Smith Jr., Geffrard talks Saturday night’s showdown

Steve Geffrard wasn’t supposed to be here. Last Friday, he was preparing to weigh in for a fight in Delray Beach, Florida, when he received a call. WBO light heavyweight champion Joe Smith Jr. needed an opponent after British puncher Callum Johnson contracted COVID-19.

Geffrard answered the call and will fight Smith this Saturday evening at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, N.Y. (ESPN, ESPN Deportes & ESPN+, 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT). 

Geffrard (18-2, 12 KOs), a South Florida native and former U.S. amateur standout, was 0-2 before rattling off 18 consecutive victories. Smith (27-3, 21 KOs) defeated Maxim Vlasov last April and will finally defend his title after a COVID-19 diagnosis delayed his return.

In the 10-round co-feature, featherweight contender Abraham Nova (20-0, 14 KOs) will look to extend his unbeaten record against 2012 Dominican Olympian William Encarnacion (19-1, 15 KOs).

The undercard will stream live on ESPN+ (7:45 p.m. ET/4:45 p.m. PT) and includes rising Puerto Rican star Omar Rosario (5-0, 2 KOs), 18-year-old welterweight Jahi Tucker (5-0, 3 KOs), and recent U.S. Olympian Troy Isley (3-0, 2 KOs) in separate bouts.

At Thursday’s press conference, this is what Smith and Geffrard had to say.

(Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

Joe Smith Jr.:

“I can’t wait to be on ESPN this Saturday defending my world title in front of the whole world. I’m extremely happy to be here. There were a couple of moments where I thought I wasn’t going to be here. I can’t wait! Thanks to everyone that made this happen.” 
 
“Since I became a world champion, the only thing that has really changed for me is that I’m holding this title, and I want to keep it that way.” 
 
“Geffrard has been inside the ring training with the best. I’m sure he is going to give it his all and will try to take full advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity.” 

Steve Geffrard:

(Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)


“When those belts are on the line, that mental switch turns on. I know that mentally and skill-wise I can battle with the best. I have sparred with, and handled myself very well, against the best of the division.”
 
“I’m a fighter, especially with an opportunity like this. I’m going to rise to the occasion. I’ll show the world who Steve Geffrard is.” 
 
“I was in the sauna when I got the call for this fight. I was looking forward to Smith vs. Johnson, but now I’m the one fighting for the title. It’s surreal.”

Ramirez-Pedraza rescheduled for March 4

The homecoming of former unified junior welterweight world champion Jose Ramirez is happening, just 27 days later than expected. Central Valley native Ramirez will fight former two-weight world champion Jose “Sniper” Pedraza in the 12-round main event Friday, March 4 at Save Mart Center in Fresno, California.

Ramirez and Pedraza were scheduled to fight Saturday, Feb. 5, but Pedraza tested positive for COVID-19.

In the six-round heavyweight special feature immediately before the main event, Olympic silver medalist Richard Torrez Jr., from the Central Valley town of Tulare, California, will make his long-awaited professional debut. The 10-round co-feature will see the Top Rank debut of featherweight contender Joet Gonzalez, who will fight Filipino veteran Jeo Santisima. The entire Ramirez-Pedraza card will stream live and exclusively in the United States on ESPN+.

Mayer defeats Hamadouche by unanimous decision in an action-packed fight

 Two of the best female boxers on the planet put forth a duel worthy of the main event platform. WBO junior lightweight world champion Mikaela Mayer (16-0, 5 KOs) defeated IBF champion Maiva Hamadouche (22-2, 18 KOs) by unanimous decision to unify titles Friday evening at The Theater at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas.

The scorecards — 100-90, 99-91 and 98-92 — did not do Hamadouche’s effort justice. Hamadouche, who had been champion for five years and six title defenses, landed 233 of 872 punches. Mayer was more accurate, landing 239 of 594 blows.

