NEW YORK -- Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn has always loved the idea of taking the shows he is promoting in the United States as part of his long-term deal with new sports steaming service DAZN to cities all over the country in the way he has done with the cards he promotes in the United Kingdom.
The first two cards of his new deal took place in Chicago on Oct. 6 and Boston on Oct. 20, both of which had success bringing in fans. The card being planned for Nov. 17 was supposed to be in Atlantic City, New Jersey, but had not been formally announced and tickets had not gone on sale because the main event had not yet been finalized.
Time was running short with the show just three weeks away when attorney Guadalupe Valencia, who represents Hearn-promoted welterweight contender Jessie Vargas, gave him a call with an idea.
"I was laying in bed the other night and I got a phone call from Guadalupe Valencia and he was telling me about this young man called Nico Hernandez, and I went onto YouTube and I watched Nico Hernandez and I saw what we love in the U.K., which is passion, which is excitement, which is a city that's behind the sport and behind their fighters, and then I realized Brandon Rios (who was already on the card) is from Kansas as well," Hearn said on Saturday.
And so began a whirlwind couple of days during which Hearn made a deal to add Hernandez, the 2016 U.S. Olympic bronze medalist, to the card; the card was moved to the Kansas Star Casino Arena in Mulvane, Kansas -- right outside of Hernandez's hometown of Wichita, where he is a popular ticket-seller -- and the heavyweight main event, Jarrell "Big Baby" Miller against Bogdan Dinu, was finalized.
With all of his ducks in a row, Hearn and the fighters gathered at Madison Square Garden on Saturday evening to announce the show just before the start of the Daniel Jacobs-Sergiy Derevyanchenko card Hearn was promoting at the venue later that night.
"The rate this has moved at -- just two days ago we decided to take it to the Kansas Star Arena in Kansas on Nov. 17 -- and I am really, really, really excited. We got about 6,000 seats to fill," Hearn said. "This is part of our plan, which is to come to cities where we can get people excited. We've been to Chicago and it was great. Went to Boston, great. People are happy that we're there. [The say,] 'Thank you for bringing boxing to Chicago and Boston.'
"Now with Kansas, this is a whole other level of excitement. The one word I can use to describe this event is wild. It is going to be wild. We've got three weeks to sell this place out."
Hernandez (5-0, 4 KOs), the 22-year-old flyweight prospect, should help in that endeavor. He will fight an opponent to be determined in one of the featured bouts on the show.
"Kansas, they haven't seen any kind of card like this. I've been getting a lot of support back home and there are already a lot of people asking me about the fight," Hernandez said. "Brandon, another Kansan, I think we can pack the place."
Miller (22-0-1, 19 KOs), 30, of Brooklyn, New York, and Dinu (18-0, 14 KOs), 32, of Romania, will headline in what likely will become a fight for the WBA's "regular" heavyweight title because Manuel Charr is expected to be stripped in the coming days for a positive drug test that forced the cancellation of a September defense.
Dinu was scheduled to fight on a card in Sofia, Bulgaria, on Saturday, but with the Miller fight nearly finalized, he was pulled off the show and flew to New York for Saturday's news conference.
"I've seen this guy in the camp with (unified world titleholder) Anthony Joshua numerous times. They've had great sparring together for two or three camps," Hearn said of Dinu. "He's a very, very talented undefeated heavyweight."
Miller blew out former contender Tomasz Adamek in the second round on Hearn's Oct. 6 card and is getting right back into the ring to face Dinu in a meaningful bout.
"I know he's coming to fight. I know he's in shape," Miller said. "He's been in training camp. I'm gonna put on a show. I'm going in for the kill. I'm really motivated. Come Nov. 17, I'm always going for the knockout. My ultimate goal is to fight the bigger names in the division, Anthony Joshua, Dillian Whyte, Deontay Wilder -- you know I can't stand that guy."
Hearn announced at the news conference that he has signed Rios (34-4-1, 25 KOs), 32, to a multi-fight contract. The first bout will be a homecoming fight against Mexico's Ramon Alvarez (27-6-3, 16 KOs), 32, the older brother of middleweight world champion Canelo Alvarez, in a junior middleweight contest.
"Brandon has signed up with us for a multi-fight deal and we want him back in those big fights, but he has to beat Ramon Alvarez, who also has the chance to emerge into those big fights," Hearn said.
Former lightweight world titlist Rios, coming off a ninth-round knockout loss to Danny Garcia in February, has lived in Southern California for many years but is from Garden City, Kansas, and will be fighting in his home state for only the second time and first time since 2009, well before he was an established fighter.
"Going back to Kansas. Where's that at? Middle of nowhere, but it's Kansas," Rios said, drawing laughs. "I'm very excited to be fighting again in Kansas. Fighting Canelo's brother, I am just excited and ready to fight."
The card will also include unified women's middleweight world titlist Claressa Shields (6-0, 2 KO), 23, of Flint, Michigan, the two-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist and Hernandez teammate, defending her belts -- and also fighting for a vacant title -- against Hannah Rankin (5-2, 1 KO), 28, of Scotland.
"I'm so excited to be able to give my fans another chance to see me defend my championship this year and to have the opportunity to win the WBC middleweight title on Nov. 17," Shields said. "I appreciate the efforts of Salita Promotions, my manager, Mark Taffet, and Matchroom Boxing in putting this fight together so quickly. I will be in great shape and will provide a great performance."
Shields was supposed to fight fellow unified titlist Christina Hammer for the undisputed title on Nov. 17 on Showtime, but Hammer withdrew because of illness (and was stripped of one belt, which will be on the line in Shields-Rankin). Showtime still has the rights to that bout and intends on rescheduling it when Hammer is able to return, but it allowed Shields to fight on another broadcast platform in the meantime, opening the door for Rankin to get her biggest fight.
"I'm excited about the fight and proud to be representing Scotland on such a big stage," Rankin said. "In boxing, nothing is impossible, and on Nov. 17 it will be just us in there when the bell rings, and I think it's going to be one hell of a fight."
There will also be a grudge middleweight fight between outspoken trash talkers Gabriel Rosado (24-11, 14 KOs), 32, of Philadelphia, a former two-time world title challenger, and Luis Arias (18-1, 9 KOs), 28, of Milwaukee, as well as an appearance by former three-division world titlist Ricky Burns (42-7-1, 15 KOs), 35, of Scotland, in a lightweight bout.
Arias and Rosado were both fired up and talked smack to each other. Rosado bounced back from two losses in a row to stop faded Glen Tapia in the sixth round in his last fight last October. Arias suffered his lone loss in his last fight when Jacobs outclassed him in a one-sided decision in November.
"[They're] two great characters. How can that not be an entertaining fight? We've seen Gabe in so many great fights over so many years," Hearn said. "Luis Arias had that shot against Danny Jacobs. Probably wasn't quite ready for that moment in his career, but now he gets another stab at it."
Should you block ads? Adblocker