Cavs run out of gas in OKC

The Cavs(30-21) finished their three-game road trip in OKC against the Thunder(24-25) on Friday night. Cleveland was without Donovan Mitchell(groin), Ricky Rubio(rest), and Kevin Love(back) and was on a second half of a back-to-back after their win over the Rockets in Houston on Thursday night.

Cleveland led early but faded late and fell to the Thunder 112-100 at Paycom Center.

The Cavs finished their three-game road trip 1-2.

Here’s the Great, Not So Great, and the Bottom Line of the Cavs’ loss to the Thunder.

The Great:

Darius Garland led the Cavs with 31 points and 13 assists. 23 of his 31 points came in the second half.

Evan Mobley had another strong performance with 23 points, 11 rebounds, and two blocks. This was Mobley’s second straight 20-10 game, and Mobley grabbed his 1,000th career rebound on Friday night.

Not So Great:

Caris LeVert was 1/12 from the field, including 0/6 from deep; he finished with two points and nine assists. Without Mitchell, the Cavs needed LeVert to be better. 

Second Half: Cleveland led 54-47 at halftime, but they were outscored 65-46 in the second half. OKC shot 59% from the field in that second half and 7/11 from deep, and they closed the game the right way. Conversely, the Cavs shot 39% from the field.

Bottom Line:

No Mitchell, no Love, and no Rubio, and the Cavs just ran out of gas in the second half of a back-to-back. The Cavs did not have the energy to hold OKC off.

However, this is not a bad loss. You’re without your best player on a back-to-back against a solid Thunder team on the road, so the loss is excusable.

The Cavs are a very good team, but their road woes(10-16) prevent them from being great.

What’s Next:

Cleveland returns home on Sunday to face the Los Angeles Clippers. 

Best of the Rest:

-Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 35 points, five rebounds, and eight assists. Jalen Williams added 17 points, including 3/3 from deep; Josh Giddey chipped in with 15 points, six rebounds, and three assists.

-Jarrett Allen had 13 points and nine rebounds for the Cavaliers.

Golden Boy Promotions sign super welterweight prospect Eric Tudor

Golden Boy Promotions announced Friday the signing of super welterweight prospect Eric Tudor (7-0, 6 KOs) to its coveted promotional banner.

Tudor,21, is a boxer-puncher who’s foundational arsenal makes him a well-rounded pugilist. With over 200 amateur fights, the Romanian-born combatant was part of the Romanian National Team. Raised in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the 21-year-old also won the Silver Gloves and National PAL Boxing Championships here in the U.S. He has fought a number of times on Golden Boy Fight Night Series cards, impressing fans with his quick, knockout stoppages.

“I’m excited to be a part of a great promotional company like Golden Boy and showcase my talent to the world on such a great platform,”  Tudor said. “I want to use this opportunity to show that I’m one of the best prospects in boxing.

“Like many other fighters, my goal is to fight for a world title. Activity was a key factor for me when signing with a promotional company. I want to be in the ring as many times as possible and Golden Boy will make it happen.”

“We have been impressed by the raw talent we see in Eric Tudor,” said Chairman and CEO Oscar De La Hoya. “His skillset mixed with the Golden Boy tools to make a star, we expect for him to thrive under our promotional banner and one day become champion if he continues his steadfast commitment to be the best. No one can build fighters like we do, and we are excited to welcome Tudor to the Golden Boy Family.”

Jake Paul-Tommy Fury set for February 26

 Jake “The Problem Child” Paul will face undefeated pro boxer Tommy “TNT” Fury, younger brother of Heavyweight World Champion Tyson Fury, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Sunday, February 26, MVP Promotions announced Friday.

The main event, titled “The Truth,” will also feature two-weight world champion Badou Jack “The Ripper” challenging WBC Cruiserweight world champion Ilunga Makabu in the co-main event. The card will also showcase Ashton “H2O” Sylve, an MVP undefeated fighter, as he is set to face former WBC world title challenger Maxwell Awuku (48-5-1, 33 KOs), from Accra, Ghana.

Paul vs. Fury will stream live on ESPN+ PPV (2PM ET / 11AM PT), the exclusive digital distributor for the event in the United States. Additionally, it will be available via cable and satellite pay-per-view providers and will be priced at $49.99

Paul and Fury were originally slated to face off in December 2021, but Fury withdrew from the bout because of a medical issue. Paul went on to record a scintillating one-punch knockout of Tyron Woodley, who stepped in as a late replacement for a rematch of the pair’s August 2021 clash. Paul is giving Fury another chance next month so he can silence the critics who claim he has yet to fight a professional boxer. The 26-year-old Cleveland native started his pro boxing journey in January 2020 and will go head-to-head with Fury, a more experienced boxer from a prominent boxing family.

