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Boxing World is Buzzing in Boston: Official PBC on NBC Weights & Fighter Quotes

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BOSTON — For a Beantown fight card that seemed to come straight out of left field, it was appropriate that during fight week for the televised PBC on NBC co-promotion between DiBella Entertainment and Murphy’s Boxing, the final press conference was held on Thursday afternoon in the left field grandstand of Fenway Park, right by the world famous Green Monster.

All the key participants were in attendance, including main eventers Andre “The Resurrected” Dirrell, 24-1, 16 KOs, and James “Chunky” DeGale, 20-1, 14 KOs.

Both world-class super middleweights traveled long and far to take their respective places face to face for the international boxing media.

Dirrell, sporting a Muhammad Ali T-shirt and a smile as wide as the Charles River, strode into Fenway Park like he owned it, eager to please, with brother Anthony by his side in a Detroit Tigers baseball cap. The Dirrells are from Michigan but both were honorary Bostonians on this day; in fact, it was Andre who threw out the ceremonial first pitch on Thursday night when the Boston Red Sox took on the Texas Rangers at home.

DeGale, a 2008 Olympic Gold Medalist from Great Britain, gladly played the role of visiting team. “I’m a switch hitter, predominantly a southpaw but I can mix it up. I can do everything,” DeGale told me of his boxing style. “I’ve loved it here in Boston. I feel very welcomed,” he said of his short time in the city.

It was a long and brutal winter in New England and Boston doesn’t get to host very many championship fights these days. People in the area who love the fight game are understandably excited. The giant piles of snow are gone. The boys are back and they’re looking for trouble. “Be there or miss the eff out,” is how Dirrell put it bluntly during his time at the podium on Thursday at Fenway Park.

The last locally held world title tilt was all the way back in 2006 at the Boston Garden when British invader Ricky Hatton defeated New Yorker Luis Collazo in a “Hatton Wonderland” for the WBA welterweight title. Fans left happy with the action but upset with the decision in favor of Hatton.

“There’s a lot of tension when you’re right there next to your opponent,” Dirrell said of his posed encounters with DeGale for the press. If there was tension in the air between Dirrell and DeGale, it was hidden from everybody else by the beautiful spring weather and festive atmosphere that permeated the ball park presser and the weigh-in at nearby Faneuil Hall. As the Friday afternoon sun beat down on the historic public courtyard, that level of tension began to slowly heat up. By the time they hit the scales to make weight, that tension was in full bloom. Forehead to forehead, Dirrell and DeGale jaw-jacked back and forth for a large crowd of primarily pro-DeGale British fans before being separated and sent off to go have a well-earned bite to eat. Known for having some of the best food available in all of Boston, Faneuil Hall was an ironically appropriate place for these hungry boxers to weigh in.

Weights & Quotes:

Andre Dirrell (24-1, 16 KOs, Flint, Michigan, 167.8 lbs.): “I’ve learned to love, respect, and honor my sport. I love boxing. I go to the gym and I go into my pocket. I pull out the pain and I pay it forward. Now I want my receipt. Boston is a hardware store. The Agganis Arena is a hardware store. On Saturday, I’m gonna pick up my hardware. I want the IBF belt more than ever. It’s all I care about but I’m showing how important the fight is to us even if the title wasn’t on the line. I’m just adding the bonus material to the belt. I’m very happy to be fighting for the IBF title, but regardless of the belt or not, we have a championship fight. I’m a world class fighter and this is a world class sport. I’ve been through hell and back and I’m just ready to go see the ring. It’s ass-kicking time in that ring but outside, it’s all love.”

James DeGale (20-1, 14 KOs, London, England, 167.2 lbs.): “How can Dirrell go from fighting people like Derek Edwards and Vladine Biosse to step up to somebody like me who just knocked out Marco Antonio Periban and Brandon Gonzalez, a confident American trained by Virgil Hunter? That’s a bit of a jump, isn’t it? My last two performance speak for themselves. When Dirrell is on top, he’s very confident. If you give him too much space, that’s when he comes on as a fighter. I’m not going to let him rest. I’m not too sure he’s got the heart when it gets hard in there. All his attributes, the speed, the angles, his feet; I match him in all that. I’m actually intrigued myself about how good he is and how hard it’s going to be to beat him. After I win this title, I’m willing to fight anybody. I make 168 extremely easily but I’m kinda big for the weight. Eventually I will move up to light heavyweight.”

DeGale on rival George Groves: “A lot of people thought I won the Groves fight. The Americans thought I won. Groves is a pussy(cat). He doesn’t want a rematch with me. They offered him two million pounds for the fight, and he doesn’t want it.”

DeGale on Carl Froch: “He’s coming off his best win against Groves in front of eighty thousand people at Wembley Stadium but he’s getting old. He’s not the force he once was, trust me. He vacated his world title to not have to fight me. No way he’s gonna fight a young gun coming up.”

