James DeGale, Badou Jack more than prepared for title-unification fight

James DeGale

James DeGale/Photo courtesy of Premier Boxing Champions

 

We don’t get a lot of title-unification bouts these days, so when we do, we must relish the moment. From the sound of it, James DeGale of England and Badou Jack of Sweden plan on doing just that.

They will square off Saturday at Barclays Center (on Showtime). Each fighter will put his super middleweight championship belt on the line. Jack (20-1-2, 12 KOs) can’t wait.

“I’m fighting another world champion, so I  know that it’s not going to be easy,” he said. “No matter what, we’re getting the job done.”

Jack, 33, has been keeping his eye on his fellow champion, just in case this moment came to fruition.

“I’ve been paying attention to DeGale for a while,” he said. “You have to study your opponent a little bit for a fight this big. I’m ready to do anything it takes to win the fight.”

DeGale (23-1, 14 KOs) said he, too, has gone the extra mile in his preparation.

“Camp is done; it’s been a wicked camp,” said DeGale, 30. “Everything has gone well. On Saturday night, you’re going to see two world-class fighters go to war. I have no doubt that I will be victorious and become the super middleweight unified champion.”

 

 

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Leo Santa Cruz’s father in remission, so team focused on Carl Frampton rematch

Leo Santa Cruz

Leo Santa Cruz/Photo courtesy of Premier Boxing Champions

 

Much has been said about how Leo Santa Cruz could not have been 100 percent focused on the task at hand July 30 when he set out to defend his featherweight title against Carl Frampton of Northern Ireland at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Santa Cruz’s father/trainer Jose was at the fight, but he had missed a lot of camp because he is fighting spinal cancer, and Frampton took his son’s title via majority decision.

However, the elder Santa Cruz has since gone into remission and he is in camp full-time as his son prepares for the Jan. 28 rematch with Frampton at MGM Grand in Las Vegas (on Showtime).

Leo Santa Cruz (32-1-1, 18 KOs), who is also trained by his brother Antonio, is stoked.

“He’s always been the one who knows how to point out and correct the mistakes that I make in training,” he said of his father. “I think having him full-time will be a big difference. He will push me more.”

Jose Santa Cruz believes he can help his son be at the top of his game.

“I am happy to be part of Leo’s training camp again,” he said. “I think that was the major difference in his last fight. I’m back pressuring him again and making sure he keeps the pressure on his opponent. I think my presence in the gym reminds him of the work he needs to do.”

Frampton, 29, is 23-0 with 14 knockouts. Santa Cruz, of Lincoln Heights, is 28.

 

 

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Dejan Zlaticanin means business, and Mikey Garcia seems aware of that

Dejan Zlaticanin

Dejan Zlaticanin/Photo courtesy of Premier Boxing Champions

 

Unless you’re a real fanatic of the sweet science, chances are you’ve never heard of Dejan Zlaticanin. He is a lightweight champion from Montenegro who has fought his past two bouts in the United States after fighting his first 20 in his homeland and various other countries.

Americans will get to know him much better when he defends his title against Mikey Garcia of Oxnard on Jan. 28 at MGM Grand in Las Vegas. They will tangle underneath the featherweight championship between Carl Frampton of Northern Ireland and Leo Santa Cruz of Lincoln Heights (on Showtime).

One thing’s certain, Zlaticanin (22-0, 15 KOs) is not shy about saying what he plans on doing to Garcia. That was clear Tuesday at Fortune Gym in Hollywood.

“If Garcia tries to go toe-to-toe or stay in the center of the ring, I will knock him out,” said Zlaticanin, 32. “If he tries to jab and move, then I will have to find my way to his head and break him down.”

While some of us may wonder how good Zlaticanin really is, Garcia (35-0, 29 KOs) intimated he needs no convincing.

“I’m not overlooking Zlaticanin, but everybody else seems to be,” said the 29-year-old Garcia, who has won titles at featherweight and super featherweight. “People ask me about what I’d want for future fights, but I know how dangerous this guy is. Anything could happen. But I know that I have what it takes to beat him. He has power, but I also have power.”

 

 

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Adrien Broner promises ‘exciting’ fight against Adrian Granados in February

Adrien Broner

Adrien Broner/Photo courtesy of Premier Boxing Champions

 

Adrien Broner of Cincinnati has held world titles in four weight classes. He is currently without a title, however, and he wants to change that.