“{I showed} I could bang it out on the inside. That wasn’t really the entire game plan,” Mayer said. “The game plan was to use my jab, but in the back of my head, I knew she was going to keep it close, keep me on the inside. Even though we trained for that, just being able to do that for 10 straight rounds taught me a lot.
 
“This is everything I trained for. It really hasn’t even sunk in, but I’m proud of what I did. I’m proud of my team. We’re going to celebrate this one, for sure.”

Added Top Rank chairman Bob Arum, “This was a sensational fight, one of the best fights of the year, male or female. These two ladies are a credit to the sport, and they left it all in the ring. It was a close fight, but I felt Mikaela did more than enough to have her hand raised.”

With the victory, Mayer now sets her sights on the undisputed crown.
 
Mayer said, “I really wanted to show everyone in the division and the naysayers that I didn’t have the power and the grit to stay in there for 10 rounds with Hamadouche that I am the best in the division. I am coming to be undisputed, and I want the big fights. I’m definitely a threat.”

In other action:

Puerto Rican upstart Luis Melendez (17-1, 13 KOs) notched the biggest win of his career, edging Cleveland native Thomas Mattice (17-3-1, 13 KOs) by unanimous decision in an eight-round junior lightweight tilt. All three judges scored the fight 77-75 for Melendez, who built an early lead and held off Mattice’s late rally. Mattice landed 37 more punches over the second half of the fight (81-44).

Abdullah Mason (1-0, 1 KO), the 17-year-old southpaw lightweight prodigy from Cleveland, had an eye-opening professional debut, knocking out Jaylan Phillips (1-1, 1 KO) in the second round. Mason had Phillips pinned against the ropes and unloaded with a series of crosses. Phillips’ knees buckled, and that was enough for referee Robert Hoyle to step in and prevent further carnage.

Las Vegas native Andres “Savage” Cortes (16-0, 9 KOs) had a fitting homecoming, knocking out Filipino veteran Mark Bernaldez (23-5, 17 KOs) in the third round of a junior lightweight bout. Cortes snapped Bernaldez’s head back with a few crisp right hands, prompting referee Allen Huggins to step in. Bernaldez protested the stoppage, his first knockout defeat in more than three years.

Middleweight Ian Green (15-2, 11 KOs) upset the previously undefeated Tyler Howard (19-1, 11 KOs) by a near-shutout eight-round unanimous decision (79-72 2x and 80-71). Howard had a point deducted in the fourth round for a shot after the bell, and it didn’t get much better for him in the second half of the fight.

Rowdy Legend Montgomery (7-3-1, 5 KOs) lived up to his middle name. The Southern California super middleweight opened the card with a one-punch knockout over Martez McGregor (8-6, 6 KOs) in the third round.

Photo: Mikey Williams / Top Rank via Getty Images

Navarrete defeats Gonzalez by unanimous decision to retain title

Emanuel “Vaquero” Navarrete and Joet Gonzalez engaged in a border war for the ages.

Navarrete (35-1, 29 KOs) retained his WBO featherweight world title with a bloody unanimous decision (118-110 and 116-112 2x) over Joet Gonzalez (24-2, 14 KOs) on Friday evening at Pechanga Arena San Diego. It was the second successful title defense for Navarrete, who moved up to the featherweight ranks last year after defending his junior featherweight crown five times.

“Without a doubt, I hurt him, but every single time he came back, and he also hurt me. A couple shots he landed hurt me during the fight,” Navarrete said. “It has been an exciting ride so far, and from now on, I want the bigger fights.”

The bigger fights could include an eventual move up to 130 pounds, where a match with WBC champion Oscar Valdez would be one of the biggest all-Mexican showdowns in the sport.

But on this night, Navarrete had to contend with the stubborn Gonzalez, who hung in tough despite swollen right eye in the early rounds. Navarrete threw 979 punches, including 104 in the 12th round to close the show in style.

Gonzalez said, “I thought I had it seven rounds to five, eight rounds to four. I was really surprised by that score of 118-110, I believe. But it is what it is, and I did my best.”