Paul, who boasts a professional record of 6-0 with 4 knockouts, continues to make waves in the boxing world. His latest win against the legendary Anderson Silva, won him ESPNRingside’s 2022 Viral Moment of the Year, by dropping Silva in the 8th round. Paul began his pro career in January 2020 with a stunning debut against British YouTube star AnEsonGib and a subsequent, jaw-dropping knockout of former NBA star Nate Robinson in November 2020. From there, “The Problem Child” shocked the industry with a first-round KO of former MMA champion Ben Askren in April 2021 and two wins over Woodley, including a vicious knockout which won him ESPNRingside’s 2021 Knockout of The Year.

“The moment of truth has finally arrived,” said Paul. “On February 26th, I will get in the ring with a ‘real boxer,’ an 8-0 fighter from a storied fighting family and show the world the truth about who Jake Paul, the boxer really is.”

Hailing from Manchester, England, Fury began boxing at the age of 12. He had 12 amateur fights, winning two regional titles and reaching the U.K. national final in 2016. Fury made his professional debut in 2018, winning by decision. He then knocked out his next four opponents, drawing attention from the boxing world. In 2021, he fought three times, including his U.S. debut on Paul’s undercard, earning his seventh victory against Anthony Taylor.

Fury most recently shut out Daniel Bocianski over six rounds last April on the Tyson Fury-Dillian Whyte undercard. Fury, a former Love Island reality TV star, is ready for the biggest moment in his professional boxing career.

Broner to now battle Michael Williams Jr. on February 25

Adrien Broner will have his third different opponent for his return on February 25.

BLK Prime announced on Friday that the four-division world champion will now face Michael Williams Jr in a 10-round welterweight showdown at Gateway Center Arena in College Park, Georgia GA(BLK PRIME PPV).

Broner(34-4-1, 24 KOs) was initially scheduled to fight Ivan Redkach; however, due to promotional issues, Redkach was dropped from the fight. Then, he was scheduled to face veteran Hank Lundy, but Lundy was suspended by the California Athletic Commission and could not fight.

Enter Williams(20-1, 13 KOs), who will get the opportunity of a lifetime against Broner. The 23-year-old won his last bout by stoppage and suffered the first loss of his career in 2021 against John Bauza, where he was dropped five times, but versus Broner, he’ll have an opportunity to change the narrative.

“I’ve been preparing for a moment like this for a long time, and I’m ready to take on Broner,” Williams said. “I’m going to take full advantage of this opportunity and show everyone watching on BLK Prime that they didn’t make a mistake by choosing me to challenge Broner. I have nothing to lose, and I’m going all out on fight night 150%.”

No matter the opponent, the 33-year-old Broner said he would put on a great show for the people in Georgia

“I’m excited to get back in the ring and show the world that I’m still one of the best fighters in the sport,” Broner said. “Williams Jr. is a tough opponent, but I’m ready for the challenge, and I’m going to put on a show for the fans in Atlanta. It’s the AB show on BLK Prime.”

The PPV telecast will begin at 9 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. PT. A live PPV preshow starts at 7 p.m. ET / 4:00 p.m. PT. Broner vs. Williams Jr. will broadcast worldwide via digital Pay-Per-View on BLKPrime.com and PPV.com for $39.99.

Robeisy Ramirez to battle Isaac Dogboe on April 1 in Tulsa

Two-time Olympic gold medalist Robeisy “El Tren” Ramírez will lock horns with Isaac “Royal Storm” Dogboe in a 12-round showdown for the vacant interim WBO featherweight world title Saturday, April 1, at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa.

In the eight-round co-feature, Puerto Rican sensation Xander Zayas looks to extend his unbeaten record against nine-year veteran Ronald “Diablo” Cruz.

Ramirez-Dogboe and Zayas-Cruz headlines a packed card streaming live and exclusively in the U.S. on ESPN+.

“We have seen Robeisy Ramirez grow from a decorated Olympian to a young man on the verge of stardom. Isaac Dogboe is no pushover and represents the toughest test of Ramirez’s career. I expect an exciting, dramatic fight for the great fans in Tulsa,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “2023 will be a huge year for Xander Zayas, a superstar in the making who I believe will be Puerto Rico’s next champion.”

