Estrada showed a good chin when he was hit by plenty of left hands from Sor Rungvisai. For the most part, Estrada shrugged them off.

Going into the later rounds, it was clear that Sor Rungvisai was behind on the cards, but he began to land more regularly on Estrada in Round 9. Going into the final round, it seemed like Estrada would have to seal the fight with one more strong round of work, which is precisely what he did in a three-minute stanza that was capped off by letting the punches fly with the fans on their feet.

“I needed to show the Mexican fans and everyone here tonight that I was going to win that belt,” said a joyous Estrada, who has cemented his status as an elite fighter.

So how bout Estrada-Sor Rungvisai III?

“If he wants a third fight, I will give it to him,” Estrada said. “I would prefer to fight some other champion first. That’s what I think is next.”

David Benavidez to Fight Anthony Dirrell in WBC-Mandated Bout

It’s gloves on for David Benavidez in an effort to reclaim hisbelt…

The 22-year-old Mexican American boxer and former WBC titlist is set to fight super middleweight world titleholder Anthony Dirrell in a bout mandated by the World Boxing Council.

David Benavidez

WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman announced the decision Monday at a news conference in Istanbul, as the organization clarified its position on its 168-pound belt.

Sampson Lewkowicz, who promotes Benavidez, told ESPN that the fight with Dirrell has been agreed to and would take place in August or September.

Sulaiman had been weighing a request from contender Avni Yildirim for an immediate rematch with Dirrell. Benavidez had been due to make a mandatory defense against Dirrell last fall but was stripped of the title when he tested positive for cocaine. He served a suspension and returned to impressively knock out J’Leon Lovein the second round March 16 on the Errol Spence Jr.-Mikey Garciaundercard.

But with the title vacant — the WBC had declared Benavidez its “champion in recess” — Dirrell faced Yildirim for the vacant belt February 23 in Minneapolis, where Dirrell won a 10th-round technical decision in a close, action-packed bout. The fight had been stopped and sent to the scorecards because Dirrell suffered a bad cut over his left eye in the seventh round. By the 10th round, it had gotten worse and Dirrell was ruled unable to continue.

Yildirim (21-2, 12 KOs), 27, of Turkey, and his promoter, Ahmet Oener, flew to Mexico City to meet with Sulaiman late last month to make their case for an immediate rematch. The WBC decided against it, but in ordering Dirrell-Benavidez, Sulaiman said Yildirim could return to fight on the Dirrell-Benavidez undercard and that he would get a mandatory shot against the winner of the fight (as long as Yildirim won the interim bout).

“I am very proud of these three fighters,” Sulaiman said. “Dirrell is a two-time WBC champion who has overcome adversity and defeated cancer; Benavidez is a young man who has come back from the evils of recreational drugs and has found a path for a new life; and Yildirim is a national hero hoping to become the first world champion from Turkey, who has dedicated his life with sacrifice and passion to make his dream come true.

“This is what boxing is all about — the best fighting the best and I applaud the three sides for working together in this process.”

Dirrell (33-1-1, 24 KOs), 34, of Flint, Michigan, said he was pleased by Sulaiman’s decision and hopes to face Benavidez when he is able to return to the ring once his cut fully heals.

“I think it’s a big fight for boxing and for the super middleweight division,” Dirrell told ESPN on Monday. “It’s two of the top guys going against each other.”

After Benavidez (21-0, 18 KOs), 22, of Phoenix, knocked out Love he made it clear he wanted to next fight Dirrell, who was ringside, in order to reclaim the belt he had been stripped of.

“I saw Anthony Dirrell with the WBC belt. He can’t call himself champion until he fights me,” Benavidez said in the ring at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, two weeks ago. “That’s my belt. I’m going to go get it. It’s mine.”

Dirrell said Benavidez had simply done to Love what was expected and that he looked forward to fighting him later this year.

“He did what he was supposed to do. All due respect to him, I think he was supposed to get him out of there,” Dirrell said. “They consider [Benavidez] one of the best so why not fight the best?”

Canelo Alvarez Edges Gennady Golovkin by Majority Decision to Capture the WBC and WBA Middleweight Titles

Saul Canelo” Alvarez is el campeon

The 29-year-old Mexican superstar boxer scored the signature win of his career in this weekend’s long-awaited rematch with Gennady Golovkin, capturing the WBC and WBA middleweight titles by a majority decision in a classic encounter that all but guarantees a third installment in May.

Canelo Alvarez

Two of the finest pure fighters of their generation treated the sellout crowd of 21,965 at the T-Mobile Arena to a contest of extreme physical and psychological intensity that managed even to surpass their electric first meeting last year, which ended in a widely derided split draw.

This one was just as close and not entirely beyond dispute, merely flecked by controversy rather than defined by it.

Ringside judges Dave Moretti and Steve Weisfeld scored it 115-113 to Álvarez, while Glenn Feldman had it 114-114.

Álvarez (50-1-2, 34 KOs), the popular red-haired boxer from Guadalajara, now adds Golovkin’s belts at 160lbs to the lineal middleweight title he earned by virtue of a 2015 win over Miguel Cotto.

“I showed my victory with facts,” Álvarez said afterward through an interpreter. “He was the one who was backing up. I feel satisfied because I gave a great fight. It was a clear victory.”

For Golovkin (38-1-1, 34 KOs), the razor-thin verdict marked his first defeat in 40 professional fights, the first at any level since the 2005 amateur world championships, and ended his division-record streak of 20 consecutive middleweight title defenses on level terms with Bernard Hopkins, who incidentally is a minor stakeholder in Golden Boy Promotions, which promotes Álvarez.

Benavidez to Fight Rogelio Medina in Quest for WBC Super Middleweight World Title

David Benavidez is on the hunt for history…

The 20-year-old Latino boxer is one step closer to achieving his goal of becoming the youngest fighter to win a super middleweight world title.

David Benavidez

The WBC has agreed to sanction a title eliminator between Benavidez (17-0, 16 KOs) and former title challenger Rogelio “Porky” Medina (37-7, 31 KOs), according to promoter Sampson Lewkowicz.

“This is the final test for David Benavidez,” Lewkowicz said. “If he does to this guy what he did to so many other fighters, it will be time for the world to acknowledge that David is going to be a star in boxing. This test will show everyone that he is truly everything we’ve been saying he is since he was a teenager. I am proud of the hard work he is doing and look forward to this great victory.”

The date and location of the fight are still to be determined, Lewkowicz said.

England’s Callum Smith (22-0, 17 KOs) and Anthony Dirrell (30-1-1, 24 KOs), the former titleholder, are due to meet this spring for the belt recently vacated by Badou Jack, who is moving up in weight. The winner of that bout must make his first defense against Turkey’s Avni Yildirim (15-0, 10 KOs).

The fighter who emerges with the title following those two bouts will be mandated to face the Benavidez-Medina winner.

“This is the biggest opportunity of my life, and I’m not going to let it go to waste,” said Benavidez, who served as one of unified middleweight world champion Gennady Golovkin‘s chief sparring partners as he prepared for his March 18 fight with Daniel Jacobs. “I’m going to destroy this guy like I do everybody else. I have never trained this hard for a fight, and I feel that, come fight time, I’ll be extremely strong and do it up.”

The super middleweight division was created in 1984 and the youngest fighter to win a world title at 168 pounds is Darin Van Horn, who was 22 years, 8 months and 11 days old when he knocked out Lindell Holmes in the 11th round to win the IBF version of the belt May 18, 1991.

If Benavidez defeats Medina, he would get the opportunity to challenge for a world title well before he turns 22. Benavidez does not turn 21 until Dec. 17.