Boxing: Bernardo Pilatti

Nelson squares off with Grajeda on FNF

August, 7, 2014
Aug 7
Exciting junior middleweight Willie Nelson makes his return to ESPN's "Friday Night Fights" when he headlines a card from Fallon, Nevada.

Nelson (22-1-1, 13 KOs) will face Mexico's Luis Grajeda (17-2-2, 13 KOs) in a 10-round bout (ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET) at the Churchill County Fairgrounds.

Out of action for nearly a year because of left elbow surgery, Nelson, of Cleveland, Ohio, returned in June on the Miguel Cotto-Sergio Martinez undercard at Madison Square Garden in New York to drill Darryl Cunningham in the first round.

The victory over Cunningham was Nelson's sixth straight dating back to the lone loss of his career, in 2011 by majority decision against Vincent Arroyo. Nelson rebounded from that loss to score victories over name fighters such as Cuba's Yudel Johnson, John Jackson, Michael Medina and Luciano Cuello of Argentina.

"Willie [Nelson] is knocking on the door to a world title opportunity and an impressive performance against the hard-punching Grajeda moves him in that direction," promoter Lou DiBella said.

With a victory on Friday, a title fight could be in Nelson's future in the second half of 2014.

Nelson was forced to pull out of a December HBO date against Matthew Macklin due to his injured elbow. He also missed an opportunity to face James Kirkland.

Grajeda represents a hard-hitting and dangerous opponent for Nelson. Grajeda has good size and wingspan and has never been down in his career despite two defeats, including a 2010 loss to unbeaten Jermell Charlo.

He usually sets the distance with his jab and fights behind a high guard. While attacking, Grajeda looks to exploit his long wingspan and launch combinations with long hooks.

But if Grajeda has good height and wingspan for the division, Nelson surpasses him in both areas. At 6-foot-3 with a wingspan of 81 inches, Nelson gives off comparisons to Paul Williams for his size and fighting style as a junior middleweight.

Nelson's style of constant pressure makes the most of natural advantages by constantly using jabs and overhand rights from a distance. But when he enters close range, he often doubles up his hooks with both hands. Nelson has power, but he sometimes gets in trouble when quicker opponents close the distance.

In the co-feature battle, unbeaten Hungarian super middleweight Norbert Nemesapati (14-0, 13 KOs), 18, makes his U.S. debut against dangerous puncher Jason Escalera (14-2-1, 12 KOs) of Union City, New Jersey.

The opening bout of the card will showcase the professional debut of touted Chinese heavyweight Zhang Zhilei, an Olympic silver medalist in 2008, who will face American Curtis Lee Tate (7-4, 6 KOs) in a four-round bout.

Unbeaten Williams faces Campillo on FNF

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
WilliamsAl Bello/Getty ImagesUnbeaten light heavyweight Thomas Williams Jr. looks to move closer toward a shot at a world title.
Unbeaten light heavyweight Thomas Williams Jr. steps up to face veteran Gabriel Campillo in a 12-round main event headlining ESPN's "Friday Night Fights."

Williams (17-0, 12 KOs), nicknamed "Top Dog," enters the fight from the Little Creek Casino Resort in Shelton, Washington, (ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET) as a highly ranked prospect. Meanwhile, his opponent Campillo (23-6-1, 10 KOs) is a former titlist looking to get back on track after losing three of his last five.

A native of Fort Washington, Maryland, Williams will undoubtedly be the fighter to watch closely considering the great expectations his career has drawn and his position in the rankings of three major sanctioning bodies. At 26, Williams enters the bout coming off two spectacular performances in 2014.

On Jan. 24, he got up off the canvas in the first round to finish Cornelius White before the round ended. In his most recent bout on April 24, he stopped Enrique Ornelas in the third round.

Campillo, 35, a native of Spain, who is managed by former world middleweight champion Sergio Martinez, held a light heavyweight title from 2009 until losing it the following year by split decision in his rematch with Beibut Shumenov. He lost another controversial title bout by split decision against then-titlist Tavoris Cloud in 2012.

In 2013, Campillo suffered a pair of stoppage losses to future titlist Sergey Kovalev and Andrzej Fonfara. He bounced back in May with a stoppage win against Ricky Dennis Pow in Spain.

The co-main event offers a second pairing of southpaws as former world title challenger Andre Dirrell (21-1, 14 KOs) returns to action after 18 months in a 10-round super middleweight bout against Vladine Biosse (15-4-2, 7 KOs).

Dirrell, 30, hasn't fought since a unanimous-decision win over Michael Gbenga in February 2013 in Texas. He is best remembered for his participation in the Super Six super middleweight tournament, where he suffered his lone career defeat at the hands of Carl Froch by split decision in 2009.

