Rey Vargas: ‘I feel very comfortable moving up to 130 pound’

Unbeaten two-division champion Rey Vargas has set his sights on conquering a third weight class as he looks to add a super featherweight crown to his resume when he battles top contender O’Shaquie Foster for the vacant WBC title this Saturday, February 11 live on SHOWTIME from the Alamodome in San Antonio headlining a Premier Boxing Champions event.

“This is a challenge that motivates me,” said Vargas. “I know that Foster is coming to dazzle everyone. He’s a good fighter, but it’s my job to make things look easy. On February 11, I’m going to outshine him. He is quick and has a good guard and good movements. You can tell he’s worked hard, but I believe I’m the toughest opponent he’s faced. He won’t be able to get past me.”

Currently the WBC Featherweight World Champion, and a former world champion at super bantamweight, Vargas seeks to add his name to a hallowed list of Mexican champions who have won world titles in three weight classes. The motivation to add his name alongside the likes of Julio Cesar Chavez, Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera and more, has given Vargas all he needs heading into fight night.

“I don’t want to call this a dream, because I’m about to make it a reality,” said Vargas. “It’s a short list of three-division world champions and I want that to be part of my legacy. I like to do what’s unexpected. Who knows what we’ll do next? All I’m focused on is becoming a three-division champion on February 11.”

In his last fight, which also took place at the Alamodome and in a SHOWTIME main event, Vargas was able to bounce back from a ninth-round knockdown to edge out Mark Magsayo and capture the title. In that difficult moment, Vargas credits his years of boxing foundation for preparing him for anything that’s thrown his way while in a top-level fight.

“When you compete on this stage, a miniscule error can cost you the fight,” said Vargas. “You have to be smart and alert. I was a little careless and I made a mistake. Magsayo caught me with a big blow. Things happen very quickly in those moments, but I told myself that I had a strong opponent who hits hard, but I’m more ‘cabron’, so I got up, fought smart, and got the win. I’m thankful that I had the experience to know how to get out of a situation like that.”

As he continues his ascent up weight classes, Vargas has focused on smartly adding weight while retaining the skills that have made him a two-division champion. In addition to his work with a strength and conditioning coach, he’s trained in the altitude in Otumba, Mexico to make sure he’s at his best.

“I feel very comfortable moving up to 130 pounds,” said Vargas. “Me and my strength and conditioning coach are focusing on nutrition and building more mass. As we go step by step of my regiment, our routine has been more carefully curated. I’m avoiding adding any unnecessary muscle that could slow me down and giving my body what it needs to be at its strongest. I’m lucky to be here in Otumba at a higher altitude where the air is fresher and better for training.”

Vargas is trained by his father Carlos Vargas as the father-son duo looks to continue to add to Vargas’ already impressive resume. Now that he’s fully back after an over two year layoff between 2019 and 2021, Vargas has used his family as motivation to continue his upward trajectory.

“My family and my team continue to inspire me every day to work harder and to build a legacy,” said Vargas. “I’ve had a lot of setbacks and I was mostly stagnant for a few years. I was dealing with an injury, but I’ve recovered. I’m continuing to get inspiration and strength from those around me. I know the road that I’m on and I’m enjoying each and every moment.”

Broner: ‘I’m going to make the most of this second chance’

Adrien Broner, former four-weight world champion and one of the most talented fighters of his generation, has announced his intention to overcome the mental health issues that have plagued him in recent years and return to the ring with a renewed focus and determination.

The 33-year-old will make his highly anticipated return against Michael Williams Jr. on February 25, live on BLK Prime PPV. The two warriors will go head-to-head at The Gateway Center @ College Park, GA, in what promises to be a fierce battle that fans won’t want to miss.

Broner has been open about the challenges he has faced, including anxiety and depression, and how they have affected his personal and professional life. Despite these struggles, he remains determined to get back to the top of the sport and prove to the world that he is still one of the best fighters in the world.

“I’ve been through a lot, but I’m not one to give up easily,” Broner states. “I know I’ve got what it takes to be a champion again, and I’m going to do everything in my power to get there. My mental health is a priority, and I’m taking the necessary steps to get back to my best both inside and outside of the ring.”

Broner has already taken significant steps towards his recovery, including seeking help from mental health professionals and making lifestyle changes that support his wellbeing. He has also been working tirelessly in the gym with new head coach Kevin Cunningham, training with a renewed sense of purpose and dedication.

