Former champion Charles Martin to fight on Wilder-Ortiz undercard

.BROOKLYN (February 14, 2018) – The heavyweight world title showdown between Deontay Wilder and Luis Ortiz will feature a stacked undercard of exciting attractions that includes top contenders, a former heavyweight champion, exciting prospects and more all entering the ring on Saturday, March 3 from Barclays Center, the home of BROOKLYN BOXING™.

Action inside the arena includes top middleweight contender Sergey Derevyanchenko facing Dashon Johnson in an eight-round fight, 2016 U.S. Olympian Gary Antuanne Russell in a six-round super lightweight showdown, and a 10-round matchup between super welterweight prospects Patrick Day and Kyrone Davis.

A 2008 Ukrainian Olympian now fighting out of Brooklyn, Derevyanchenko (11-0, 9 KOs) earned his top contender status in the IBF by stopping Tureano Johnson in the 12th round of their August 2017 showdown and will face California’s Johnson (22-22-3, 7 KOs) as he awaits his title shot.

One of featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr.’s younger brothers, the 21-year-old Russell (3-0, 3 KOs) represented the U.S. at the 2016 Olympic games in Rio and made it to the quarterfinal round. He turned pro in May of last year and has scored three first round stoppages as a pro.

The 25-year-old Day (14-2-1, 6 KOs) fights out of Freeport, New York and most recently won an exciting contest over then unbeaten Eric Walker last July to seize the WBC Continental Americas Super Welterweight Title. He takes on another prospect looking to leap to contender status in the 23-year-old Davis (13-1, 5 KOs) from Delaware who enters this bout on a three-fight winning streak.

The card continues with former heavyweight world champion Charles Martin (25-1-1, 23 KOs) in an eight-round fight, former world title challenger Willie Monroe Jr. (21-3, 6 KOs) in an eight-round middleweight affair and a pair of local welterweight prospects fighting at Barclays Center for the fourth time as Richardson Hitchins (3-0, 1 KO) and Kenny Robles (2-1, 1 KO) compete in separate six-round attractions. Rounding out the action is unbeaten prospect Shynggyskhan Tazhibay (5-0, 2 KOs) in a six-round welterweight bout.

Tickets for the live event, which is promoted by DiBella Entertainment and TGB Promotions, start at $50 and are on sale now. To purchase tickets, visit Ticketmaster.com, BarclaysCenter.com, or call 800-745-3000. Tickets for the event can also be purchased at the American Express Box Office at Barclays Center.

The Premier Boxing Champions event is headlined by the highly anticipated Wilder vs. Ortiz matchup and will see undefeated former 154-pound champion Jermall Charlo take on Hugo Centeno, Jr. for the interim WBC middleweight title in the co-feature. The SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING telecast begins live on SHOWTIME at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT with top super middleweight contender Andre Dirrell battling hard-hitting Jose Uzcategui in a rematch for the IBF Interim 168-pound world title.

 

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Devon Alexander: ‘Victor Ortiz can’t bring something that we haven’t seen before’  

EL PASO, TX. (February 14, 2018) – Former welterweight world champion Devon Alexander showed off his skills at a media workout in El Paso Wednesday, as he prepares for his Saturday, February 17 showdown against Victor Ortiz, which headlines Premier Boxing Champions on FOX & FOX Deportes action from Don Haskins Center on the UTEP campus in El Paso, Texas.

Here is what Alexander had to say Wednesday from the Wolves Den Boxing Gym:

 “I feel great right now. It’s been a tremendous training camp and I’m ready to go. I’m happy to be in El Paso to do something I love to do. Boxing is what I was born to do and I’m just ready for Saturday. 

“Victor Ortiz is a good fighter. We’ve known each other for a long time. We used to fight in a lot of the same amateur tournaments. We go back a long way but this is business. We’re not friends in the ring. We’re not playing games.

“This fight is very important to me. This can catapult me back to title contention. If this doesn’t go my way, it’s very bad for my career. If I pull out the win, it could lead to tremendous opportunities for me. This is a do-or-die fight. 