DeGale on the recent Gennady Golovkin vs. Froch talk: “It ain’t gonna happen. I think Froch is gonna retire.”

DeGale on the just announced George Groves vs. Badou Jack title fight: “Groves should win that. Jack is not very good. I’m hoping for Groves to win the WBC title and me the IBF, then next summer, a unification rematch which in UK which would be massive.”

Edwin “La Bomba” Rodriguez (26-1, 17 KOs, Worcester, MA., 176 lbs.): “Right now, I’m focused on Craig Baker. He is undefeated and he is hungry. In 2005, I lost a decision to Adonis Stevenson in the amateurs during a USA vs. Canada duel. Then back when he turned professional, I went out to help him get ready for one of his fights by sparring with him. There’s no denying that he’s a big puncher. That’s who I want in the future.”

Craig Baker (16-0, 12 KOs, Baytown, TX., 175.6 lbs.): “Before I started boxing, I was a 296 pound offensive lineman for Robert E. Lee High School in Baytown. When I first walked into the boxing gym I was a borderline diabetic. I got into boxing to lose all the weight and I saw results. By my first pro fight in 2008, I was down to 199 pounds.”

Danny O’Connor (25-2, 9 KOs, Framingham, MA., 147.4 lbs.): “I’m always happy to fight at home in front of my fans. Chris Gilbert will try to use his brute and I’m going to use my brain. I’m a versatile fighter who can handle any situation that may arise. I’m happy that Gilbert, a kid from Vermont, can have this opportunity as well. When the Malignaggi fight fell off, it wasn’t real anymore, so Paulie who? He’s not even on my mind. I’m concentrating on Chris Gilbert.”

Chris Gilbert (12-1, 9 KOs, Windsor, VT., 146 lbs.): “I just fought two weeks ago in my hometown. I hit the guy with a liver shot in the first round. We expected a good eight out of him but I caught him, his face turned beet red, he spit out the mouthpiece, and that was it. I’m excited to be on this card and to fight Danny O’Connor. I always train to win every fight and this is another one where I’m coming in very strong and confident.”

Ryan “The Polish Prince” Kielczewski (22-1, 6 KOs, Quincy, MA., 127.6 lbs.): “I’m excited to get back in the ring after the loss to Danny Aquino on ESPN Friday Night Fights last month. I thought I pulled out a close victory but the judges saw it the opposite way. I basically had to lose too much weight. I was done after two rounds. I’d like to get Aquino again at 126 pounds. I don’t know much about my opponent Anthony Napunyi. He’s awkward, he’s wild, and as soon as I figure him out I should have no problem with him.”

Undercard Weights: Heavyweights, Danny Kelly (239.8) vs. Curtis Lee Tate (229.4); Middleweights, Immanuwel Aleem (159.2) vs. David Toribio (159.6); Junior Featherweights, Jonathon Guzman (124) vs. Christian Esquivel (123.2); Light Heavyweights, Edwin Espinal (171) vs. Alvaro Enriquez (170.4); Middleweights, Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan (159.6) vs. Melvin Betancourt (159.6); Ryan Kielczewski (127.6) vs. Anthony Napunyi (125.4); Super Featherweights, Logan McGuiness (136.8) vs. Gerardo Cuevas (143); Bantamweights, Antonio Russell (117.2) vs. Brandon Garvin (118.6).

PBC on NBC airs at 4:30 PM EST from the Agganis Arena on the campus of Boston University. Doors open at 1:30 PM EST. Tickets are still available on www.Ticketmaster.com Look for undercard fights to be aired on NBC Sports Network following the NBC telecast.

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Junto Nakatani Turns in Another Masterclass on Saturday’s Tripleheader in Tokyo

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In a rather odd juxtaposition, several of boxing’s best little men were on display today at Japan’s National Sumo Arena in Tokyo. The best of the lot, Junto Nakatani, improved to 27-0 (20 KOs) while tearing away the WBC world bantamweight title from Tijuana’s Alexandro Santiago (28-4-5) who was making the first defense of the title he won in Las Vegas in May when he upset Nonito Donaire.

It was a one-sided beatdown. Nakatani, who had a 5-inch height advantage, won every round before ending the contest in the sixth. The end came at the 1:12 mark when Nakatani terminated the affair with his second knockdown. The first came earlier in the round, the result of a straight left hand. The finisher was a big right hook.

With the victory, Nakatani became a world title-holder in a third weight class. He’s an outstanding talent, worthy of pound-for-pound consideration, and would be favored in a unification fight with Takuma Inoue.

