Estrada: ‘My goal is to become the undisputed champion at minimumweight’

Pound-for-pound dynamo Seniesa “Super Bad” Estrada will defend her WBC and WBA minimumweight world titles against Argentina’s former world champion Leonela Yudica on Friday, July 28 at Pearl Concert Theater at Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.

In the 10-round junior lightweight co-feature, unbeaten Las Vegas native Andres “Savage” Cortes will take on Sacramento-born contender Xavier Martinez.

The entire Estrada-Yudica card will stream live and exclusively in the U.S. on ESPN+.

“Seniesa Estrada is one of the very best fighters on the planet and is only getting better with every fight,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “Yudica is an experienced championship-level fighter who will be undeterred fighting on the big stage. I expect a sensational fight on July 28, along with a co-feature between Cortes and Martinez that promises fireworks.”

Estrada (24-0, 9 KOs) is a 12-year pro who has competed at the world class level in three weight classes. In 2019, she beat U.S. Olympic bronze medalist Marlen Esparza to capture the WBA interim flyweight world title. Two years later, she captured the WBA minimumweight and WBO light flyweight titles in fights against Anabel Ortiz and Tenkai Tsunami. Estrada then vacated those belts to pursue undisputed glory at minimumweight. She signed with Top Rank in 2022 and returned from a nearly 11-month layoff in November of that year to shut out Jazmin Gala Villarino. In March, she added the WBC belt to her collection with a shutout win over the previously unbeaten Tina Rupprecht.

“I am willing to fight any woman in or around my weight class, and I respect Yudica for accepting the challenge,” Estrada said. “My goal is to become the undisputed champion at minimumweight, but I can’t achieve that goal without defeating Yudica first. She is standing in my way, and I am coming to Las Vegas to make an emphatic statement.”

Yudica (19-1-3, 1 KO) debuted as a pro in April 2012 and captured the IBF flyweight world title with a split decision win against Gabriela Bouvier in December 2014. She held the title for nearly eight years, fighting to a draw in her first defense against Vanesa Lorena Taborda in 2015 before defending it seven times. The native of San Juan, Argentina, lost the belt in a tightly contested split decision loss to Arely Muciño in October 2022 and is coming off a 10-round decision victory over Tamara Elisabet Demarco in April.

Yudica said, “I’m taking this amazing opportunity to show the world what Argentinian fighters are made of. I’m bringing the belts back home to San Juan with me.”

Cortes (19-0, 10 KOs) was a standout amateur, defeating Teofimo Lopez twice in the unpaid ranks. A seven-year pro, Cortes made his Top Rank debut in 2020 and has built a reputation for engaging in action-packed affairs. He shined on the Emanuel Navarrete-Liam Wilson undercard in February, shutting out Puerto Rican upstart Luis Melendez in his first scheduled 10-rounder. Martinez (18-1, 12 KOs) returns to action following an 11-month layoff, intent on proving he belongs in the junior lightweight title conversation. He rebounded from a one-sided loss to Robson Conceição with a stoppage win over Alejandro Guerrero last August.

Undercard action includes two competitive matchups featuring talents from four different Latin American countries.  

Puerto Rican-born junior lightweight contender Abraham “El Super” Nova (22-1, 15 KOs) will face Colombian former world champion Jonathan Romero (35-1, 19 KOs) in a 10-rounder. Nova, who fights out Albany, New York, holds wins over Avery Sparrow and William Encarnacion. In June 2022, he suffered his first defeat via fifth-round knockout against two-time Olympic gold medalist and current world champion Robeisy Ramirez. He bounced back in January with a 10-round decision win over Adam Lopez. Romero edged Alejandro Lopez by split decision in 2013 to capture the IBF junior featherweight world title. He is 12-0 since losing the title in his first defense to Kiko Martinez.

Dominican Olympian Rohan “El Rayo” Polanco (9-0, 5 KOs) steps up against Panamanian-born contender Cesar “Rainman” Francis (12-1, 7 KOs) in an eight-round junior welterweight fight. Polanco went 4-0 as a pro before losing in his opening Olympic bout in Tokyo in 2021. Polanco returned to the paid ranks in November 2021 and is coming off a six-round decision win against Ricardo Quiroz in April. Francis seeks to regain his momentum following a 10-round decision loss to Jesus Saracho in January.

The ESPN+-streamed undercard also features an eight-round lightweight fight between 2016 U.S. Olympian Karlos Balderas (14-1, 12 KOs) and Philadelphia standout Nahir Albright (15-2, 7 KOs).

Former Team USA amateur standout Charlie Sheehy (6-0, 4 KOs) will see action in a six-round lightweight tilt, while hard-hitting Japanese southpaw Subaru Murata (4-0, 4 KOs) returns in a six-round junior featherweight battle.

Joe Smith Jr.-Callum Johnson set for January 15

Joe Smith Jr., Long Island’s working class hero, will make the long-awaited first defense of his WBO light heavyweight world title against British knockout artist Callum Johnson on Saturday, Jan. 15 at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, N.Y.