Santillan Thrills Hometown Crowd:

Welterweight contender Giovani Santillan had not fought in his hometown in more than seven years. In front of a partisan crowd that broke out into frequent “Gio” chants, the San Diego native improved to 28-0 with a 10-round unanimous decision over Angel Ruiz (17-2, 12 KOs). The scores — 100-90 2x and 99-91 — did not reflect the game effort of Ruiz, who gave nearly as good as he received for much of the fight.

Buoyed by the local faithful, Santillan prevailed in the phone both affair and edged closer to a title shot.

Santillan said, “This is what it’s all about, a great fight in front of my amazing hometown fans. They were cheering for me all night, and it was an honor to perform for my people in San Diego.

“My father and I always wanted to fight here. It was a dream come true, and credit to Angel Ruiz for going to battle for 10 rounds. He’s a true Mexican warrior. I have nothing but respect for him.”

In other action:

Puerto Rican southpaw junior lightweight Henry “Moncho” Lebron (14-0, 9 KOs) notched the most significant win of his young career, turning back the hard-charging Dallas native Manuel Rey Rojas (21-6, 6 KOs) by eight-round unanimous decision. All three judges scored the fight 80-72.

Junior welterweight prospect Lindolfo Delgado (14-0, 12 KOs) won his second bout in six weeks, shutting out Juan Garcia Mendez (21-5-2, 13 KOs) over eight rounds (80-71 3x). Delgado floored Mendez with a two-punch combination in the closing stages of the eighth round.

Middleweight upstart Javier “Milwaukee Made” Martinez (5-0, 2 KOs) did not give any of that famous Midwest hospitality to Daryl Jones (4-3-1, 2 KOs), as he bested the Florida resident over six one-sided rounds by scores of 60-54 and 60-53 2x. After a second round that saw Jones nearly stopped against the ropes, the two battled the rest of the way, trading punches in the waning seconds of the sixth round.

Bantamweight prospect Floyd “Cashflow” Diaz (3-0) dominated former amateur rival Jose Ramirez (1-1, 1 KO) via four-round unanimous decision, knocking Ramirez down in the opening round and cruising to a points win by scores of 39-36 and 40-35 2x.

The newest heavyweight on the block showed out. Antonio “El Gigante” Mireles, from Des Moines, Iowa, shined in his professional debut, knocking out Demonte Randle (2-2, 2 KOs) in the opening round. Mireles, a southpaw, knocked down Randle early in the first round with a right hook. Following two more knockdowns, the referee called a halt to the fight at 2:07.

Photo: Mikey Williams / Top Rank via Getty Images

Ali Walsh: ‘To hear those Ali chants was something that I’ll never forget’

Nico Ali Walsh(1-0, 1 KOs), the grandson of Muhammad Ali, made his professional debut in Tulsa, and he dominated like his grandfather on Saturday night.

Ali Walsh made quick work of Jordan Weeks (4-2, 2 KOs), knocking him out in the opening round of a scheduled four-round middleweight contest. He knocked down Weeks with a right hand, and a follow-up flurry ended the night for the South Carolina native.

Like his grandfather, Ali Walsh is promoted by Bob Arum, who promoted 27 of Ali’s fights. The 21-year-old made his debut 40 years after his grandfather’s last fight, and according to Ali Walsh, his win lived up to his expectations.

“This lived up completely to my expectations,” he said. “It’s been an emotional journey this whole ride these last couple of months.

“Obviously, my grandfather, I’m thinking about him so much. I miss him. It’s just an emotional journey, and thank you to Jordan Weeks and his people. Tough, tough kid. I think me and him made a little bit of history tonight.”

Ali Walsh, who had 30 amateur fights, does not feel any extra pressure being the grandson of the man who many think is the greatest boxer to ever live. 

“Honestly, it seems like a lot of pressure, but to me, it’s just my grandfather,” Ali Walsh. “To everyone else, to you guys and the crowd, he’s the greatest fighter who ever lived, maybe the greatest person. But to me, he’s the greatest grandfather.

