FORT WORTH, Texas – Ten rounds while hoping to never see Waleska Roldan scoring a meaningful fight again …
10. As ferocious as Vergil Ortiz is in the ring—and at 18–0 with 18 knockouts, Ortiz is as punishing as they get—he’s equally as affable outside the ring. Usually. The generally mild-mannered Ortiz has been a little prickly this week in advance of his showdown Saturday with Michael McKinson. Ortiz has taken exception to some of the criticism he received for withdrawing from a scheduled fight with McKinson last March due to rhabdomyolysis, a rare condition caused by muscle cells breaking down and releasing a substance into the blood.
“I’ll tell you what people thought it was,” Ortiz says. “They thought it was my weight was too high and I was trying to lose it too [fast]. People thought I was on steroids. Obviously that’s not it. I’m in VADA [the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency]. I don’t need to take anything. I’ve got natural power.”
Ortiz says his body broke down as a result of overtraining. Last fall, Ortiz opened training camp for a fight with McKinson, which was tentatively scheduled for January. He traveled to San Diego to work with Eddy Reynoso, who Ortiz, after parting ways with Robert Garcia, planned to employ for his next fight. The pairing with Reynoso, Ortiz said, “didn’t work out.” The fight date with McKinson was then pushed to March. Ortiz continued to train, effectively doing a five-month camp. “And I train hardcore,” Ortiz said. A week before the fight, Ortiz said, “my body just couldn’t take it anymore.” Ortiz says he is fully healed and hopes McKinson is a springboard to a world title shot—which could come as soon as this year.
9. Anyone else getting a little queasy about the state of the Errol Spence-Terence Crawford negotiations? Showtime’s Stephen Espinoza described the two sides as “a little bit stuck” in a recent interview, with the targeted date, sometime in mid-November, inching closer. Meanwhile, the WBC suddenly upgraded Keith Thurman—the same Thurman who has fought once since 2019—to No. 1 in its welterweight rankings. It would surprise no one to see Spence pivot to a fight with Thurman, a former rival whom he has verbally sparred with in the past.
8. Lot of finger-pointing between Jake Paul and Hasim Rahman Jr. over the decision to cancel the scheduled fight between the two this weekend. But what it boils down to is this: Rahman signed a contract to fight Paul at 200 pounds. He couldn’t do it. When Paul agreed to bump the weight to 205, Rahman said he couldn’t do that, either. Making weight is part of professional boxing. By not doing it, Rahman not only cost himself a hefty payday—reportedly $250,000—but screwed over all the fighters on the undercard, including Amanda Serrano, who was scheduled to defend her featherweight titles in her first appearance since a narrow decision defeat to Katie Taylor last April.
7. Predictably, there has been little movement towards making a fight between Ryan Garcia and Gervonta “Tank” Davis. Espinoza and DAZN’s Joe Markowski had a telephone conversation about the two sides working together, although Showtime, as Espinoza has stated publicly, continues to insist that they control the US broadcast. Meanwhile, I’m told that representatives for Golden Boy and PBC have not had any substantive discussions about the framework for a deal.
While declining to comment on any specific negotiations, Golden Boy CEO Eric Gomez told Sports Illustrated he remains hopeful the two sides can strike a deal.
“We are going to see these Tank talks through,” Gomez says. “We are going to see if there is a way we can make the fight or not. If it doesn’t work out, there are a couple of backup plans. But Ryan made it very clear this is the fight he wants. Hopefully we can make it.”
6. Eddie Hearn wants to make a featherweight fight between Leigh Wood and Mauricio Lara. The last time Lara stepped in with one of Hearn’s top featherweights, Josh Warrington absorbed the worst beating of his career. Interesting to see Hearn, with a lucrative Wood-Warrington fight possible down the line, be willing to roll the dice with Lara again.
5. Speaking of Hearn, I’m told the Matchroom Boxing czar is very close to finalizing a deal between Conor Benn and Chris Eubank Jr. Benn-Eubank is a massive fight in the UK. The two fighters–whose fathers, Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank Sr., fought a pair of memorable fights in the early 1990s–are well known in British boxing, with Benn emerging in recent years as a rising star. He’ll have his hands full though with Eubank Jr. Benn, a 147-pound welterweight, will move up to 156-pounds to face Eubank, a natural 160-pounder, with Eubank subject to a rehydration clause.
4. Maurice Hooker-Blair Cobbs, scheduled for the undercard of Ortiz-McKinson this weekend, is a sneaky good fight. Both Hooker, a former 140-pound champion, and Cobbs, a flamboyant 147-pound contender, are coming off knockout losses. Both are on the other side of 30 and badly in need of a win. Hooker has not fought in 18 months. Cobbs is five months removed from a knockout loss to Alexis Rocha and will fight for the first time with a new trainer after parting ways with Freddie Roach. Both can crack. Both have suspect chins. And then there is this: Hooker is unlikely to make the welterweight limit, sources told SI. Cobbs’s team has been informed of Hooker’s issues—he weighed 146 pounds on Thursday afternoon—and plans to wait and see what Hooker weighs in at on Friday before determining how to proceed. The fight is still likely to happen, sources said, although how much the rapid weight loss will affect Hooker remains to be seen.
3. The battle for the right to fight Dmitry Bivol should end in the next few days. Last month, the WBA ordered Bivol to face Gilberto Ramirez, the WBA’s mandatory challenger. Matchroom, which represents Joshua Buatsi, has filed a request for an exception for Bivol to face Buatsi in his next fight. Both sides expect the WBA to rule soon, possibly as early as Friday.
2. If I may editorialize a little on the Bivol situation: The WBA needs to do the right thing. This is Ramirez’s fight. He has won two eliminators to put himself in this mandatory position. Bivol has not had to face a mandatory challenger in four years. The only reason for the WBA to grant an exception is because Matchroom could stage Bivol-Buatsi in the Middle East, generating higher purses—which in turn would mean larger sanctioning fees. The WBA, which has been plagued by accusations of corruption lately, has claimed it is cleaning up its act. Granting an exception would prove it has no real interest in doing so.
1. Shoutout to Oleksandr Usyk, the unified heavyweight champion who has arranged for his rematch with Anthony Joshua to be free on Ukrainian television outlets. Usyk initially tried to buy the rights from Saudi Arabia, which has control over the broadcast rights, but Saudi organizers instead offered them to Usyk for free. The fight, scheduled for Aug. 20th, will reportedly air on Megogo, a streaming service, Usyk’s YouTube channel and on state public TV.
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