Biosse, 32, a former football player from the University of Rhode Island, enters the bout fresh off a pair of defeats. He lost to Britain's Callum Smith in Liverpool, England, on July 12 after a February defeat against J'Leon Love.

Johnson faces Gavronski on FNF

July, 11, 2014
Jul 11

A promising battle between Tureano Johnson and unbeaten Mike Gavronski headlines an ESPN "Friday Night Fights" card from the Little Creek Casino Resort in Shelton, Washington.

There is plenty at stake for the future of both fighters in this 10-round middleweight bout (ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET) considering a win likely opens the door to bigger fights against elite opponents.

Johnson (14-1, 10 KOs) enters the bout fresh off his first professional defeat in an April fight he was winning from start to finish before former world title challenger Curtis Stevens rallied for a controversial stoppage in the final round.

Gavronski (14-0-1, 10 KOs), 28, will fight the 10-round distance for the first time in his career. The Tacoma, Washington, native, who will be fighting in front of his home fans, is coming off an April win by majority decision against Kevin Hand.

"I'm happy to be fighting at home in front of all my family and friends," Gavronski said. "Johnson is a very tough fighter and is coming off a tough loss against Stevens. I'm looking forward to the challenge and I'm sure I can beat him."

Johnson, 30, was born in Nassau, Bahamas, and fights out of Georgia. He is looking to erase the sting of his loss to Stevens after referee Gary Rosato called an end to the bout in a move many felt was premature.

"In my last fight, the referee stopped the fight early, and I suffered my first loss," Johnson said. "It was a very disappointing moment in my career, but I'm ready to move on and show the world that I am one of the best fighters in the middleweight division. I'll prove it against Gavronski. Nothing will prevent me from getting this victory."

Friday's bout offers a clear contrast in styles with Johnson, the more aggressive fighter, looking to apply pressure from the start. He is no stranger to exchanging heavy shots in close space with both hands.

Gavronski is the more technical fighter who employs movement and sets the distance with his jab and accurate combinations.

The pressure of fighting in his home state, and the challenge of Johnson's unyielding pressure will be tough challenges for Gavronski to overcome.

In the co-main event, Armenian native Art Hovhannisyan (17-1-2, 9 KOs), who fights out of Glendale, California, takes on Peru's Jonathan Maicelo (20-1, 12 KOs), who fights out of New Jersey, in a lightweight bout.

Davis squares off with Farenas on 'FNF'

July, 1, 2014
Jul 1
In a special Wednesday edition of ESPN's "Friday Night Fights," a pair of talented junior lightweights will square off to celebrate the 38th birthday of rapper-turned-promoter Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, whose SMS Promotions is presenting the event.

Unbeaten Mark "Too Sharp" Davis (18-0, 5 KOs) and Filipino puncher Michael Farenas (38-4-4, 30 KOs) will meet in a 12-round bout headlining the card at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut (ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET).

The fighters enter a crucial test that serves as a 130-pound title eliminator. The winner will be the mandatory challenger to the July 10 title rematch between Argenis Mendez and Rances Barthelemy.

Davis, 27, of Columbus, Ohio, was an outstanding amateur boxer with over 200 fights and was a gold medal winner at the national championships in 2005. As a professional, he is unbeaten yet relatively untested. In his last bout in September 2013, he won a comfortable points decision over Carlos Vivan.

Meanwhile, Farenas, 30, of the Phillipines, is a veteran of 47 fights and has never been stopped. He enters the bout having won his last four fights by knockout, each time in under three rounds.

Farenas is best known for knocking down Yuriorkis Gamboa in their junior lightweight interim title bout in December 2012 before going on to lose by decision. Before that fight, Farenas fought to a draw in Japan against titlist Takashi Uchiyama.

In his last fight in March, Farenas defeated Mexican veteran Hector Velazquez by second-round TKO in Manila, an opponent best remembered for his losses against Edwin Valero and Manny Pacquiao.

Farenas is a quick, aggressive southpaw with very good footwork who is always moving his body to find the right position to unleash his combinations. He hits very hard with both hands, and his favorite punch is the hook to the body. That is how he knocked out Filipino Just Bornilla in the fourth round in 2004 and how he dominated Mexico's Fernando Beltran in July 2011.

Under the guidance of former world champion Gerry Penalosa, and after finishing his preparation in Freddie Roach's acclaimed Wild Card Gym, Farenas is ready for what his team considers the big jump forward in his career.

In order to secure the mandatory title challenge, Farenas will need to deal with the technically sound Davis, who moves quickly and surprises opponents with his combinations. When he defends, Davis relies on moving his body to dodge punches, and at times he leans back against the ropes and lifts his left shoulder, similar to Floyd Mayweather Jr., to keep punches away.

