Navarrete vs Diaz – ESPN – April 24
Knockout sensation Edgar Berlanga (16-0, 16 first-round KOs) to battle Demond Nicholson in super middleweight co-feature – ESPN, ESPN Deportes and ESPN+ to broadcast doubleheader from Kissimmee, Fla. at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT
Josue Vargas, Joseph Adorno and Xander Zayas among those scheduled to appear on the ESPN+-streamed undercard
Mexican great Emanuel “Vaquero” Navarrete, boxing’s busiest world champion, is set to kick off his 2021 campaign by reviving a long-standing pugilistic rivalry. Navarrete will make his first defense of the WBO featherweight world title Saturday, April 24 against Puerto Rican contender Christopher “Pitufo” Diaz at Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee, Fla.
In the co-feature, super middleweight Edgar “The Chosen One” Berlanga, 16-0, with 16 first-round stoppages, will step up in class against Demond Nicholson in a bout scheduled for eight rounds (or much less).
Promoted by Top Rank, in association with All Star Boxing and Zanfer Promotions, Navarrete-Diaz and Berlanga-Nicholson will air live on ESPN and ESPN Deportes (simulcast on ESPN+) at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT, with undercard bouts to stream live and exclusively on ESPN+. Ticket information will be announced shortly.
“The sensational Emanuel Navarrete wanted a formidable opponent for his first featherweight title defense, and Christopher Diaz fits the bill,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “We are also thrilled to have Edgar Berlanga back on ESPN, as he is the most devastating young puncher I’ve seen in ages.”
Navarrete (33-1, 28 KOs) burst onto the world scene in December 2018, battering Isaac Dogboe over 12 rounds to win the WBO junior featherweight world title. He is 7-0 since then, including five title defenses, all by stoppage. Navarrete moved up to featherweight and picked up the vacant WBO world title last October with a unanimous decision over the previously undefeated Ruben Villa. Diaz (26-2, 16 KOs) is not unbeaten, but he is battle-tested, having challenged Masayuki Ito for the WBO junior lightweight world title in July 2018. He lost to Ito by unanimous decision and has gone 3-1 since moving down to featherweight. Diaz rebounded from a 2019 points loss to Shakur Stevenson, besting former world title challenger Jason Sanchez over 10 rounds last June inside the MGM Grand Las Vegas Bubble.
“I am a fighter who likes to face the best, and my challenge now is to beat the tough ‘Pitufo’ Diaz,” Navarrete said. “I know he is a good fighter, and I am sure we will give a great show to the people of Florida and to those watching us fight on ESPN, ESPN Deportes and ESPN+. On April 24, I will show that I am the best featherweight in the world. I will not let him take my championship to Puerto Rico. That belt will stay with me in San Juan Zitlaltepec, Mexico.”
Diaz said, “I have once again been given an opportunity to become a world champion, but there is something very different this time around. I will not fail. I will bring that much-needed world title to Puerto Rico. This is my time to become a world champion. God knows how much I have sacrificed and how much I have evolved. I live today to make my family happy, and it is time to change their lives. On April 24, there is no doubt that I will become world champion, and I will see you all on April 25 when I return to my island as world champion.”
Berlanga broke out as boxing’s consensus 2020 Prospect of the Year, impressing fans and media with his string of first-round routs against increasingly difficult opposition. Last July, he knocked out veteran spoiler Eric Moon in 62 seconds, and less than three months later on the Vasiliy Lomachenko-Teofimo Lopez undercard, he became the first man to stop 30-fight veteran Lanell Bellows. Berlanga finished his whirlwind 2020 on Dec. 12, stopping the normally durable Ulises Sierra (15-1-2) in 2:40. Nicholson (23-3-1, 20 KOs) has won five consecutive fights since a seventh-round TKO loss to Jesse Hart in April 2018.
“I don’t like to make predictions, but make sure you tune in. I want to show out for the fans in attendance,” Berlanga said. “April 24 is going to be the beginning of a huge 2021 for my team. I take it one fight at a time, and this is just another step toward my goal of becoming a champion.”
Nicholson said, “I have the experience. When I first started, I was knocking everyone out in the first round as well. I have 20 knockouts, and that speaks for itself. If you look at his opponents, I’d knock them all out. Is he ready for the next level? He might be ready, but he won’t be ready for me.”
April 24: Josue Vargas-Willie Shaw Featured on Navarrete-Diaz Undercard LIVE on ESPN+ from Kissimmee, Florida
KISSIMMEE, Fla. (April 15, 2021) — Josue “The Prodigy” Vargas was born in Isabel, Puerto Rico, and idolized the great Felix “Tito” Trinidad. For the first time in his professional career, he’ll have a building full of Puerto Rican fans cheering him on. Vargas will fight Willie Shaw in a 10-round junior welterweight bout Saturday, April 24 at a sold-out Silver Spurs Arena in the Puerto Rican enclave of Kissimmee, Florida.
