SAN DIEGO, Calif., September 22, 2017 – Last weekend, one megafight captured the boxing world’s attention. This week, bouts on Friday night from Tucson, Arizona and Saturday night from Los Angeles offer an array of talented athletes ranging from the lineal lightweight champion to aspiring world champions hoping to one day be in a headline making megafight themselves.
Friday Night Fights, ESPN and ESPN Deportes, ESPN App, 10:30 pm ET/7:30 pm PT, Tucson Arena, Tucson, Arizona
Two time Mexican Olympian and WBO featherweight champion Oscar Valdez (22-0, 19 KOs) now living in Tucson will enjoy a home town crowd in his title defense against undefeated challenger Genesis Servania (29-0, 12 KOs) of the Philippines. This is Servania’s first fight in the U.S. after running up a record against limited opposition.
Valdez burst onto the scene with a spectacular TKO over then undefeated Evgeny Gradovich in 2016, then took the WBO title from Matlas Rueda with a stoppage three months later. Valdez hasn’t been able to duplicate those performances in the year since. He is coming off a tough decision win over Miguel Marriaga in April. Marriaga gave Valdez all he could handle, then went up against Vasyl Lomachenko and got a serious thrashing.
“This will be my third title defense and God willing there will be many more,” said Valdez. “I want to represent my people of Mexico like all the legendary warriors from the past. My opponent is extremely tough and undefeated, which is a dangerous combination. I’m not underestimating him at all.”
Servania says he’s waited many years for this opportunity. “Thank you so much to Top Rank for giving me this chance, and to the champion for accepting my challenge,” said Servania. “I respect Oscar Valdez. He has a great Olympic background, and has proven his ability as a professional. However, I am ready for this fight and I will do my best on September 22. I am training hard now in Japan to bring the belt back to Kashimi Boxing Gym in Kanazawa.”
Valdez needs to return to knockout form against Servania. This is expected to be a tune-up type fight. While Servania is ranked a top ten contender in the division by the WBO and IBF, his impressive record on paper likely reflects the quality of his opposition. But you never know when a Julius Indongo will turn up.
In the co-main event, WBO super middleweight champion Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez (35-0, 24 KOs) from Mazatlan, Mexico faces his mandatory challenger Jesse “Hard Work” Hart (22-0, 18 KOs) of Philadelphia. The pair have a combined 70 percent knockout rate.
Ramirez is in a similar position to Valdez. Fighting on the same card in April with Valdez, Ramirez barely got past rough and tumble Ukrainian veteran Max Bursak. Ramirez impressed boxing fans with his victory over another veteran, Arthur Abraham, in April 2016. He sat on the sidelines due to a broken hand for a year. This fight will tell us whether his performance against Bursak can be attributed to ring rust, or if there’s something more concerning going on.
Hart is the son of Philadelphia boxing legend Eugene “Cyclone” Hart and is trained by his father, a highly rated middleweight contender during the late 1960s and early 1970s. The younger Hart, at age 28, enters this fight having won nine of his last 10 bouts by knockout. Like his dad, Jesse Hart has a lot to say.
“I am going to be pitching some heat onto Ramirez,” declared Hart. “I am going to throw so much he will have to think for himself and not look to his corner for help like he does a lot during a fight. Either he’s going to quit in the ring or I am going to knock him out. This is the big fight I’ve always wanted. My father ‘Cyclone’ is with me.
“Don’t tell me how tough Ramirez is. He hasn’t had a knockout in years. All of the pressure is on him, not me. This is my fight.”
Ramirez shrugged off the declaration. ” I just hope that he is prepared to fight the same way he has been talking. I hope he is ready to fight and not to run, and to just try to survive,” said Ramirez. “I want to give the fans a great fight and I hope Hart comes with the same mentality, so we can make it happen. I ’m happy to be back in action and make my second world title defense.
“There will be a lot of Mexican fans in attendance and I want to give them a great show. This is a great opportunity on a very big platform where I can show the whole world why I’m the best champion in the super middleweight division,” added the affable Ramirez, whose English is quickly improving. Ramirez says he practiced his English skills during his year recovering from injury, and it shows. It’s an investment in his future to be able to communicate directly with English speaking fans in the U.S. and U.K.
Like Valdez, Ramirez needs to step up his performance tonight. Hart is a sentimental favorite of Philly-style boxing fans, but he is taking a big step up in opposition under the spotlight of a national TV broadcast. He’s got a puncher’s chance, but that is all he’s got. Fights are always fun when someone’s “O” has got to go.
The undercard will feature undefeated Puerto Rican lightweight contender Felix “El Diamante” Verdejo, who may be feeling especially motivated to perform for his Boricua fans suffering at home after Hurricane Maria hit the island. Also on the card is popular Irish Olympian Michael Conlan, and American Olympic boxer Michaela Meyer. All three can be seen via live streaming starting at 7:30 p.m. ET/4:30 p.m. PT.
Credit is due to promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank and ESPN for bringing boxing back to general audiences not only on the basic cable channel, but for offering all bouts via live streaming on the free ESPN app. Streaming fights is the way of the future and it’s smart to establish this platform early in the game.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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