Davis throws a lot of punches in each round and relies on volume to sway the judges' eyes. The main ingredient he has lacked up until now is power behind his punches, which explains his five knockouts in 18 pro fights.

In the co-main event, former featherweight titlist Billy Dib (36-3, 21 KOs) of Australia moves up in weight to face former title challenger Alberto Garza (26-7-1, 21 KOs) of Mexico.

Redkach looks to close in on title shot

June, 26, 2014
Jun 26
RedkachDiBella EntertainmentUnbeaten lightweight Ivan Redkach, left, faces off with Sergey Gulyakevich on "Friday Night Fights."
Hard-hitting Ivan Redkach has his eyes set on a world title shot entering this week's edition of "Friday Night Fights" from the Ameristar Casino in St. Charles, Missouri.

Redkach (16-0, 13 KOs) headlines the card in a scheduled 10-round bout against Sergey Gulyakevich (41-2, 17 KOs) of Belarus (9 p.m. ET, ESPN2/WatchESPN).

A former member of the 2008 Ukrainian Olympic team, Redkach will undoubtedly be the fighter to watch in this one as one of boxing's hottest prospects with good height and dynamite in both hands. The southpaw is coming off an exciting win over Tony Luis in January in which Redkach fought 10 full rounds for the first time in his career.

Redkach's run up the ranks has been impressive, including 14 knockouts inside of four rounds and six first-round stoppages. The 28-year-old, who lives in Los Angeles, appears ready for his first world title opportunity. He must first, however, deal with Gulyakevich, 33, an experienced and dangerous former world title challenger.

"Gulykevich is a very talented fighter with a lot of experience," Redkach said. "I think both of us are going to try to impress the audience and test each other from the opening bell. I am hoping for an exciting fight for the fans."

Gulyakevich, who will be making his U.S. debut, should provide a stern test for Redkach. The Belarusian enters the fight on a 15-bout win streak and hasn't lost since a controversial 2009 majority-decision defeat to Humberto Mauro Gutierrez.

The Minsk resident has good height for the division and has never been knocked down in his career. But he will be facing a bigger fighter in the 5-foot-11 Redkach, who often looks to take control of the pace early on in a fight with his jab.

Gulyakevich's jab will also be key in order to create distance and set up shots from the outside. When he closes in on his opponents, Gulyakevich often looks to surprise with quick combinations.

The fight promises to be an even one. Look for Redkach, true to form, to put the pressure on early and look for a stoppage. Gulyakevich will try to weather the first flurry and work the fight round by round in order to take advantage of his technical strengths.

"Every time I fight, I am trying to make a statement," Redkach said. "I want to fight for a world championship and the only way that will happen is to impress the audience and continue to win."

In the co-main bout, unbeaten junior lightweight Ryan Kielczweski (19-0, 4 KOs) faces Ramsey Luna (12-1, 4 KOs).

Jhonson, Gonzalez to celebrate on FNF

June, 5, 2014
Jun 5

On the same day in which they both will mark their 33rd birthday, Yudel Jhonson of Cuba and Mexico's Norberto Gonzalez promise an all-out war in celebration in the main event of ESPN's "Friday Night Fights."

The 10-round junior middleweight bout, promoted by Mike Tyson's Iron Mike Productions, will take place at the Turning Stone Casino in Verona, New York (ESPN2, 10:30 p.m. ET).

In a bout that renews a clash of schools (Cuba vs. Mexico), with both fighters looking to inch closer to a coveted title shot, the fighter to follow closely is Jhonson (15-1, 9 KOs), a 2004 Olympic silver medalist.

Jhonson is fresh off an eight-round unanimous-decision win over Lenwood Dozier in April, in which he knocked his opponent to the canvas in the first round. It was a good return win for the Cuban fighter after a year-long layoff. However, Jhonson knows that this time he'll be facing a more dangerous opponent.

"Norberto Gonzalez is a good fighter, and I really respect him," said Jhonson, before revealing that "with my new trainer Stacy McKinley, I have greatly improved my explosiveness, and with it I'll tilt the bout in my favor. I've been training really hard, and I can't wait to show it on June 6."

Gonzalez (20-3, 13 KOs), a former Mexican amateur national champion with extensive amateur international experience, returned to the ring in February 2013 after nearly three years of inactivity. He recorded consecutive victories over Miguel Angel Mares and Michael Oliveira before dropping a split decision to Roberto Garcia in February.

Jhonson has prepared for this fight during four months at the Iron Mike Tyson Gym in Deerfield Beach, Florida, along with other leading Cuban fighters including Yuriorkis Gamboa and Humberto Savigne.

Against Gonzalez, Jhonson will have his first real test since suffering his lone professional defeat to Willie Nelson in 2012. The task won't be easy, as Jhonson will be facing a tough, aggressive opponent who is able to endure punishment as much as he provides it.