Inoue, the younger brother of pound-for-pound king Naoya “Monster” Inoue, did his part to bring the match to fruition with a ninth-round stoppage of Filipino veteran Jerwin Ancajas in the main event. Inoue (19-1, 5 KOs) was making the first defense of the WBA diadem he won with a wide decision over Venezuela’s mildewed Liborio Solis. That title was conveniently vacated by Takuma’s renowned brother.

This figured to be the most competitive match on the card and Ancajas (34-4-2) had his moments before Inoue ended the contest at the 0:44 mark of round nine with a four-punch combination climaxed by a shot to the liver. Heading in, Ancajas, who had a long title reign at 115, was 9-2-1 in world title fights and hadn’t previously been stopped.

In the first of the three title fights, 29-year-old Kosei Tanaka became a four-weight belt-holder in record time with a unanimous decision over Mexicali’s stubborn but out-classed Christian Bacasegua “Rocky” Rangel. At stake was the vacant WBO junior bantamweight title.

Tanaka, who previously held belts at 105, 108, and 112, started slow but the outcome was never in doubt after he knocked “Rocky” to the canvas in the eighth frame. The judges had it 119-108, 117-110, and 116-111. With the victory, Tanaka improved to 20-1 (11). In his only defeat, he was stopped by countryman Kazuto Ioka. He hunkers for a rematch but, if it happens, he might wish that it hadn’t. Ioka is long in the tooth – he turns 35 next month – but is very good and shows no signs of slowing down. Rangel (22-5-2) had won nine straight heading in, but against questionable opposition and was making his first start outside Mexico.

The Teiken Promotions card was presented in association with Top Rank and aired in the U.S. on ESPN+.

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Rising Contenders Gor Yeritsyan and Cain Sandoval Stay Unbeaten at Chumash

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Rising Contenders Gor Yeritsyan and Cain Sandoval Stay Unbeaten at Chumash

Two Southern California-based fighters cracked the top 10 list on Friday in Central California on the 360 Promotions card.

Armenia’s Gor Yeritsyan (18-0, 14 KOs) captured the WBC Continental Americas welterweight title with a steady and persistent attack against defensive-minded Quinton Randall (13-2-1, 3 KOs) of Texas at Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez, California.

“This is my first step,” said Yeritsyan (pictured with promoter Tom Loeffler). “Remember my name.”

Yeritsyan was always on attack but had prior knowledge and preparation under trainer Freddie Roach for the counter-punching style of Randall. He pounded away while rarely unleashing more than three-punch combinations. It was effective.

Randall was never over-run by the strong Armenian fighter but he rarely stepped into an offensive mode. That cost him over the 10 rounds and all three judges scored for Yeritsyan who captured the WBC title and will now be ranked in the top 10.

“My opponent was a very good boxer,” Yeritsyan said of Randall.

In a super lightweight match, young firebrand Cain Sandoval (12-0, 11 KOs) met former contender Javier Molina (22-6, 9 KOs) and had his knockout streak snapped, but still won by unanimous decision. The Sacramento fighter now has the WBC Continental Americas super lightweight title.

Molina has never been stopped and showed why over the 10 rounds. In his 15-year career despite facing knockout punchers such as Jesus Ramos Jr., Amir Imam, and Artemio Reyes, none of his losses were via knockout.

Despite a consistent Sandoval battering from the third round on, nothing seemed to penetrate Molina’s defense. But when Sandoval directed his blows to the body it opened up more opportunities and the Sacramento fighter maintained control.

After 10 rounds all three judges scored in favor of Sandoval by unanimous decision, but his knockout streak was stopped. Molina’s streak pf never being knocked out continues.

“I thought I would stop him,” said Sandoval. “I just want to win.”

Other Bouts

Central California’s Jorge Maravillo (9-0, 8 KOs) out-fought Santa Ana’s Jesus Gonzalez (7-2-1) in a six-round super welterweight fight. Maravillo, who is trained by Max Garcia in Salinas, used crisp rights to batter the gritty Gonzalez especially inside.

Maravillo was sharp throughout the fight and though his knockout streak was snapped it took a determined Gonzalez to gut out the fight after being dominated in the fifth round. All three judges scored it 60-54 for Maravillo.

Upland, California’s Daniel “Chuckie” Barrera (5-0-1) floored veteran Jonathan Almacen (7-10-3) twice in the second round with lefts. The end came at 2:35 of the round when Barrera knocked out the Filipino fighter with a left hook in a super flyweight match.

Cuba’s Osvel Caballero (5-0, 4 KOs) was too sharp and too strong for Jason Buenaobra (10-10-3) and won by stoppage at 2:22 of the fourth round in a featherweight fight.

A super bantamweight clash saw Mexico’s Alfredo Castro (10-0, 7 KOs) and Riverside, California’s Ezekiel Flores (4-3) engage in a back-and-forth battle for six rounds. Castro could not miss with the right cross and Flores could not miss with uppercuts. But two knockdowns by Castro proved the difference and he won by unanimous decision after six exciting rounds.

