Matias-Ponce to headline card on February 25 in Minneapolis

Top super lightweight contenders will square off  as popular knockout artist Subriel Matías meets undefeated Argentine Jeremías Ponce for the vacant IBF 140-pound World Championship to decide one of the kingpins of the red-hot super lightweight division on Saturday, February 25 live on SHOWTIME from The Armory in Minneapolis headlining a Premier Boxing Champions event.

The SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING® telecast begins at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT and features the return of Minneapolis-native Jamal “Shango” James in the 10-round welterweight co-main event as he battles 2016 Argentine Olympian Alberto Palmetta. Kicking off the telecast, exciting super lightweight contender Elvis Rodríguez duels the hard-hitting Joseph “Blessed Hands” Adorno in a 10-round attraction.

“The 140-pound division is one of the hottest in boxing and a new champion will be crowned at the weight when Subriel Matías and Jeremías Ponce meet in an anticipated clash on Saturday, February 25,” said Tom Brown, President of TGB Promotions. “One of the sport’s most powerful punchers, Matías will have to be at his best to turn away the unbeaten and highly-motivated Ponce. In addition to a second 140-pound clash between Elvis Rodríguez and Joseph Adorno, The Armory’s fan-favorite Jamal James will step back into the ring, as he looks to begin another run to the title against Alberto Palmetta. This is a jam-packed lineup that fans in Minneapolis or watching on SHOWTIME will want to make sure they catch from start to finish.”

The 30-year-old Matías (18-1, 18 KOs) has a seek-and-destroy style that is easy on the eyes and hard for his opponents. He has early and late KO power with all 18 of his victories coming via stoppages – his last six in the fifth round or later. The lone loss of his career came against Petros Ananyan via 10-round unanimous decision in 2020 and was later avenged. Matias, of Farjado, Puerto Rico, faced two unbeaten boxers after the loss, defeating Malik Hawkins and Batyrzhan Jukembayev by stoppage. In the rematch he stopped Ananyan by ninth-round TKO, methodically wearing his opponent down and exhausting him before dropping him and ending the action.

“I’m very grateful that there is now a date for this fight so that I can finally realize my dream and become world champion,” said Matías. “I’ve been away from my family for 10 months in Mexico, just preparing and getting ready until the time came to step into the ring. Now that it’s in my sight, there’s nothing that is going to stand in my way.”

Ponce (30-0, 20 KOs) will be making his U.S. boxing debut when he meets Matias in what has all the earmarks of an immovable-force-versus- unstoppable object-type matchup. The 26-year-old Ponce of Buenos Aires, Argentina hopes to be included in the long lineage of  legendary Argentine boxers who preceded him. He put himself in position to fight for the IBF title with a resounding 10th-round TKO victory over Lewis Ritson in June 2021. He has kept himself busy in anticipation of the title match and stopped Michel Marcano via second round KO in November 2021 before most recently earning a TKO victory over Achiko Odikadze in April of last year.

“I promise that I’m coming into this fight prepared to do whatever it takes to reach my dream and become a world champion,” said Ponce. “In my mind, this is my fight, and that title is already mine. Anyone who’s standing in my way is going to see why I’m undefeated and why I’ve earned this position that I’m in.”

Minneapolis’ James (27-2, 12 KOs) will return to the ring for the first time since dropping a 2021 slugfest to  then unbeaten Radzhab Butaev, which snapped James’ seven-fight winning streak. The 34-year-old returns to fight at The Armory for the fifth time in his career, having won four straight bouts there between April 2018 and July 2019. That run for James included triumphs over fellow contender Abel Ramos and former Champion Antonio DeMarco. James also owns victories over veteran contenders including Javier Molina and Wale Omotoso, with his only other blemish coming against former world champion Yordenis Ugas.

“Training is going well and I’m working hard as usual,” said James. “I’m very excited to be getting back in the ring after such a long layoff, especially since it’ll be in my hometown. I think Palmetta will do his best, but it won’t be enough. I am determined to win and to let it be known that my name should be listed as one of the top five welterweights of this era.”

A native of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Palmetta (18-1, 13 KOs) represented his home country at the 2016 Olympics before turning pro in November 2016. The 32-year-old has won his last 12 fights, with 11 coming by stoppage dating back to 2017. In addition to an impressive run that saw him knock out the previously unbeaten Erik Ortiz and veteran contenders Tre’Sean Wiggins and Saul Corral, Palmetta also defeated Yeis Solano by decision in October 2021 and most recently blasted out Thomas Mendez in three rounds last November.