To defeat Gonzalez, Jhonson will need to use his legs and technical advantages to keep his opponent off balance. Jhonson will likely find himself in there with a boxer similar in style to that of Colombian Richard Gutierrez, whom he knocked out in 2011.

Gonzalez will look to stay aggressive and apply pressure, to which Jhonson will respond with lateral movement and countershots from multiple angles. Gonzalez throws good combinations from distance but becomes vulnerable when he doesn't take the lead.

There's little doubt the fight offers the promise of action as both fighters celebrate their birthday. Jhonson remains a slight favorite, although Gonzalez could be a candidate to surprise.

In the co-main bout, welterweights Sammy Vazquez (14-0, 10 KOs) and veteran Jay Krupp (17-6, 8 KOs) will meet in an eight-round bout.

Expect action in Boxcino finals on FNF

May, 21, 2014
May 21
After months of excitement throughout the lightweight and middleweight brackets, the time has come for the finals of the Boxcino 2014 tournament on ESPN's "Friday Night Fights."

The Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York will host the final pairings of lightweights Petr Petrov and Fernando Carcamo and middleweights Brandon Adams and Willie Monroe Jr. (ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET). This marks the second time ESPN has televised an event of this nature, with the first edition of Boxcino coming in 1997, when future star Acelino "Popo" Freitas was crowned champion.

The Russian-born Petrov (34-4-2, 16 KOs), who fights out of Madrid, reached the lightweight finals with a six-round decision win over Fedor Papazov and a fourth-round stoppage of Chris Rudd. Meanwhile, Carcamo (17-5, 13 KOs), of Mexico, came this far by stopping Samuel Neequaye in the second round and winning a split decision over Miguel Gonzalez.

Both finalists staged exciting battles in the semifinals. Carcamo sent Gonzalez to the canvas as early as the first round, but the Cleveland native managed to recover and even out the battle, which had moments of generous exchange.

Petrov was the one who landed the harder punches against Rudd, who took punishment throughout most of the first minute of the fourth round until referee Billy Johnson stepped in to call off the bout.

When the two lightweights square off Friday, it promises to be explosive with the result uncertain. The 31-year-old Russian is faster and the 23-year-old Mexican is more experienced. However, Carcamo is taller, has been a bit more convincing in his wins, and has a big enough left hand to potentially complicate Petrov's plan.

In the middleweight final, Adams (14-0, 9 KOs), of Los Angeles, will enter the ring fresh off a victory over southpaw Raymond Gatica after previously stopping veteran Daniel Edouard in the quarterfinals.

Monroe (17-1, 6 KOs), a native of Rochester, New York, who is a member of a renowned family of boxers, defeated Donatas Bondorovas by split decision before claiming a unanimous decision over Vitalii Kopylenko in the semifinals.

The fight offers an inevitable clash of styles. Adams, a puncher with great power in his right hand, is more aggressive and will surely apply early pressure. Meanwhile Monroe, a southpaw with advantages in height and reach, is better equipped technically and will certainly look to make the most of that to control the pace from distance with his jab.

New beginnings for Rodriguez on FNF

May, 14, 2014
May 14
Rodriguez-Cotto Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesDelvin Rodriguez looks to bounce back from a loss to Miguel Cotto when he faces Joachim Alcine.
After 17 previous appearances on ESPN's "Friday Night Fights," Delvin Rodriguez looks to start fresh when he faces former 154-pound titlist Joachim Alcine.

Rodriguez (28-7-3, 16 KOs), a native of the Dominican Republic, squares off with the Haitian-born Alcine (35-7-1, 21 KOs) in a 10-round junior middleweight bout at Montreal's Olympic Stadium (ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET). It's the first boxing card at the venue since Roberto Duran defeated Sugar Ray Leonard on June 20, 1980.

Fresh off a decisive defeat in October to Miguel Cotto, Rodriguez, 34, made some key decisions regarding his future in the sport.

"A lot has happened since my last fight," Rodriguez said. "I've changed my entire team. [I have] a different trainer, a different manager. I've changed everything."

Rodriguez's new manager is Jay Dovolani, and Cuban Roberto Quesada, former trainer of his country's Olympic team, has taken over the coaching duties.

"[Quesada] is a seasoned professional and he knows what I need to be ready for the day of the battle," said Rodriguez, explaining the benefits of the change. "We are concentrating on hard work, and working to get in great shape. The technique is there, we just need to polish it."

Even though he didn't say it, Rodriguez is looking for a return to his 2011 prime, when he starred in a pair of all-action fights against Pawel Wolak, which opened the door to a unsuccessful title shot the following year against Austin Trout.

Prior to the setback, Rodriguez appeared on the right track in 2013, knocking out unbeaten George Tahdooahnippah in February and former world title challenger Freddy Fernandez in May. His performances were enough to set up the meeting with Cotto, which ended via third-round TKO.

