With boxing set to resume in the United States in June, Top Rank has put forth an early summer schedule of bouts, the majority of which will take place at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas and be televised on ESPN platforms.
“The goal was to start out with really good, competitive fights, with names that people are familiar with, who have been on ESPN shows,” Bob Arum, the head of Top Rank, told ESPN on Saturday.
Arum also said the promotional company eschewed title fights for the first couple of weeks to make things easier in terms of logistics.
These cards will be staged without fans in attendance because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Nevada Athletic Commission has put special guidelines in place.
“This is a sensible way to push ahead,” Arum said. “Hopefully, the fights will be good — I know they will be — but you’ve got to make sure all the procedures are safe and so forth. Hopefully, what we’re doing will serve as a template for other promoters to put on shows.”
“Hopefully, we will have demonstrated to the authorities, based on these Nevada protocols, that they work,” he added.
Here is the rundown of the featured bouts on the upcoming events:
Shakur Stevenson (13-0, 7 KOs) vs. Felix Caraballo (13-1-2, 9 KOs): Stevenson, the WBO featherweight champion, was scheduled to make the first defense of his belt on March 14 against Miguel Marriaga at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, but that event was cancelled due to the pandemic. This bout is a nontitle affair for Stevenson, a 2016 Olympic silver medalist.
Mikaela Mayer (12-0, 5 KOs) vs. Helen Joseph (17-4-2, 10 KOs): The undefeated Mayer, who represented the U.S. in the 2016 Olympics, is pining for a title shot by the end of 2020, and in Joseph, who hails from Nigeria, Mayer is facing her toughest test to date as a professional.
Jessie Magdaleno (27-1, 18 KOs) vs. Yenifel Vicente (36-4-2, 28 KOs): Like Stevenson, Magdaleno was scheduled to fight on March 14 in New York. The former WBO 122-pound champion has notched victories over Rico Ramos and Rafael Rivera since losing his title to Isaac Dogboe in 2018. Magdaleno is now competing in the featherweight division. Vicente, who hails from the Dominican Republic, has won 11 of his past 12 bouts.
Adam Lopez (13-2, 6 KOs) vs. Luis Coria (12-2, 7 KOs): Lopez gained notoriety last Thanksgiving weekend by agreeing to face Oscar Valdez at the 11th hour (Valdez’s originally scheduled opponent failed to make weight), and Lopez put up a strong performance — even dropping Valdez early in the bout — before getting stopped in the seventh. Coria was originally supposed to be his opponent that weekend at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.
Joshua Greer Jr. (22-1-1, 12 KOs) vs. Mike Plania (23-1, 12 KOs): Greer, a native of Chicago, is looking for a title shot in the bantamweight division. Ranked No. 1 by the WBO and second in the IBF (ESPN has him ranked 10th), it’s just a matter of time before he fights for a major belt. But he has to get past Plania of the Philippines, who comes in with an eight-fight winning streak.
Giovanni Santillan (25-0, 15 KOs) vs. Antonio Demarco (33-8-1, 24 KOs): Santillan is an unbeaten southpaw who recently signed a co-promotional deal with Top Rank. He makes his debut with the company by facing the well-seasoned Demarco, who at one time was the WBC lightweight champion after rallying to defeat the highly regarded Jorge Linares in 2011. During his career, Demarco has battled the likes of Edwin Valero, Adrien Broner and Jessie Vargas, among others.
Jose Pedraza (26-3, 13 KOs) vs. Mikkel LesPierre (22-1-1, 10 KOs): Pedraza is looking to rebound after getting outpointed by Jose Zepeda over 10 rounds in September. Pedraza briefly held the WBO lightweight title after defeating Ray Beltran in the summer of 2018, but then lost that belt to Vasiliy Lomachenko later that year. In March 2019, LesPierre challenged WBO junior welterweight titlist Maurice Hooker and dropped a unanimous decision.
Gabe Flores Jr. (17-0, 6 KOs) vs. Josec Ruiz (21-2-3, 14 KOs): Flores, who is steadily developing his skills, in 2016 became the youngest boxer to ever sign with Top Rank, at the age of 16. Still just 20 years old, he is now looking to develop his physical maturity to go along with his boxing acumen. Ruiz comes into this contest having won seven consecutive outings, five of them by stoppage.
June 20 (TV Azteca Studios in Mexico City):
Emanuel Navarrete (31-1, 27 KOs) vs. Uriel Lopez (13-13-1, 6 KOs): Navarrete is the defending WBO 122-pound champion, but this will be a 10-round nontitle affair. Since defeating Dogboe for the belt in December 2018, Navarrete has become one of the most active world-class boxers. He put in four title defenses in 2019, and on the Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder II undercard on Feb. 22, he halted Jeo Santisima in 11 rounds.
Andrew Moloney (21-0, 14 KOs) vs. Joshua Franco (16-1-2, 8 KOs): One half of the Moloney duo from Australia, Andrew holds a version of the WBA 115-pound title. He had been scheduled to fight in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on April 17 before that event was canceled. In Franco, Moloney is facing a solid fighter who never shies away from a skirmish. Franco engaged in a memorable three-fight set against Oscar Negrete, and he walked away with a split-decision victory and two draws.
Christopher Diaz (25-2, 16 KOs) vs. Jason Sanchez (15-1, 8 KOs): Diaz bounced back from his loss to Stevenson in April 2019 by defeating Adeilson Dos Santos on Jan. 18 to kick off 2020. Last year, Sanchez gained valuable experience by going the distance against Valdez, who at the time was the WBO champion at 126. After that defeat, Sanchez came back to beat Dos Santos, knocking him out in four rounds.