“I’ve added more power in this camp. But we’ve pretty much kept it typical with that emphasis on really looking good on fight night. It’s just been an all-around good camp. Victor Ortiz can’t bring something that we haven’t seen before.”

Televised coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT and also features 2016 U.S. Olympian Karlos Balderas battling Jorge Rojas.

Photos from Ruben Ramirez

 

Who is heavyweight Cassius Chaney?

Baltimore, Maryland) – After leaving his home town of Baltimore, Maryland at the age of 13, and rolling up more miles than he cares to count as a collegiate athlete and professional boxer, Cassius Chaney (11-0, 8 KOs) has finally come home.

Undefeated heavyweight Chaney now lives and trains in Baltimore. He spent four years as a standout scholarship basketball star at the University of New Haven in Connecticut. His switch to professional boxing after earning a degree in sports management took Chaney from Florida to England for bouts, and as a sparring partner for Tyson and Hughie Fury and other top heavyweights.

Now Chaney is back in Baltimore, training with Calvin Ford at the Upton Boxing Center. Ford, known as “The Mayor of Baltimore Boxing” and the real-life inspiration for the character Cutty on the popular TV series “The Wire” is hard at work preparing Chaney for his bout with Tim Washington (6-5, 6 KOs) of Toledo, Ohio at The Theater at Madison Square Garden on the Sergey Kovalev vs. Igor Mikhalkin non-televised undercard on Saturday, March 3.

“A big part of the change was the comfort of my family, my mom still being here in Baltimore,” said Chaney. “I’ve learned you can’t be everywhere at once. Because of sports, I’ve never had the chance to be home too long. During a visit, I went by the gym, I liked the staff and the atmosphere, and being home and not having to worry about travel. I liked going to Florida to train, but it was difficult,” explained Chaney.

Chaney made the switch to training with Ford, and as a result is rethinking his approach with the help of some tough love from his new team. “They’re learning me, I’m learning them,” said Chaney. “Some of it for me is not thinking so much,” which is not an easy thing for the rare boxer with a college degree. “I gravitate toward people who think a lot.”

Chaney says Ford tells him not to overthink, “to let it flow, be comfortable, that’s what I’m trying to get back to.”

As much as Chaney and Ford work on his skills and boxing craft, Chaney says Ford and assistant coach Kenny Ellis are working on his mental toughness. “They do things to try and push my buttons,” said Chaney. “They want to rile me up. In the ring, I’m not being nice. But I’m a thinker, I have to try and get out of that.”

Chaney is at heart still a student, and knows how to do his homework outside the ring. He became accustomed to studying game films as a college basketball player, and those habits have translated to boxing. “I can watch fights all day. I can watch them one time and remember … I look for tendencies, not specifically how (an opponent) is going to fight me,” said Chaney.

Chaney said he’s been inspired recently by the 2010 book written by basketball great Kobe Bryant, The Kobe Code: Eight Principles For Success — An Insider’s Look Into Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant’s Warrior Life & the Code He Lives By. “The principles of winning are always true. Once a winner, always a winner,” said Chaney.

Chaney says his role models in boxing are Lennox Lewis, Bernard Hopkins, and the great Muhammad Ali. “The intellectual ones are the ones I gravitate to,” said Chaney.

No matter where he calls home, Chaney’s loyal fans continue to support him as a professional boxer and should be in force at Madison Square Garden. Surprisingly, Chaney has never appeared at the Garden, even during his collegiate basketball days. His only experience was a single visit to watch the WNBA’s New York Liberty play.

“Main Events has given me so many opportunities, fighting in England, Canada, and Las Vegas. I have a lot of people interested in checking the fight out. I always perform my best in big moments. I’ve gotten a lot of knockouts on HBO cards. More than anything, I’m getting better. I’m excited to get there and put on a show, back on HBO,” promised Chaney.