Ramirez (11-1, 7 KOs), from Cienfuegos, Cuba, went from losing his pro debut in August 2019 to one of the division’s top contenders in 2023. Ranked No. 3 by the WBO, Ramirez had a breakthrough in 2022, knocking out Irishman Eric Donovan, the previously unbeaten Abraham Nova, and Argentinean contender Jose Matias Romero. Ramirez has knocked out five of his past six foes, a stunning power surge he hopes carries over to The Sooner State. He is considered one of the greatest boxers ever to emerge from the famed Cuban amateur system and seeks to author a career-best victory in Tulsa.

“I have been boxing for more than 20 years and have been a fighter every step of the way,” Ramirez said. “I never forgot where I came from, but I refuse to define myself by past accomplishments. Even after winning my second Olympic gold medal, I endured hardships. I embraced the challenges ahead of me and know that my greatest tests and most significant accomplishments in boxing are still ahead of me.

“On April 1, I will enter the ring with the hunger that has brought me here and the hunger that comes with knowing that there is still much to achieve. This is just the beginning for Robeisy ‘El Tren’ Ramírez.”

Dogboe (24-2, 15 KOs) has a rapid championship rise at junior featherweight, but he lost his title and career momentum with back-to-back defeats to Emanuel Navarrete. He overhauled his camp following the Navarrete losses, linking up with decorated trainer Barry Hunter at Headbangers Boxing Gym in Washington, D.C. The Dogboe/Hunter partnership has resulted in four consecutive victories, including majority decisions over Adam Lopez and Christopher Diaz. He earned a shot at the interim title with last July’s split decision over Joet Gonzalez, a toe-to-toe battle in Hinckley, Minnesota, that ranked among the year’s best action fights. Dogboe, from Anyako, Ghana, represented his homeland at the 2012 London Olympics and spent much of his childhood in London.

“Nearly five years ago, I became the WBO junior featherweight champion of the world, to the shock of many people. On April 1, I will be crowned a two-time, two-division champion,” Dogboe said. “Ramirez is a good fighter, and I commend him for his achievements. I’ve waited patiently for this opportunity, and I want to thank Bob Arum and the Top Rank family for being good to me over the years. My team and I are preparing for this life-changing opportunity. God Bless all the boxing fans and boxing enthusiasts for their continuous support.”

The 20-year-old Zayas (15-0, 10 KOs), from San Juan, has been ticketed for stardom since signing with Top Rank at 16. He broke through in 2021 with six victories, setting up a 2022 that saw him graduate to eight-rounders. Zayas shut out Louisiana’s Quincy LaVallais over eight rounds, knocked out the durable Elias Espadas in five, and made a “Heisman Night” statement in December with a near-shutout decision over Alexis Salazar. Zayas’ road to contention continues against Cruz (18-2-1, 12, KOs), a Los Angeles native who has never been knocked out as a pro. Cruz went 10 competitive rounds with Damian Sosa last August, dropping a unanimous decision.

Zayas said, “2023 is going to be big for my career. I’m going into the new year with all the power and the mindset needed to make a name for myself in the division. I’m locked in. Laser focused. It all starts on April 1 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I’m very excited to be on this card since I’ll have the opportunity to showcase my skills as the co-feature on ESPN+. This time, I’ll be fighting against a worthy Mexican opponent, and I’m planning to put on a show for all the boxing fans.”

Undercard bouts, also streaming live and exclusively on ESPN+, include:

  • In an eight-round grudge match, Jahi Tucker (9-0, 5 KOs) will make his junior middleweight debut against Nikoloz Sekhniashvili (8-1, 6 KOs). Tucker called for a fight against Zayas, but he must first face Zayas’ training partner, a former amateur standout from the nation of Georgia. Sekhniashvili returned from a 15-month layoff last November to stop the previously unbeaten David Rodriguez in three rounds. 

  • “I am excited to be fighting on a Top Rank card again, this time against an undefeated fighter,” Sekhniashvili said. “I know Jahi is going to run and likes to use his mouth more than his hands. He will try to avoid me, but once I make contact, he will slow down instantly. I can’t wait until April 1.”

  • Tucker said, “Nikoloz is going to be easy work. After I get finished with him, I want to fight Xander.”

