Editor’s note: Mikaela Mayer announced on Sunday she had tested positive for COVID-19 and her fight against Helen Joseph was removed from Tuesday’s card. We have updated the story below.
Boxing returns to the United States this week as Top Rank promotes cards on Tuesday and Thursday night. These will be the first shows in North America in which Top Rank has been involved since the Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder rematch on Feb. 22.
There were two Top Rank cards canceled in mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, and outside of a few minor fight cards internationally, these upcoming shows represent the restart of the sport on a much larger scale.
Starting this week, there will be cards staged by Top Rank that will air on various ESPN platforms multiple times a week. Other promotional outlets and networks will soon follow suit with their own schedule of fights, with Premier Boxing Champions set to hold fight cards beginning in mid-July and Matchroom Boxing’s next card set for July 25.
But first things first. Here’s what you need to know ahead of the upcoming week of fights at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas.
Olympic silver medalist Shakur Stevenson (13-0, 7 KOs), who faces Felix Caraballo (13-1-2, 9 KOs), won the vacant WBO featherweight title last October by easily outboxing Joet Gonzalez over 12 rounds. But in this headliner, his title won’t be on the line, as this scheduled 10-round fight will take place at junior lightweight.
Stevenson, the 22-year-old native of Newark, New Jersey, and 2016 Olympian, was bitterly disappointed when his March 14 title defense against Miguel Marriaga was canceled. It was a lost weekend he says he’ll never forget.
“I trained eight weeks, spent a lot of money on training camp, and then to find out that I wasn’t getting paid, that kind of made me mad,” Stevenson said. “To find out I wasn’t fighting made me mad because I put a lot of work in. I was going to perform.”
There has been talk of a unification bout with IBF titlist Josh Warrington, but the two sides seem to be going in different directions, after Warrington left promoter Frank Warren, who works closely with Top Rank, to sign with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing. At this point, because Stevenson is still growing, the more time that passes without a fight against Warrington, the more likley it is that Stevenson might not even go back to 126 to defend that belt.
“I don’t know, yet. I’ve got to see how I feel at 130, making the 130 weight,” Stevenson said. “That will be a question I can answer for you after the fight.”
The co-main event was scheduled to be a women’s junior lightweight bout between another 2016 U.S. Olympian, Mikaela Mayer (12-0, 5 KOs), and Helen Joseph (17-4-2, 10 KOs), but Mayer announced on Sunday that she tested positive for COVID-19 and the fight was canceled.
On the undercard, Robeisy Ramirez (2-1, 2 KOs) matches up with Yueri Andujar (5-3, 3 KOs) in a six-round featherweight contest as he looks to push further past a disastrous pro debut. Ramirez was signed to a much ballyhooed contract with Top Rank last year, as he has two Olympic gold medals (2012 and 2016) for Cuba in his trophy case. The boxer he defeated in the gold-medal round in Rio? Stevenson.
Catching up with: Jared Anderson
The 20 year old heavyweight from Toledo, Ohio says he’s beyond excited to get back to work. Like everyone else, he had to find ways to stay in shape as he awaited the call for his next bout.
“I was just spending time enjoying my family, trying to stay safe. I did the best conditioning that I could with every gym closed,” Anderson says. “For the first month, there was no gym’s or anything. Nobody was doing anything, so I was just trying to stay in shape and keep up.
“Then in the second month, somebody with a personal gym in their garage, they started allowing us to use that. We got a couple of things going,” Anderson says. “Then I got the call saying that I should come to Houston for training camp. So I jumped up and came to Houston, and got right to work.”
The highly touted Anderson, who has scored three first round knockouts to begin his career, was a key sparring partner for Tyson Fury as he prepared to face Deontay Wilder in February.
“Huge experience, it was great,” he says. “I loved it, we all bonded, it was just family time, really. I got to know the other sparring partners real good. Me and Tyson had great work, it was a great time. We did stuff, we went bowling, BBQ and stuff like that. So we enjoyed our time together. Also we did the work so he could win.”
“I learned how to fight a guy as tall as him, also his speed, I learned how to get around that. And me and (Javan) ‘Sugar’ Hill worked on odds-and-ends, things I need to work on in my game.”
So what is the colorful Fury like in private when there are no cameras?
“Huge, humble guy, down-to-earth, caring, just an all-around good dude,” said Anderson. “He’s really funny and charismatic, really cool dude. I really enjoyed my time with him. He’s done nothing but praise me as far as being in the game and helping him out. I can’t be do anything but praise him.”