 About March 3:  The Saturday, March 3 main event between Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev and Igor Mikhalkin is a 12-round match-up for the WBO Light Heavyweight World Title at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The co-main event features WBA Light Heavyweight World Champion Dmitry Bivol versus Sullivan Barrera in a 12-round title fight. Tickets range from $50 to $300 and are available at TicketMaster.com and the Madison Square Garden box office. The event is promoted by Main Events, Krusher Promotions and World of Boxing in association with EC Box Promotions and will be televised live on HBO World Championship Boxing® at 10:05 p.m. ET/PT. 

Credit David Spagnolo-Main Events

Dirrell-Uzcategui II set for March 3 at Barclays Center

BROOKLYN (February 12, 2018) – Top super middleweight contender Andre Dirrell clashes with hard-hitting Jose Uzcategui in a rematch for the IBF Interim 168-pound world title live on SHOWTIME Saturday, March 3 from Barclays Center, the home of BROOKLYN BOXING™, as part of a triple-header presented by Premier Boxing Champions.
Heavyweight champion Deontay “The Bronze Bomber” Wilder will defend his title againstLuis “The Real King Kong” Ortiz in the main event of a SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING tripleheader. The telecast begins at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT and also features undefeated former 154-pound champion Jermall Charlo taking on Hugo Centeno, Jr. for the interim WBC middleweight title in the co-feature.
Tickets for the live event, which is promoted by DiBella Entertainment and TGB Promotions, start at $50 and are on sale now. To purchase tickets, visit Ticketmaster.com, BarclaysCenter.com, or call 800-745-3000. Tickets for the event can also be purchased at the American Express Box Office at Barclays Center.
The hotly contested first match between Dirrell and Uzcategui, which was also for the IBF interim world title, ended in controversy after Uzcategui was disqualified for landing a punch after the bell sounded to end the eighth round.  Dirrell was dropped and knocked out by the punch. The referee ruled that the punch was intentional and disqualified Uzcategui. In the IBF mandated rematch, Dirrell and Uzcategui will look to put themselves in position to fight for the super middleweight title that Caleb Truax recently earned via a majority decision over James DeGale.
Dirrell (26-2, 16 KOs), a bronze medal winner for the 2004 U.S. Olympic boxing team, continues his quest for a world championship. The 34-year-old southpaw from Flint, Michigan lost a split decision to Carl Froch in his first attempt in 2009 and dropped a narrow unanimous decision to DeGale in his next attempt in 2015.
“I’m extremely excited to be a part of one of the most dynamic tripleheaders this year,” Dirrell said. “This time around I’ll be phenomenal and leave no doubt who the better fighter is. I’m 100 percent focused on dominating Uzcategui on March 3 and getting another shot at the title.”
The 27-year-old Uzcategui (26-2, 22 KOs), who is from Venezuela and now lives in Tijuana, Mexico, worked his way up to the match against Dirrell with a string of four straight stoppage victories, including a stunning upset of Julian Jackson in 2015. Uzcategui dropped Jackson four times on the way to a second round technical knockout victory.
“I’m very excited to go get what’s mine,” said Uzcategui. “I feel I won the last fight. I didn’t feel I did anything wrong. What happened in the last fight is in the past. I’m going to get what belongs to me. The world will see what ‘Bolivita’ can do and they’ll want to see more of me.”

Garcia: ‘I learned from the Keith Thurman fight not to leave anything in the hands of the judges’

On Friday, two-division world champion Danny Garcia had a media workout in Philadelphia as he prepares for his welterweight world title eliminator against former champion Brandon Rios Saturday, February 17 live on SHOWTIME from Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.

Garcia touched on a few different topics, including what he learned from his last fight against Keith Thurman.  A fight Garcia lost for the first time in his career by split decision:

 “I learned from the Keith Thurman fight not to leave anything in the hands of the judges,” Garcia said. “It was a close fight that could have gone either way. I have to go for the kill, so it is what it is.

“I was just enjoying myself for a little bit after the Thurman fight. I knew that I’d be back so it was good to get some time with my family and away from boxing. Now I’m back and ready to go.

“This is a new chapter in my career. There are new obstacles to overcome. Just like I’ve always had in my career. I’m going to take it one fight at a time so I can get back to where I belong.

 “Once you’re a champion, you’re always a champion. On February 17 I’m going to show everyone why I’m one of the best fighters in the world.