  • Two-time world title challenger Joet Gonzalez (25-3, 13 KOs), from Glendora, California returns against Mexican veteran Jose Enrique Vivas (22-2, 11 KOs) in a 10-round featherweight firefight. Gonzalez looks to rebound from last July’s tight split decision defeat to Dogboe. Despite the Dobgoe setback, Gonzalez is still ranked in the top 10 of the WBC and WBO featherweight rankings. Vivas kept his title hopes alive last August with a split decision over Edy Valencia.

  • Junior welterweight phenom Tiger Johnson (7-0, 5 KOs), who represented the U.S. at the Tokyo Olympics, fights in his first second scheduled eight-rounder against an opponent to be named. Johnson stopped Harry Gigliotti in five rounds at Hard Rock Tulsa last August.

  • Tulsa-born heavyweight prospect Jeremiah Milton (8-0, 6 KOs) returns home against an opponent to be named. Milton has fought in Tulsa three times a pro, securing two first-round knockouts and a second-round stoppage.

  • Cleveland-born lightweight Abdullah Mason (6-0, 5 KOs) makes his 2023 debut in a six-rounder. Mason fought at Hard Rock Tulsa last August, outlasting the game Angel Rebollar en route to a four-round decision win.

  • Light heavyweight prospect Dante Benjamin Jr. (5-0, 3 KOs), from Cleveland, aims to continue his knockout momentum in a six-rounder. Benjamin opened his 2023 campaign Jan. 14 with a first-round stoppage over Emmanueal Austin.

Eagles’ Sirianni: ‘This is the most complete team that I’ve ever been around’

In 2022, the Philadelphia Eagles(14-3) had the best record in football in the regular season and are one game away(battle the 49ers in the NFC title game at the Linc on Sunday) from getting to the Super Bowl.

The Eagles have a league-best eight Pro Bowlers and, from top to bottom, have one of the best rosters in the NFL.

According to Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni, who has been around the NFL as a coach since 2009, the 2022 Philadelphia Eagles is the most complete team he’s been around.

“We had some good Mount Union(University) teams. I mean, we had some really good Mount Union teams, that’s for darn sure,'” Sirianni said on Thursday. “But, yeah, in the NFL, this is the most complete team that I’ve ever been around.

“The thing that makes you say that is that I’ve been taught from very young that it’s O-line, D-line, O-line, D-line, O-line, D-line. It doesn’t matter if it’s my son’s pee wee game, it doesn’t matter if it’s a high school game, it doesn’t matter if it’s a college game, it doesn’t matter if it’s a pro game, the O-line, D-line, wins games and sets the tone.

“We have a great defensive line. We have a great offensive line. And not only do we have these pieces in place there, we also understand that we have backups, and we have rotations, guys ready to step in and make plays, and guys that have stepped in to make plays.

“We also know this about San Francisco: They have a great O-line and D-line. You get to the NFC Championship game, that’s what it’s going to look like. I haven’t looked at Cincinnati or Kansas City, but I am assuming it is similar traits.

“So, it’ll be a battle. Yeah, a lot of credit to our O-line, D-line. A lot of credit to [Executive Vice President/General Manager] Howie [Roseman], and how he’s put this roster together and his staff and [Run Game Coordinator/Offensive Line] coach Stout [Jeff Stoutland] and [Defensive Line] coach [Tracy] Rocker and [Defensive Ends/Outside Linebackers] coach Wash [Jeremiah Washburn]. We have a lot of guys in place that are making it possible with those guys.”

Sirianni is right; the Eagles are a complete team and may have the most complete team in the NFL, but none of that means a thing if they don’t get the ring.

NBA announces All-Star starters

LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo were named captains in the 2023 All-Star Game at Vivint Arena in Utah, the league announced Thursday.

In the East, Jayson Tatum, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Donovan Mitchell were named starters, while in the West, James will be joined by Nikola Jokic, Zion Williamson, Luka Doncic, and Stephen Curry in the starting lineup.

James(7,418,116), who made his NBA-record-tying 19th All-Star appearance, was the leading vote-getter overall, and Antetokounmpo(6,761,032) was the leading vote-getter in the East.

Fans, current NBA players, and a media panel selected starters for the 2023 NBA All-Star Game. Fans accounted for 50 percent of the vote to determine the starters, while players and media accounted for 25 percent each.

Each player’s score was calculated by averaging his weighted rank from the fan votes, the player votes and the media votes. The two guards and three frontcourt players with the best score in each conference were named NBA All-Star Game starters.

The All-Star reserves will be named on February 2, and the NBA All-Star game will take place on February 19.  On that night, James and Antetokounmpo will select their teammates.

