Highly ranked Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam (30-1, 18 Kos) of France faces New York’s Curtis Stevens (27-4, 20 Kos) in an IBF middleweight elimination bout tonight, Wednesday Oct. 1, at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Ca. The fight card will be televised by ESPN2.
Hall of Fame member Sugar Ray Leonard volunteered to help King Sports Worldwide with the event. In the past, Leonard had his own promotion company and shut it down for various reasons. He believes the new promotion company is headed in the right direction.
Leonard believes that getting boxing back on free television and improving the U.S. Olympic boxing team are both necessary to bring the sport back to 1980s levels.
“If boxing can get back on free network television, and it can, it has to get back on free network to showcase boxing,” said Leonard, a four division world champion and a former Olympic gold medalist in 1976. “Boxing is such an incredible sport. It’s been taking more than black eyes, but knockouts because of the lack of a strong amateur program.”
Strong fight cards without mismatches is another requirement to maintain fan interest nationwide. Leonard, who promoted in the late 1990s and early part of the 2000s including cards in Temecula, feels that King Sports has the right methodology.
“King’s last show in April was amazing. All the fights were good. You don’t really hear that often,” Leonard said. “You didn’t know who was going to win. Back in the day, that’s how fights were. You didn’t know who would end up the winner.”
Leonard was part of those sizzling fight matches that saw him battle against the likes of Wilfredo Benitez, Armando Muniz and Floyd Mayweather Sr. on regular television. He scrapped against Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns and Marvin Hagler on paid television but the world saw the best fight the best.
“That’s why Floyd Mayweather Jr. has to fight Manny Pacquiao,” he said.
Leonard likes the ESPN fight card because each fight features boxers evenly matched.
The main event between middleweights N’Dam and Stevens might fit that bill. But there are several others, including the light heavyweight clash between Russia’s Max Vlasov (30-1, 15 Kos) and undefeated southpaw Isiah Thomas (13-0, 6 Kos) that could be a thriller.
“We have assembled a group of fights that ensures an exciting, first-class night of boxing,” said Michael King, president, King Sports Worldwide. “Our fights not only have title implications, but feature evenly matched fighters with unbelievable records. These fighters are going to have to dig in to win and they are putting their impeccable records on the line to thrill not only Southern California boxing fans, but a national television audience hungry for competitive boxing.”
Leonard, who was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1997, was the centerpiece of numerous televised fights. He just wants his sport to succeed.
“I love the sport. When I saw King’s first event I said to Michael (King) you have something here. This is my sport. This paid my father’s hospital bill, put my kids through college. I love boxing a lot. This is my honor to help you,” Leonard said.
Leonard hopes this marks the beginning of boxing headed toward competitive fight cards where each bout cannot be predicted. That’s his dream.
“That’s why I’m working with King Sports. His passion for my sports speaks volumes,” said Leonard.
Vanes Martirosyan (34-1-1, 21 Kos) faces Willie Nelson (23-1-1, 13 Kos) in a junior middleweight clash at the Foxwoods Casino on Saturday Oct. 4. The match features two of the top contenders in the division and will be televised on Showtime. Martirosyan fights for Goossen Promotions.
Fights on television
Wed. ESPN2, 6 p.m., Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam (30-1) vs. Curtis Stevens (27-4).
Fri. Spike TV, 9 p.m. Daniel Straus (22-5) vs. Justin Wilcox (14-6).
Fri. Telemundo, 11:30 p.m., Daniel Lozano (12-1) vs. Jonathan Vidal (18-2).
Sat. Showtime, 6 p.m., Vanes Martirosyan (34-1-1) vs. Willie Nelson (23-1-1).
Sat. beIn, 8 p.m., Adrian Estrella (18-0) vs. Celestino Caballero (37-5).