Top Rank closes out year with fists flying in Phoenix
On Saturday Dec. 20, Top Rank Promotions, in conjunction with Iron Boy Promotions, will present “Iron Boy 18” at the Celebrity Theater in Phoenix, Arizona.
Undefeated heavyweight prospect Andy “The Destroyer” Ruiz, 23-0 (17), will headline the show, closing out the year in the “Valley of the Sun” when he battles former WBO world champion Sergei Liakhovich, 26-6 (16). The two were scheduled to fight earlier in the year but the bout was canceled. Now with the bout back on Ruiz, looks to end 2014 by adding a former world champion to his résumé as he climbs the rankings among boxing’s big men.
The card will also feature many undefeated prospects who are looking to make a strong showing in their last assignments of the year as they prepare to make waves in 2015.
The night will see red-hot NABF “junior” super featherweight titleholder Oscar Valdez, 13-0 (12), in an eight-round bout. The two-time Mexican Olympian is coming into the bout having stopped experienced veteran Alberto Garza in the seventh round last month in San Antonio. Valdez is popular in the Phoenix area and Iron Boy Promotions President Roberto Vargas was thrilled to have what many deem a future world champion back to the “Sun Valley.” In a recent interview, Vargas said, “The fans here love Oscar. We hope to keep bringing him back as he grows into a world champion.”
Former amateur sensation, Francisco De Vaca, 8-0 (4), will also see action. De Vaca recently started training in Los Angeles with former Oscar De La Hoya trainer Robert Alcazar. While De Vaca is still green in the pro game, he is by no means an inexperienced fighter, having turned to the professional ranks with over 240 amateur bouts to his credit.
Also, undefeated light heavyweight prospect Trevor McCumby, 17-0 (13), is slated to clock in for the fifth time this year in Phoenix. The Cameron Dunkin-managed McCumby will probably make a move to fighting opposition that will really test him in 2015, so he will look to finish the year with a strong performance.
One of the most exciting surnames on the card will certainly be that of David Benavidez, 6-0 (6). He is the younger brother of undefeated junior welterweight Jose Benavidez Jr., who captured the WBA interim junior welterweight title this past Saturday night with a unanimous decision over Mauricio Herrera. David, an undefeated prospect, prepared for his Phoenix assignment (his United States debut) in Big Bear, California with Jose. The Benavidez family resides in Phoenix and both brothers are trained by their father, Jose Benavidez Sr.
Main eventer Ruiz, who has lightning fast hands for a heavyweight, is primed for his final bout of the year and is looking for bigger things in 2015. “I’m happy to be fighting [in Phoenix] because I have a lot of fans in Phoenix. It’s a great opportunity to fight in there against Sergei Liakhovich and it should be a great fight. Hopefully it hypes up all my Mexican fans in Arizona,” he said.
Last Friday, former two-division and longtime super featherweight world champion Acelino “Popo” Freitas confirmed his plans return to boxing next year, “I will not return to boxing for the money. I will return because it’s a very personal desire and the desire to make a joyful moment for my Brazilian people who still believe that I can be world champion again.”
While people are again talking about Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. finally doing battle, I get the impression there is still a long way to go before you’ll see these two swapping leather in the ring. In fact, I’ll believe the fight is going to happen when I actually see them in the ring!
In conversation this past Friday night with Showtime’s Steve Farhood regarding facing WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao, Mayweather said, “I’d love to fight Manny Pacquiao. Now he’s in a very, very tight situation. He’s lost to [Juan Manuel] Marquez; he’s lost to [Tim] Bradley. Pay-per-view numbers are down extremely low, so he’s desperate. [Top Rank Promotions CEO] Bob Arum is stopping the fight. Let’s make it happen May 2nd. Let’s do it! I know that he’s not on my level. The fans would love to see the fight and, of course, I want to go out with a bang. Manny Pacquiao, Bob Arum, you guys have been ducking us for years. I offered you $40 million, then you didn’t want to make the fight happen. You lost twice, now you’re coming back begging for the same money. That’s not going to happen. Let’s make this fight happen for the people.”
If Manny Pacquiao can’t secure Floyd Mayweather for 2015, Amir Khan made a strong case for himself on Saturday night to get a crack at “Money.” In one of his most impressive showings as a pro, Khan pitched a 12-round near-shutout over Devon Alexander at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. He outboxed Alexander and was in control all the way. Scores were 119-109, 118-110 and 120-108.
Khan’s impressive showing certainly got a quick reaction from fellow Brit and IBF welterweight champion Kell Brook. In response to Khan fighting Mayweather, Brook said, “[Khan]’s had two fights at welterweight and he’s trying to jump the queue and get the big fight. But the fact is, I want to hurt him. I want to hurt Khan and give the British public the fight they want to see. I want to fight the big names in the summer: the likes of Bradley, [Keith] Thurman, Marquez, Pacquiao, Mayweather. If we can make Khan – and I’m sure Eddie [Hearn of Matchroom Sport] has been speaking with Al Haymon; he really wants to make the fight – that’s the fight I want.”
Unbeaten super middleweight Jesse “Hard Work” Hart kept the “Hart” surname alive and well in Philadelphia boxing with an exciting, second round TKO over veteran Samuel Miller in the “City of Brotherly Love” this past Saturday night. After the fight, Hart declared, “I wanna go to that mainstream; I’m ready for it. They can’t beat me.”
Writing soundtrack for this week: “Wine, Wine, Wine” by The Nightcaps. Classic, 1950s Texas boogie.
Dan Rafael on Twitter: “I’m told that after fight Jose Benavidez Sr. went to Herrera’s dressing room console him. Told him, ‘You beat my son. We know that.’”
Jose Benavidez Sr. on Facebook: “I heard today that Dan Rafael of ESPN tweeted that I told Herrera in the dressing room that he beat my son. I absolutely did not say that. His team was angry, insisting they won the fight. Saying, admit your son lost the fight. I told them to relax. We won the fight. They asked for a rematch and I said absolutely. I said that if they’d won, they would also celebrate. I never said Herrera beat my son, because he did not. I just want to make that clear.”
WBA/WBO 122-pound champ Guillermo Rigondeaux will close out the year defending his titles in Osaka, Japan against Hisashi Amagasa on Dec. 31. Rigondeaux, a highly skilled former amateur star, won the NABA junior featherweight title in only his third pro fight. This will be his ninth world title fight in only 15 bouts as a professional.
The WBC is celebrating its 52nd annual convention this week through Dec. 20 at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas. WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman said the focus on the event will be to pay tribute to his late father. “It’s a tribute to the memory and work of Jose Sulaiman and a tribute to all world champions. My father has inspired us to go ahead and with all the enthusiasm,” he said. Floyd Mayweather, Gennady Golovkin, Jhonny Gonzalez, Julio Cesar Chavez, Oscar De La Hoya and Mike Tyson are just some of the fighters that will be on hand throughout the event.