Notes:

-At 23, Doncic joins Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal, Isiah Thomas, and Anthony Davis as the only players to earn four All-Star nods before their 24th birthday.

-This is Mitchell’s fourth NBA All-Star selection and his first time being selected as a starter.

-Williamson, who is also an All-Star starter for the first time his career, becomes the fourth New Orleans player to be voted a starter, joining Chris Paul (twice), Anthony Davis (x3), and DeMarcus Cousins.

Shadasia Green signs with Jake Paul’s Most Valuable Promotions

Most Valuable Promotions (MVP) today announced the signing of undefeated WBC Silver Super-Middleweight champion Shadasia ‘The Sweet Terminator’ Green to its growing roster of accomplished fighters.

The announcement comes in conjunction with the official naming of her opponent, Elin Cederroos (8-1, 4 KO’s), for the February 4th Serrano-Cruz, Baumgardner-Mekhale undercard at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden.

The WBC-sanctioned bout will serve as a world-title eliminator, with the winner moving on to become the mandatory challenger for the WBC world title.

“2023 has started out with an incredible amount of exciting announcements for MVP, ” said MVP co-founders Jake Paul and Nakisa Bidarian. “We couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome Shadasia and her camp to our team of widely talented and passionate athletes. Her ability to take over the ring and demolish her opponents is truly something special. We look forward to her first official bout under MVP this February at Madison Square Garden!”

Green, the former Team USA star, who boasts an 11-0 record, 10 KO’s and the record for fastest KO in women’s fight, joins MVP after a trailblazing few years. As a former standout college basketball star, Green spent years as a starter for Old Dominion University (ODU) where she was impressively named Third Team All-CAA and ranked top 20 in the CAA in scoring. The Paterson, NJ native later broke out into the amateur boxing scene when she joined the U.S. National Team as a heavyweight after just five fights, earning a silver medal at the 2016 World Championships in Kazakhstan. In 2019, Green transitioned to professional boxing where she quickly gained notoriety as a top female contender, ranking #1 in the WBC and IBO, and #2 in the WBA, ultimately earning her the Paterson Laila Ali Award.

“My motto is ‘be phenomenal or be forgotten’ – a mantra that fits so perfectly with the team that Jake and Nakisa have created,” said Green. “We’re striving for greatness together and I can’t wait to work side-by-side with them for this next phase of my career. My first fight against Cederroos will further cement my place among these other incredibly talented MVP fighters.”

Green and Cederroos face off at a pivotal time in their careers. With a world title shot up for grabs, Cederroos is hungry for the chance to fight for the belt once more with only Green in her way. The Swedish-born fighter, who made her professional debut in April 2017 with an impressive 4th round technical knockout of Sanja Ostojic, will arrive to the Hulu Theatre with an 8-1, 4 KO’s record, having only lost to the current, undisputed super middleweight champion Franchon Crews-Dezurn on the Taylor-Serrano undercard last year. A former IBF and WBA world champion, Cederroos was most recently ranked as the world’s best active female super-middleweight by The Ring.

Nery-Hovhannisyan set for February 18 in Pomona

Two of the most aggressive, forward-pressing super bantamweights in boxing will face off in a 12-round WBC Eliminator on Saturday, February 18.

Former two-division world champion Luis “Pantera” Nery (33-1, 25 KOs) of Tijuana, Mexico will face Azat “Crazy A” Hovhannisyan (21-3, 17 KOs) of Los Angeles by way of Yerevan, Armenia in a matchup where the winner will be one step closer to a coveted opportunity to fight for a world championship. The event, presented in association with Zanfer Boxing, is scheduled to take place at Fox Theater Pomona and will be broadcast worldwide on DAZN beginning at 5:00 p.m. PST/ 8:00 p.m. EST.

“I am ready for the next challenge and prove yet again that I am the best, super bantamweight in the world,” said Luis Nery. “Azat Hovhannisyan is an experienced and high-quality opponent, but the reality is that I’m ranked number 1 by the WBC and if I win this fight I will be ready to challenge Stephen Fulton or Murodjon Akhmadaliev so they can no longer avoid me. See you on February 18, Luis Nery is here for the long haul.”

“I have a lot of respect for Luis,” said Azat Hovhannisyan. “He’s a former world champion and a very talented fighter. I know I’m going to have to do everything I can to win.”

“On February 18, you will see two hungry fighters who have been waiting for their chance at another opportunity to be at the top of their division,” said Chairman and CEO of Golden Boy Promotions Oscar De La Hoya. “You will see Hovhannisyan live up to his name as “Crazy A” and pull out all the stops against Nery in this title eliminator to get a step closer to becoming a world champion.”