“I can’t wait to get back out there and show everyone what I’m made of,” Broner said. “Coach Cunningham is a no-nonsense type of trainer who keeps me accountable for everything I do inside and outside the ring. He’s been a big blessing and understands what I’ve been going through. I’ve got a lot to prove, and I’m going to do it with my fists. I’m back and better than ever, and I’m going to make the most of this second chance.”

Gilberto Ramirez-Gabe Rosado set for March 18

Former world champion Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramírez (44-1, 30 KOs) of Mazatlán, Mexico and Philadelphia’s former world title contender Gabriel “King” Rosado (26-16-1, 15 KOs) will battle in a tough, Mexico vs. Puerto Rico 12-round light heavyweight matchup.

The event is scheduled to take place on Saturday, March 18 and will be broadcast worldwide on DAZN beginning at 5:00 p.m. PST/ 8:00 p.m. EST.

Zurdo Ramirez is returning to the ring hungrier than ever after his valiant effort against Dmitry Bivol last November 2022.

“I’m glad to be back. I had a lot of time to reflect since my last fight and am looking forward to putting on a show against a very-game veteran like Gabe Rosado,” said Zurdo Ramirez. “Just like everyone else, I have goals, dreams and aspirations to be on top and I feel more motivated today than ever. We may get knocked off our path, but my quest for greatness will never stop. I appreciate all the love from my fans and supporters and I promise to be back with vengeance. See you guys March 18th!”

Gabriel Rosado is a dream-spoiler who has dismantled the championship aspirations of a number of elite fighters, most recently a third-round knockout of hot prospect Bektemir Melikuziev. He will be going up a division to face Ramirez.

“I’m excited to start the year off with a bang! I have a great deal of respect for Zurdo Ramírez. We’re friends, But come March 18, it’s all business,” said Gabriel Rosado. “This is the kind of fight Gabriel Rosado shows up for! I will not let myself or the fans down. Thank you to Golden Boy Promotions and DAZN for the opportunity.”

“This is a dangerous crossroads fight featuring the explosive Mexico vs. Puerto Rico rivalry,” said Chairman and CEO of Golden Boy Promotions Oscar De La Hoya. “Zurdo will attempt to make a comeback statement against the certified dream-spoiler Gabe Rosado who has derailed the careers of various top fighters.”

Information on the venue and undercard will be shared soon.

Callum Smith battles Pawel Stephen on March 11 in Liverpool

Callum Smith fights in Liverpool for the first time since 2019 when he faces undefeated world-ranked Pole Pawel Stepien at the top of a stacked card at the M&S Bank Arena on Saturday March 11 that features Liam Paro vs. Robbie Davies Jr and Diego Pacheco vs. Jack Cullen, live worldwide on DAZN.

The WBC’s No.1 ranked Light-Heavyweight Smith (29-1, 21 KOs) returns home for a must-win clash with the IBF’s No.7 ranked 175-pounder Stepien (18-0-1, 12KOs) as he looks to secure a mouth-watering showdown with unified WBC, WBO and IBF ruler Artur Beterbiev later in the year.

Former WBA and Ring Magazine Super-Middleweight World Champion ‘Mundo’ has won both of his fights at Light-Heavyweight in brutal fashion following a move up in weight after his points loss to pound-for-pound superstar Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez at the Almodome in San Antonio, USA back in December 2020.

The 32-year-old Liverpudlian destroyed Lenin Castillo with a sickening second round KO to return to winning ways on the undercard of the first meeting between Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua at the home of Tottenham Hotspur in September 2021 before taking out France’s Mathieu Bauderlique in four rounds just under a year later in Saudi Arabia.

Szczecin’s Stepien remains unbeaten since joining the professional ranks in December 2015, with the only blemish on his 19-fight career being a draw with Marek Matyja in 2019, and the 32-year-old is ranked in the world’s top 15 with the WBO, IBF and WBA – picking up the Polish and IBF Intercontinental Light-Heavyweight Titles in 2019 and 2021 respectively.

A stacked undercard sees Australia’s WBO Global Super-Lightweight Champion Liam Paro (23-0, 14 KOs) put his title on the line against local favourite Robbie Davies Jr (23-3, 15 KOs) following his sensational first-round KO win over fellow Aussie Brock Jarvis at the South Bank Piazza in South Brisbane last October.

One of the hottest prospects in American boxing Diego Pacheco (17-0, 14 KOs) looks to impress on his first appearance in the UK, stepping-up against Little Lever’s Jack Cullen (21-3-1, 9 KOs) in what promises to be an all-action battle for the WBO International Super-Middleweight Title.

