James DeGale/Photo courtesy of Premier Boxing Champions
The first month of 2017 is shaping up nicely. Carl Frampton of Northern Ireland on Jan. 28 will defend his featherweight title against Leo Santa Cruz of Lincoln Heights at MGM Grand in Las Vegas (on Showtime) in a rematch of their fight this past July won by Frampton at Barclays Center.
But two weeks earlier – on Jan. 14 – James DeGale of London will kick things off by taking on Badou Jack (20-1-2, 12 KOs) of Sweden in a super middleweight title-unification bout at Barclays Center (on Showtime).
DeGale loves the idea of fighting a fellow champion.
“Unification fight like this are still rare, never mind the best fighting the best,” he said. “And me and Jack both wanted the fight. We both want to prove who is the best and everyone is in for a treat on Jan. 14.”
Bernard Hopkins hits the deck during his fight with Sergey Kovalev in 2014/Getty Images photo by Al Bello
Bernard Hopkins wants to go out with a bang, even if he is 51.
“On Dec. 17, I want to give a performance where you beg me to stay,” Hopkins said during a recent conference call promoting his fight Saturday against light heavyweight contender Joe Smith Jr. at the Fabulous Fourm (on HBO). “And it’s a challenge that Joe Smith will have to take on. For fighters to show their greatness, they need someone to bring it out.
“Timing is everything and I am doing it in my calculation. I proved a bunch of people wrong already. There is no stone that has not been unturned, meaning that when I look back, I would have done everything that I wanted to.”
Hopkins (55-7-2, 32 KOs), one of the great middleweight champions of all time, is also a former light heavyweight champion. He hasn’t fought since losing a very wide decision to Sergey Kovalev in a light heavyweight title-unification bout in November 2014. Hopkins was 49 at the time.
That means Hopkins will have been out of the ring for two years and a month when he steps in against Smith (22-1, 18 KOs), a top 10 fighter who is just 27.
Mikey Garcia will fight for a title in a third weight class Jan. 28 in Las Vegas/Associated Press file photo
Mikey Garcia has big goals for 2017. He will start trying to accomplishing them Jan. 28 when he challenges Dejan Zlaticanin of Montenegro for his lightweight title at MGM Grand in Las Vegas (on Showtime).
“I’m really happy to have been given this opportunity to claim a world title in a third division,” said Garcia, who has won titles at featherweight and super featherweight. “This is going to be an amazing fight. He’s a hungry world champion, he’s very dangerous. These are the kind of fights I want. This is what I need to prove myself.
“This is only the beginning. This is going to be a huge year for me. I want to win multiple titles and maybe conquer multiple divisions this year.”
Garcia, of Oxnard, did not fight for 2 1/2 years because of a contract dispute with his former promoter, Bob Arum of Top Rank Inc. After a settlement, Garcia got back into the ring this past July 30 and stopped Elio Rojas in the fifth round at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Garcia, 28, is 35-0 with 29 knockouts. Zlaticanin, 32, is 22-0 with 15 knockouts. They will tangle underneath the featherweight championship rematch between Leo Santa Cruz of Lincoln Heights and Carl Frampton of Northern Ireland.
Abner Mares/Associated Press photo by Isaac Brekken
Abner Mares wants to again be a world champion in the worst way. Mares, who has won titles in three weight classes, parted ways with longtime trainer Clemente Medina and hired the more famous Robert Garcia to help fuel that endeavor.
That was 10 months ago. In the opinion of Mares (29-2-1, 15 KOs), that makes this trainer change different than most. That was evident when he was asked Monday during a conference call to explain how he might have changed under Garcia.
“I know once you get a new coach they tend to get a fight right away, and they tend to fight the next six to eight weeks, and you don’t see much of a difference,” said Mares, who Dec. 10 will challenge Jesus Cuellar (28-1, 21 KOs)
of Argentina for his featherweight title at Galen Center (on Showtime). “Why? Because you only have that small period of time to train and get to know each other. And I just mentioned a whole year with Robert and not only a whole year with Robert, a whole year of getting ready for this fight against a southpaw.
“And you guys know what type of coach Robert is. Not only does he bring education to your boxing skills, but also that motivation. It’s always good to have that motivation, knowing that you have one of the best in your corner. So, you will see a different Abner and I think the best way to answer your question is you will just see a more mature fighter in me.”
Mares has not fought since losing a majority decision to Leo Santa Cruz in a fight for a vacant featherweight title on Aug. 29, 2015.
Vasyl Lomachenko, left, lands a punch to the head of Roman ‘Rocky’ Martinez during the fourth round of their super featherweight title fight in June at Madison Square Garden. Lomachenko won via 5th-round TKO/Associated Press photo by Frank Franklin II
As good as Vasyl Lomachenko is, as much as his promoter Bob Arum touts him as the greatest he’s seen since a young Muhammad Ali, Lomachenko knows he is in for a real nasty time of it Saturday when he defends his super featherweight belt against hard-hitting Nicholas Walters. The two will square off at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas (on HBO).
“This is a very important bout for me because many boxing experts and many people in boxing rank Walters as the highest-rated fighter in our division,” Lomachenko said. “He is a very hard puncher and a very good boxer and for me it’s a very important thing to me to fight the best and it’s very important for me because everyone says he is a very good fighter.”