Rodriguez will look for a return to the win column when he faces the 38-year-old Alcine, who is just 3-6-1 since 2010.

"I don't know much about Alcine. I just know he's a tough guy and has a lot of experience," Rodriguez said. "He's a former champion. In this stage of my career, I do not take anyone lightly. He is looking to redeem himself and return to the limelight."

Alcine, who fights out of Quebec, will likely find himself out of options should he face defeat on Friday. After losing five straight bouts from September 2012 to December 2013, he rebounded with a pair of wins in 2014 against lesser competition.

"I've been training with Buddy McGirt for almost four weeks," Alcine said. "Four or five years ago I made two fights with him in my corner and it was great. I was looking for a coach and I think he's the only one with the required knowledge to train me."

Alcine holds advantages in height and reach against Rodriguez, but doesn't use his jab as much and often fights behind a tightly closed guard. Look for Rodriguez to be the aggressor and employ constant pressure with hooks from the outside.

In the co-main event, Derric Rossy (28-8, 14 KOs) and Joe Hanks (21-1, 14 KOs) square off in a 10-round heavyweight bout.

Garcia faces off with Cayo on FNF

April, 30, 2014
Apr 30
Welterweight Roberto Garcia squares off with Victor Cayo in the main event of a special Thursday edition of ESPN's "Friday Night Fights."

The 10-round bout headlines a card outdoors from the iconic Hialeah Park Race Track in Hialeah, Fla. (ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET) with both fighters entering the bout in search of a return to the spotlight.

Garcia (34-3, 22 KOs), of Weslaco, Texas, has lost just once in the past 10 years, a 2010 unanimous decision against Antonio Margarito. He scored a pair of victories in 2013 at junior middleweight against Miguel Angel Munguia and Larry Smith and enters Thursday's bout less than three months removed from a February win over Norberto Gonzalez.

Cayo (32-4, 23 KOs), a native of the Dominican Republic, enters his second welterweight bout after a long stretch fighting at 140 pounds, where he faced elite opponents like Marcos Maidana, Lamont Peterson, Nate Campbell and Julio Diaz. Cayo has won five of his last six fights, including four by knockout.

The fight promises plenty of action due to the offensive styles of both fighters.

The 29-year-old Cayo is fast, has good power and throws many combinations. However, his game plan is limited by his defensive deficiencies, which have been detrimental to his career.

Cayo has been, at times, too confident with his waist movements, which draw comparisons to that of middleweight champion Sergio Martinez. He doesn't close his guard and is repeatedly exposed to counter shots. That limitation has cost him dearly during his four defeats, which have all come by stoppage.

Despite these problems, his opponent Garcia, 34, will need to take very seriously the speed of Cayo.

Garcia will be making his debut under the tutelage of trainer Robert Norris and has admitted to having problems with fast opponents. That's why he has trained with fast sparring partners, with the idea of getting used to Cayo's style. His game plan will be to apply constant pressure, trying to hurt his opponent with powerful shots.

The clash of styles will surely define the characteristics of the bout. Cayo will move sideways, getting in and out with speed to drop his combinations. Garcia, who is slower but more aggressive and fights at a good distance, will use the jab to attempt to control Cayo while looking to slow him down with body shots.

In the co-feature, undefeated Jonathan Gonzalez (17-0-1, 14 KOs) of San Juan, Puerto Rico, faces Rogelio Medina (32-5, 26 KOs) of Mexico in a 10-round middleweight bout.

Josesito Lopez set for return on FNF

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23

Former world title challenger Josesito Lopez headlines a special Thursday edition of ESPN's "Friday Night Fights" in a 10-round junior welterweight bout.

Lopez (31-6, 18 KOs), who moves back down to 140 pounds after a four-fight run at welterweight and above, faces Aron Martinez (ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET) at the Agua Caliente Casino Resort and Spa in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

Known for taking on difficult challenges in recent years against household names like Victor Ortiz, Canelo Alvarez and Marcos Maidana, Lopez enters the bout fresh off a victory over Mike Arnaoutis last December. "The Riverside Rocky" is best known for his most memorable victory, when he broke the jaw of the heavy favorite Ortiz in June 2012, which launched him into the junior middleweight title bout against Alvarez.

Lopez, who essentially moved up two weight classes to face Alvarez, was stopped in the fifth round despite showing plenty of courage. He also gave Maidana all he could handle in an another all-action bout before falling by stoppage in Round 6.

In Martinez (19-2-1, 4 KOs), Lopez faces a tough fighter who has been in the ring with the likes of Prenice Brewer, Jessie Vargas and Joseph Elegele. The bout will be Martinez's first since a unanimous decision over Alberto Herrera in April 2013.