The first step in that direction will be a bout against former sparring partner Adrian Granados on Feb. 18 at Cintas Center in Cincinnati (on Showtime).

The interested parties hosted a news conference there Tuesday, and the fighters spoke about their knowledge of one another.

“We’ve brought Granados into camp for sparring before, but I’m a much different fighter now,” said Broner, 27. “I know he is, too, and I think it’s going to make an exciting, explosive fight.”

Granados’ credentials pale in comparison to Broner’s. Granados (18-4-2, 12 KOs) has never even fought for a major title, and as recently as September 2015 he boxed on a small club card at the Quiet Cannon in Montebello. Yet, Broner believes he can’t afford to overlook him.

“Granados is no pushover,” Broner said. “He’s not an opponent that anybody can just pick up a win (against). I know Adrian Granados will bring out the best in Adrien Broner.”

Promoter Floyd Mayweather Jr. is of a similar mind.

“These are going to be two hungry lions in the ring, and that’s what it’s all about,” Mayweather said.

Granados, 27, intimated he may have a surprise or two in store for Broner (32-2, 24 KOs).

“I’m confident that I’m more determined than any other fighter I’ll face,” said Granados, of Cicero, Ill. “I’ll also have a few tricks up my sleeve on fight night. I haven’t shown everything in my arsenal.

“I was in camp with Adrien Broner when he fought Marcos Maidana, so I know him pretty well. I’ve been compared to Maidana, but everyone has their own style. I’m going to get this win my own way.”

 

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Wales’ Lee Selby stoked to be defending his title in ‘mecca of boxing’

Aron Martinez

Lee Selby/Photo courtesy of Premier Boxing Champions

 

All eyes Jan. 28 figure to be on the main event between Leo Santa Cruz of Lincoln Heights and Carl Frampton of Northern Ireland when they square off in a rematch for Frampton’s featherweight world title at MGM Grand in Las Vegas (on Showtime). But there is plenty going on with the undercard, and another featherweight champion – Lee Selby of Wales – is stoked to be part of it.

Selby (23-1, 8 KOs) will defend his title against former champion Jonathan Barros (41-4-1, 22 KOs) of Argentina (on Showtime Extreme).

“It’s been a dream of mine since I was a young kid to box in a world-title fight in Las Vegas, the mecca of boxing,” said the 29-year-old Selby, who will be making his Las Vegas debut and will be fighting in the U.S. for just the second time. “I’ve seen UK fighters like Lennox Lewis, Ricky Hatton, Joe Calzaghe and Amir Khan box in Las Vegas and I always knew that’s where I wanted to fight.”

Barros, 29, plans on spoiling Selby’s fun. Barros said, in part, “Selby has never faced anyone as dangerous as me and I plan on making it a long night for him.”

Santa Cruz (32-1-1, 18 KOs) and Frampton (23-0, 14 KOs) tangled July 30 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, with Frampton winning a majority decision and taking Santa Cruz’s title.

 

 

 

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James DeGale, Badou Jack brimming with confidence ahead of showdown

James DeGale

James DeGale/Photo courtesy of Premier Boxing Champions

 

James DeGale of England and Badou Jack of Sweden are eight days away from their Jan. 14 super middleweight title-unification bout at Barclays Center in Brooklyn (on Showtime).

It is each man’s biggest fight. Both seem to know what will be the key to victory.

“Oh, there’s loads,” DeGale said of his advantages. “But I’m going to tell you one that stands out is just speed, movement. I’m not going to have to say I’m not going to tell you what I’m going to do because he’s going to be very shocked with what I’m going to do. But speed, I’m so much faster in movement.

“I move my feet so much better – there’s two things right there – that it’s just going to confuse him. I’m going to make things a whole lot harder for him.”

Jack (20-1-2, 12 KOs) is equally confident. To him, it’s about ring smarts.

“I’m the smarter fighter, period,” said Jack, 33. “I believe I’m the more fundamentally sound fighter, I believe I’m the more technical fighter. I take nothing away from DeGale, who is a good fighter as well.

“But I believe in my skills, I believe in myself.”

DeGale, 30, is 23-1 with 14 knockouts.

