LOS ANGELES – The final press conference for the latest Top Rank-produced and distributed pay-per-view show went down at the Congo Room on Wednesday.
Set to take place at the Stub Hub Center in Carson, California, on Saturday, the card is headlined by Oscar Valdez who puts his WBO featherweight title up against Miguel Marriaga in the main event.
Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez looks to make the first defense of his WBO super middleweight title versus Max Bursak, and Jessie Magdaleno hopes to do the same with his WBO junior featherweight belt against Adeilson Dos Santos in the co-featured bouts.
Olympic silver medalist Shakur Stevenson will make his anticipated pro debut against Edgar Brito in a six-round featherweight contest that will open the PPV show.
“We’re proud of it because we have, featured on the card, three world champions – the three amigos – who are getting ready to dominate the sport of boxing,” said Bob Arum, who presided over the presser. The founder of Top Rank continued. “Also the professional debut of a young man, who I believe will be a superstar in the sport of boxing, Shakur Stevenson.
“We know, based on advanced ticket sales, that we’re going to have a tremendous crowd, and we believe, a very large audience for the pay-per-view where this fight is being distributed,” said Arum before introducing the present fighters. “It’s going to be a big night and it’s going to be a memorable night… there will probably be seven to eight thousand people at Stub Hub on Saturday, but a year from now, I am sure seventy or eighty thousand people will say that they were there.”
Between all of their many thank yous, the fighters didn’t have much to say three days before they let their performances do the talking. Valdez (21-0, 19 knockouts), being the headliner, took it upon himself to say the most.
“I’ve always said boxing is not a one man sport – it’s a team – and I believe I have the best team out there,” said Valdez, who had just thanked managers Frank Espinoza Sr. and Junior, as well as co-trainers Manny Robles and Edgar Jasso. “I’m very excited because the fight is here. I have been training since January and I’ve been waiting for this moment. So I’m anxious to get in there and put up a good fight.”
Remarkably, this is the fourth straight PPV card Valdez will be featured on, but he hopes to offset a past performance that still lingers in his mind.
“My last performance at Stub Hub, I wasn’t very happy with my performance,” admitted Valdez, who’s win over Ruben Tamayo was also his HBO debut. “I felt that a lot of the crowd went out there to see me and expected a good fight. The style wasn’t the best style for me. This is my second chance to put up a good fight at Stub Hub. Styles make fights, and Miguel Marriaga’s style and my style is a perfect combination for a great night of boxing. There’s something about that arena that always brings good fights. I’ve witnessed a lot of great fights there and I’m planning to put up a good fight there.”
Valdez, 26, looks to defend his WBO featherweight title a second time since blasting out Matias Rueda last July to win the vacant belt. After having no problem with Hiroshige Osawa last November, Valdez goes into this one riding a knockout streak of five straight.
“I have much respect for Miguel Marriaga and I want to thank their team,” said Valdez. “We have much respect outside the ring, but once we’re in the ring, I know he’s going to try and knock off my head – the same I’m gonna try to do to him. Expect the best Oscar Valdez. We had a great training camp, and we’ll see you this Saturday.”
Marriaga (25-1, 21 KOs) is the number one ranked contender under the eyes of the WBO and a mandatory opponent for Valdez. The Colombian fell short on the cards against Nicholas Walters in his first attempt at a world title.
“Once again here fighting for the world title, it’s going to be a good fight, I’m here to give it all, and I’m here to become a world champion,” said Marriaga through a translator. Marriaga, 30, trained in the high altitude of Mexico City to prepare for this fight and made sure to thank the country who cultivated his next foe. “I want to thank all the Mexican people that give me support through all these years.”
Ramirez was all smiles when at the podium. Not only has it been a year since he last stepped in the ring, but perhaps the big Mexican lefty took pleasure in showing off how far he’s come grasping English.
“My hard training is done,” said Ramirez (34-0, 24 KOs), who dethroned Arthur Abraham last April to win the WBO super middleweight title. “I want to enjoy this moment. I don’t have words to describe my emotion because when (it’s been) one year to get into the ring. Now I want to come back stronger and faster, and I want to put a very good show for all the people. This fight is going to be a really explosive fight. I want to give the fans the fight that they want to see.”
Ranked as the WBO’s No. 9 contender at super middleweight, Bursak (33-4-1, 15 KOs) will not only fight for a title for the first time at 168-pounds, but make his American debut on the same night. The 32-year-old Ukrainian lost to Hassan N’Dam for a vacant middleweight belt in 2012.
“I trained hard,” said Bursak via translator. “On Saturday, I will do my best to become the world champion. I’ll see them on Saturday night.”
After impressively taking the title from Nonito Donaire last November, Magdaleno looks to defend his WBO junior featherweight title for the first time.
“April 22nd – it’s going to be a great night,” proclaimed the 25-year-old Mexican-American from Las Vegas, Nevada. “You have three amazing world champions, and you have a U.S. Olympian that are going to put on a great show for everybody.”
Along with Valdez, Magdaleno (24-0, 17 KOs) trains at The Rock gym in Carson under the guidance of Robles and Jasso. It’s just a short run from the Stub Hub Center, and Saturday night, he will be expected make it quick as the favorite after being a slight underdog against Donaire.
“It’s gonna be a hell of a card for pay-per-view, and for the boxing fans to see the future of boxing. I just want to let everybody know we’re ready. We’re ready fro April 22nd, and it’s going to be a night of fireworks.”
Dos Santos (18-2, 14 KOs), No. 12 in the WBO’s 122-pound rankings, is a nameless opponent, but training in Las Vegas with Donaire for this fight could be an interesting note to look back upon should he pull of the upset.
“I am to say thank you for God, Top Rank, the matchmaker Brad Goodman, my manager and team for this opportunity,” said the stone-faced Brazilian in Portuguese. “I am 200% ready for this fight.”
Opening the pay-per-view telecast, Stevenson, 19, looks to keep the momentum going into the pros after introducing himself to the world with a silver medal win in last summer’s Rio Olympics.
“I want to start of by saying thank you to God, because without him I wouldn’t be where I’m at,” said Stevenson, who also made sure to thank everyone else on his team including manager’s James Prince and Andre Ward. “I hope to plan on doing what I’m supposed to do on April 22, and I can’t wait.”
Originally from Newark, New Jersey, and now training in Alexandria, Virginia, with his grandfather, Stevenson is expected to shine in his debut against Brito (3-2-1, 2 KOs), and is already scheduled to fight at Madison Square Garden on May 20 on the Terence Crawford vs. Jose Felix undercard.
The rest of Saturday night’s card will be streamed at toprank.tv for free. In it includes the pro debut of Fazliddin Gaibnazarov – who won a Gold Medal at junior welterweight for Uzbekistan in the 2016 Rio Olympics. He faces Victor Vazquez in an eight round lightweight bout. Francisco “Chia” Santana takes on Mahonry Montes in a 10-round welterweight scrap. At the same weight, Alexander Besputin faces Briedis Prescott, and Maxim Dadashev fights Bilal Mahasin in eight rounders.