"Every fight comes with a challenging opponent; Martinez is no different," Lopez said. "He comes to fight and I'm sure I'm going to get his best. I have a lot of respect for anyone that steps into the ring. He's looking to inflict damage on me, and I plan to do the same to him."

Martinez likes to work from a distance, move laterally and surprise his opponent with quick combinations of straight lefts inside and right hands to the outside. He has good defense and avoids a lot of punches with movement. His biggest problem is his lack of firepower, which is reflected in his low knockout percentage. He has managed to knock his opponents out in just four of his 19 victories.

"If [Lopez] wants to bring it, I'll be ready for that," Martinez said. "If he wants to box, we can box, too. I'm sure he's going to try to take me out and he's going to be surprised when he finds out he won't be able to do that."

Lopez employs a much more aggressive style with power in both hands. Look for him to exert early pressure on Martinez and set the pace with his jab, powerful combinations and hooks to the body at close distance.

"People watching at home on ESPN and those in attendance are going to get treated to an excellent fight," Lopez said. "We're both exciting boxers that like to move forward. It's a shame that one of us has to lose, but it won't be me though."

In the co-main event, unbeaten Thomas Williams Jr. (16-0, 11 KOs) squares off with veteran Enrique Ornelas (34-8, 22 KOs) in a 10-round light heavyweight bout.

Unbeaten Ramirez faces Lorenzo on FNF

April, 10, 2014
Apr 10
Giovanni Lorenzo, Daniel JacobsAl Bello/Getty ImagesGiovanni Lorenzo, left, faces Mexican prospect Gilberto Ramirez on ESPN's "Friday Night Fights."
Mexican prospect Gilberto Ramirez puts his unbeaten record on the line Friday against veteran Giovanni Lorenzo in the main event of ESPN's "Friday Night Fights."

The 10-round super middleweight bout (ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET) headlines a card from the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, on the evening before Manny Pacquiao's rematch with Timothy Bradley Jr.

Ramirez (27-0, 21 KOs), the 6-foot tall knockout artist, has stopped 77 percent of his opponents. The 22-year-old will look for another decisive win Friday against the battle-tested Lorenzo (33-6, 25 KOs), 33, of the Dominican Republic, with an eye on furthering a path in the division.

Friday marks the third time Ramirez will fight outside of Mexico and will be his first bout at super middleweight, having competed at 160 pounds since his debut in 2009.

"I was having a hard time reaching 160 pounds," Ramirez told "At this weight, I now feel stronger and more confident."

In his last bout, Ramirez needed just 90 seconds to dispose of Don Mouton on Feb. 1 in Laredo, Tex. Ramirez can adapt to any style of opponent, but he mostly favors an aggressive approach centered around pressuring his opponents. Despite his size and wingspan, the Mexican fighter is more comfortable fighting at close range.

Lorenzo, a three-time title contender at 160 and 168 pounds, is two fights removed from a third-round TKO defeat at the hands of Daniel Jacobs last August. Lorenzo has good technique and is effective using his jab.

Ramirez, the southpaw, is the favorite and the bigger puncher of the two. A victory could lift him to an eventual title shot. He is expected to be added to the May 17 Juan Manuel Marquez-Mike Alvarado undercard in Los Angeles.

The co-main event features promising undefeated super middleweight prospect Jesse Hart (12-0, 10 KOs ) against Texan Samuel Clarkson (10-6-2, 6 KOs) in an eight-round bout.

Boxcino lightweights enter semifinals

March, 27, 2014
Mar 27
With a pair of explosive semifinals bouts on tap Friday in the 2014 Boxcino lightweight tournament, one can expect plenty of action at the 4 Bears Casino in New Town, N.D.

A pair of eight-round bouts will headline ESPN's "Friday Night Fights" (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET) as Chris Rudd meets Petr Petrov and Miguel Gonzalez squares off with Fernando Carcamo.

All four fighters were victorious in the Boxcino quarterfinals held Feb. 21 in Laughlin, Nev., with Carcamo scoring the lone stoppage win.

Chris Rudd (13-1, eight KOs) vs. Petr Petrov (33-4-2, 15 KOs)

Both fighters advanced to the semifinal round after winning extremely hard-fought battles in bouts in which neither was the prohibitive favorite coming in. In Rudd's case, he needed an extra round to pull through as his bout with Ghana's Yakubu Amidu was ruled a draw after six full rounds, sending the fight to a one-round "drawbreaker." Rudd, who had fought just once in the previous two years entering the bout, showed plenty of courage after absorbing heavy punishment in the opening round. He went on to rally in the fourth round as the bout turned exceedingly into an all-action affair.