Romford Heavyweight sensation Johnny Fisher (7-0, 6 KOs) takes ‘The Romford Bull’ Army to Liverpool for the first time as he faces Italy’s Alfonso Damiani (6-2, 2 KOs) over eight rounds and local Light-Heavyweight Thomas Whittaker-Hart (7-1, 3 KOs) aims to avenge his first loss against Darewn’s Mickey Ellison (14-4, 5 KOs) in a rematch for the Central Area Title.

Warrington Lightweight talent Rhiannon Dixon (7-0) squares off with Wombourne’s Vicky Wilkinson (5-0-1) for the Commonwealth Title and Oldham’s Aqib Fiaz (10-0) takes on Yeovil’s Dean Dodge (9-2-1, 3 KOs) over eight rounds at Super-Featherweight, plus there’s action for Hyde’s Campbell Hatton (9-0, 3 KOs), Chester Middleweight Paddy Lacey (7-0, 1 KO) and Billericay Middleweight George Liddard (1-0, 1 KO).

“Pawel Stepien is just what I need going into the Artur Beterbiev fight,” said Smith. “He hasn’t ever tasted defeat and he’s ranked in the top 15 by 3 governing bodies. He is certainly no walkover and I know I can’t afford to make any mistakes. The prize waiting for me should I win means you’ll be seeing the best from me on March 11.”

“We always love returning to Liverpool for one of the best atmospheres in the UK, and we’ve got a stacked card from top to bottom for you all on March 11, said Matchroom Sport Chairman Eddie Hearn. “Callum Smith can’t afford any slip-ups against Pawel Stepien – he’s next in line to face unified World Champion Artur Beterbiev and that’s a fight I really fancy him in if he gets past the unbeaten Pole.”

Joshua-Franklin set for April 1

Former two-time unified Heavyweight Champion of the World Anthony Joshua (24-3, 22 KOs) fights at The O2 in London for the first time since 2016 as he begins life under the tutelage of new head trainer Derrick James.

Joshua returns to the scene of his first World Title win over Charles Martin to face another American contender in Jermain Franklin (21-1, 14 KOs) on April 1.

Franklin pushed Dillian Whyte all the way in a close points loss at Wembley’s OVO Arena last November and is relishing his shot against one of the biggest names in the sport. British megastar Joshua is ready to begin his ascent back to the top of the Heavyweight division after suffering back-to-back losses to pound-for-pound great Oleksandr Usyk in London and Saudi Arabia.

This fight will be the first in Joshua’s new five-year partnership with DAZN to be streamed live, exclusive and worldwide on the digital sports entertainment platform.

Joshua vs. Franklin will be included in the £9.99 per month DAZN saver subscription, making it the first fight in over eight years that fans do not need to pay an additional pay-per-view fee to watch Joshua.

 “I’m looking forward to stepping back into the ring on April 1 at The O2 in London.” said Joshua. “Mentally and physically I feel ready. I want to put on a show and impress my coach as he has high standards. Franklin has a good style and a great attitude, which he has shown in recent fights. This will be my first fight broadcast on DAZN in the UK and it will be globally available on the platform. I want to thank DAZN for supporting both myself and the sport of boxing as a whole. I would also like to thank the team at 258 and Matchroom Boxing.”

“I’m ready to show the world why it’s time for me to take my place at the top of the Heavyweight division,” said Franklin. “Joshua had his time.  It’s my time to shock the world! This fight isn’t going to the judge’s card. I will have win number 22 come April 1. That ain’t no April Fool’s joke.”

Alongside Joshua vs. Franklin, Matchroom and DAZN have announced its largest ever schedule of content for the first half of 2023 that will see even more iconic and emerging boxing talent, including five other premium fights, on its platform alongside an ever-greater roster of other sporting entertainment.

The following shows will be shown live and exclusive on DAZN with further fights and full undercard details to be announced shortly:

Stevenson-Yoshino set for April 8 in Newark

The pound-for-pound fighting pride of “Brick City” has packed the house before, and he is set to do it again.

Undefeated former two-weight world champion Shakur Stevenson will take on Japanese puncher Shuichiro Yoshino in a 12-round WBC lightweight title eliminator Saturday, April 8, at Prudential Center in his hometown of Newark, New Jersey.

In the co-feature, heavyweight knockout artist Jared “The Real Big Baby” Anderson aims for another stoppage in a 10-rounder against an opponent to be named. And, in the 10-round televised opener, rising lightweight and U.S. Olympic silver medalist Keyshawn Davis fights a to-be-determined foe.

Stevenson-Yoshino and the returns of Anderson and Davis will be broadcast live on ESPN, ESPN, Deportes and ESPN+ at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.