 “I’ve had my best performances in Las Vegas against Amir Khan and Lucas Matthysse. Las Vegas is where the stars fight so I’m happy to be fighting there again.

 “I’ve been preparing for everything. I’ve been working on boxing and brawling; it’ll just depend how I feel when the fight starts. I’m going to be ready for 12 rounds regardless.”

A victory over Rios puts Garcia one step closer to a rematch with Thurman.

If everything goes the way many expect it will, Garcia should have no issues beating Rios next Saturday night.

 Photos from Chet Susslin/SHOWTIME

Wilder: ‘I’ll get to 50-0’

LOS ANGELES (Feb. 9, 2018) – Just days after the birth of his daughter, WBC heavyweight world champion Deontay Wilder met with members of the Southern California media on Thursday as he prepares to defend his WBC Heavyweight World Championship against fellow-undefeated challenger Luis Ortiz Saturday, March 3 live on SHOWTIME from Barclays Center, the home of BROOKLYN BOXING™.

Wilder and his girlfriend, fellow “WAGS Atlanta” star Telli Swift welcomed their daughter into the world on Tuesday before Wilder turned his focus to March 3, climbing in the ring at Team Watson Boxing Club in the San Fernando Valley to work out with his Los Angeles-based trainer Mark Breland, the former U.S. Olympics gold medalist and former WBC Welterweight World Champion.

The 32-year-old Wilder owns a perfect record of 39 wins, zero losses and 38 knockouts. Fighting out of his hometown of Tuscaloosa, Ala., he was a 2008 Olympic Bronze Medalist and is the only reigning American heavyweight world champion.  The 6-foot-7 Wilder faces the toughest opponent of his career in Ortiz, a 6-foot-4 Cuban who owns a professional record of 28-0 with 24 knockouts.

Here is what Wilder had to say on Thursday:

“Once I unify all the titles then line up the mandatories, I’ll easily get to 50-0. I’m not a 12-round fighter, and I don’t get overtime. I’m a knockout artist. So that being said, I don’t take much damage, but I give all the damage. I put people in the hospitals. I put people in stretchers. When you fight me your head is not the same when you leave. When you fight me you’re really signing a death warrant.

“This is one of the biggest fights of my career and I’m up for the challenge. I’m going to pass with flying colors.

“Ortiz has got that reputation of being the bogeyman but I’ve never been scared of the bogeyman. For that reason, I wanted him. A lot of people have been avoiding him, even champions that are champions to this day have avoided Luis Ortiz. But this champion right here took on the opportunity.

Even when [Ortiz] failed the drug test once, I still blessed him again because I’m very adamant about what I want to do. I want to fight the best. I say I’m the best. I say it very proudly, I say it very confidently. I say it so boldly and I want to show the world that I don’t play around. If I say it, I really mean what I say. I don’t have time to waste.

“If he fails again then somebody’s going to need to go whoop his ass. The public needs to whoop his ass. All of Miami should get up and do that. The first time, a lot of people spent a lot of time and a lot of money for tickets and he did what he did. A lot of people were enraged. I heard it and a lot of people blamed me, which I don’t know why. But, with this fight right here and what I did with my last performance, it makes it even better. It intensifies the whole fight. So, if he [fails his drug test again] then shame on him. I feel sorry for his soul and his life. I don’t think he’s going to do that. I think he has a lot of responsibilities in his hands right now. At this point in time he knows he needs to do the right thing. Three times is not the charm in all instances.”

“I don’t focus on what these guys are doing. I don’t focus on what their strengths are. I just focus on me. I focus on what I’m capable of doing. I focus on what I’m going to do and when I tell people I’m going to do something, you know I’m going to do it. At the end of the day that’s what my father taught me. There weren’t any contracts back in the day, it was just the shake of a hand. And if you said something and you didn’t abide by it, there’s consequences to your actions, to your words. To this day, I abide by that. So, if I say I’m going to do something it’s guaranteed to be done.”

