Two of boxing’s powerhouse promoters are presenting back-to-back fight cards in Southern California.
Two welterweights with impressive fight ledgers meet each other for possible last hurrahs when Mauricio “El Maestro” Herrera (that’s him on the left) fights Jesus Soto Karass in the main event at Fantasy Springs Casino on Friday Aug. 4. Golden Boy’s fight card will be televised by ESPN.
The following day Vasyl “High Tech” Lomachenko defends the WBO super featherweight title against Miguel Marriaga at the Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles. The Top Rank card will be televised on ESPN.
When Herrera (23-7) steps in the ring against Soto Karass (28-11-4) on Friday, its’ a battle between two ageing welterweight contenders who fought some of the best in the division and toppled their share.
But the loser most probably will retire.
“I’m going in looking to win and see if I should go on,” said Herrera by phone a month ago. “I haven’t been pleased by my last performances.”
Many feel Herrera was denied the world championship because of horrible judging when he fought Danny “Swift” Garcia in 2014. Most believe he should have walked out of the boxing ring in Puerto Rico with all three world title belts that day.
Herrera, 37, began his pro boxing career very late. The Riverside prizefighter with some of the sweetest defensive and offensive moves was already 27 years old when he made his pro debut. It denied him the opportunity to test the waters. Instead, he was fighting bigger guys that no one else would fight, and winning.
Of the seven losses on his record, only his losses to Frankie Gomez and Mike Alvarado were indisputable. The other five were extremely debatable.
Soto Karass, 34, who actually retired after his last fight – a knockout loss by Japan’s Yoshihiro Kamegai- has been fighting professionally since 2001 when he was only 16. It’s the reason that most fans feel he has been around forever.
The popular fighter from Los Mochis, Mexico was brought to Southern California as a youngster and trained with Antonio Margarito’s team. He fought and defeated many top fighters along the way. Names like Manuel “Shotgun” Gomez, Vince Phillips, Michel Rosales, David “King David” Estrada, Carson Jones and Andre Berto are among those he defeated.
It’s probably the final ring entrance for the loser and perhaps even the winner. It’s a good time to see a pair of prizefighters that gave everything they had for the fans and for the sport of boxing. Both are favorites of mine.
In the semi-main event Vyacheslav Shabranskyy (18-1) looks to regain footing when he faces undefeated Todd Unthank May (10-0-1) in a light heavyweight clash. It could be the loser goes home.
Shabranskyy, 30, was stopped by Cuba’s Sullivan Barrera in his last fight that took place at Fantasy Springs in December. Unthank May, 28, fought to a split draw last March. The light heavyweight market is not a good draw on the west coast.
“High Tech” Lomachenko (8-1, 6 KOs) defends the WBO super featherweight world title against Colombia’s dangerous Miguel Marriaga (25-2, 21 KOs) on Saturday Aug. 5, at Microsoft Theater in downtown L.A. ESPN will televise the Top Rank fight card.
With more than 300 amateur wins and two Olympic gold medals there were no more accolades to be gained in that world for the Ukrainian southpaw, so now he’s quickly been demolishing the pro world with his clever footwork and quick hands.
“The biggest thing I want is to fight the top fighter in the weight class I’m fighting in,” said Lomachenko earlier this week. “This is my biggest goal, then move on to different weight classes.”
Lomachenko, 29, already has a featherweight world title and looks to move on to the lightweight division soon. But is he not overlooking Marriaga who gave IBF featherweight world titlist Oscar Valdez a very competitive encounter last April at the StubHub Center.
Marriaga, 30, was dismissed by many when it was announced he would face Valdez but the two put on one of the best prize fights of the year. Now he faces Lomachenko and is looking to build a reputation as a plan wrecker.
The Colombian reminds me of Marcos Maidana who arrived years ago to face Victor Ortiz as a mere opponent and ended up being one of the more entertaining and capable champions from Argentina. Along the way he fought many of the best including Floyd Mayweather.
Can Marriaga repeat that kind of success?
In a fight between lightweights of a similar style, Costa Rica’s Bryan Vasquez (35-2, 19 KOs) clashes with Mexico’s Ray Beltran (37-7-1, 21 KOs) for the NABF and NABO lightweight titles.
Beltran, 36, has fought many of the best in the world including Terence Crawford, Takahiro Oh and Ricky Burns. Many feel Beltran should be holding the lightweight world title belt but was given a draw when he fought Burns in Scotland back in 2013.
Vasquez, 29, has fought several champions too including Javier Fortuna, Jorge Lacierva and the Japanese great Takashi Uchiyama. Now he’s moving up in weight and will have a three-inch height disadvantage. But he’s a skilled scrapper and fights in the same identical style as Beltran.
“Guys with the same style always make great fights,” said former Olympian Jose Navarro who was at the media day in Hollywood, Calif. on Wednesday. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the best fight of the night.”
Top Rank finally broke the glass barrier and signed American Olympian Mikaela Mayer, a speedy and tall female lightweight from Los Angeles. She’s the first female signed by Top Rank since Mia St. John. (Although for a brief moment they signed Lucia Rijker and Christy Martin for a clash that never happened due to injury in July of 2005.)
Mayer will make her pro debut against Widnelly Figueroa (0-1) who lost by majority decision in her only pro bout.
“I only had four weeks to prepare,” said Mayer about making the transition from the amateur style to the pro style. “But I always said if a top promotion company made an offer I would consider going pro. Here I am.”
Mayer, 27, had some of her toughest battles within the U.S. in facing female boxers such as Jajaira Gonzalez and Selina Barrios among many others. During the 2016 Olympics she won her first bout but then lost a very controversial decision to a Russian boxer. Later, several judges were banned from the Olympic Games for suspicion of cheating.
But the slender Mayer is here now and anxious to experience the professional fight world. She’s was born on the Fourth of July so of course she’s a firecracker.
“It’s definitely awesome to be part of such a huge card,” Mayer said. “It was hard to leave that (amateur world), but it’s on to the next chapter.”
Mayer’s fight will not be televised but can be watched on ESPN’s streaming channel. It will probably be streamed around 6 p.m. PST.
Mikaela Mayer photo compliments of Rocco Ceselin
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