Smith-Johnson kicks off the Top Rank on ESPN 2022 schedule with a battle between two of the division’s biggest punchers. Smith was supposed to defend his title Oct. 30 in New York City, but a COVID-19 diagnosis delayed his return to 2022.

In the 10-round featherweight co-feature, the undefeated Abraham “El Super” Nova, who hails from Albany, N.Y., will face Mexican action star Jose Enrique Vivas. Smith-Johnson and Nova-Vivas will air live on ESPN and ESPN Deportes (simulcast on ESPN+) at 9:30 p.m. ET/6:30 p.m. PT.

The undercard — streaming live and exclusively on ESPN+ — will see the long-awaited professional return of Cincinnati-born featherweight Duke Ragan (4-0, 1 KO), who captured a silver medal for the United States at the Tokyo Olympics. Long Island-born welterweight sensation Jahi Tucker (5-0, 2 KOs), Puerto Rican junior welterweight Omar Rosario (5-0, 2 KOs) and rising junior welterweight Kasir “Mazzi” Goldston (4-0, 1 KOs), are scheduled to appear in separate six-round bouts.

Promoted by Top Rank, in association with Joe DeGuardia’s Star Boxing and Frank Warren’s Queensberry Promotions, tickets priced from $49 to $89 go on sale Friday, December 3 at 10 a.m. ET and can be purchased at the Turning Stone Resort Box Office, charge by phone by calling 800.771.7711 or online at Ticketmaster.

“Joe Smith Jr. always delivers, and he is in against a tough customer in Callum Johnson. This is a can’t-miss main event to kick off our 2022 Top Rank on ESPN schedule,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “Vivas is the ultimate test for a young, undefeated contender like Nova. Like our main event, you’re going to witness a tremendous battle.”

Smith (27-3, 21 KOs) retired the legendary Bernard Hopkins with a storybook knockout in 2015, but it took him nearly six years to capture a world title. He fell short in his first attempt versus Dmitry Bivol in 2019, but in 2020, big-fight opportunities knocked. Smith battered Jesse Hart over 10 rounds in January and then knocked out former world champion Eleider Alvarez through the ropes in August. Nearly eight months after the Alvarez triumph, he edged Maxim Vlasov by majority decision to earn the vacant WBO world title. He became the fourth Long Island-born boxing world champion, joining Buddy McGirt, Chris Algieri, and former WBO junior lightweight world champion Jamel Herring. After a full recovery, Smith returned to training intent on staking his claim as the world’s preeminent 175-pounder.

Smith said, “I am glad to be getting back into the ring as quickly as I am to defend my WBO world championship after having COVID. It is not the fight the fans or I expected, but this will be an explosive fight between two huge punchers. I look forward to facing Johnson and defending my belt in front of my fans, as well as putting on a great show for the ones watching at home.”

“Joe Smith Jr. is always exciting to watch, but this fight could top them all. This is ‘must-see TV’ and a perfect fight to launch ESPN’s 2022 boxing season,” said Joe DeGuardia, President of Star Boxing. “We are looking forward to Joe defending his WBO world title against Callum Johnson. With two of the hardest punchers in boxing fighting each other, it doesn’t get more explosive than this. Don’t miss this fight, and don’t blink!”

Johnson (20-1, 14 KOs) is a former British and Commonwealth light heavyweight champion riding a three-fight winning streak since a 2018 knockout loss to current WBC/IBF unified champion Artur Beterbiev. Johnson knocked Beterbiev down in the second round, but Beterbiev rebounded and knocked out Johnson in the fourth. Johnson, from Boston, England, shared the same bill with Smith at Turning Stone Resort Casino in March 2019. Johnson knocked out Sean Monaghan in three rounds, while Smith lost a decision to Bivol in a bid for the WBA light heavyweight title.

Johnson said, “Joe is a good world champion, and we’re both big punchers. I’m looking forward to it as much as I’m sure he will be. I also would like to thank Frank Warren and the team at Queensberry, who said they would deliver me a world title shot. They’ve done their job, and now it’s time for me to do my job in the ring and become the new WBO light heavyweight champion.”

“I’m delighted to deliver this opportunity for Callum,” said Hall of Fame Promoter Frank Warren. “When he came with us, he said he wanted to get active again and become a world champion. Callum has his chance now to realize his dream, and if he fights like I know he can, there is no reason why Britain won’t crown a new world champion on January 15.”

Nova (20-0, 14 KOs), world-ranked at junior lightweight, is now campaigning at featherweight. In June 2020, he turned away Avery Sparrow by unanimous decision, but in training camp for his next fight, he suffered a torn Achilles tendon. Nova was out of action more than a year and returned in August with an eight-round decision over Filipino veteran Richard Pumicpic. Vivas (21-1, 11 KOs) is a classic Mexican pressure fighter, a 27-year-old native of Texcoco who has won four in a row since a decision defeat to Ruben Villa. In October 2020, he needed only 76 seconds to knock out John Vincent Moralde. He returned in May and rose from a pair of third-round knockdowns to edge Louie Coria by unanimous decision.