Top Rank working on several matchups to end year, start 2019

Boxing


OMAHA, Neb. — Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, still wheeling and dealing at age 86, is in the process of putting together several fights and making plans for others.

While in Omaha last week promoting welterweight world titlist Terence Crawford’s 12th-round knockout of Jose Benavidez Jr. on Saturday night, Arum, during an interview with “The Boxing Beat” on ESPN+, took time to go over the plans for several fights he has in the works for the rest of this year and into the early part of 2019.

On Nov. 16, Arum is promoting the fight between junior welterweight world titleholder Maurice Hooker (24-0-3, 16 KOs) against mandatory challenger and Top Rank fighter Alex Saucedo (28-0, 18 KOs) at the Chesapeake Energy Arena, home of the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder, in Saucedo’s hometown.

If Hooker wins he will go back to his promoters, Matchroom Boxing and Roc Nation Sports, with the title, but if Saucedo wins Arum has already formulated the game plane. He also promotes world titleholder Jose Ramirez (23-0, 16 KOs) and Arum said his goal is to make a unification fight between them as long as Saucedo defeats Hooker.

“Definitely, and by the future (I mean) sometime before the end of next year. Not a lot of marinating,” Arum said. “We don’t marinate anymore. We’re out of that business.”

Arum recently signed junior featherweight world titlist Isaac Dogboe (20-0, 14 KOs) to a long-term contract and if he is successful in his second title defense, which will come against an opponent to be determined on Dec. 8 at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York in the co-feature of the Vasiliy Lomachenko-Jose Pedraza lightweight title unification fight, he could be headed home to Ghana for a defense.

“I’m definitely going to go to Ghana,” Arum said. “I promised him. After the first of the year, I am going to visit in Ghana and see if I can arrange to do a title defense in Ghana.”

Arum also revealed that the rematch between super middleweight world titleholder Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez and Jesse Hart was a done deal, though not yet formally announced, and will headline a Top Rank Boxing on ESPN+ card on Dec. 14 at the Bank of America Center in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Ramirez (38-0, 25 KOs) dropped Hart in the second round of a hard-fought unanimous decision victory to retain his belt in September 2017. Hart (25-1, 21 KOs) has won three fights in a row by knockout since to earn the rematch.

Arum also has a longer-range plan in place for the winner: a potential unification bout against world titlist Jose Uzcategui (28-2, 23 KOs) if he wins a mandatory defense that is supposed to take place against Caleb Plant in early 2019.

“We promoted Uzcategui on an ESPN+ show (on Sept. 28) from Oakland,” Arum said of Uzcategui’s decision win over Ezequiel Maderna in a nontitle fight. “He does have that obligation (against Plant) but assuming he gets through that fight then he will come with us and we certainly would put him in with the winner of Ramirez and Hart.”

On the undercard of Uzcategui-Maderna, junior bantamweight world titlist Jerwin Ancajas (30-1-2, 20 KOs) retained his belt in a draw with Alejandro Santiago. A few days later, Ancajas, of the Philippines, traveled to Bangkok, Thailand and was ringside to watch as world champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (46-4-1, 40 KOs) retained his version of the 115-pound title with a one-sided decision over Iran Diaz. After the fight, Sor Rungvisai and Ancajas were in the ring together talking up the prospect of fighting each other in a unification fight next year.

Arum said that fight is one of his priorities to get done.

“We are really doing whatever we can to make that a reality and to do that fight sometime in the first three months of next year,” Arum said.

Featherweight world titleholder Oscar Valdez (24-0, 19 KOs) has been out of action since suffering a badly broken jaw in a decision win against Scott Quigg in a title defense on March 10. But Valdez was recently given the green light to return to training and Arum said he will return to the ring in January with a major fight in the offing if he wins — a unification showdown with the winner of the fight between world titleholder Josh Warrington (27-0, 6 KOs) and former titlist Carl Frampton (26-1, 15 KOs), who meet on Dec. 22 in Manchester, England in a fight that will be carried by ESPN+ in the United States.

“We’re looking at Jan. 12 for (Valdez) to fight on ESPN and then, assuming he wins that fight, then we would put him in with the with the Frampton-Warrington winner. I’ve already talked to Frank Warren (who promotes Warrington and Frampton) about that,” Arum said.

Arum said he and Warren, who go back decades with each other, are working on the deal that would see the winner of the Dec. 22 fight come to the United States to face Valdez in the spring on ESPN.

“Frank is happy about that fight. He wants to do it,” Arum said. “We will reach terms.”



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