“Shakur Stevenson is one of the most gifted fighters I’ve had the pleasure of promoting, and I look forward to seeing him once again fight in front of his incredible hometown fans in Newark,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “Yoshino is a tough fighter and won’t be deterred by the hostile crowd. Jared Anderson and Keyshawn Davis are two of the sport’s emerging superstars, and I can’t wait to see them back in the ring.”

Stevenson (19-0, 9 KOs), a former featherweight and junior lightweight world champion, returns home following last September’s triumph against Robson Conceição. The stubborn Conceição lasted the distance, but Stevenson dominated in front of 10,107 fans at Prudential Center. It was the first time Stevenson had fought at Prudential Center since July 2019 and established the venue as one of the sport’s most raucous hometown crowds. Stevenson won the WBO junior lightweight title with a 10th-round knockout over Jamel Herring in October 2021, then unified the division with a stirring 12-round display over WBC king Oscar Valdez the following April. Those victories propelled Stevenson, a 2016 U.S. Olympic silver medalist, to the top 10 of most pound-for-pound lists. He now sets his sights on a third weight class and a spot atop the pound-for-pound throne.

“I am taking over the lightweight division and my run will start on April 8 in Newark. Shuichiro Yoshino is an undefeated fighter who was willing to step up and fight me when so many fighters were scared,” Stevenson said. “My last fight at the Prudential Center was just the start of what I’m building in Jersey. We are going to pack the Prudential Center again and show the world who the future of boxing really is.”

Yoshino (16-0, 12 KOs), the WBC’s No. 5 contender, is a former Japanese lightweight champion who compiled a 104-20 amateur record. After seven defenses of his Japanese title, Yoshino rose in the rankings following a banner 2022. Last April, he won a bloody technical decision over former world champion Masayuki Ito after Ito suffered a cut over his left eye. He followed up the Ito triumph in November with a sixth-round stoppage over Masayoshi Nakatani, best known to fans for his stands against Teofimo Lopez and Vasiliy Lomachenko. Yoshino has never fought away from Japan and hopes to spoil Stevenson’s homecoming.

“I am very honored to be fighting in the U.S. for the first time. I’m extremely focused and motivated,” Yoshino said. “I’m looking forward to fighting the great two-division champion, Shakur Stevenson, in his hometown of Newark. I’ll be training hard leading up to the fight and look forward to showing the fans an exciting victory!”

Anderson (13-0, 13 KOs), a 23-year-old from Toledo, Ohio, has notched five consecutive second-round stoppages, including a demolition of the normally durable Jerry Forrest last December. Anderson received international headlines for his work as a sparring partner of heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, but he is now firmly established as a potential heavyweight champion.

Davis (7-0, 5 KOs), from Norfolk, Virginia, went to the Tokyo Olympics as a 3-0 professional and returned home with a silver medal and a long-term promotional contract with Top Rank. He is 4-0 since signing with the promotional powerhouse in late 2021, including three stoppage victories and last December’s shutout over former world title challenger Juan Carlos Burgos. Davis shined at Prudential Center last September, stopping Omar Tienda in five rounds.

Undercard action — streaming live and exclusively on ESPN+ — includes undefeated Polish heavyweight prospect Damian Knyba (10-0, 6 KOs) in an eight-rounder. Knyba signed a long-term contract with Top Rank following his second-round knockout over Emilio Salas on the Teofimo Lopez-Sandor Martin bill in December.

Featherweight phenom Bruce “Shu Shu” Carrington (6-0, 3 KOs), the latest uber-talent from Brownsville, Brooklyn, will fight in a six-rounder against an opponent to be named. Carrington fought on the Stevenson-Conceição bill and blanked Jose Argel over six rounds.

Navarrete gets off the deck to stop Wilson

Emanuel “El Vaquero” Navarrete visited the canvas tonight, but he got back up to become a three-division world champion.

Navarrete (37-1, 31 KOs) captured the vacant WBO junior lightweight world title with a hard-earned ninth-round technical knockout victory against Liam Wilson (11-2, 7 KOs) Friday night at Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona.

Navarrete now joins an elite list of Mexican boxers who have captured titles in three weight classes. That list includes the likes of Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera and Juan Manuel Marquez.

In the early rounds, Navarrete controlled the fight by pushing the action with his awkward style. But in the fourth round, he was hurt badly by a left hook, which allowed Wilson to land several more shots and eventually drop Navarrete. The Mexican warrior was able to recover, but was hurt once again with a right hook in the sixth.

