Luis Alberto “El Venado” Lopez may have to start calling himself “The Road Warrior.” Lopez will make the first defense of his IBF featherweight world title against Michael “Mick” Conlan on Saturday, May 27, at The SSE Arena in Conlan’s hometown of Belfast.
Lopez captured the title last December, venturing to Josh Warrington’s home base of Leeds, England, to grind out a majority decision.
Lopez-Conlan and undercard bouts will stream live and exclusively on ESPN+ in the United States. BT Sport will broadcast the event in the UK and Ireland.
Lopez (27-2, 15 KOs), from Mexicali, Mexico, navigated bumpy terrain to become a world champion. After early-career defeats to Abraham Montoya and Ruben Villa stunted his momentum, Lopez thrilled American fight fans with his July 2020 split decision victory over Andy Vences inside the MGM Grand Bubble. Fourteen months later, he dominated then-unbeaten junior lightweight prospect Gabriel Flores Jr. over 10 rounds. Lopez then moved down to featherweight and stopped another undefeated foe, Isaac Lowe, in seven rounds at London’s York Hall. After two stay-busy wins, he received his shot at the title, turning an expected triumphant Leeds homecoming into disappointment for the partisan fans.
“I am a road warrior. Traveling to my opponent’s home country doesn’t faze me,” Lopez said. “I won my world title in Leeds, and now it’s time to defend it in Belfast. The louder they cheer for Michael, the harder I will fight. The IBF title will remain in Mexico. May 27 will be a special night for me, and Michael’s fans will go home disappointed.”
Conlan (18-1, 9 KOs) turned pro in 2017 after a decorated Irish amateur career that included two Olympic berths, an Olympic bronze medal, and gold medals at the World Championships, European Championships, and Commonwealth Games. His double middle finger salute to the judges at the 2016 Rio Olympics turned him into a fighting folk hero, and as a pro, he has proven himself on the world stage. Last March, he nearly captured the WBA featherweight crown from Leigh Wood in Wood’s hometown of Nottingham, England. Conlan, ahead on all three scorecards, was knocked out in the 12th round of ESPN’s Fight of the Year. The Wood disappointment did not linger, as Conlan came back later that year with victories over Miguel Marriaga and Karim Guerfi at The SSE Arena. Five months after knocking out Guerfi in one round, Conlan returns to the friendly SSE Arena confines, prepared to seize his championship moment.
“This is a massive opportunity. Fighting for the world title in Belfast is something I’ve always dreamed of, and I will be taking this opportunity with both hands.” Conlan said. “The SSE Arena will be buzzing, and I will do everything I can to bring a world title home. Credit to Lopez for coming to Belfast, but I am taking his title. He is not prepared for what is coming his way on May 27. Ireland will see a new champion crowned.”
Stephen Fulton’s WBO/WBC junior featherweight world title defense against Naoya Inoue — originally scheduled for Sunday, May 7, at Yokohama Arena in Yokohama, Japan — has been postponed due to a training injury suffered by Inoue.
Fulton-Inoue will be rescheduled for July, with a new date to be announced in due course.
The main event and undercard bouts will stream live and exclusively in the U.S. on ESPN+.
Fulton (21-0, 8 KOs) will make his third world title defense and second as a unified champion since defeating Brandon Figueroa in one of the best fights of 2021.
Inoue (24-0, 21 KOs), the sport’s pound-for-pound king, is a three-division world champion who is making his junior featherweight debut after defeating Paul Butler last December to become the undisputed bantamweight world champion.
When Paul George went down late in the Clippers’ 101=100 loss to the Thunder on Tuesday night, it appeared that his season could be over, and the Clippers’ chances of winning an NBA title were over.
However, the Clippers got some decent news on Wednesday. According to the team, George underwent imaging that revealed a sprained right knee. He will be re-evaluated in 2-3 weeks.
This season, George is averaging team-best 23.6 points to go along with 6.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists per contest.
If the Clippers(38-35), who are currently the fifth seed in the West, continue to be one of the top six teams, the NBA playoffs would begin the weekend of April 15-16, so George could be back just in time for the playoffs; again, the Clippers got some good news on Thursday.