Petrov, meanwhile, a native of Russia who fights out of Spain, entered his quarterfinal bout against countryman Fedor Papazov having been most remembered for being knocked out Marcos Maidana in 2011. But those who expected to see him end up on the canvas against Papzov, whose nickname is "Mr. Knockout," were surprised by the outcome, as Petrov walked through heavy punishment to land precision counter shots. He went on to claim a victory by unanimous decision.

Friday's semifinal bout is expected to be an attractive clash of styles. Rudd, the more aggressive fighter, has won six of his past 10 fights by knockout and will surely be active from the outset. But Petrov, a former world-title challenger at 140 pounds, brings with him 14 years of experience and is better equipped than Rudd from a technical standpoint.

Miguel Gonzalez (23-3, 16 KOs) vs. Fernando Carcamo (16-5, 13 KOs)

This battle of southpaws has the potential for an uncertain outcome. Carcamo, 23, of Mexico, lived up to his reputation as a hard puncher in the quarterfinal round by stopping unbeaten Samuel Neequaye of Ghana. Carcamo overwhelmed his opponent from the start with relentless pressure until referee Jay Nady mercifully stopped the fight in the second round. The marked the sixth in a row for Carcamo by way of stoppage.

Gonzalez, of Cleveland, had to work harder in his opening bout to overcome Miguel Mendoza by majority decision. The victory confirmed Gonzalez is on the right track in his career as he was forced to overcome a late surge from Mendoza, who refused to quit after falling behind early.

Carcamo, an aggressive fighter, will enter the fight with a decided advantage in punching power. He will likely look to set the pace from the start and try to finish the fight early. However, he should take precautions, or he could run into a surprise.

Fresh start for Martirosyan on FNF

March, 19, 2014
Mar 19
Former U.S. Olympian and world title challenger Vanes Martirosyan sets forth to begin a new chapter in his career Friday when he faces Mexican knockout artist Mario Alberto Lozano.

The 10-round junior middleweight bout headlines ESPN's "Friday Night Fights" (ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET) from the Morongo Casino Resort & Spa in Cabazon, Calif.

Much has changed for Martirosyan (32-1-1, 20 KOs) since last November when he lost by split decision in a 154-pound title bout to fellow unbeaten Demetrius Andrade. The loss sent Martirosyan, 27, into depression and ended his long relationship with Top Rank.

Martirosyan, based in Glendale, Calif., decided to make a change and signed with promoter Dan Goossen, along with his promoter and trainer Joe Goossen. Martirosyan has been outspoken in how pleased he is with the move after his frustration during his Top Rank tenure with then-trainer Freddie Roach, who sometimes left him to care for other pupils, thus undermining their training camps. Martirosyan said he now feels at home and with a team 100 percent dedicated to his preparation.

However, he'll need to show off the benefits of this change when he faces Lozano (28-4, 22 KOs), 26, a power puncher from Chihuahua, Mexico, who has won nine of his past 10 bouts.

Lozano, who is one fight removed from a debated decision defeat to hometown fighter Charles Hatley in Dallas, was named the opponent for Martirosyan after the first option, Argentine Luciano Cuello, abandoned the fight due to economic differences.

For Martirosyan, a native of Armenia, the fight is expected to be a real test due to his opponent's aggressive style. Lozano sets the pace with a jab that he often surprises with by transforming it into a hook.

While Lozano employs an orthodox guard, he effectively uses both hands for his power shots, especially on hooks from the outside. Martirosyan's advantages appear to be his speed and wingspan. Look for him to attack early from distance with his jab before releasing hooks and overhand shots from multiple angles.

In the co-main event, a 10-round lightweight bout, Anthony Peterson (32-1, 21 KOs) faces Dominican Marcos Jimenez (20-4, 13 KOs). Peterson, brother of junior welterweight titlist Lamont Peterson, suffered his only loss in 2010 against former titlist Brandon Rios.

Boxcino middleweight tourney kicks off

February, 27, 2014
Feb 27
After a successful debut last Friday to the 2014 Boxcino lightweight tournament, the middleweight bracket gets its turn this time around.

The four six-round, single-elimination quarterfinal bouts scheduled will feature eight fighters competing for the right to advance to the April 18 semifinals.

Friday's middleweight pairings certainly look appealing, with names such as Donatas Bondorovas, Vitaliy Kopylenko, the powerful Sena Agbeko and Brandon Adams headlining the ESPN "Friday Night Fights" card (ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET) from the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Ind.