Luis Nery represents the tough fighters that have come from the ranks of Tijuana, Mexico. The 28-year-old is a former two-division world champion with a nearly spotless record – his only blemish against Brandon Figueroa in May 2021 that saw him lose his WBA and WBC World Super Bantamweight titles. Since then, he has been on a vengeance to get back to the top, securing the WBC Silver and WBO Inter-Continental Super Bantamweight titles in his fight against Carlos Castro in February 2022 and then a third-round knockout against David Carmona in October 2022.

Azat Hovhannisyan hails from Yerevan, Armenia and has steadily climbed the ranks to make a name for himself in his division. The 34-year-old “Crazy A” has earned the respect of the LA fight scene with his impressive, aggressive forward style. His last string of fights since challenging unsuccessfully for the WBC Super Bantamweight Championship title against Rey Vargas have all ended in knockout wins aside from a solid unanimous decision victory against Jose Santos Gonzalez in July 2021. Currently ranked No. 2 by the WBC, No.1 by the WBA, No.3 by the WBO and No. 4 by The Ring, Hovhannisyan is on the doorstep of another world championship opportunity.

Information on the undercard will be shared soon.

Benavidez-Plant set for March 25 in Las Vegas, Showtime PPV

Undefeated former two-time WBC Super Middleweight Champion David “El Bandera Roja’’ Benavídez and former IBF Super Middleweight Champion Caleb Plant will meet in a high-stakes, 12-round showdown to settle their long-simmering feud live on SHOWTIME PPV on Saturday, March 25 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas in an event presented by Premier Boxing Champions.

Benavídez and Plant will take their years-long war of words into the ring, as these assertive and hungry super middleweights look to cast their ballot as the division’s next kingpin. Both have had reigns as champions at 168 pounds and both are eager to once again ascend to the top of the division as they fight for Benavídez’s Interim WBC Super Middleweight title.

The 25-year-old undefeated Benavídez (26-0, 23 KOs) became the youngest-ever 168-pound world champion at just 20 years old when he defeated Ronald Gavril by split decision for the vacant WBC title on SHOWTIME in 2017. A Phoenix-native who now lives and trains in the Seattle area, Benavídez has stamped his place in the super middleweight division with knockout power in both hands and improving ring savvy with each fight.

When he was 15 years old, Benavídez went from weighing 250 pounds to a boxing prodigy under the watchful eye of his father and trainer, Jose, Sr., and his brother and veteran contender Jose Jr., as he famously held his own in sparring against middleweight champions Gennady Golovkin and Peter Quillin. Benavídez is riding a string of six straight knockout victories heading into the bout against Plant, having most recently scored a resounding third-round stoppage of former champion David Lemieux in his last fight in May.

“I can’t wait until they put me in the ring with him so I can beat his ass,” said Benavídez. “This is going to be a great night for boxing fans. I can’t wait to step in there and give everyone the beatdown they’re coming to see.”

Plant (22-1, 13 KOs) has used his sublime boxing skills to rise to the rank of world champion and, in his last fight, showed big-time power earning 2022’s Knockout of the Year (CBS Sports, BoxingScene) in a win over Anthony Dirrell. It was Plant’s debut performance with new trainer Stephen Edwards in October where he ended a heated rivalry with Dirrell with a single punch, knocking out the former two-time champion to deliver one of 2022’s most memorable finishes.

The 30-year-old Plant, who was born in Nashville, Tenn., and now lives in Las Vegas, won the IBF title in a hard-fought unanimous decision victory over Jose Uzcategui in 2019. Plant dropped Uzcategui in the second and fourth rounds and cruised to victory for the championship. He made three successful title defenses, defeating Mike Lee and Vincent Feigenbutz by TKO in addition to a unanimous decision victory over former champion Caleb Truax. He lost the title in an undisputed championship match against Canelo Alvarez in November 2021, at times frustrating Alvarez with his smooth boxing acumen before defeating Dirrell to set up this highly anticipated clash with Benavidez.

“After I knocked out Dirrell, I made it clear I wanted to go after the biggest fight that could be made in the division,” said Plant. “This is one of the most anticipated matchups and I’m here again, showing the world why I’m one of the biggest attractions in boxing. I feel sharp and on point. I’m looking forward to March 25, not only to give the fans what they’ve been waiting for, but to show who the better man is.”