On Friday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers agreed to terms with quarterback Baker Mayfield.
According to reports, it’s a one-year deal that’s worth $8.5 million.
The number one pick in the 2018 NFL Draft has an opportunity to compete with Kyle Trask to be the man who will replace Tom Brady in Tampa, but according to Mayfield, he’s not trying to be Brady; he’s trying to be himself.
“Listen, I’m never going to be Tom Brady,” Mayfield said as he met the Tampa Bay media on Monday. “There’s a reason he has won so many Super Bowls – he’s the greatest of all time, there’s no doubt about that. I’m not going to try and be Tom; I’m going to be me – that’s what’s gotten me to this point.
“We’re going to do it differently, but that’s what makes this league so special – everybody puts their own touch on it. It’s an honor to follow up somebody like that. The people that have played with him around here, I’m going to pick their brains as to the things he did – there’s no doubt about that. I’m excited. Like I said, it’s an organization that’s seen success, and following a guy like that is special.”
Last season, Mayfield, who the Panthers acquired from the Browns after he spent the first four seasons of his career in Cleveland, started the first five games for Carolina, but he got injured and ultimately lost his job. In total, he would start six games for the Panthers. Eventually, he would be released by Carolina, at his request, and would be signed by the Rams, where he started four games.
Despite his struggles in 2022, the 27-year-old, who came into the NFL with a lot of swagger, says he’s still confident.
“Yeah, I’m still confident,” he said. “I wouldn’t say the last year really humbled me – I learned a lot from it. I still believed in myself – I think that’s the only way I was able to get through it and finish on somewhat of a high note, playing for Los Angeles. I’m thankful for all the experiences I’ve gone through, and that’s what’s gotten me here. I’m ready for the next chapter.”
The highlight of Mayfield’s five-year career was the 2020 season when he led the Browns to an 11-5 record and the playoffs. In that season, he threw 26 touchdown passes with just eight interceptions, and Tampa Bay is hoping he can do that for them in 2023.
Mayfield is worth the risk for the Buccaneers. He’s not that expensive, and he still is young, so a change of scenery may do him some good.
Boxing’s top fighters, media members and more weighed in on the upcoming blockbuster fight between undefeated former two-time WBC Super Middleweight Champion David “The Mexican Monster’’ Benavídez and former IBF Super Middleweight Champion Caleb Plant ahead of their 12-round showdown headlining live on SHOWTIME PPV this Saturday, March 25 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas in an event presented by Premier Boxing Champions.
Of the 29 people polled for their predictions – 21 of them are forecasting victory for Benavidez in a close and compelling fight, while five favor Plant, two were unable to pick a winner, plus one who said matching these two superstars was a clear victory for boxing.
The oddsmakers at DraftKings have the fight closer than displayed by those polled, with Benavidez placed as the favorite at -330 (a $330 bet placed will win $100) and Plant +240 ($100 bet placed wins $240) while the Bet MGM Sports Book has Benavidez -275 and Plant +225.
Here is what those closest to the fight game had to say about the Benavidez-Plant matchup:
JERMELL CHARLO, Undisputed Super Welterweight World Champion:
“I’m rocking with Plant. Plant has the boxing skills. Benavidez is just one-dimensional. He’s going to come forward and put a lot of pressure on Plant. But styles make fights and so this is going to be a good one. But I’m rocking with Plant.”
BRANDON FIGUEROA, Recent winner on SHOWTIME of Interim WBC Featherweight Title:
“I’m rooting for Benavidez all the way. I see him knocking (Plant) out in the eighth or ninth round.”
SHAWN PORTER, Former Two-Time Welterweight World Champion:
“It’s a 50/50 fight but I think Caleb takes it. Something’s telling me Caleb is in the right place at the right time. I truly think he’s going to break down David, and he’s going to frustrate David. He’s bringing a lot to the ring that David has never been up against. David’s spoiled with his pressure. He breaks everyone down, but I don’t think he’ll be able to do that to Caleb, so I’m picking Caleb in a late-round stoppage.”
