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Three motivated titleholders headline April 22 card

08
Mar

MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. — Tuesday afternoon, Top Rank held a press conference officially announcing an April 22 card at the Stub Hub Center featuring three WBO titleholders and the professional debut of a U.S. silver medalist in the 2016 Olympic Games.

“I have to say that those of you who are covering this are witnessing now the start of the future of the sport of boxing,” opened Bob Arum, founder of Top Rank, in a ballroom at the Manhattan Beach Marriott. “Boxing is a great global sport. It is the sport that is understood and followed by people not only in the United States, our neighbors in Mexico and Canada, but all over the world. As we go forward into the future, starting with April 22nd, we will be demonstrating to you the global aspects of the sport, which is booming in places as far away as New Zealand and Australia, the United Kingdom, in Asia, all over the world, fighters are coming up and are performing for world-wide audiences. The fighters we will be showcasing on April 22nd card at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, are the brightest, I believe, of those stars. In any event, we will be distributing this card all over the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico, on Top Rank pay-per-view at the price of $44.95.”

While none of the fighters would’ve ever been thought to be a headliner of a PPV at this point of their careers, Oscar Valdez, the WBO’s featherweight titleholder, was tabbed to fill the roll.

“To be honest, I just realized today I was the main event,” admitted Valdez to RingTV.com after the presser. “I kept on looking back to see my name out there because I thought ‘Zurdo’ (Gilberto Ramirez) was the main event, so it brings more motivation.”

Valdez (21-0, 19 knockouts) will look to defend his title for the second time versus Miguel Marriaga — a 30-year-old Colombian ranked as the WBO’s No.1 contender.

Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank

“I noticed that the last two fighters he faced don’t have the experience that I have,” Marriaga (25-1, 21 KOs) said in a brief interview. “Now Valdez is going to be in against a fighter with a lot of experience and a lot of ring knowledge.”

With that quote read to him, Valdez responded:

“I respect his opinion. I do believe he’s my toughest opponent. He’s right. Doesn’t mean I’m scared of him or he’s gonna beat me. I’m very aware of who he is, and I’m very aware that he has that hunger to take my belt. I kept on catching him looking at my belt. I thought he was looking at my girl. It was bothering me. I know he wants it so bad, but he doesn’t want as bad as I want to keep it.”

Valdez, a two-time Mexican Olympian born in Nogales, fostered by Tucson, Arizona, and now fighting out of Carson, California, has been on a hot streak as of late. He has stopped his last five opponents, most of them with his vicious left hook. It’s a streak that started after his HBO debut in 2015, when he decisioned Ruben Tamayo.

“I’m always a fighter that sees my fights and tries to do better than my last fight and I wasn’t very happy with my performance,” remembered Valdez about that summer 2015 night, which also took place at StubHub Center. “I think styles make fights and Tamayo’s style just didn’t favor me. Not to bring excuses, he’s a great fighter and he did what he had to do to try and win, but it wasn’t an attractive fight for the crowd. I think this is my chance to show the L.A. crowd and my fans that I can put up a good fight. What’s most important is to win. As long as I win I’m happy, but I also want to leave the crowd happy. Looking at Marriaga’s style and my style, I think it’s going to be a good fight.”

Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank

A stone’s throw away from the StubHub Center is “The Rock,” a gym where trainer Manny Robles houses his proteges. Valdez trains there, but he’s not the only resident fighting on this card.

“My warm-up is going to be to run to the venue, get ready, and get in the ring,” Jessie Magdaleno jokingly said.

Magdaleno (24-0, 17 KOs) is looking to defend his WBO junior featherweight title for the first time after taking it from Nonito Donaire last November. He’ll take on Adeilson Dos Santos (18-2, 14 KOs), a 25-year-old fringe contender from Sao Paulo, Brazil.

“I know he’s the type of fighter that switches from lefty to righty,” said Magdaleno about his opponent. “He throws a lot of punches and he’s pretty quick. We’re working on our craft, our movement, and just being aggressive. We’re going to put everything together on April 22nd and show everybody what we’re about.”

While Magdaleno has the pleasure of sparring guys like Valdez regularly, Dos Santos also has stablemates to help hone his skills. He has been training in Las Vegas alongside Jorge Linares (RING/WBA lightweight champion), Rances Barthelemy, and ironically, Donaire himself.

To that information, Magdaleno replied:

“You can hear all that you need to hear throughout your career and throughout the build-up of the fight, but the point is, how are you actually going to do it when you get in there and face a fighter like myself, who comes ready and always comes to put on a great show? He can be hearing what he’s hearing, but let’s see how he shows it the night of the fight.”

Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank

The third man with a WBO title on this card is none other than Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez, who makes his return to the ring after fully recovering from surgery to a tendon in his right hand.

“I was sad after my surgery because I couldn’t do nothing for three or four months,” said the Mexican southpaw from Sinaloa. “I was doing exercise, running, strength and conditioning and everything, but now I feel better than before because I can spar and I don’t feel pain. I feel better than before. More confident in my hand. I’m really excited to get back on track because I need to fight. After this, keep winning and looking for the big name. For the pound-for-pound fighter.””

Ramirez (34-0, 24 KOs) will be defending his WBO super middleweight title for the first time since beating Arthur Abraham handily a year ago. Max Bursak (33-4-1, 15 KOs), a 32-year old from Kiev, Ukraine, will challenge Ramirez in what will be his first world title shot.

“They forget me a little bit because of my surgery,” lamented Ramirez about being unable to perform. “Now is really gonna be a huge fight because it’s three big Mexican guys — Valdez, Magdaleno and me — here in L.A. at the StubHub Center. One of my dreams was to fight here in L.A. and we’re making it happen now. I’m really glad for that.”

Ramirez was impressive even before making his awaited return. His English was vastly improved, never more evident than in this statement to RingTV.com:

“I want to prove myself, and all the people, that Zurdo Ramirez will come in prepared and better than before.”

Opening the Top Rank pay-per-view is the professional debut of Shakur Stevenson. Fighting at featherweight, Stevenson, 19, will take part in a six-rounder against an opponent yet to be named, and the highly sought-after propect has been given the red-carpet treatment since signing with Top Rank weeks ago.

READ: Stevenson already dreaming of Lomachenko, Conlan showdowns

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