Boxing

Boxing Insider Notebook: Thurman, Barrera, Magdaleno, Russell, Diaz, Stevenson, and more…

Boxing Insider Notebook: Thurman, Barrera, Magdaleno, Russell, Diaz, Stevenson, and more…

Compiled By: William Holmes

The following is the Boxing Insider notebook for the week of April 17th to April 24th; covering the comings and goings in the sport of boxing that you might have missed.


Photo Credit: Mikey Williams/Top Rank

Injury Rehabilitation Forces Keith Thurman to Relinquish WBC Belt

Unified welterweight champion Keith Thurman has voluntarily relinquished his WBC title while he recovers from the effects of elbow surgery last year and a hand injury he suffered in training camp last month.
After speaking with WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman recently, Thurman decided that he would relinquish the title and open the way for former champions Danny Garcia and Shawn Porter, the two leading contenders for the WBC title, to fight each other for the championship while Thurman made a full recovery from his injuries.

“Due to my rehabilitation from my injuries, I agreed to relinquish my WBC title at this time. I continue to rehab my hand and elbow and I look forward to getting back in the ring this summer. This is a temporary setback and I will be the unified champion once again and look forward to winning back my WBC title as soon as possible,” said Thurman.

“Keith Thurman unfortunately has suffered two consecutive injuries that have kept him out of the ring after his sensational victory over Danny Garcia and he has graciously relinquished his title, and the WBC has mandated that Danny Garcia and Shawn Porter will fight for the title,” said Mauricio Sulaiman. “Keith will have a direct path to fight for the title once he has healed just as Vitali Klitshcko and other WBC champions have done in the past. Keith is a tremendous athlete, champion and role model. The WBC will support him completely during this difficult time. ”

Garcia (34-1, 20 KOs), a former unified champion at 140 pounds and the former WBC welterweight champion, lost the WBC title to Thurman by 12-round split decision in 2017. He bounced back with a knockout victory over former champion Brandon Rios in February. The WBC had made that fight a title elimination match, which put Garcia in line to fight Thurman again for the title.

Porter (28-2-1, 17 KOs), a former welterweight champion, lost a close 12-round decision to Thurman in 2016. He became the mandatory challenger for the WBC title when he knocked out Andre Berto last year. He maintained his status with a 12-round decision over Adrian Granados in November.

The 29-year-old Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs) has been plagued by a string of injuries the last two years.
Thurman injured his neck in a car accident in February 2016, which delayed his match against Porter by three months. When they met Thurman defeated Porter by unanimous decision on June 25.

He defeated Garcia by split decision in a welterweight unification match on March 4, 2017. A month later he had major surgery on his right elbow to remove bone spurs and calcium deposits. He is still in rehabilitation from that surgery.

Thurman injured his hand hitting the heavy bag last month and aggravated the injury sparring with some amateurs at his gym in St. Petersburg, Florida. An MRI revealed bruises to the metacarpal bones in the hand, which also has extensive swelling. Thurman can’t have any impact with the hand for at least 8 weeks, which added another delay to his ring return.

He now hopes to return to the ring in the late summer or early fall.

Jessie Magdaleno: I’m Going to Put on a Spectacular Show

World Boxing Organization (WBO) junior featherweight champion Jessie Magdaleno has spent his latest training camp running the mountains near Guadalajara, Mexico, and alongside some of the world’s best fighters at Legendz Boxing in Norwalk, Calif. Magdaleno is preparing for the role of main event headliner against No. 1 contender and interim champion Isaac Dogboe (18-0, 12 KOs) on Saturday, April 28 at The Liacouras Center in Philadelphia.

“I’m mentally ready. I’m physically ready,” Magdaleno said. “Being here with {trainer} Manny Robles keeps me ready. The sparring has been great, but I get impatient sometimes and just want to get in the ring for real. I have to stay calm and wait until the fight comes.”

Said Robles: “Dogboe is a real tough opponent. Jessie definitely has to be ready for this fight, and it should be a fan-friendly fight.”

Magdaleno (25-0, 18 KOs) won the world title with a unanimous decision over four-weight world champion Nonito Donaire on Nov. 5, 2016. He has defended his belt once, a second-round stoppage over Adeilson Dos Santos last April. When Magdaleno steps into the ring against Dogboe, it will have been 371 days since the Dos Santos fight.

“It’s been a long training camp, and I’ve been training with some excellent fighters,” Magdaleno said. “I was with {WBO featherweight champion} Oscar Valdez in Mexico, and now, it’s the home stretch. We’re more than ready to get back in the ring.”