AMANDA SERRANO, Undisputed Featherweight World Champion:
“I usually don’t like to make predictions for fights. You just never know in boxing. However, I am going to make one this time for Benavidez vs. Plant. I really do like Plant. I think he is a really nice guy, great fighter. However, for this fight, I have to go with Benavidez.”
REY VARGAS, WBC Featherweight World Champion:
“Plant-Benavidez will be a very even fight, 50-50. Strategy will be the key factor for whoever comes out on top. Plant has his speed and waist movement. Benavidez with his explosiveness and his strength. I truly believe it is 50/50. I have to lean on the Mexican side, because of that strength and explosiveness.”
GEORGE KAMBOSOS, JR., Former Unified Lightweight World Champion:
“This is a 50/50 matchup. From my point of view Caleb Plant has had better experience and looks in great shape. We saw in his last fight he does have that nice snap, that power and he will definitely out-box Benavidez. I don’t think he will knock him out, but he can hurt him. I’m going with Caleb Plant on a close points decision.”
CALEB TRUAX, Former IBF Super Middleweight World Champion:
“This is a great super middleweight fight and a big win for boxing. I see it going similarly to Canelo-Plant. Plant will have success early due to his feet and jab, and then Benavidez’s pressure and power get him the late stoppage. I’m pulling for Plant to win, being that he is a former opponent of mine.”
DAVID MORRELL, Undefeated WBA Super Middleweight Champion:
“It’s a 50/50 fight. Benavidez has power, but he has never fought against someone with moves like Plant, who will make life hard for him with his speed. I would love to pick a winner, but I just can’t, considering how even this fight truly is.”
ANDY RUIZ, JR., Former Unified Heavyweight World Champion:
“I got my money on Benavidez. He is just a bigger fighter, a stronger guy, ‘The Mexican Monster’. Nothing against Caleb, he is a warrior and we all risk our lives in the ring, but I just feel like Benavidez will be too much.”
YORDENIS UGAS, Former WBA Welterweight World Champion:
“I was initially going to say 50/50, but now I’m going to lean in favor of Benavidez, 55-45 in his favor.”
VLADIMIR SHISHKIN, Undefeated Super Middleweight Contender:
“This is a great fight between two elite fighters in the division. I favor Benavidez, but Plant showed improvement after the Canelo fight and that means he is coming to win. I will not be overly surprised if Plant is able to score a points upset over Benavidez.”
BOB SANTOS, Sports Illustrated 2022 Trainer of the Year:
“I think Benavidez vs. Plant is going to be a tremendous fight in the early rounds. Plant will be having some success moving and boxing, but towards the middle rounds Benavidez will take over and win the fight. That said, I think it’s going to be a tremendous fight and both guys’ stock is going to go up.”
KEITH IDEC, Boxing Scene:
“Benavidez by 11th-round TKO. Plant’s intelligence, movement and skill will enable him to make the most of their fight competitive. The relentless Benavidez pressure and volume punching will eventually wear Plant down, though, and lead to a stoppage in one of the championship rounds.”
STEPHEN JACKSON, Former NBA World Champion and “ALL THE SMOKE” Co-Host:
“Plant is coming off one of the biggest wins of his career. A big knockout after losing to Canelo. He’s in a good space right now. Benavidez has been looking for a fight, he’s one of the dangerous fighters around right now so it’s going to be a good fight. Caleb is still on his high and he has to win this fight to get back to Canelo. Benavidez has been calling out Canelo for years and this is a stepping-stone. If I have to lean toward a side because you put a gun to my head, I’m going to go with Benavidez.”
ROBERT LITTAL, Black Sports Online:
“I believe this is truly a 50/50 fight with an amazing clash of styles between someone they call the ‘Mexican Monster’ and the other they call ‘Sweethands.’ In the end I think Caleb Plant survives an early assault from Benavidez and uses the knowledge from the Canelo fight and puts on a boxing clinic down the stretch to win a unanimous decision.”
GREG BEACHAM, Associated Press:
“I like Benavidez by late-round stoppage. His toughest opponent has usually been himself, but I still think he can reach his full potential. Benavidez should be motivated by a talented, confident veteran opponent like Plant, who could easily take this fight if Benavidez shows up unfocused or unprepared. Benavidez’s strength and talent are the determining factors for me in an excellent matchup.”