As for the Ali comparison, here’s what Arum told reporters during a conference call: “I would like to say this; that Vasyl Lomachenko is technically the best fighter that I have seen since the early Muhammad Ali. There is nobody that I have seen, and there have been a lot of great technical fighters that I have seen – Alexis Arguello was one, Floyd Mayweather certainly, Manny Pacquiao – but there has been nobody with the skills that Vasyl Lomachenko has.”
Lomachenko, of Ukraine, is 6-1 with four knockouts. The two-time Olympic gold-medal winner has also held a major world title in the featherweight division.
Walters, of Jamaica, is 26-0-1 with 21 knockouts.
Vasyl Lomachenko will defend his title Saturday against Nicholas Walters in Las Vegas/Photo by Stephen Dunn, Getty Images
Vasyl Lomachenko (6-1, 4 KOs) of Ukraine on Saturday night at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas will put his super featherweight world title on the line against Nicholas Walters (26-0-1, 21 KOs), a mean, hard-hitting hombre from Jamaica.
Not only does this fight have tremendous potential for great excitement, it could be absolutely vicious.
Promoter Bob Arum explained the reasoning during a conference call Monday.
“Well, they call Walters the ‘Axe Man’ for a reason,” Arum said. “I mean, he searches and destroys, you know, he’s a tremendous puncher. And he’s in with a technician who has enormous ability in boxing not only defensively, but offensively. So I mean, this is a
can’t miss fight and I want people to realize that not only do I believe that it will be a Fight of the Year candidate, I believe that if Vasyl Lomachenko is successful, he should be right up there in the consideration for Fighter of the Year.”
Andre Ward/Photo courtesy of Roc Nation Sports
It’s possible Saturday’s light heavyweight title fight between champion Sergey Kovalev of Russia and Andre Ward of Oakland at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas could be a terrific fight. It could be the opposite if Ward looks to box all 12 rounds in crafty mode, frustrating Kovalev and fans alike.
During a sit-down with the respective trainers Wednesday, Virgil Hunter – Ward’s trainer – told reporters one reason why he believes this bout will be worth every cent fans spend.
“Do I believe that Ward will exhibit mental toughness? Yes, without a doubt,” Hunter said. “Do I believe that Kovalev will exhibit it? I’m sure he will as well. And that’s the making of a great fight.”
Ward is 30-0 with 15 knockouts. Kovalev is 30-0-1 with 26 knockouts. Their bout – and three others – will be available on HBO pay-per-view.
Andre Ward/Photo courtesy of Roc Nation
If you have followed the career of Andre Ward, it’s easy to tell how well prepared he has been for all of his fights. That, he says, is because even though the fighters are different, his level of concentrations is the same.
“Regardless of who I’m fighting — (Sullivan) Barrera, (Alexander) Brand, (Sergey) Kovalev, whoever — there’s always different game plans and nuances when it comes to preparation and training,” said Ward, who Nov. 19 will challenge Kovalev for his light heavyweight belts at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas (on HBO pay-per-view). “The reality of it is, every fight is a must-win for me. I prepare for each fight as if I’m facing the most difficult opponent of my career. That’s always been my approach, and I think you’re playing with fire if you don’t adopt that mentality in this sport.
“I know this is a big fight, the biggest of my career. But my mindset and my focus have been consistent no matter the opponent, and that’s an invaluable asset.”
Ward, 32, is from Oakland. He’s 30-0 with 15 knockouts. Kovalev, 33, is from Russia. He’s 30-0-1 with 26 knockouts.
Southpaw Joseph Diaz Jr., right, lands a right hook to the head of Andrew Cancio during their fight Saturday in Arlington, Texas/Photo courtesy of Hogan Photos, Golden Boy Promotions
Joseph Diaz Jr. of South El Monte figures to be fighting for his first major title sometime next year, providing he keeps winning. That makes every fight for Diaz vital. A slip, and his plans are disrupted.
Diaz – ranked as high as No. 3 in the world – took another step forward this past Saturday when he stopped Andrew Cancio of Blythe in the ninth round of their featherweight bout slated for 10 rounds. They tangled underneath the junior middleweight title fight between Liam Smith of England and Canelo Alvarez of Mexico; Alvarez won via 9th-round knockout at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
“This is a great victory, it will open up so many doors for me moving forward,” said the 23-year-old Diaz, who is 22-0 with 13 knockouts. “I felt very comfortable. I was the better puncher, I was faster and was able to cut the ring more efficiently. I knew that Cancio was going to be a strong guy, I knew he was going to be tough and try to push me around, so I had to be the better fighter. I was able to display my defense and my power.”
Domonique Dolton/Photo courtesy of Premier Boxing Champions
It’s funny how opponents can have the same unflattering thoughts about one another.
Domonique Dolton and Justin DeLoach will square off Friday in the middleweight semi-main event from The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas (on Bounce TV). In sizing up one another, each spoke as if the other isn’t good enough to win.
“From what I saw, he looks like a tough guy,” Dolton said. “We are not on the same level, though. He’s fought a couple of undefeated guys, but it doesn’t compare to my level of fighting. My skills will speak for me.”
Said DeLoach: “This fight is not going all night. I will break him down early in the fight. I have been studying him and I know Domonique better than he knows himself.”
Dolton, of Sterling Heights, Mich., is 17-0-1 with nine knockouts. DeLoach, of Augusta, Geo., is 15-1 with eight knockouts.
Their bout will come underneath the junior middleweight main event between Ishe Smith (28-8, 12 KOs) of Las Vegas and Frank Galarza (17-1-2, 11 KOs) of Brooklyn.