The pre-fight drama escalated last month when Dogboe’s father/trainer, Paul Dogboe, told Ghana’s Pulse website: “We hope Magdaleno will not run like a chicken. We hope he makes the weight and comes in with no excuses because we are ready for him. We are ready to eat him like a chicken. We are focused, and our only mission is to devour him, eat the crazy chicken, throw him over the wall of Mexico and present the title to Donald Trump. Magdaleno will run when he sees Isaac.”

Paul Dogboe has since apologized, and Magdaleno is intent on doing his talking inside the ring.
“It’s about experience, staying focused, and doing our job,” Magdaleno said. “Manny keeps me focused on the fight, and that is my main concern.”

Magdaleno-Dogboe will be televised LIVE on ESPN and stream in English and Spanish on the ESPN App at 7 p.m. ET. Undercard bouts will stream live on ESPN+, available on the ESPN App, beginning at 4 p.m. ET. ESPN Deportes will air the fight at 10 p.m. ET.

Promoted by Top Rank, in association with Peltz Boxing, tickets, priced at $ 100 (ringside), $ 65 and $ 35, are ON SALE NOW and can be purchased at The Liacouras Center Box Office and www.liacourascenter.com, or by calling Peltz Boxing at 215-765-0922.

Adonis Stevenson to Face Badou Jack May 19th in Toronto

Undefeated knockout artist Adonis Stevenson, the longest reigning light heavyweight world champion, will defend his title against two-division champion Badou Jack on Saturday, May 19 live on SHOWTIME from the Air Canada Centre in Toronto in an event presented by Premier Boxing Champions.

The showdown between Stevenson and Jack is one of the most intriguing matches in the light heavyweight division as Jack, a former 168-pound and 175-pound champion, has relinquished his title for the chance to challenge one of the hardest hitters in the sport. Both men are looking to make their claim as the class of the division.

Stevenson vs. Jack is part of a split-site SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING® telecast beginning at 10 p.m. ET/PT with featherweight champion Gary Russell, Jr. defending his title against mandatory title challenger Joseph Diaz from the MGM National Harbor in Maryland on Saturday, May 19.

Tickets for the Toronto show, which is promoted by Groupe Yvon Michel, Lee Baxter Promotions and Mayweather Promotions, are on sale Friday, April 27 and will be available at www.ticketmaster.ca.
“It is the second time that we will come to Toronto to promote a WBC world championship fight with Adonis Stevenson,” said Yvon Michel, President of Groupe Yvon Michel. “If you found the first event to be spectacular, be sure not to miss the second one as it will be a real firework! Badou Jack is a two-division world champion and an Olympian. He is dangerous and by far the biggest challenge for Adonis since he won the title against Chad Dawson in 2013. We are confident that ‘Superman’ has what it takes to defend his title successfully for the ninth time.

“I would also like to give thanks to our co-promoter Lee Baxter. This event would not have been possible without his collaboration. In addition, I am grateful for Lee and Wayne Zronik from MLSE, who are providing great support for this event and has opened the doors of the Air Canada Centre to us.”

“Mayweather Promotions is looking forward to partnering with Groupe Yvon Michel to pull off this highly anticipated matchup,” said Leonard Ellerbe, CEO of Mayweather Promotions. “Adonis Stevenson has been a reigning champion in this division since 2013. Badou Jack has risen to every challenge he’s faced in his career. Now, he has an opportunity to become a three-time world champion and that raises the stakes for him. I predict two confident, hard-punching and highly skilled fighters will enter the ring at Air Canada Centre on May 19, both determined to walk away a champion.’’

“We are looking forward to hosting this spectacular event at Air Canada Centre,” said Wayne Zronik, Senior Vice President, Music and Live Events at Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment. “It is the first title fight that the venue will host. We’ve worked with this group before to bring world class boxing to the city and are excited for the return of championship boxing to Toronto, and to Air Canada Centre in particular.”

Stevenson (29-1, 24 KOs) owns one of the most powerful left hands in boxing and goes by the ring moniker “Superman’’. The 40-year-old Stevenson has made eight successful defenses of his title since winning it with a knockout victory over Chad Dawson in 2013. The lineal 175-pound champion most recently defended his title with a second-round stoppage of Andrzej Fonfara last June and delivered a third round TKO over Tommy Karpency in his most recent defense in Toronto in 2015.

“I’m definitely excited and hungry to get into the ring and perform,” said Stevenson. “I’ve trained very hard for this fight against Badou Jack. I’m looking forward to winning this fight by knockout. I’m from the Kronk Gym and we always look for the knockout. Jack is a good, technical boxer. He was a world champion and he has done very well. He’s tough and I won’t underestimate him. I’ll be prepared for anything he brings in the ring.

“I’m fighting him at home in Canada, so I’m looking to give the fans a good show. I’ve got power and I’ve got the best left hook in boxing. I’ve got 12 rounds and I just need to touch you once to end it. It’s not complicated. I don’t need three or four shots. I just need one shot and you’re not going to recover. I’m going to finish you.”