MORGAN CAMPBELL, New York Times:
“Benavidez by very close decision. Might be split decision, might be majority decision, but I think he’ll win seven rounds.”
LARGE, Barstool Sports:
“Although both fighters possess both attributes, I still see this one as strength versus speed. And Benavidez’s power will get to Plant by the late rounds. Benavidez by KO Round 8-10.”
PAUL PIERCE, Former NBA World Champion and “Ticket & The Truth” Co-Host
“I’m going with Plant. That’s my man. I met Caleb Plant – I’ve sat with him at a fight and I had a moment with him so I’m going with Caleb Plant. I ain’t gonna lie though, Benavidez is a beast.”
KEVIN IOLE, Yahoo! Sports:
“David Benavidez W12 Caleb Plant: I love the fight given the talent level of the two and the significance within the division. Plant has everything he needs to win this fight, but I see Benavidez as something of a sleeping giant. He has enormous untapped potential and I believe this fight is coming at the right time for him. I see it as a nailbiter that Benavidez pulls out down the stretch with crisp combination punching.”
DAN RAFAEL, Fight Freaks Unite:
“It’s an outstanding matchup but I think Benavidez will win. Plant is a good boxer but Benavidez is a brutal puncher with excellent power and an excellent chin. Plant may have some success boxing for stretches in a good fight, but Benavidez will break him down and stop him late.”
DEMARCUS COUSINS – Four-Time NBA All-Star:
“I do like Plant. I question his power, but Plant is a very skilled boxer. I don’t know though, I might have to go the other way with this one [and pick Benavidez]. Benavidez is a monster.”
JOE SANTOLIQUITO, Ring Magazine:
“I like Benavidez. I think he’s simply too big, and too strong for Plant. Benavidez knows the stakes and will come in acutely prepared. Plant will try to out-box Benavidez and get the fight into the later rounds, but with that comes some risk. Benavidez wins by late-round stoppage.”
ADRIANA NORIEGA, Fox Deportes:
“Benavidez vs. Plant is a great, 50/50 fight. Two contrasting fights that make for a very interesting clash. On one side, you have ‘The Mexican Monster’ with the physical advantages, power and aggressive style that defines him. I expect Plant to use his sweet hands, his timing, his speed and his footwork to potentially frustrate Benavidez. If the fight ends early, I expect Benavidez to win. If it goes to the judges, Plant has the better chance in my book.”
MICHAEL ROSENTHAL, Boxing Junkie:
“I have a lot of respect for Plant, who I believe is an elite athlete with an elite skill set. And he showed us against Anthony Dirrell that he’s no slouch in the power department. I just think that Benavidez has too much firepower for him. He’s an offensive juggernaut, a guy who breaks down opponents with ferocious, relentless pressure that has resulted in 23 knockouts in 26 fights. Plant will have some success early, but Benavidez will land more and more punches as the fight progresses and score a late stoppage. Benavidez KO 9.
CLAUDIA TREJOS. DAZN/PROBOXTV/BYB:
“This will be an explosive fight. Benavidez with the advantage of height and advantage of youth will use his skills to make Plant fall into his fighting style. We can never discount Plant’s grit – a boxer who has proven his warrior spirit inside and outside the ring. Benavidez always does his homework and has power to go along with it – a win against Plant puts him on track for the highly anticipated fight against Canelo. I can see Benavidez taking this opportunity to show off his complete tool set. Benavidez by KO in the later rounds.”
ABE GONZALEZ, Big Fight Weekend:
“David Benavidez versus Caleb Plant is a dream fight for the purist. I can see Caleb Plant frustrating Benavidez early with his boxing ability and movement. However, in the later rounds, after those Benavidez punches start to add up, he will slow Plant down and stop him around the ninth or 10th round.”
Photo: Esther Lin/SHOWTIME
C.J. Gardner-Johnson was one best safeties on the free agent market, and on Sunday night, he decided where he would play football in 2023.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the former Eagle is getting a one-year deal worth up to $8 million. This deal allows the 25-year-old to test the market again after the 2023 season.