 

 

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Gennady Golovkin on the way to again selling out Madison Square Garden

Gennady Golovkin celebrates his fifth-round TKO of Kell Brook in September in London/Photo by Associated Press

 

Middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin sold out Madison Square Garden when he stopped David Lemieux in the eighth round in October 2015 before 20,548.

Golovkin on March 18 will square off with Daniel Jacobs in a title fight at MSG (on HBO pay-per-view). Although exact numbers weren’t available, a spokesman associated with the promotion said Tuesday that ticket sales for it were ahead of those for Golovkin-Lemieux.

Golovkin’s ever-rising popularity is partly responsible. Another factor is that Jacobs is from Brooklyn.

Golovkin, of Kazakhstan, is 36-0 with 33 knockouts. He is on a string of 23 consecutive knockouts. Jacobs, at 32-1 with 29 knockouts, is a very hard puncher in his own right.

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Carl Frampton is our Fighter of the Year; Vargas-Salido is Fight of the Year

Carl Frampton celebrates after defeating Leo Santa Cruz in New York. 

Carl Frampton celebrates his July 30 victory over Leo Santa Cruz/Photo by USA Today

 

Winning a title fight against a worthy, not handpicked, opponent is tough enough. Doing so in the other guy’s country is even tougher.

Such was the case this year with Carl Frampton of Northern Ireland. He took on Scott Quigg in Quigg’s native Lancashire, England in a super bantamweight title-unification bout on Feb. 27, broke Quigg’s jaw and came away with a split-decision victory before about 20,000 at Manchester Arena.

What Frampton did July 30 was even more impressive. He moved up in weight and challenged Leo Santa Cruz of Lincoln Heights for his featherweight belt at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Frampton (23-0, 14 KOs) took Santa Cruz’s title via majority decision, handing Santa Cruz his first loss.

For his work, Frampton is this newspaper’s Fighter of the Year. He still gets goosebumps when discussing his win over Santa Cruz, who entered that bout 32-0-1 with world titles in three weight classes.

“Headlining in New York against a great fighter like Leo Santa Cruz was a dream come true,” said Frampton, who Jan. 28 will take on Santa Cruz in a rematch at MGM Grand in Las Vegas (on Showtime). “Now I have the opportunity to go to Las Vegas, where Leo has fought a few times.

“It’ll be his first time in the main event there as well, and I’m just excited to get out there and feel the buzz of fight week.”

Frampton believes he has become a very popular fighter, not just in his homeland. He had quite a few fans rooting him on at Barclays Center, thanks to New York City’s Irish population.

He said he realizes that Santa Cruz being from the L.A. area, he’ll bring more of his fans to Las Vegas than he did to New York City. Frampton doesn’t seem to care, though, and that’s what makes him the fighter he’s become.

“I believe if I use my brain a little bit more in this one, and don’t get dragged into his fight, that I can win it more convincingly,” Frampton said. “But there will be times in this fight where I’ll just have to bite down and fight for my life.”

If you love boxing, you love that kind of talk, that kind of fearlessness.

Fight of the Year
You probably won’t see many fights that end in a draw end up as our Fight of the Year. Nevertheless, the June 4 bout between super featherweight champion Francisco Vargas of Mexico and countryman Orlando Salido gets the nod.

That it was contested at StubHub Center in Carson was no surprise because that outdoor venue has been bringing out the ferocity in fighters for years. This was no different as the two went at one another with reckless abandon, showing no regard for personal safety.

When it was over, Vargas had retained his title because of the majority draw. He was happy with the decision. Salido thought he won. Ultimately, no one lost in the ring, nor out of it as the 7,378 in attendance were treated to one heck of a ring war.

Trainer of the Year
When featherweight Oscar Valdez of Mexico and super bantamweight Jessie Magdaleno of Las Vegas entered 2016, neither was a world champion. They are now, thanks in part to Manny Robles, who is our Trainer of the Year.

Robles, who trains fighters out of the Rock Gym in Carson, guided Valdez (21-0, 19 KOs) to a world title when Valdez stopped Matias Rueda of Argentina in the second round on July 23 at MGM Grand.

Then came Nov. 5 at Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. It was a night Robles won’t soon forget. On the Manny Pacquiao-Jessie Vargas undercard, Robles was in Magdaleno’s corner when he upset Nonito Donaire via unanimous decision, taking Donaire’s championship. This was Robles’ first fight with Magdaleno (24-0, 17 KOs), so this victory was ultra-impressive.