The 34-year-old Jack (22-1-2, 13 KOs) relinquished his 168-pound world championship following a majority draw against James DeGale in 2017 to move up to light heavyweight. He made a successful debut at 175 pounds by knocking out Nathan Cleverly for the light heavyweight championship last August. Jack then relinquished that title to seek out this challenge against the division’s heaviest hitter. Born in Stockholm, Sweden, a 2008 Olympian for his father’s native Gambia and now residing in Las Vegas, Jack is looking to become a three-time world champion on his opponent’s home turf on May 19.

“I’m excited to have the opportunity to fight for my third world title against one of the division’s best, Adonis Stevenson,” said Jack. “I’ve been asking for this fight for a long time and was willing to fight him anywhere, including his backyard. I know he’s good and very dangerous and that’s the reason I want to fight him. I’m all about the best fighting the best and come May 19th, I’m bringing the WBC belt back to Las Vegas. My newborn son, Malik was born just before training camp so now I have two children to fight for, which gives me all the motivation I need to get this win.”

Gary Russell Jr. vs. Joseph Diaz Press Conference Quotes

WBC Featherweight World Champion Gary Russell Jr. (28-1, 17 KOs) and unbeaten No. 1 contender Joseph “JoJo” Diaz Jr. (26-0, 14 KOs) hosted a press conference and faced off for the first time Tuesday before their championship showdown Saturday, May 19 live on SHOWTIME from MGM National Harbor in Maryland.

Tickets for the event, which is promoted by TGB Promotions in association with Golden Boy Promotions, are on sale now and are available by visitinghttp://mgmnationalharbor.com/.

The Russell vs. Diaz fight is part of a split-site SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING telecast that will feature WBC Light Heavyweight World Champion Adonis Stevenson defending his title against two-division world champion Badou Jack in a main event from Toronto presented by Premier Boxing Champions.

Russell Jr., a 2008 U.S. Olympian and 126-pound titleholder since 2015, will defend against his mandatory challenger in the 25-year-old Diaz, who represented the U.S. at the 2012 Olympic games and will be competing in his first title bout.

Here is what the fighters had to say Tuesday from TAP Sports Bar at MGM National Harbor:
GARY RUSSELL JR.

“It’s amazing to be fighting at home. It’s cool to know that the people I see around all the time will be able to get in the car and drive 15 minutes to come watch this massacre. I can’t wait.

“I appreciate JoJo for being honest and saying that he feels I’m the best featherweight in the world. That speaks volumes.

“We stay focused in the gym. The inactivity doesn’t mean anything. It’s no issue. I’ve had hand issues in the past but I’m able to preserve my body and stay sharp, stay focused. I’m a fighter that’s always in shape. I never take a day off. You can ask my wife. On anniversaries, we’re in the gym. On birthdays, we’re in the gym.

“Regardless of what the situation is, you want a sense of financial stability for yourself and your family. I’m at the point of my career where I have maybe six more fights in me. We want to maximize everything. We want to maximize our revenue and it’s been irritating because a lot of the champions don’t want to get in the ring with me. I appreciate JoJo for giving me the opportunity to sharpen my teeth a little bit more. At least he’ll have the opportunity to say he got in the ring with Mr. Gary Russell Jr.

“I’m one of the most dangerous fighters on the planet. Speed, power, ring IQ, we can get ugly if we need to. I don’t plan on going 12 rounds. I’m not going the distance with anybody for the remainder of my career. Mark my words.

“When you have guys that fight and move around a lot, it makes it difficult to get to them the way you want to. When you have a guy that is straightforward and will be in your face, it makes it much easier for me and they’re much more susceptible to get hit.

“A lot of fighters win with pure athleticism because they’re faster, stronger or in better shape. They’re not winning because they have the ability to make the necessary adjustments based on what goes on in the ring. I tell people all the time that boxing is intellect manifested on a physical form. In most cases, the more intelligent fighter wins.

“My father says that whenever you see a fight that is an all-out, knockdown war, it’s just two stupid fighters that didn’t have a plan B or the ability to make the adjustments to make the fight easier. If that’s JoJo’s game plan, it’s going to make this fight a lot easier for me. It’s not going 12 rounds.

“As far as a hit list of my next opponents goes, we are first going to take care of JoJo. I would love to get a unification bout with Leo Santa Cruz after that. If we don’t get that, I plan on moving up in weight and challenging whoever has the title in that division. You want to know who I really want, though? I want Mikey Garcia.