“This is a great opportunity for me and I’m training hard in Las Vegas to take full advantage of everything that’s in front of me,” said Palmetta. “I’ve represented my country in the ring for years, including in the Olympics, and I’m going in there on February 25 to make everyone in Argentina proud. I know I’m going into James’ hometown, but that’s just going to motivate me even harder to have my hand raised.”

Rodríguez (13-1-1, 12 KOs) has bounced back from his first career defeat, a majority decision loss to Kenneth Sims Jr., to knock out his last two opponents. His most recent fight came at The Armory, when he dispatched Juan Jose Velasco in the seventh round of their March 2022 clash on SHOWTIME. The 27-year-old burst onto the scene with knockout victories in 10 of his first 11 fights and totaled an impressive five wins in 2020. Originally from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Rodríguez now lives and trains in Los Angeles, Calif.

“I can’t wait for February 25,” said Rodríguez. “I’ve been in camp waiting and preparing for an opportunity like this to display my skills. Adorno is a very talented fighter, but he’s in my way. Simple as that. I hope to get a title shot this year and in order to do that, I need to make a big statement in this fight.”

Adorno (17-1-2, 14 KOs) enters this fight having won three-straight bouts, including a unanimous decision victory over  previously unbeaten Hugo Alberto Roldan in September 2022 in the main event of SHOBOX: The New Generation®. His current winning streak comes after dropping a March 2022 decision against then-undefeated Michel Rivera on SHOWTIME, which followed an April 2021 draw against Jamaine Ortiz. The 23-year-old was born in Union City, N.J., and now resides in Allentown, Pa., and is trained by respected coach Raul “Chino” Rivas. Adorno turned pro in 2016 at the age of 17 after a standout amateur career where he amassed a 178-22 record and beat Shakur Stevenson twice. He has scored knockout victories in nine of his first 10 pro fights.

“I’m training hard and putting in the work to make this my crossover fight,” said Adorno. “I’m the real A-side, the higher-ranked fighter and have more experience. My stablemate Kenny Sims dominated Rodriguez and I’m going to do the same. They took the wrong fight. He can have the A-side billing. Look at my credentials. I am the more skilled, more talented and more powerful fighter.”

Cavs, Suns, Mercury, Hawks release statements on Derek Chauvin verdict

On Tuesday, a jury found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.

Chauvin’s bail was immediately revoked, and he is expected to be sentenced in eight weeks. The 45-year-old ex-police officer faces a maximum of 75 years in prison. 

After the verdict, teams around the NBA and WNBA released statements on the verdict.

Cleveland Cavaliers:

“The horrific images of George Floyd’s murder still ring true and clear in our minds and today’s verdict represents an important measure of justice for he and his family. We will continue our deep desire and commitment to see and support equality, compassion, respect, unity, healing and peace for all. Especially in moments when it might be the most difficult to achieve.”

Atlanta Hawks:

“Today, inside a courthouse in Minneapolis, our nation saw legal justice served. While this verdict can never fully bring solace to the loved ones of George Floyd, it is a start in their healing and that of the entire Black community that continues to grieve his loss and countless others at the hands of senseless brutality. Last summer, the Hawks made a commitment to stand against racism and injustice and to continue denouncing the broken systems that contributed to this moment. We remain committed to being a part of the solution and using our platform to move us toward a more accepting, anti-racist society.”

 Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury:

“As Americans, as athletes, as business and community leaders, as role models with a platform, and as every day citizens focused on just doing the right things, our work as shepherds of social and racial justice never ends nor does our commitment to being a force for change, fighting injustice while celebrating and embracing diversity.

The Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury will continue to invest in communities of color, listen to leaders in the space of racial justice, and use our organizations’ voice and platform in the pursuit of an equal and peaceful society.”

Vikings’ Cousins: ‘May not have been the prettiest game, but ultimately, getting a win is what matters’

On Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings(5-6) struggled at times against the Carolina Panthers(4-8) Minnesota allowed two defensive touchdowns in the third quarter, including two fumble returns for a touchdown by Panthers safety Jeremy Chinn.