In 2022, the four-year veteran, who helped Philadelphia get to the Super Bowl, was tied for the league lead in interceptions(6), despite missing five games due to a lacerated kidney.
Last August, the Eagles acquired the Gardner-Johnson and a seventh-round draft pick in 2025 from the Saints in exchange for a fifth-round pick in 2023 and the latter of the Eagles’ two sixth-round choices in 2024.
Philadelphia was able to keep corners Darius Slay and James Bradberry, but they did not keep Gardner-Johnson.
According to Philly.com’s Jeff McLane, they made a multi-year offer early in free agency, but Gardner-Johnson was looking for more.
It should be interesting to see how Philly addresses the safety position. Currently, they have Reed Blankenship, Tristin McCollum, and Andre Chachere on the roster, so they will have to address the position; the Eagles could address the position in the upcoming draft, which is deep with safeties, but at this point, losing Gardner-johnson is a loss for Philadelphia.
Rising British Heavyweight champion Fabio Wardley will face American Michael Polite-Coffie on the undercard of Anthony Joshua’s clash with Jermaine Franklin at The O2 in London on Saturday April 1, live worldwide on DAZN – as Austin ‘Ammo’ Williams will look to close in on a clash with rival Felix Cash, with ‘Ammo’ meeting River Wilson-Bent before Cash challenges Matteo Signani for the European Middleweight Title.
Cash and Williams have been slated to clash in a big Middleweight battle in 2023, and the fierce rivals will look to rubberstamp that showdown with victories in London. Williams (13-0 9 KOs) fights in the UK for the third time and in his second showing at the Greenwich venue, having stepped through the ropes in his fourth pro fight there in October 2019 and then stopping former World Title challenger Javier Maciel in February 2022 at Alexandra Palace.
The 26 year old, ranked at number three in the WBA, ended 2022 with a pair of ten round wins over Kieron Conway and Simon Madsen, and will be looking for a statement win over Wilson-Bent (14-2-1, 6 KOs), the Coventry man who has boxed for the Commonwealth, WBC Silver and English Titles in the last year.
Cash’s European Title tilt was announced in February, and now his future American foe has been added to the bill, his clash with Signani takes on even more significance as the Wokingham man looks to make up for lost time after enduring a frustrating 2022 in which he picked up two wins.
Italy’s European Middleweight ruler Signani (32-6-3, 12 KOs) landed the title for the first time against Gevorg Khatchikian in Trento back in October 2019 before making successful defences against Maxime Beaussire in 2020 and Ruben Diaz in May 2021. ‘Il Giaguaro’ lost the belt to Anderson Prestot on a technical decision in June last year but avenged that loss in November.
Former British and Commonwealth Champion Cash (16-0, 10 KOs) is looking to add the EBU crown to his collection after enduring a frustrating 2022 in which he picked up two wins. Cash and Williams went face-to-face with him in a fiery ringside encounter in Leeds after Cash’s December outing in Yorkshire.
Wardley (15-0, 14 KOs) is riding high after claiming the vacant British Title in November with a third round stoppage over Nathan Gormley at Wembley Arena in London, and the Ipswich ace returns to the capital for his fourth straight fight and third in that run at The O2, and meets American Polite-Coffie (13-3, 10 KOs) in his first fight of 2023, with the Floridian aiming to hand a first defeat to Wardley, who now has Solomon Dacres breathing down his next for a shot at the coveted Lord Lonsdale belt after he claimed the English Title in Newcastle on Saturday night.
Campbell Hatton (10-0, 3 KOs) is back in action after hitting double figures in Liverpool in March, and the son of British boxing legend Ricky will meet Staffordshire’s experienced Louis Fielding (10-7, 1 KOs) in his first eight round battle in the paid ranks and Essex’s John Hedges (7-0 2 KOs) lands his first eight round clash against Poland’s Daniel Bocianski (11-2, 2 KOs).
The previously announced clash between Craig Richards and Ricards Bolotniks has been postponed after Richards suffered a hand injury.