On his lifestyle outside of boxing:

“I just think life itself is just mental. I do a lot of visualization. I do a lot of meditation. It strengthens my mind to go through a lot of the situations that I go through. Having a baby and being on a reality show, all of that is fun stuff. Some people know how to maintain it and some people don’t. I’m just a guy that multitasks a lot of things. I can do a lot of things. Even when I’m talking to you, my mind can be in so many different places right now and still be able to comprehend and interact with you. So, I think I was meant for a lot of things. Boxing is just not what all I can do. I’m so talented in so many different areas.

“I’m a laid back guy. In my personal life I’m just a cool, calm and collected dude that likes to live life and I love peace. Unfortunately, in what I do in the ring, I turn into the ‘Bronze Bomber’ and the ‘Bronze Bomber’ don’t get caught by none.”

On being on reality TV and recognized by non-boxing fans:

“I think it’s very important. People need to know who the heavyweight champion of the world is. America got a bad man, an ass-whooper, right in America. I think it’s important and people should understand and should know who that is. That’s why I do the things I do. That’s why I’m so competitive. That’s why I speak the way I speak. Sometimes it may annoy people, it may get on people’s nerves and I never hear it in front of my face, but I understand it. I do it to show people that I’m going to speak it and you’re going to see me deliver it. I think you get the most respect when you say something you’re going to do and you do it. Look at Ali, people hated him. They say he was a big mouth who ran his mouth too much but he proved himself many times and that’s that thing I want to do. I want to speak what I say I’m going to do and you watch me work.”

On Anthony Joshua:

“I want him just as bad as everybody else wants him. If it was up to me, we would’ve been fighting two years ago. I’ve been calling this man out. When they hyped him up and said he was this, said he was that. I’m the type of person that I get happy for other people. With me and my happiness and me being successful, that’s all up to me. It ain’t up to nobody else. So, when I see other people doing great things, when I see good things coming to other people, I get happy for other people. It’s a hard thing for people to get happy for other people because things don’t happen for them but I’m not like that because I know my blessings will sure enough come. All I got to do is keep working.

“I come in peace all of the time but with him, I don’t think Joshua wants to fight me. His promoters don’t want him to fight me. They’re on the goal of trying to build this resume, saying they want to be the first billionaires, stuff like that. But doing that, the plans all end with me. All roads lead to me. I’m not going nowhere, no time soon. They know black don’t crack. So, I’m going to be around for a long time. I ain’t the best heavyweight in the division. I’m the best heavyweight on this earth. I’m just waiting on the opportunity to prove it.”

Prediction for March 3:

“People ask me the round and I always see threes. This year is a magical year. It’s the year of the 33. So, I see threes everywhere. I see three rounds or less, maybe shorter than that. It all depends on how I feel when I see him.”

 

 

Jermall Charlo: ‘I’m going to knock them out one-by-one until Canelo or Golovkin have to face me’

Unbeaten former 154-pound world champion Jermall Charlo hosted a media workout Thursday in his hometown of Houston as he prepares for his WBC Interim Middleweight World Title showdown against Hugo Centeno Jr. Saturday, March 3 from Barclays Center.

Tickets for the live event, which is promoted by DiBella Entertainment and TGB Promotions, start at $50 and are on sale now. To purchase tickets, visit Ticketmaster.com, BarclaysCenter.com, or call 800-745-3000. Tickets for the event can also be purchased at the American Express Box Office at Barclays Center.

Here is what Charlo  had to say Thursday from Charlo Boxing and Fitness Club in Houston:

“It’s going to be a tough fight against Hugo Centeno Jr. If he can stand up to my power, we’re going to fight and it’ll be a brutal war. If he can’t, I’ll take him out in the first round.

“We can’t let Houston down now. My brother and I have made it this far. We can’t stop now. It’s my turn to put on a spectacular performance on March 3. I’m trying to one-up my brother’s previous performance each time I step in there.

“My goal is to show everybody that I’m the best middleweight in the world. I’m going to keep fighting everyone they put in front of me. I’m going to knock them out one-by-one until Canelo or Golovkin have to face me.

“I’ve had the chance to work on some improvements to my game since my last fight. I think having even more patience in the ring is going to help step my game up even higher. I want to be a champion at middleweight more than I did at 154-pounds.