As they entered the fourth quarter, Minnesota trailed 21-10. After Justin Jefferson’s touchdown reception cut the lead to 24-21, Minnesota’s Chad Beebe would muff a punt that set up a Panthers’ field goal. However, Beebe would redeem himself with a game-winning 10-yard touchdown reception. Carolina would have one more chance, but kicker Joey Slye missed a 54-yard field goal, and the Vikings hold on to defeat the Panthers 28-27 at U.S. Bank Stadium.

“At the end of the day, a lot of that was on me with those emotions,” Beebe said. “I’d had a dropped punt. It’s funny, though, because things didn’t really get down. I came to the sideline, and everybody was positive, and it’s just having that never-give-up attitude. Our entire team kind of felt that way. We had plenty of time to drive down and score, and that’s exactly what we did.”

While the Vikings did not play their best on Sunday, QB Kirk Cousins, who threw for 307 yards and three touchdowns against Carolina, was happy with the team’s ability to get a win on Sunday.

“May not have been the prettiest game, but ultimately, getting a win is what matters,” Cousins said. “It was great to get one after having some really close losses that were a play away earlier in the year. Really encouraged by us finding a way to win despite us having so many plays we want to have back.

Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer was excited to win, but he was not pleased with his team’s mistakes on Sunday.

“Obviously very pleased to win today,” Zimmer said. “We fought really hard. We made some mistakes – the two turnovers for touchdowns right in the third quarter was not a good thing. And the muffed punt there at the end of the ball game. But we came back – offensively, we came back and did a great job on the 2-minute drill, no timeouts went down and scored. It was nice to see [Chad] Beebe come back with the touchdown after muffing the punt.”

With the victory, the Vikings keep their playoffs hope alive. Minnesota is one game behind Arizona for the final wild-card spot in the NFC, so defeating the Panthers was big for this team. 

 

 

 

Vikings’ Diggs: ‘We still haven’t played our best football’

On Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings did what they were supposed to do when they defeated the Lions at home 20-7. With the victory, the Vikings move to 9-4 and remain one game behind the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North standings, and continue to hold the sixth and final spot in the NFC playoffs. 

The Vikings are making their push to the playoffs, and according to WR Stefon Diggs, they want to play their best football during December.

“Yes, the defense played lights out as they came out and got a lot of stops for us,” Diggs said after the game. “Kirk [Cousins] is playing extremely well, and it’s amazing how good some of those throws are out there. Obviously, we are running the ball efficiently, and everybody is doing their jobs well. At this point, we are just trying to play our best football in December.”

Two of the Vikings three remaining games will be at home, where the Vikings are 6-0 this season. But according to Diggs, Minnesota still has not played their best football yet. 

“It is good to win at home,” Diggs said. “We are trying to create a snowball effect as far as building the momentum, having the success, playing our best football. We still haven’t played our best football. There is a lot of football in front of us, and I look forward to it.”

Minnesota’s final three games won’t be easy. The Chargers(5-8), Minnesota’s next opponent, have a decent amount of talent, plus it’s a road game for the Vikings, so that might be tricky. The final two games are at home games against the Packers and the surging Bears. 

It’s good to be 9-4, but the Vikings still have some more work to do. 

Zach LaVine on Minnesota: ‘They gonna be really good’

On draft day, the Bulls and Timberwolves pulled off a blockbuster trade. Jimmy Butler went to Minnesota along with Creighton’s Justin Patton, while the Bulls get Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen. After this move, the Timberwolves have positioned themselves to possibly make the playoffs next season, while the Bulls prepare to start over.

The Bulls’ Zach LaVine believes that Minnesota is going to be a solid team with the addition of Jimmy Butler. “They gonna be really good. Jimmy Butler is a helluva of a player. Karl(Towns) and Andrew(Wiggins) are already stars in their own, upcoming guys. There gonna do very well,” LaVine told TMZ Sports.

While LaVine loved his time in Minnesota, he has no animosity toward the Timberwolves.

“I have no hard feelings. I love Minnesota. You gotta understand the business of basketball. I’m prepared for this step as well, and I know that they are too. We get to play twice. Other than that, we still going to all be boys,” said LaVine.

Anything short of the playoffs for Butler and the Wolves would be a disappointment. It’s time for Minnesota to go to the next level, and Butler should make that happen!