Only minutes later, Robles was in Valdez’s corner when he defended his title with a seventh-round TKO of Hiroshige Osawa of Japan.

That’s not to mention Robles has done good work with middleweight contender Jason Quigley (12-0, 10 KOs) of Ireland. He is just mowing opponents down in vicious fashion.

KO of the Year
Of course, I didn’t see every fight in the world this year. But in researching this subject, the Dec. 17 middleweight bout between Hassan N’Dam and Alfonso Blanco of Venezuela in N’Dam’s native France sticks out.

About 20 seconds in, N’Dam caught Blanco with a right cross on the chin. Blanco fell face first, his legs then twitching as the referee waved off the bout.

It was reminiscent of Pacquiao getting knocked cold and falling on his face after being crushed by a Juan Manuel Marquez right cross in their December 2012 fight.

ETC
We are two weeks out from the Jan. 14 super middleweight title-unification bout between Badou Jack (20-1-2, 12 KOs) of Sweden and James DeGale (23-1, 14 KOs) of London at Barclays Center in Brooklyn (on Showtime). … The main undercard bout for the Santa Cruz-Frampton remtach will see Mikey Garcia (35-0, 29 KOs) of Oxnard challenging Dejan Zlaticanin (22-0, 15 KOs) of Montenegro for his lightweight title. Garcia has won titles at featherweight and super featherweight.

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Adam Lopez, Daniel Roman ready for their biggest fight Jan. 20 in Atlantic City

Daniel Roman/Photo courtesy of Thompson Boxing Promotions

 

The Jan. 20 super bantamweight bout between Adam Lopez of San Antonio and Daniel Roman of Garden Grove at Bally’s Atlantic City is not a world-title fight, but there is plenty on the line.

Lopez is ranked No. 3 in the world by one organization, the same same of which ranks Roman No. 4. That means the winner could be in a line for a title shot real soon.

They know it, too.

“Roman is a very good fighter and I’m ready for a tough fight,” said Lopez, 26. “He’s progressed a lot. He’s a good puncher, counterpuncher and works the body.

“But I’m ready for whatever he brings. A win would be huge. It puts me in contention to fight a world champion.”

Lopez is 16-0-1 with eight knockouts.

Roman, also 26, is 21-2-1 with seven knockouts. He hasn’t lost since late 2013.

“I’ve been extremely active over the last few years and now all the hard work is starting to pay off,” he said. “This is a tremendous opportunity and the type of fight I’ve been preparing for.

“Adam Lopez is a great fighter, and he’s highly ranked, just like me. We are going to give the fans an exciting fight.”

This will be the main event of a Showtime quadrupleheader.

 

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Miguel Cotto, James Kirkland eager to tangle on Feb. 25 in Frisco, Texas

Miguel Cotto/Photo courtesy of Roc Nation

 

The first thing that came to mind upon hearing that Miguel Cotto and James Kirkland would tangle Feb. 25 in Frisco, Texas, was that this figures to be a bloody ring war. Neither has ever been a defensive wizard and both – especially Kirkland – have plenty of pop.

They played host to a news conference Monday promoting the bout, which will take place at Ford Center at the Star. It will be televised on HBO pay-per-view, which we don’t get at all, but it will be a vicious bout. That’s all but guaranteed.

Kirkland, of Austin, Texas, is coming off a third-round knockout loss to Canelo Alvarez in May 2015, and hasn’t fought since. He’s eager to make a better showing of himself.

“I didn’t give my all when I fought Canelo Alvarez,” said Kirkland, who has been in and out of trouble with the law. “I didn’t prepare the way I needed to, but I’m not going to bring any excuses to the table.

“This bout is to show my team, my fans and everyone who has followed and supported me, that James Kirkland is still in the race; Kirkland is still here to make a stand. Keep my name alive. … It’s going to be a war.”

Kirkland, 32, is 32-2 with 28 knockouts.

Interestingly, Cotto’s most recent bout – in November 2015 – also came against Alvarez, who won a 12-round decision over Cotto at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas in a middleweight title bout.

“It’s good to be back,” said Cotto, 36. “I’ve missed boxing and all I can say right now is that I’m going to bring my best, every day, at every training session.”

Cotto, of Puerto Rico, is 40-5 with 33 knockouts.

This bout will be contested at a catch-weight of 153 pounds.

 

 

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