Photo credit: Lina Baker

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 274: Yeritsyan vs Randall at Chumash Casino, Japan and More

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Violence of an organized nature begins in the rustic and peaceful surroundings of Santa Inez, California as welterweights Gor Yeritsyan and Quinton Randall headline a 360 Boxing Promotions card at Chumash Casino on Friday.

Hours later, three world championship fights erupt in Japan. And hours after that, super middleweights tangle in Florida.

All will be streamed.

Undefeated Yeritsyan (17-0, 14 KOs) meets Randall (13-1-1, 3 KOs) for the WBC Continental Americas title on Friday, Feb. 23, at Chumash Casino. UFC Fight Pass will stream the 360 Boxing Promotions card.

Others on the card include undefeated super lightweight Cain Sandoval (11-0, 11 KOs) meeting Javier Molina (22-5, 9 KOs) in a battle set for 10 rounds. It’s a stronger test for Sandoval who has blasted out every opponent. Molina is one of the fighting twin brothers who both were Olympians.

Javier was an Olympian in 2008 for the USA and Oscar Molina an Olympian for Mexico in 2012.

“I’ve been hearing about Cain for a while, but I know my skills and experience will give me the victory,” said Molina who fights out of Los Angeles.

Sandoval, 21, last November won by knockout in Madison Square Garden in New York City.

“Javier is a very good veteran who has had many more fights than me, but he’s never felt my power before,” said Sandoval who fights out of Sacramento.

Chumash Casino is located near one of the old California missions and built by the Spaniards in 1804. You can see open land for miles with the next nearest town of Solvang a short driving distance away.

Over the decades I’ve seen some memorable fights including Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley’s wild victory over Manuel Garnica in 2007 and Seniesa “Super Bad’ Estrada’s pro debut win in 2011 against Maria Ruiz.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Tokyo Hosts Three World Title Fights

It’s a triple-header in Tokyo for real fight lovers.

Early Saturday morning at 1 a.m. (Pacific Time) three world title matches headed by WBC bantamweight titlist Alexandro Santiago (28-3-5, 14 KOs) of Mexico defending against Japan’s Junto Nakatani (26-0, 19 KOs) take place.

Santiago defeated legendary champion Nonito Donaire last July in Las Vegas in an upset. He also fought to a draw against Filipino slugger Jerwin Ancajas who is also on this card.

Nakatani is a big hitter and two-division world champion. He is very familiar with Mexican fighters and often trains in Southern California. I saw him in Maywood, California a year ago. He’s quite a fighter.

In the other co-main event WBA bantamweight titlist Takuma Inoue (18-1, 4 KOs) defends against former super flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas (34-3-2, 23 KOs) of the Philippines. Its speed against power.

A third co-main features WBO super flyweight titlist Kosei Tanaka (19-1, 11 KOs) defending against Mexico’s Christian Bacasegua (22-4-2, 9 KOs).

ESPN+ will stream the card live on Saturday.

Matchroom in Orlando

It’s a showcase for contenders.

Brooklyn native Edgar Berlanga (21-0, 16 KOs) “the Chosen One” meets United Kingdom’s Padraig “the Hammer” McCrory (18-0, 9 KOs) in the super middleweight main event on Saturday, Feb. 24. DAZN will stream the Matchroom Boxing card from Orlando, Florida.

Berlanga, of Puerto Rican descent, burst on the pro boxing scene by knocking out 16 consecutive foes. But ever since 2021 he has been unable to win by knockout. Five consecutive opponents went the distance.

Can Berlanga still punch?

Facing the Boricua slugger will be McCrory a 35-year-old from Northern Ireland who remains undefeated. To put it into perspective, the United Kingdom is filled with very good super middleweights and none have beaten McCrory so far.

Also on the card is Cuban Olympic gold medalist Andy Cruz (2-0) defending a regional lightweight title against Mexican southpaw Brayan Zamarripa (14-2, 9 KOs). Cruz has blistering speed and an aggressive style as a pro.

Other interesting fights feature bantamweight prospects Antonio Vargas (17-1) and Jonathan Rodriguez (17-1-1). Both can punch but each lost via knockout. Whose chin will prove sturdier in this clash?

Fights to Watch (all times Pacific Time)

Fri. UFC Fight Pass 7 p.m. Gor Yeritsyan (17-0) vs Quinton Randall (13-1-1)

Sat. ESPN+ 1 a.m. Alexandro Santiago (28-3-5) vs Junto Nakatani (26-0).

Sat. DAZN 4 p.m. Edgar Berlanga (21-0) vs Padraig McCrory (18-0).

Photo: Tom Loeffler is flanked by Javier Molina and Cain Sandoval. Photo credit: Lina Baker

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