Donatas Bondorovas (18-4-1, 6 KOs) versus Willie Monroe Jr. (15-1-0, 6 KOs)

A native of Lithuania now based in Chicago, Bondorovas is an aggressive fighter who sets the distance with his jab and feels plenty comfortable exchanging punches at close range. Bondorovas has won six of his past seven bouts, with the lone loss coming against Bryan Vera on FNF. Monroe, meanwhile, is a promising prospect born into a family of fighters of the same name. Not only was his father, Willie Monroe Sr., an outstanding middleweight from 1985 to 2000, his great uncle, Willie "The Worm" Monroe, is remembered for his three battles against the legendary Marvin Hagler, whom he defeated in their first bout in 1976 before dropping the other two by knockout. Monroe, who has won his last five fights, aims to go further than his predecessors and hopes the Boxcino 2014 becomes his ticket to a title shot.

Vitaliy Kopylenko (22-0, 12 KOs) versus Cerresso Fort (17-2-1, 11 KOs)

Kopylenko, 30, of the Ukraine, will be making his debut on American soil after a fantastic 2013 that featured three victories by knockout. He is a consistent fighter with good technique who likes to work from a distance, relying on his wingspan and movement. Fort is hoping to rebound from a stoppage defeat against Caleb Truax in September. The native of St. Paul, Minn., is an opponent who sets the pace with his aggressiveness, but he lacks consistency on the offensive side, often leaving him exposed to the counter attack.

Sena Agbeko (15-0, 15 KOs) versus Ray Gatica (13-2, 8 KOs)

Expect fireworks in this pairing between two warriors with plenty of power. Agbeko, of Ghana, will attempt to extend his impressive knockout streak while making his first appearance in the U.S. Gatica, of Austin, Texas, looks to recover from a controversial defeat to Fernando Guerrero in November. Gatica is a fighter constantly on the move, looking to control the pace with quick combinations.

Brandon Adams (12-0, 8 KOs) versus Daniel Edouard (23-4-2, 14 KOs)

Adams, 24, of Los Angeles, has opened his career with 12 straight wins, albeit against relatively soft competition. He will match himself against the veteran Edouard, of Haiti, who returns to the ring following a three-year absence. At 33, Edouard has plenty of experience against the likes of Peter Manfredo, Alfonso Mosquera and Jermain Taylor.

FNF kicks off Boxcino lightweight tourney

February, 20, 2014
Feb 20

It's tourney time on ESPN's "Friday Night Fights" as the quarterfinals of the 2014 Boxcino lightweight tournament kick off this week at the Edgewater Hotel & Casino in Laughlin, Nev.

The Boxcino tournament, which kicks off its middleweight edition on Feb. 28, gets underway Friday (ESPN2, 9 p.m. ET) with four six-round single elimination bouts in the lightweight division. The network had previously broadcast a Boxcino tournament in 1997, won by future four-time world titlist Acelino "Popo" Freitas.

The career path of each of the fighters competing in the lightweight bracket have created a huge anticipation about the quality of bouts we are expected to see.

Yakubu Amidu (21-4-2, 19 KOs) vs. Chris Rudd (12-1, 8 KOs)

Amidu, 29, of Ghana, has held regional titles in Africa and is fresh off a win against Rynell Griffin in November. He has good technique and has already faced top level opponents such as Ali Funeka, Ricky Burns and Juan Carlos Burgos. Rudd, meanwhile, is a fearsome puncher who is coming off the first defeat of his career in November against William Jackson. The clash of styles -- technique versus aggression -- should produce a close and attractive battle.

Petr Petrov (32-4-2, 15 KOs) vs. Fedor Papazov (14-0, 9 KOs)

This bout between Russian fighters promises an entertaining pairing of experience against conviction. Petrov, 30, who was born in Ryazan and now resides in Spain, is a 14-year pro most known for his 2011 knockout loss to Marcos Maidana in an interim junior welterweight title bout in Argentina. Papazov, 28, who is known as "Knockout Man," has yet to face first-class opposition the way Petrov has. In his last bout, held in Krasnodar, Russia, Papazov won a 10-round decision against Sergio Javier Escobar.

Miguel Gonzalez (22-3, 16 KOs) vs. Miguel Angel Mendoza (21-2-2, 21 KOs)

Expect a firefight between aggressive Mexican fighters in this one. Gonzalez, 28, who fights out of Cleveland, ended the 12-fight win streak of Brazilian Josenilson Dos Santos by knockout last July. Mendoza, 30, has not only stopped all 21 opponents he has defeated, he has faced higher opposition than Gonzalez, including a 2011 defeat against Rey Bautista.

Fernando Carcamo (15-5, 12 KOs) vs. Samuel Neequaye (21-0, 15 KOs)

Neequaye, of Ghan, puts his unbeaten record on the line against the Mexican southpaw Carcamo. In his last bout, Neequaye, 30, won a decision over Dorin Spivey last August. But he faces a tough test in Carcamo, 23, who is aggressive and has plenty of power behind his punches. Carcamo has stopped his last five opponents, the last two inside of two rounds, including a victory last September against former world title contender Vicente Escobedo.