GLENDALE, ARIZONA – FEBRUARY 03: Liam Wilson (L) knocks-down Emanuel Navarrete (R) during their vacant WBO junior lightweight championship fight at Desert Diamond Arena on February 03, 2033 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

Navarrete kept his cool and eventually began a vicious assault to the body, which weakened Wilson in the eighth round. “El Vaquero” then caught Wilson with a right hand that sent him down hard. Wilson did his best to survive the onslaught, but Navarrete’s relentless punching was too much and forced the ref to call a halt to the fight at 1:57 of the ninth.

At the time of the stoppage, all three judges had Navarrete ahead (76-75 and 77-74 2x).

“I’m made of a lot of work, strength, lots of heart, and the Mexican spirit that never lets me down,” Navarrete said.  “Liam is a warrior. He was able to land a shot that stunned me a lot. Obviously, we tried to take things calmly. Fortunately, we were able to recover our calmness. We went out to recover a bit. We returned to 100%. And we began to engage.

“The satisfaction of winning like this is enormous. I think that I needed this test in order to be able to say my career is more complete. Now that I know that I can hit the canvas and get back up and keep fighting, I’m more than happy because I know that I can continue forward.”

“Tonight, I came up a bit short, and I’m disappointed,” Wilson said. “But I knocked him down in the fourth round, and I felt that the count was a bit long. We’ll have to review it and see what people think. He’s a true champion, though. I thought I won the fight in that sense because I think it was about a 20-second count. I’ll review it and see what happens there.

“I want to come back. I’m a true champion. This is my 12th fight, but no excuses. I love to fight, and I love challenges. I’d fight any other champion any day of the week. He’s a tough champion. With all due respect to him, he’s very awkward. But this is boxing, and stuff happens. All credit to him. I hope he goes on to do great things. I’ll be back. Make no mistake about it.”

Barboza Topples Pedraza

Arnold Barboza Jr. (28-0, 10 KOs) defended his WBO Intercontinental junior welterweight title with a unanimous decision win over former two-division world champion Jose Pedraza (29-5-1, 14 KOs).

Barboza boxed intelligently from the outside, landing quick combos that Pedraza had difficulty avoiding. On his part, Pedraza was able to close the distance on many occasions, but he often did so without throwing a jab, so it made it difficult for him to enter without receiving a lot of punishment.

GLENDALE, ARIZONA – FEBRUARY 03: Jose Pedraza (L) and Arnold Barboza Jr (R) exchange punches during their junior welterweight fight at Desert Diamond Arena on February 03, 2033 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

As the rounds progressed, Pedraza did his best to land punches to the body, but Barboza would often smother the Puerto Rican’s offense and use his footwork to evade more shots.

The later rounds were tough, but Barboza prevailed by scores of 97-93 and 96-94 2x.

“I was making the fight easy for the first five or six rounds, but I wanted to stay in there and start brawling. Pedraza is a tough guy. All training camp we were working against southpaws, but he did a good job of switching to southpaw in the middle of the fight. It’s hard fighting a guy like him with a lot of experience,” Barboza said. “I think I’ve paid my dues. I want a title shot. I want Regis Prograis, Alberto Puello, or the winner of the IBF title or the WBO title. If I can’t get them, everyone knows who I want: Teofimo Lopez.”

Richard Torrez Jr. Stops James Bryant 

GLENDALE, ARIZONA – FEBRUARY 03: James Bryant (L) and Richard Torrez Jr (R) exchange punches during their heavyweight fight at Desert Diamond Arena on February 03, 2033 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

Richard Torrez Jr. (5-0, 5 KOs) remained undefeated with a first-round TKO over James Bryant (6-3, 4 KOs). Torrez initiated the bout in aggressive fashion, using feints and head movement to close the distance.

After a few exchanges, Torrez noticed that Bryan would often crouch forward. The U.S. Olympic silver medalist then responded by unleashing his left uppercut, which eventually dropped Bryant before the round ended.

Bryant was able to survive, but his corner advised the referee to stop the fight before the second round could commence.

“When you land a punch like that, it almost feels like there’s no glove there. It just feels like a solid shot from your knuckle to his head. And that’s when you know you hurt the guy,” Torrez said. “I thought he was in the recovery state because he had a minute left, but if the fight were to continue, I would have applied pressure. I started off the first round a little slower than usual, but I did that on purpose. I wanted to set my distance and my jab and feints. And luckily that uppercut landed and there was more to come.”

In undercard action:

Junior Lightweights: Andres Cortes (19-0, 10 KOs) outboxed Luis Melendez (17-3, 13 KOs) en route to a 10-round unanimous decision. Both men started the bout cautiously, but Cortes’ superior ring IQ allowed him to dominant more and more as the rounds progressed. Scores: 100-90 3x.