Promoted by Top Rank, in association with All Star Boxing, Vargas-Shaw will highlight a loaded undercard showcasing Puerto Rico’s top young talent streaming live and exclusively on ESPN+ at 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT. Following the undercard, Mexico’s Emanuel Navarrete defends his WBO featherweight world title against Puerto Rican contender Christopher Diaz, and super middleweight Edgar Berlanga (16-0, 16 KOs) seeks to score his 17th consecutive first-round knockout against Demond Nicholson (ESPN, ESPN Deportes & ESPN+, 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT).
“It is time to show the world who ‘The Prodigy’ is,” Vargas said. “Fighting in Kissimmee is like fighting in Puerto Rico. After this fight, the Puerto Rican fans will talk about me. I am going to put on a show. I’ve seen some videos of Shaw on YouTube. I’m not going to take anything away from him, but he doesn’t have skills like I do. I have more experience than him. It’s time for me to break him down and show the world I’m a contender.”
Vargas (18-1, 9 KOs) had a breakthrough performance last October on the Vasiliy Lomachenko-Teofimo Lopez undercard, dominating contender Kendo Castaneda via unanimous decision. He made headlines last June when he conducted his post-fight interview on ESPN after Salvador Briceno knocked out a pair of his upper front teeth. Despite the dental mishap, Vargas nearly shut out Briceno. Vargas has won 12 consecutive fights since a controversial disqualification loss.
“I’ve shown my intelligence in the ring. I barely got touched against Castaneda,” Vargas said. “I threw more than 800 punches in 10 rounds. It showed me that I belonged with higher-level fighters. I was letting him survive. That was me being nice. This time, I’ll apply more pressure and get the stoppage.”
Shaw (13-2, 9 KOs), from Oakland, California, enters the lion’s den as an experienced road warrior, having fought six times in Mexico since turning pro in 2017. Last August, Shaw pushed top prospect Omar Juarez before losing a six-round decision. He rebounded in January with a second-round stoppage in Tijuana.
In other undercard action:
Joseph Adorno (14-0-1, 12 KOs) vs. Jamaine Ortiz (14-0, 8 KOs)
8 Rounds, Lightweight
Adorno returns from a nearly 16-month layoff hoping to return to the win column following his January 2020 draw against Hector Garcia. He has a chance to advance from prospect to contender against the unbeaten Ortiz, who is coming off last November’s seventh-round knockout over Ugandan veteran Sulaiman Segawa on the Mike Tyson-Roy Jones Jr. undercard.
Orlando Gonzalez (16-0, 10 KOs) vs. Juan Antonio Lopez (15-8, 6 KOs)
8 Rounds, Featherweight
Puerto Rican southpaw stylist Gonzalez makes his 2021 debut against Lopez, a Texas resident who has upset a few undefeated prospects during his nearly nine-year pro career. Gonzalez went 162-16 as an amateur and inked a promotional deal with Top Rank in 2019.
Xander Zayas (7-0, 5 KOs) vs Demarcus Layton (8-1-1, 5 KOs)
6 Rounds, Welterweight
Puerto Rican prodigy Zayas, an 18-year-old who signed with Top Rank at 16, makes his third pro appearance in Kissimmee. He last fought Feb. 20 in Las Vegas and was pushed the six-round distance by James Martin. Zayas, who won 11 national titles as an amateur, recently spent time in his Florida training camp sparring Gervonta Davis and former world champions Adrien Broner and Robert Easter Jr. Layton is unbeaten in three bouts since a 2019 TKO loss.
Jeremy Adorno (4-0, 1 KO) vs. Ramiro Martinez (2-0-2, 1 KO)
4 Rounds, Junior Featherweight
Adorno, a 2017 U.S. Youth National Championship gold medalist, turned pro under the Top Rank banner in March 2019. The younger brother of Joseph Adorno, he’ll fight for the first time since a January 2020 decision win on the Joe Smith Jr.-Jesse Hart undercard in Atlantic City. Martinez, who fights out of Hurst, Texas, fought last November and won a one-sided decision over the 1-0 Tevin Moore.
Jaycob Gómez (1-0, 1 KO) vs. Mobley Villegas (3-1, 2 KOs)
4 Rounds, Junior Lightweight
Gómez is a 19-year-old upstart from Caguas, Puerto Rico, the same city that produced Miguel Cotto. He turned pro last October and scored a sensational first-round knockout. Villegas has never stopped as a professional.
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