“Hugo Centeno Jr. is another fighter who is in my way. I know he’ll come in prepared, but I’m confident I’m going to walk out of there with the victory.

“This is going to be a big year for me and my brother. We’re going to keep showing everyone why we’re so feared.”

The Premier Boxing Champions event will be headlined by heavyweight champion Deontay “The Bronze Bomber” Wilder defending his title against unbeaten contender Luis “The Real King Kong” Ortiz.

 Photos from Andrew Hemingway/SHOWTIME

Brandon Rios on fighting Garcia: ‘I’m going to win’

LOS ANGELES (Feb. 7, 2018) – Former world champion Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios hosted a Los Angeles media workout Wednesday in advance of his welterweight title eliminator against Danny “Swift” Garcia Saturday, Feb. 17, live on SHOWTIME from Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas and presented by Premier Boxing Champions.

Tickets for the live event, which is promoted by Mayweather Promotions and TGB Promotions, are on sale now and are available at AXS.com.

Here is what the Rios had to say Wednesday from NGBA Boxing Gym: 

 “I’m training really hard and I’m ready to get back in the ring. My weight is perfect right now and I’m just ready to give the fans a great show.

“This is the kind of fight that I asked for because I know that beating a guy like Danny Garcia will mean a lot to my career and put me on the fast track to accomplish my goals.

“Danny has a lot of power on his hook. He throws it hard and is accurate. We’ve worked hard to prepare for this moment and I’m excited.

“Having Robert Garcia here makes me much happier in training. I love the instructions from him and Donald Leary, and I love having them as my corner. Sparring the young guys in Robert’s gym really has helped me. Those guys are hungry and always pushing to prove themselves. I have to keep elevating my game.

“As long as I beat Danny Garcia, I know that it puts me back to the top of this division. I’m here again and I’m doing it right this time. I want to make the most of this part of my career. I don’t want to ever wonder ”what if?’”

“I’m going to win. That’s my mentality. I’m going into this fight with that same hunger and drive to never be defeated. I’m going to do whatever I have to do to win this fight.

“We’re expecting to fight the best version of Danny Garcia. I know he had his first loss and wants his title back, so he’ll be prepared. I think we’re going to give the fans a great show. 

“I feel rejuvenated and more mature than ever before. I’ve already been to the top. I just want to do things right this time so I can get back up there and stay there. I’m taking this camp very seriously to be at my best on February 17. I’m going to go out there and execute the game plan. 

“We’re going to give 150 tickets to first responders of the Las Vegas incident last year and it means a lot to me and my whole team. Those men and women work very hard and put their lives on the line to protect us all around the world. It means a lot to me for them to come to this show.”

In the co-feature of the SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING telecast (10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT), undefeated super middleweight world champion David Benavidez and top-rated contenderRonald Gavril square-off in a rematch of their thrilling September 2017 bout in which Benavidez won the vacant title by split decision.

 

Photo: Idris Erba/Team Brandon Rios

Shakur Stevenson hopes to fight more often in 2018

From 2013 through 2015, 2016 Olympic silver medalist and featherweight prospect Shakur Stevenson (Newark, N.J.) (4-0, 2 KOs) opened his competitive year in Reno, Nev. He will return to that tradition in 2018, kicking off the year in an eight-round featherweight contest versus Juan Tapia (Brownsville, Texas) (8-1, 3 KOs) on Friday, February 16 at the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino’s Grand Theater.
Competing in Reno has always been a good luck charm of sorts for Stevenson with his run to both Junior and Youth World titles, a Youth Olympic Games gold medal and even his berth in the 2016 Olympic Games all beginning with domestic competitions in the “Biggest Little City in the World.” The Grand Sierra will also be a familiar venue for Stevenson who earned three straight Junior and Youth Open titles in the hotel as a teenager.
It’s only fitting that he prepares for his return to Reno and first eight-round bout at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., where the new USA Boxing training facility now showcases an action shot of the 20-year-old proudly on the gym wall.
Stevenson is training for his fifth professional fight with coach Kay Koroma and alongside the USA Boxing National Team, which includes three teammates from his home gym, the Alexandria Boxing Club in Alexandria, Va. He even enjoyed a special visit from Olympic gold medalists Andre Ward and Claressa Shields earlier in his training camp and Ward, Stevenson’s co-manager, will be ringside for Stevenson’s bout on February 16.
He looks forward to kicking off 2018 in impressive fashion after scoring four professional wins in 2017, including two TKO victories in New York, near his hometown of Newark. He hopes to be even busier in 2018 as he works toward his goal of becoming a World Champion.
Stevenson and his team will conclude training camp this weekend and travel to Reno on Monday in preparation for his February 16 bout. His fight will take place on the undercard of the Ray Beltran – Paulus Moses World Championship fight which will be televised on ESPN at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.