“To hear those Ali chants was something that I’ll never forget. I didn’t expect that, to be honest, but it was special.”

Ali Walsh has a long way to go to be a great fighter and an even longer way to go to be like his grandfather, but he’s off to an excellent start after Saturday’s win.

Photo Credit: Mikey Williams/Top Rank via Getty Images)

 

 

 

 

Arum: ‘Marvelous Marvin Hagler was among the greatest athletes that Top Rank ever promoted’

On Saturday, it was announced by his wife, Kay, that former world champion Marvelous Marvin Hagler had died. Hagler was 66.

No word on the cause of death.

A member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, Hagler’s last fight was in 1987 when he lost a controversial decision to Sugar Ray Leonard. He finished his career with 62-3-2 with 52 KOs.

Bob Arum’s Top Rank Boxing, who promoted Hagler, issued the following statement on his death:

Top Rank is devastated by the passing of the incomparable Marvelous Marvin Hagler, one of boxing’s most beloved and accomplished champions. Born in Newark, New Jersey, and raised in Brockton, Massachusetts, Hagler overcame humble beginnings to forge a storied professional career that included 12 successful defenses of the undisputed middleweight world championship. He concluded his career in 1987 with a 62-3-2 record and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1993.
 
Top Rank is honored to have promoted a fighter who embodied everything noble about the sport. The Top Rank family mourns the loss of a legend and sends our condolences to his loved ones and friends.
 
Said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum, “Marvelous Marvin Hagler was among the greatest athletes that Top Rank ever promoted. He was a man of honor and a man of his word, and he performed in the ring with unparalleled determination. He was a true athlete and a true man. I will miss him greatly.”

Crawford: ‘I want Pacquiao’

For the first three rounds, Kell Brook(39-3, 27 KOs) was fighting well and was effectively using his jab against WBO 147-pound champion Terence Crawford. However, before you knew it, the fight was over. Crawford (37-0, 28 KOs) exploded was a right jab that forced Brook into the ropes for a knockdown. Crawford would finish Brook off with a combination that prompted referee Tony Weeks to stop the fight, and Crawford would win by fourth-round TKO to retain his belt at the MGM Grand Las Vegas Bubble on Saturday night.

 “Never in my career, nobody has ever done that to me in sparring or anything,” Brook said after the fight.

Crawford added: “Kell is a tremendous talent. He came, and he tried to take my title. He was in shape. He made the weight. There were no excuses to be put on the table. He came off of three wins.”

According to Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, Crawford, who has now won eight straight fights by knockout, is the best welterweight in the world.

“Terence Crawford showed, once again, why he is the best welterweight in the world,” Arum said. “It was a dominating performance over a very good fighter in Kell Brook. Terence ranks up there with all the great welterweights I’ve promoted.”

After the fight, Crawford made it clear that he wants WBA welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao, next.

“I already said who I want {next}. I want Pacquiao. I want to revisit that fight,” Crawford said. “That was a fight that should’ve happened right now. But being that the pandemic happened, and they weren’t going to allow fans in the Middle East, they had to put a hold to that. Everything was 95 percent done. We had the venue. The money was almost there. It wasn’t quite there. That was the only thing we were waiting on.”

What happens next for Crawford should be interesting. There have been talks that Crawford is not happy with his situation at Top Rank. According to The Athletic’s Mike Coppinger, Crawford’s deal with Top Rank expires in October 2021. If the 33-year-old Crawford is fighting Pacquiao next, which he mentioned was a possibility, that’s an opportunity to get a nice payday and a big name at 147. However, if Crawford wants the other big names at 147, like Errol Spence Jr., Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter, or Danny Garcia, all of who fight under the PBC banner, he’s going to have to probably sign with PBC, and if that gets him the big fights, it’s a great move.

Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank via Getty Images

Brook on Crawford: ‘I stop him, or he quits on the stool’

At age 34, former world champion Kell Brook(39-2, 27 KOs) is running out of time. On Saturday night, Brook will have an opportunity to become a champion again when he battles WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford(36-0, 27 KOs) at the MGM Grand Las Vegas Bubble.