Middleweights: Nico Ali Walsh (8-0, 5 KOs) overcame a hometown disadvantage with a dominant six-round unanimous decision win over Phoenix’s Eduardo Ayala (9-3-1, 3 KOs). Walsh scored a knockdown in the second round, but Ayala, who was backed by a packed crowd of his supporters, was undeterred and was able to go the distance. Scores: 60-53 and 59-54 2x.

Ali Walsh said, “He was a big guy, and I wanted to show that I could muscle him around on the inside. Ayala was the hometown favorite. That was a new experience for me, but it was a valuable one.”

Junior Welterweights: Lindolfo Delgado (17-0, 13 KOs), a 2016 Mexican Olympian, retained his undefeated record with a unanimous decision win over Clarence Booth (21-7, 13 KOs) after eight rounds of action. Delgado scored a knockdown in the final round, courtesy of a hard right hand. Scores: 80-71 and 79-72 2x.

Lightweights: Emiliano Fernando Vargas (3-0, 2 KOs) went the distance for the first time in his career by scoring a four-round unanimous win over southpaw Francisco Duque (1-2). Scores: 40-36 3x

Benavidez: ‘On March 25, I finally get to put hands on Caleb Plant’

Undefeated former two-time WBC Super Middleweight Champion David “El Bandera Roja’’ Benavídez and former IBF Super Middleweight Champion Caleb Plant continued their war of words and nearly came to blows at a tense press conference in Los Angeles Thursday before they settle their years-long rivalry in a 12-round showdown that headlines a 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 met at the Conga Room at L.A. Live less than two months before their long-awaited clash, as the hungry super middleweights look to settle their score in one of boxing’s most anticipated showdowns. Both have had reigns as champions at 168 pounds and both are eager to  ascend to the top of the division as they fight for Benavídez’s Interim WBC Super Middleweight title. As the two exchanged insults on stage and the barbs grew more personal, security twice had to intervene to keep them apart during the proceedings.

Here is what the Benavidez and Plant had to say Thursday from Los Angeles:

DAVID BENAVIDEZ:

Photos: Esther Lin/SHOWTIME

“On March 25, I guarantee that I’m knocking Caleb Plant out before round six.

“This has been a fight in the making for the last five years and it couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m at my best right now mentally and physically. On March 25, I finally get to put hands on Caleb Plant.

“When you’re on the ground bleeding, you’ll learn how to respect a real fighter. I’m what you want to be. You’re a chump.

“He had a sensational win against Anthony Dirrell and I take nothing away from that. This is the best time this fight could have happened. It was the right move for both of us. I’ve been wanting to fight him for a long time and now the winner of this fight gets to be the mandatory for Canelo Alvarez. I’m super motivated.

“The fans want to see a knockout. He can act like I’m not like that, but just look at my record. Look at how everyone looks after they fight me. I don’t play around. That’s what I do and he’s no different from any fighter I’ve ever fought.

“This is the most important fight of my career to this date. I feel like after this fight, I’m going to pass that threshold and get to where I want to be. Every fighter has one of these grudge matches that brings the best out of them. I don’t like Caleb at all, but I want to thank him for bringing the animal out of me. I’m more motivated than ever.

“I can’t wait to give my fans a great knockout. We know that this isn’t gonna be easy. It’s gonna be grueling. But I’m ready to get in there and knock this guy out.

“He knows how the canvas feels and I’m putting him back on that. You’re gonna be laying down again.

“You got knocked out already and I’m gonna do the same thing to you again. I’m putting you to sleep.”

CALEB PLANT

Benavidez vs Plant Press Conference

“We got a big fight on our hands. That’s what boxing needs. I want to be someone who helps deliver that to the boxing world and I’m sure Benavidez does too.

“After the Canelo fight, I said that I wanted to make the biggest fight possible. They came back with two-time champion Anthony Dirrell for a title eliminator. I knew I was next in line to fight the interim champ before that fight, and that meant David Benavidez. I’m in the fight that I want.

“You don’t have to worry about me showing up on March 25. This isn’t my first big fight. I’ve been here before.

“We’re both at the top of the division. This rivalry only started because we agree to disagree on who’s better. And that’s fine, he should feel like that. That’s how great fighters are supposed to feel. It’s slowly built up over time.

“I’m coming. We’re prepared. I’ve been at this level before and I know what it takes. From now until March 25 it’s just about who can train the hardest and keep their foot on the gas.

“This is an incredibly important fight and it’s perfect timing for it to happen. This kind of fight sends a message to all the other fighters that it’s time to step up and take big fights. Boxing needs fights like this. This is a legacy fight for me and my team. On March 25, I see myself getting my hand raised.

