Former five-time World Champion Mikkel Kessler believes Erik Skoglund (26-0, 12 KOs) will upset the odds and defeat hometown hero Callum Smith (22-0, 17 KOs) on September 16 at the Echo Arena in Liverpool.
Smith and Skoglund go head-to-head in the first super middleweight quarter-final of the World Boxing Super Series, and having previously sparred Skoglund, Kessler is backing the Swedish fighter to progress to the semi-finals.
“I remember those sparring sessions we had four years ago before my second fight with Carl Froch, and Erik has developed a lot since then”, said Kessler.
“I have watched quite a lot of Smith, he’s very big for the weight and he’s a great fighter, but if Erik employs the right tactics, he has an excellent chance of winning. He must believe in himself and not be affected by Callum having the whole city of Liverpool backing him.”
Kessler has recently enjoyed some tough sparring sessions with Skoglund ahead of his own hotly anticipated comeback, and the Danish legend reveals that the Swedish underdog has all the necessary tools to cause an upset.
“Erik did well in the sparring with me and he is certainly in very good shape. Make no mistake about Erik, he is a very tough guy.
“It’s good to be underdog”, said Kessler. “The main thing is that Erik needs to believe in himself. I believe in him and I will be rooting for him.
MIAMI, FLA. – While Southern Florida braces for Hurricane Irma, red hot light heayweight Sullivan Barrera continues to train for what he hopes is an explosive end of year showdown.
After stopping Paul Parker and beating Joe Smith Jr. on the bright lights of HBO, Barrera has his sights set firmly on facing two-division champion Badou Jack before the calendar turns over to 2018.
“First off I want to say congratulations on beating Nathan Cleverly. I know you said you want to fight Adonis Stevenson but he has to face his mandatory next. I want your WBA belt around my waist. You know that your style and my style will make for an explosive fight. I’m sure the fans would want to see the fight. I would love to fight Kovalev too but me and you are both off big wins so let’s do this,” said Barrera after a recent training session.
With Stevenson likely facing his mandatory next and Andre Ward talking about moving up to cruiserweight or heavyweight, Barrera is the best option for Jack as well. With his fan friendly style and Latino fan base, what excuse would Jack have for not having him?
“I haven’t ever seen Badou back down from a challenge so why would he start with me? It is simple, he needs an opponent and so do I. The ball is in your court Badou. Do you accept my challenge?”
Tim VanNewhouse, Nieves’ co-manager, says he and his partner couldn’t be happier with their fighter’s achievement. “It’s very rewarding to David McWater and I to see Antonio get to this level. He will be the first under the Split-T family of fighters to fight for a world title.”
CANASTOTA, NY – SEPTEMBER 5, 2017 – The International Boxing Hall of Fame announced its flags will fly at half-staff in memory of featherweight champion Ultiminio “Sugar” Ramos who passed away Sunday in Mexico City after a long battle against cancer. He was 75.
“’Sugar’ Ramos was a strong and intense fighter who thrilled fans around the world during his championship career,” said Hall of Fame Executive Director Edward Brophy. “The Hall of Fame is a saddened by his passing and offer our condolences to his family and joins the worldwide boxing community in mourning his death.”
Born December 2, 1941 in Matanzas, Cuba, Ramos turned pro in Havana in 1957 before relocating to Mexico after the Communist revolution. Managed by Cuco Conde and trained by Angelo Dundee, Ramos became an idol in his adopted country and reigned as world featherweight champion from 1963-64. During his championship career he scored wins over Davey Moore (TKO 10), Rafiu King (W 15), Mitsunori Seki (TKO 6), Floyd Robertson (W 15) and Chango Carmano (TKO 7) among others. With a big right hand, the 5’4 ½” Ramos compiled a professional record of 55-7-4 (40 KOs). He retired from the ring in 1972.
TACOMA, Wash. – Super middleweight Mike Gavronski is looking to end 2017 with a top 20 world ranking. A victory over Bryan Vera could go a long way in that happening. Gavronski looks to post his fourth consecutive victory when he meets Vera in the main event of Battle at the Boat 112 at the Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma, Wash. on Saturday.
The 10-round fight highlights the six-bout card, Gavronski (23-2-1, 14 KOs) is coming off a unanimous decision over Quinton Rankin on June 3. Prior to that victory he snapped Thomas Awimbono’s 18-fight winning streak, which spanned 6 ½ years and featured 17 wins by knockout, on Nov. 19, 2016 and handed Australian champion Jake Carr his first professional loss on Sept. 10, 2016.
Gavronski, ranked fifth by the World Boxing Association-North American Boxing Association, is 9-1 over his last 10 fights. “Mike is fighting the guys no one else wants to fight, and he’s winning those fights,” said Gavronski’s trainer Sam Ditusa. “I think he is definitely deserving (to be ranked among the top 20 in the world). If he comes out victorious and healthy in this fight I think he’s made a strong case for himself.” Vera (26-11-0, 16 KOs) also brings a three-fight winning streak into the contest.