The last time Brook fought in the United States was in 2014 when he earned his first title by defeating then IBF 147-pound champion Shawn Porter. According to the UK native, he knows what it takes to come to America and win a belt.

“I’ve been here before. I’ve been on this stage,” Brook said via a Zoom call on Monday. “I’ve been in there with pound-for-pound top fighters like Golovkin and Errol Spence. I took the title away from Shawn Porter in America. I know what it takes to be champion.

“He’s going to have a rude awakening; I’ll tell you that. He’s going to have a rude awakening Saturday night when he gets in there.

“I hope he’s {overlooking me}. I hope he is because I’m coming with force. Trust me.”

There is nothing like winning your first title, but Brook, who lost his title to Spence in 2017, thinks winning his second title would mean more to him. 

“I think {winning this fight} would rank above Shawn Porter given everything I’ve been through, everyone writing me off,” Brook said. “I think you gotta put it up there because this is the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world. You’ve gotta put him as number one. Nobody has done that in history from Britain, and I’m glad that all the fans will be able to see it on Premier Sports. They’re going to stay up and enjoy me become two-time world champion.”

Not only does Brook, who is on a three-fight win streak, expect to beat Crawford, but he also expects to do it in devastating fashion.

“I stop him, or he quits on the stool,” Brook said. “I’m fully focused. I’ve never been ready for a fight like this before. Looking forward to whatever Terence brings because I can match him. I’m ready for a war.”

This is Brook’s last stand. If he can find a way to beat one of the pound-for-pound best in Crawford, it would be his greatest accomplishment as a pro. Brook was very competitive against Spence and Golovkin, so there’s a good chance that he will be very competitive against Crawford. Based on the way Brook’s talking, we should get an excellent fight on Saturday night.

Mayer on fight with Brodnicka: ‘I will absolutely be going home with the belt’

Mikaela Mayer called on the junior lightweight world champions for a fight. One of them was mandated to answer.

WBO female junior lightweight world champion Ewa Brodnicka will make the sixth defense of her title in a 10-round showdown against mandatory challenger Mayer on Halloween evening, Saturday, Oct. 31 from the MGM Grand Las Vegas Conference Center. Brodnicka-Mayer will serve as the chief support bout to WBA/IBF bantamweight world champion Naoya “Monster” Inoue’s title defense against Jason “Mayhem” Moloney.

Inoue-Moloney and Brodnicka-Mayer will headline an evening of boxing live and exclusively on ESPN+ beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET/4:30 p.m. PT.

“After Mikaela’s last performance, I promised her a world title fight. She’s asked to fight the champions, and I am confident she will make a statement to the rest of the women in and around her weight class,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “We’ve watched her progress since her pro debut, and she has turned into one of the premier fighters in female boxing. This WBO belt will be the first of many world titles for Mikaela.”

Frank Smith, CEO of Matchroom Boxing, Brodnicka’s co-promoter, said: “We’re happy to be working with our friends at Top Rank on another great fight. Ewa Brodnicka has proved herself to be one of the best 130-pound fighters on the planet with five defenses of her WBO world title, and I’m backing her to make it six successful defenses when she meets the undefeated Mikaela Mayer on Oct. 31. This is a top matchup at a time when women’s boxing grows from strength to strength.”

Brodnicka (19-0, 2 KOs), from Poland, has fought all of her pro bouts in her home country and has gone the 10-round distance on 10 occasions. She participated in the final world title bout before the COVID-19 pandemic March 7, winning a unanimous decision over Djemilla Gontaruk in Dzierżoniów, Poland. Before capturing world title honors at junior lightweight, Brodnicka reigned as European lightweight champion.

Brodnicka said, “I am excited that my title defense against Mikaela is happening in America, where I’ve always wanted to fight. I am more than ready for this opportunity, and I would like to thank my promoters, Eddie Hearn and Mariusz Grabowski, for helping make this fight a reality.”