“My last fight will be against (Vasyl) Lomachenko. I want to conclude my career with breaking my foot off of him. That will be the conclusion of it. I’m willing to wait, though. Right now, we’re good.
“Of course I would entertain a fight with Gervonta Davis. We’re cool. He’s somebody that I actually watched grow up and develop as a fighter, but you have to stay in your lane. When I move up in weight, he’s got to get out of the way or he’s going to get ran over too.

“I didn’t want to come home to fight until I had a world title. That’s the reason I didn’t fight at home for so long. Now we have the title, and I wanted to fight at least one more time here.

“I want to maximize our revenue because I don’t plan on fighting for too much longer. I had my first fight at seven years old. I’m 29 now. That’s a long time competing and a lot of wear and tear on your body. I’m a guy that doesn’t cut corners, so it takes away from the time I could be spending with my family and friends. I’m ready to spend time with my family and children and live out the fruits of our labor. But in the meantime, everybody else is in my way. They’re trying to take food off my baby’s plate.”

JOSEPH DIAZ JR.

“I don’t think the fact that I’ve been more active will give me any advantage. I’m just doing what I’m supposed to be doing and getting the experience I need inside the ring before facing an elite fighter like Gary Russell Jr. My preparation has been good. I’ve fought tremendous opponents and I have all the experience to come out victorious May 19.

“It doesn’t affect me at all fighting in his hometown. I’m happy to fight in his backyard. He’s the champion and that’s what champions get to do. I know what he’s capable of doing. He says I don’t have the boxing IQ or the power and speed that he has, but he’s going to be in for a rude awakening come fight night. He’s going to see that I have all the tools.

“It’s a dream come true to be fighting on this stage. Ever since I roomed with Errol Spence at the Olympics, we always promised each other that once we became pro we were going to fight all the elite athletes and the best champions. Gary Russell Jr. is the best at 126 pounds. I’m not scared to fight him and that’s what Errol Spence did, too. He beat Kell Brook in his hometown.

“Gary Russell Jr. is by far the best featherweight in the world. Leo Santa Cruz, Abner Mares, Lee Selby, none of these guys want to fight Russell. They’re afraid of the speed and the counter shots. But I know what I’m capable of doing and I’ll showcase it May 19.

“A win would mean everything for me. It would be a dream come true realizing all of the hard work I’ve put in since I was 13 years old. It would mean that I’m the champion and I’d be the shot caller.

“I think his speed is an obstacle; he’s very fast. But that’s the thing about me, I’m good at adapting to any style that I fight. Come fight night I know that his speed is going to be fast, but it’s nothing that I won’t be able to take, or nothing that will shock me. I’m going to be able to adapt to that speed and make sure I’m able to land my shots when he’s opening up.

“I’m very confident; 100 percent confident I’ll beat him. I know that this is an opportunity that is presented to me and I’ll be victorious. I’ve always prayed to God that I could fight on SHOWTIME and for a WBC title. And now that I am it feels like it’s all settling in and it’s all coming true. I’m working hard every single day, and once I get my hand raised in victory I’m going to go from there.

“If he gets a little bit over confident like he did against [Oscar] Escandon, he’s going to be in for a rude awakening. He’s going to be shocked with not only my punching power, but also with my combinations and with my speed. I’m not like a Jhonny Gonzalez where I’m just throwing one shot, or slow combinations. I’m pretty fast with my punches and you won’t see my punches coming because I throw them very elusive and I punch from different angles. He’s going to be very shocked if he fights the way he fought Oscar Escandon.

“I don’t think it’s going to go the distance. Gary Russell is going to go out there and not back down and give the fight fans a good show, but I’m going to go out there and give a good show and not back down. So I think we’re both not going to back down and we’re going to brawl it out, and let the best man win.”

Sullivan Barrera Expects Bounce Back Performance on Kovalev-Alvarez Undercard

Light heavyweight contender Sullivan “Sully B” Barrera is back in training camp armed with a new fight date and a fresh attitude.

The former Cuban amateur standout admits that not much went right in his March 3rd loss to Dmitry Bivol but chalks it up to an off night and said that it was a learning experience.

Barrera is back with his team but has also added a sports psychologist to his squad in an effort to make sure a repeat of March 3rd doesn’t happen.

“I feel great. I know that was just one bad night. I am not worried about the past and only looking ahead,” Barrera explained.

The plan is for Barrera to return to the ring sometime in the summer on the Sergey Kovalev-Eleider undercard and he hopes to fight the winner next.

“I think the fans know that I always want to fight the best out there. After this fight I want another big fight. My goal is to fight whoever wins between Kovalev and Alvarez,” said Barrera.

“Boxing is like sex. You can be the best lover in the world but sometimes you have an off night. My fiancee knows I am the best even if I don’t perform as well one night. I want to get back in the ring and show the world my best again.”

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