Vera, a former WBO NABO middleweight champion who appeared on the third season of ESPN’s boxing reality series The Contender, handed Andy Lee, a former WBO middleweight champion, his first professional victory and holds two victories over former WBC World light middleweight champion Sergio Mora.
Highlighting the undercard will be a semi-main event between super lightweights Andres Reyes (7-2-1, 2 KOs) and Andre Keys (3-1-0, KO).Reyes has won his last two fights by knockout. He defeated Will Hughes by first-round TKO in his last fight on June 3. The KO win came on the heels of his knockout victory over Jacob Szilasi on March 18.
“I would contribute Reyes’ last two knockouts to him maturing a little bit. He’s now 24 years old, and he dropped down to the minor leagues a little bit after I had him fighting in the major leagues,” Goyette said. “We’ll see if he can hit a homerun in the major leagues with Andre Keys.”
Battle at the Boat 112 Card
Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017
10 Round Main Event – 168 pounds
Mike Gavronski (23-2-1, 14 KOs) vs. Bryan Vera (26-11-0, 16 KOs)
5 Round Semi-Main Events
145 pounds: Andres Reyes (7-2-1, 2 KOs) vs. Andre Keys (3-1-0, KO)
140 pounds: Ricardo Maldonado (7-6-1, KO) vs. Marco Cardenas (6-6-1, 2 KOs)
4 Round Undercard Bouts
140 pounds: Niko McFarland (0-4-0) vs. Shae Green (1-0-0)
170 pounds: Tommy Turner (4-7-0, 3 KOs) vs. Cole Milani (2-5-0, 2 KOs)
145 pounds: Jorge Linares (Pro Debut) vs. Jesse Barich (0-2-0)
WBC World Champion Mairis Briedis (22-0, 18 KOs) came face to face with Mike Perez (22-2-1, 14 KOs) in Riga before their Ali Trophy quarter-final bout at the Riga Arena, September 30.
“I feel good, I am ready to go, I am ready to fight right now,” said Mike Perez. “This is a really interesting fight and I am looking forward to it and getting the victory. Whatever the fight brings I am ready for it.”
“I feel like I am in maybe the best shape of my life. The fans can expect the best from me in Riga. They can expect to the see something they might haven’t seen before.”
Cuban Mike Perez fighting out of Cork, Ireland was cool and calm when talking about fighting in Latvia.
“I know there will be thousands of fans screaming and cheering for Briedis, but I will just pretend they are rooting for me.”
“I am looking forward to fight in front of a sold out arena in Riga,” said Mairis Briedes: “I am well prepared for Perez. He is a southpaw and I am getting great sparring from different southpaw boxers. I can’t wait for September 30. On that date I will make the Latvian people proud.”
WBO World Champion Aleskandr Usyk on Marco Huck, tactics and Muhammad Ali ahead of the World Boxing Super Series premiere on September 9 at the Max-Schmeling-Halle in Berlin, Germany.
You picked Marco Huck as your opponent in the World Boxing Super Series. How would you describe him?
“Marco Huck is the most famous and prestigious opponent I could have chosen. He has accomplished most title defenses in the history of the cruiserweight division, an extremely experienced man. Huck does not fear anything or anyone and goes for the victory through the fire. He marches constantly forward and tries to determine his fights by all means.”
How do you prepare for Huck?
“I have a tactic specifically aimed at Huck. This is necessary because in my opinion he is one of my toughest competitors in this tournament. But why should I talk about it now and give Huck an advantage that he does not deserve? The surprising moment is on my side now, and I will take this advantage with me in the ring. Huck, by the way, has an advantage because he is at home in front of his audience in Berlin. This definitely makes him stronger, but I love this challenge!”
What do you think of the idea of the World Boxing Super Series and the Muhammad AlI Trophy?
“I can fulfill my dream of unifying all the belts in cruiserweight! I had previously thought about how it would be possible to achieve this goal. Fortunately, the door is now open for the road to glory. In this tournament all the world champions participates and the winner can rightly be described as the best cruiserweight in the world. On top of that the winner gets the Muhammad Ali Trophy. I admire Ali, because he is the biggest role model in boxing. I will thank God if I win a trophy with his name on it.”
Luke Blackledge: “Smith-Skoglund is a 50-50 fight – Skoglund is one hell of a fighter!
Luke Blackledge, the only man to face both Callum Smith (22-0, 17 KOs) and Erik Skoglund (26-0, 12 KOs) in a professional boxing ring, has labeled their super middleweight clash a 50-50 fight and believes the Swedish star could be the dark horse in the tournament. Smith and Skoglund will go head-to-head in the World Boxing Super Series quarter final on September 16 at the Echo Arena in Liverpool.