“I’ve fought in Las Vegas before and it’s what every kid who has ever laced up a pair of boxing gloves dreams of – fighting on the biggest stage at MGM Grand and on pay-per-view.

“I never said David’s a bad fighter because I have no interest in fighting bad fighters. I want to fight good fighters and make big fights. This is the best fight that could be made in the division.”

Serrano: ‘Becoming the first undisputed champion at Featherweight would be so cool’

Amanda Serrano and greatness go hand-in-hand – but the Brooklyn star admits that beating Erika Cruz to become the undisputed World Featherweight champion would be one of her biggest achievements, as they clash at Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, live worldwide on DAZN.

Serrano (43-2-1 30 KOs) is the only seven-weight World champion in women’s boxing history and the Puerto Rican legend is no stranger to fighting for the undisputed crown having served up the fight of the year for all the Lightweight titles against Irish legend Katie Taylor in April.

‘The Real Deal’ has been collecting World title belts against the very best for over a decade, but the fan favorite is always reaching for glory as she aims to continues her quest to inspire the young talent in Puerto Rico.

“Undisputed means a lot,” said Serrano. “It means you are the best; you have everyone looking to beat you, you are top dog, unquestionably number one in the division. Becoming the first undisputed champion at Featherweight would be so cool after being a pro for 14 years.

“Puerto Rico is so small but there’s so much talent there, but there’s no undisputed champion – we have every other type of champion, but not undisputed. I want to give that back to them, for some bragging rights for Puerto Rico. Seven-weight is special because I am the only female to do it, that’s amazing, but undisputed is the icing on the cake and it’ll be me giving Puerto Rico everything I can.

“I love Puerto Rico and I want to motivate every Puerto Rico kid, but also every Latina girl, there’s no dream too big, just work hard, and surround yourself with the right people. When a little girl comes up to me and says ‘I started fighting because of you’ I am that little girl looking for my inspiration, so I feel I have done a good job.

“I would do it all again – it’s easy to say in this spot now, but you have to suffer the lows. It teaches patience and I am glad that we had it and I wouldn’t change anything.”

Saturday’s clash holds even more significance as it becomes the latest mega-fight between Puerto Rico and Mexico and will be added to the pantheon of great bouts to star fighters from those boxing hotbeds.

WBA ruler Cruz has defended her crown twice in America and Mexico having ripped it from long reigning champion Jelena Mrdjenovich, and ‘Dynamita’ has been biding her time to land the blockbuster battle she faces in a venue that is close to Serrano’s heart.

“There’s nothing like Mexico vs. Puerto Rico,” said Serrano. “The rivalry has been there forever, and I’m honored to share the ring with her. We have the same goal here, she’s a champion and I’m a champion, we want the same thing and I think she’s going to fight like all great Mexican fighters do, with all her heart.

“Erika has less fights than me, but toughness comes from within, and she wants to rip my head off and take my belts! How I win depends on her – if she comes to win, it’ll be an easy night, if she wants to box and move, you can’t beat me, it doesn’t happen. We will give the fans an amazing fight for sure.

Fighting at the Hulu Theater is so special to me. Madison Square Garden was amazing and the first time I have boxed there. One of my favorites, Miguel Cotto, used to fight there all the time, but I have a special thing at Hulu.

“I won the 2009 Golden Gloves here and in 2019, I became a seven-weight World champion there,” said Serrano. “I went back and beat Heather Hardy to win the WBO Featherweight title, the first piece of the puzzle, and now I go back there to try and complete the set against Cruz. Yes, it’s smaller, but that makes the fans closer to you, it’s a great place to fight and it means so much to me, it’s going to be a great night.”

“I never thought about boxing. I didn’t think I’d be a fighter, let alone a World champion, and let alone a seven-division champion going for undisputed. I just liked fighting. Then I started winning and winning and became World champion, but it didn’t really hit me that I was doing anything special until I was two-division then three-division, and I thought, ‘maybe there is something to this?’

“I don’t like the word pioneer because it makes me feel a bit old! But I was in the sport when it wasn’t fun. Women weren’t respected. My drive and wanting to be the best I can be, that’s all that kept me going. Every day me and the team were ready to call it quits because it was too hard – there was no respect, no recognition, no opportunities, and no money in the sport. We always questioned ourselves because there was no light at the end of the tunnel, but something kept us going and I am so happy that we did because look at us now.”

Serrano’s clash with Cruz is part of an historic night of action at Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden as Alycia Baumgardner faces Elhem Mekhaled for the undisputed title at Super-Featherweight.