Mayer (13-0, 5 KOs), from Los Angeles, turned pro under the Top Rank banner almost one year after representing the United States at the 2016 Rio Olympics. She made her pandemic return July 14 and bested two-time world title challenger Helen Joseph over 10 rounds. Matchroom Boxing announced it had signed Brodnicka to a promotional contract on Aug. 6, but later that day, the WBO ordered Brodnicka to defend her world title against Mayer.

“I’ve made huge improvements to my boxing skills over the last 10 months. You saw some of it in my last fight against Helen Joseph, but I’ve reached a whole new level this fight camp,” Mayer said. “I’m more than prepared for this WBO world championship fight, and I will absolutely be going home with the belt. This fight will not go the distance. Ewa Brodnicka is not on my level, and her time is up. Tune in and watch me bring the championship belt to ESPN and Top Rank.”

Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank Boxing

Loma on Lopez: ‘He has done nothing but say my name for the past two years’

Franchise world champion Vasiliy Lomachenko, the pound-for-pound “Boxing Baryshnikov” from Ukraine, will fight unbeaten IBF world champion Teofimo Lopez, the knockout artist from Brooklyn who has lobbed verbal haymakers at Lomachenko for more than two years. The two will fight from the MGM Grand Conference Center aka the “Las Vegas Bubble.

Lomachenko-Lopez (ESPN and ESPN Deportes, 10 p.m. ET) headlines a can’t-miss month of boxing on the ESPN family of networks, which also includes the long-awaited return of Japanese pound-for-pound superstar Naoya “Monster” Inoue, who will defend his WBA and IBF bantamweight world titles on Halloween evening, Saturday, Oct. 31, against Australian contender Jason “Mayhem” Moloney.

”Lomachenko said, “Teofimo Lopez can talk all he wants. He’s very good at talking. He has done nothing but say my name for the past two years. I am a fighter, and my goal is to win another world title. Good for Teofimo. When we fight in Las Vegas, he will eat my punches and his words. I will be the better man, and four world titles will come home with me to Ukraine.”

Lopez said, “I will beat up Lomachenko and take his belts. Simple as that. I’m coming to Las Vegas to make history. I don’t like the guy, and I’m going to have fun as Lomachenko’s face is beaten and marked up by my hands. The Takeover is here, and the reign of Lomachenko, the little diva, is coming to an end.”

Lomachenko (14-1, 10 KOs) enters this bout coming off a scintillating decision win over British star Luke Campbell last August in front of a sold-out O2 Arena in London. A two-time Olympic gold medalist who went 396-1 in the amateur ranks, Lomachenko tied a boxing record by winning a world title in his third pro fight. He is a former featherweight and junior lightweight world champion who won the lightweight crown in May 2018 with a body shot knockout over Jorge Linares. In seven years as a pro, Lomachenko is 13-1 with 9 knockouts in world title fights and is ranked by many pundits as this generation’s most accomplished pugilist. From 2016-2017, he made four consecutive fighters quit on their stools, earning him the “No-Mas-chenko” moniker.

Lopez (15-0, 12 KOs), the brash Brooklynite who initially gained attention because of his post-fight “Fortnite” dances and backflip celebrations, soon emerged as boxing’s most charismatic young superstar following his 2016 pro debut. He was the consensus 2018 Prospect of the Year, a campaign punctuated by a one-punch, first-round knockout over Mason Menard on the Lomachenko-Jose Pedraza undercard. Following the Menard knockout, he donned the jersey of Kyler Murray, who’d won the Heisman Trophy earlier that evening. Lopez climbed the rankings in 2019 with wins over Diego Magdaleno, Edis Tatli and Masayoshi Nakatani.

Last December, Lopez knocked out Richard Commey in two rounds to win the IBF world title. Sitting ringside was Lomachenko, who entered the ring during the post-fight pandemonium. Arum waved him over to take a photo with the newly crowned champion. The stage had been set. #LomaLopez was going to happen.