Blackledge faced Smtih in Manchester in December 2016 for the British Super Middleweight title, and he boxed Skoglund in Frederikshavn, Denmark back in April 2013 for the WBC Youth Light Heavyweight World title. The 26-year old from Lancashire believes Skoglund is being seriously underestimated and suggests that the winner of this fight can go on to win the whole tournament.
“I went 10 rounds with both Smith and Skoglund. And those were two of the toughest fights of my career,’’ said Blackledge..
“Most British boxing fans won’t be aware of how good Skoglund is, but they definitely will be after this fight. This fight is a genuine 50-50. Everyone is underestimating Skoglund, but let me tell you now… he is one hell of a fighter!
“If Smith doesn’t come with the right game plan, Skoglund will beat him. Whoever has the best game plan on the night will win.
“I really believe the winner of this fight has a good chance to go on and win the whole tournament. My prediction is that the winner of Smith-Skoglund will go on to face George Groves in the final. And what another great fight that would be!’’
On the undercard of the World Boxing Super Series quarter final clash between Smith and Skoglund, Blackledge takes on Derbyshire’s Zach Parker in an official eliminator for the British Super Middleweight Championship, in what promises to be another action-packed contest.
“Preparations have been going absolutely perfectly so far for my fight,’’ says Blackledge. ‘’I’ve been putting my body through hell during training and I’m ready to do the business in Liverpool.
“Parker is a talented young boxer but he really hasn’t fought anyone yet. We’ll find out how good he is on September 16th!’’
WBA Super World Super Middleweight champion George Groves (26-3, 19 KOs) is hungrier than ever and wants to cross off more achievements on his bucket list. First, he has to get pass ‘ballsy’ Jamie Cox (24-0,13 KOs) in a Muhammad Ali Trophy quarter-final clash October 14 at The SSE Arena Wembley in London.
This is Cox’s first big fight – whereas you’ve been there for some time – how important is your experience going to be – and do you think Cox can handle the pressure?
“Experience is very important. You don’t understand it until you got it and even when you got it it’s still difficult to understand. I’m sure it will play a part. Cox has boxed at a high level as an amateur but he’s yet to do it as a pro. Let’s see if he can cope. I’m sure he will be well rehearsed in the build up and well drilled in the gym but putting it together under the spotlight on the biggest stage is always the most difficult task. I’ve been there and done it before, but let’s see if he can.”
Cox talks a good game and appears confident – he says you’ve been over indulging – have you still got the hunger?
“I’ve still got the hunger. I’ve still nowhere near achieved what I set out to achieve as a little kid. I haven’t won enough belts, I haven’t won enough fights, I haven’t made enough money, and until all those and a few other things are crossed off the bucket list, I’m more hungry than ever. I finally know what it feels like to be a World Champion and I don’t plan on surrendering that anytime soon. Now I would like the feeling of winning the Muhammad Ali Trophy.”
How has your training been going?
My training has been going really well. We’ve had plenty of time so we’ve been able to structure a long camp. Everything is on track.
You’ve been improving with every fight since teaming up with Shane McGuigan. Do you expect this to continue? Is there still room for improvement?
“100% I think I’m becoming a better and better fighter. Obviously with the physical experience of training and being in big fights you’re going to improve, but also with Shane’s guidance, I feel that I’ve improved as a fighter. I’m adding more and more to my game. I’m more and more comfortable in various situations. I’ve always been comfortable against southpaws. Cox is the first southpaw I’ve been working towards with Shane McGuigan but we’re on course and we know what we need to do.“
You’ve said you’ve known Jamie a little bit, you roomed together as amateurs, from what you know about him, what do you think his mind set will be going into this fight?
“He’s a competent chap. When I knew him he had a lot of desire. Although his professional record doesn’t suggest any desire because he’s been a pro longer than me and he still hasn’t been in a real fight. He’s had breaks, he’s had injuries, he’s had personal issues. I’m sure now he decided this is his last crack at the whip as a professional boxer he’s going to try to knuckle down and prepare to the best of his abilities. I’m preparing for the best Jamie Cox. He’s fit, he’s strong, he’s aggressive, he’s ballsy, but they are all things I possess as well so I’m sure it will make for a great fight. I certainly feel I have the measure of him and I have a few advantages, which I’m going to reveal on the night.“
Does fighting in London, your hometown, at The SSE Arena Wembley, where you have enjoyed some good nights before, give you an advantage?
It’s lovely for me to fight at Wembley. Wembley is good for me because it is so close to home. I can do every moment of preparation in my own surroundings. I’ll be at my own gym, I can sleep at home in my own bed the night before the fight. All these things will be an added benefit come fight night because for me personally, this is how I do best.