Brooklyn ace Richardson Hitchins makes a long-awaited return to action in New York as he defends his IBF North American Super-Lightweight title against New Jersey’s John Bauza.

There’s three more female title fights on the card, as Australian star Skye Nicolson (5-0) looks to take a big step towards World title action against fellow unbeaten fighter Tania Alvarez (7-0 1 KO) for the WBC Silver Featherweight title and there’s another all-undefeated belt battle as Ramla Ali (7-0 2 KOs) faces title action for the first time in the paid ranks as she meets Avril Mathie (8-0-1 3 KOs) for the IBF Intercontinental Super-Bantamweight strap, Shadasia Green (11-0 10 KOs) defends her WBC Silver Super-Middleweight title against Elin Cederroos (8-1 4 KOs) in an eliminator for the WBC World title.

Yankiel Rivera (2-0 2 KOs) will be looking to make it three KOs in three in his Matchroom debut against Fernando Diaz, and Aaron Aponte (6-0-1 2 KOs) and Brooklyn’s Harley Mederos (4-0 3 KOs) complete the action against Joshua David Rivers (8-1 5 KOs) and Julio Madera (4-2 2 KOs) respectively.

Photo Credit: Melina Pizano/Matchroom

Barrios on fight with Santiago: ‘A win puts me in the position I want to be in’

Former world champion and San Antonio’s own Mario “El Azteca” Barrios shared insights into his training camp with top trainer Bob Santos and promised fireworks for his hometown fans when he takes on Jovanie Santiago on Saturday, February 11 live on SHOWTIME from the Alamodome in an event presented by Premier Boxing Champions.

Barrios (26-2, 17 KOs) will face Puerto Rico’s Santiago in the 10-round co-main event of a SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING® telecast beginning at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT. The action is headlined by undefeated two-division world champion Rey Vargas dueling top 130-pound contender O’Shaquie Foster for the vacant WBC Super Featherweight World Championship.

A former champion at 140-pounds, the 27-year-old Barrios returns to the ring after dropping his welterweight debut to former unified champion Keith Thurman in a February 2022 action fight. Following the fight, Barrios reunited with former trainer Bob Santos, who has recently trained Hector Luis Garcia and Alberto Puello to world titles. As he looks to restart his ascent in the star-studded 147-pound division, he will return to the Alamodome, where he previously scored an October 2020 KO of Ryan Karl.

Here is what Barrios had to say about training camp, Santiago and more:

On fighting at home in San Antonio, Texas:

“I’m always excited to give my fans back home an entertaining fight. I love where I’m from and I’m always proud to step in the ring representing San Antonio. I’m very thankful for another opportunity to fight in front of the San Antonio fans. It’s going to be an explosive night of boxing and I’m promising an action packed fight.”

On his recent training camp:

“I have relocated my training camp to Las Vegas, Nevada, and am back working with Bob Santos. It’s been a change of pace, and coming off a bit of a lay-off, after some really big fights, it’s been refreshing resting my mind and body after two hard camps back-to-back. The change is one I think that’s going to elevate my career these next few years, because I’ll be training in the fight capital of the world.

“I think a lot of fighters lose motivation once they have fought on pay-per-view, but being around so many fighters who are in their prime at the Pound4pound boxing gym out here has been pushing me every day. I am thrilled with how the camp has gone, and I think people will see everything I’ve been working on come fight night. I also have my sister Selina working in my corner as well. We started this sport together and I’m thankful to still have her input in the corner. Everything has been great leading up to this fight.”

On his opponent, Jovanie Santiago:

“I think he’s a quality fighter. He had a close fight with Adrien Broner that many say he should have won. I thought he struggled with Gary Antuanne Russell, but Gary is a great fighter. I personally think Santiago is a guy that if you take him lightly, he can make you look bad. In no way am I intending to disrespect him, but I am going to show why I have been featured on two pay-per-view main events and am a former world champion. This fight is about me ending this lay off and proving that I am at a different level, and a threat in this division. I think you will see a clear separation between us in this bout.”

On what a win does for his career:

“A win puts me in the position I want to be in, which is competing for a world title. A lot of titles have become vacant as of late, and I think with a strong showing I could get in the mix with any of the world champions in the division. My goal right now is to become a two-time world champion, and that is what I am set on doing. A win essentially gives me that next step to get close to a title eliminator or the bigger names in the welterweight division. I want to perform in a way that makes my city and my team proud and continues to make the networks want to see me in bigger fights.”

Photo: Jarryd Duarte/Team Barrios