Boxer Ismael Villarreal is going to school in and out of ring

(Bronx, New York) – Sixty thousand community college students participate in athletic competition, according to the NCAA. Another 400,000 compete if you include four-year college students. Only two percent will ever become professional athletes.

Twenty-year-old Bronx native Ismael Villarreal (1-0) has already beaten those odds. The two-time New York Golden Gloves champion won his first bout as a professional boxer in November in his debut at The Theater at Madison Square Garden. Villarreal returns to the big stage again at The Garden on Saturday, March 3 on the non-televised undercard of Sergey Kovalev vs. Igor Mikhalkin in a four-round junior middleweight bout against Anthony Woods (1-5) of Douglasville, Georgia.

“I never thought I was going to return (to Madison Square Garden) that quick,” said Villarreal. “It’s pretty cool, and I get to fight in my hometown, so I like it.”

Villarreal remains in New York between fights in order to balance his full-time training schedule and full-time course load at Brooklyn Community College. He is a physical education major, studying subjects including biology and education, with the goal of becoming a teacher. “You’ve always got to have a backup plan. Anything can happen… I can’t drop school.”

Villarreal competed as an amateur while attending Belmont Preparatory High School, founded in the Bronx in 2002 for academically talented students throughout the community. Many of his teachers there became boxing fans, and Villarreal expects to see many of them for his second fight at Madison Square Garden. “They’ve always been supportive,” said Villarreal.

His community college classmates and instructors aren’t as aware of Villarreal’s second full-time job as a professional boxer: “Sometimes they find me on the internet. I would have told them, but I don’t want to interrupt class saying ‘hey, I’m a boxer!'”

Juggling the demands of training and his school obligations makes time management critically important for Villarreal. “I have to go every day, my only day off is Friday. I still have to focus on running, on homework, on the gym. It’s tough but I’ll make it through,” said Villarreal.

Villarreal says the real exhaustion is mental more than physical. “When I go to school and I’m boxing, it’s definitely hard. Some can do it, some can’t … Sometimes it’s hard to manage… no one can say it’s easy, it’s a challenge.”

But Villarreal has discovered the value of discipline, and he says it benefits him in multiple ways. “I’ve always been disciplined when it comes to schoolwork. If anything, I become more disciplined with boxing from the schoolwork,” explained Villarreal.

For his upcoming fight, Villarreal is dropping from middleweight to junior middleweight (154 pounds). He says he’s working on being more active and throwing more punches, especially working to the body. Villarreal’s plan for 2018 is to stay active in the ring. But he also understands at this stage of his career, “sometimes you get tired of waiting, but patience is important … I know everything will pay off in the future.”

About March 3:  The Saturday, March 3 main event between Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev and Igor Mikhalkin is a 12-round match-up for the WBO Light Heavyweight World Title at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The co-main event features WBA Light Heavyweight World Champion Dmitry Bivol versus Sullivan Barrera in a 12-round title fight. Tickets range from $50 to $300 and are available at TicketMaster.com and the Madison Square Garden box office. The event is promoted by Main Events, Krusher Promotions and World of Boxing in association with EC Box Promotions and will be televised live on HBO World Championship Boxing® at 10:05 p.m. ET/PT.

 Photo: David Spagnolo/Main Events