The full card:
Junior lightweight: Shakur Stevenson (13-0, 7 KOs) vs. Felix Caraballo (13-1-2, 9 KOs)
Heavyweight: Jared Anderson (3-0, 3 KOs) vs. Johnnie Langston (8-2, 3 KOs)
Heavyweight: Guido Vianello (6-0, 6 KOs) vs. Don Haynesworth (16-3-1, 14 KOs)
Featherweight: Robeisy Ramirez (2-1, 2 KOs) vs. Yueri Andujar (5-3, 3 KOs)
Middleweight: Quatavious Cash (11-2, 7 KOs) vs. Calvin Metcalf (10-3-1, 3 KOs)
By the numbers
Stevenson is the fourth man from the United States in the past 20 years to win both an Olympic boxing medal and a world title, joining Jermain Taylor, Andre Ward and Deontay Wilder.
Stevenson vs. Caraballo: Though Bob Arum says that Stevenson is “a master, Floyd Mayeather-type boxer,” given this stage, and how bitterly disappointed he was about his fight being canceled a few months ago, he’s going to want to really make a statement in an event that will be televised nationally. Stevenson TKO7
Former WBO junior featherweight champion Jessie Magdaleno (27-1, 18 KOs) was also slated for the March 14 card at Madison Square Garden. Now, he returns to face Yenifil Vicente (36-4-2, 28 KOs) in a 10-round bout. Since losing his WBO 122-pound belt to Isaac Dogboe via 11th round stoppage, Magdaleno has notched two victories, against Rico Ramos and Rafael Rivera.
In the past, one of the knocks against Magdaleno was a questionable work ethic, which reared its head when he wouldn’t come into fights in top physical condition.
“That was the old Jessie, the immature guy,” Magdaleno said. He admits the loss to Dogboe was a much-needed dose of reality for him. “I’m a grown man, I have my eyes on the future. I have a lot of things I want to get done before I end my career. I’m not going to go through the same mistakes that I did in the past. It’s a new and improved me. I’m just ready to rock ‘n’ roll.”
While Magdaleno was quarantined for the first several weeks of the pandemic, he turned his garage into a makeshift gym, complete with a heavy bag, treadmill, resistance bands, weights and jump rope.
“It’s everything I use in the gym,” Magdaleno said. “It’s hot as well out here in Vegas, so I could train and lose weight here at the house.”
The semi-main event on Thursday’s broadcast is a fight that was originally scheduled for Thanksgiving weekend, as Adam Lopez (13-2, 6 KOs) faces Luis Coria (12-2, 7 KOs) in a 10-round featherweight bout. Lopez opened some eyes when he willingly accepted an 11th-hour assignment to face former WBO featherweight titlist Oscar Valdez, after Andres Gutierrez missed weight by 11 pounds.
Lopez, who moved up in weight for that fight, put forth a strong performance — even flooring Valdez in the second — before getting stopped in the seventh round. Lopez-Coria figures to be a fun fight between two young fighters with good offensive skills.
Lightweight: Bryan Lua (5-0, 2 KOs) vs. Dan Murray (5-3)
Lightweight: Eric Mandragon (3-0, 2 KOs) vs. Mike Sanchez (6-0 2 KOs)
Bantamweight: Gabriel Muratalla (2-0, 2 KOs) vs Fernando Robles (2-2)
Catching up with: Adam Lopez
Lopez has fighting genes — his father is the late Hector Lopez, a respected junior welterweight contender in the 1990s. Coming off his strong effort against Valdez, Lopez says he believes Thursday’s fight will be the launch point to bigger and better things, as he moves back down to his natural weight class.
“I’m very excited, I’m looking forward to the fight,” the 24-year-old said. “In my eyes, this fight is more important than my last fight. I’ve just go to confirm to everybody that I’m the real deal and I’m here to make a statement.”
Despite the loss to Valdez, Lopez says he feels what he gained from the notoriety and experience, outweighed the final result of the bout.
“I think it was worth it, I had to take the risk, now I’ve got people’s eyes on me. They want to see Adam Lopez, and that’s what I’m going to give them.”
By the numbers
At featherweight, 41.1% of Magdaleno’s landed punches were to the body (compared to the featherweight average of 29.5%)
Magdaleno vs. Vicente: If anything, Vicente is durable. In 42 professional bouts, he has never been stopped. The 33-year-old from the Dominican Republic, like Magdaleno, began his career as a junior featherweight. So in essence, they are the same size. But Magdaleno, a fast southpaw, with above-average power, has the superior skills. Don’t be fooled by the Dogboe fight. This is a talented guy. Magdaleno should cruise to a wide decision.
Lopez vs Coria: This figures to be an action fight, because if there’s anything that Coria can do, it’s throw a whipping left hook. Coria is in the camp of Robert Garcia, so you know he has had quality sparring in the past and he knows he can’t afford another loss in this early stage of his career. But Lopez is the more well-rounded fighter, and his experience against Valdez will serve him well. Eventually his steadiness and class will overtake Coria, and Lopez will score a late stoppage.
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