The best matchmakers in the sport of boxing are those who realize the importance of a competitive match so that the fans watching on TV or those in attendance at the venue, are always on the edge of their seats. With no one being able to say who is going to win, the fans are treated to the unexpected. The matchmaker, like the fan, wants to see the drama unfold, and be surprised. The only way you can do that is to have boxers of equal experience, equal age and weight, and those with the same skill sets.
Even when the boxers have identical records of say 4 wins and 5 losses, and then they put on a terrific show, that’s all that matters to Showtime Sports, the current leader in broadcasting these epic fights. It’s become a branding strategy. On Saturday evening at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, N.Y., you can see this scenario being played out. Following their Showtime Extreme telecast, they’re featuring the popular Showtime Championship Boxing tripleheader headlined by a 12-round junior welterweight clash between Ruslan “The Siberian Rocky” Provodnikov and John “The Gladiator” Molina Jr.
What matters most is that the boxers are competitive and show a lot of heart. For these two, that has always been the case. In Saturday’s Main Event, Provodnikov (25-4, 18 KOs), the former WBO Jr. Welterweight Champ, who trains locally with Joel Diaz at the Indio Boys & Girls Club, Indio, Calif., will have his hands full facing the former world title challenger Molina Jr. (28-6, 23 KOs) of West Covina, Calif. Many have predicted this fight will be a 12-round bloodbath. Both fighters are prime examples of boxers who set out to entertain the fans and in the end are a part of a terrific show.
In the co-feature, they’ve now scheduled Dejan Zlatacanin (21-0, 10 KOs), of the Southeastern European country of Montenegro to face fellow unbeaten and WBC No. 2-ranked, 39 year-old Emiliano Marsili (32-0-1, 14 KOs) of Civitavecchia, Lazio, Italy for the vacant WBC Lightweight World Title. Then, on Tuesday, May 31, the promoter got word Marsili was ill and had to drop out. The matchmaker didn’t go into panic mode straight away, though maybe he should have. His alternative was to call the manager of 29-year-old Franklin Mamani (22-2-1, 12 KOs), which they declared was their next choice. Mamani, of La Paz, Bolivia, had been in camp training to fight Chad “Hollywood” Bennett of New Castle, New South Wales, Australia for the WBC Silver Lightweight World Title on July 9. With the 29-year-old Mamani suddenly getting his shot at the vacant WBC Lightweight Title in his U.S. debut, this was an almost unfathomable dream come true. On paper, the aggressive-minded Mamani has won 10 straight, including his last three by knockout, albeit over questionable talent. You might say his whole career has been one big question mark. Over a nine-year, 24 bout career, Mamani has only fought two boxers of note, Sebastien Madani and Gumersindo Lucas Carrasco, and he lost to both. If we were to rank Mamani, it would be factually impossible to list him in our top 75 lightweights. Still, in their infinite wisdom, the WBC now has Mamani ranked #5. This last minute replacement could be going against everything that Showtime Boxing stands for.
The other question: Can they rely on Franklin Mamani to show up? In November 2013, it was reported Mamani and his brother (a police officer), were involved in an altercation where they beat up journalists Juan Pablo Mamani from Bolivisión and Victor Hugo Andrade from Unitel, because they gave “broad coverage” to the fight staged by Bolivian Jennifer Salinas and Colombian Yolis Marrugo. The physical aggression occurred when the brothers attacked the journalists who at the time were trying to cover the fight. According to Richard Pereira, the director of Bolivision sports, who made the complaint to the prosecutor, they want a guarantee this will never happen again so his journalists can do their jobs. Franklin and Humberto Mamani were questioning the deployment of the journalists at ringside in the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia. The claim made, “They are “bought” journalists.”
Sharing that co-feature slot, they have the former 154-pound world champion Demetrius Andrade (22-0, 15 KOs), of Providence, R.I., battling Willie Nelson (25-2-1, 15 KO’s), from Cleveland, Ohio, in a 12-round WBC Super Welterweight Title Eliminator. As mentioned, preceding that Showtime Championship Boxing extravaganza, Showtime has former world title challengers, Willie Monroe Jr. and John Thompson meeting in a 10-round middleweight contest in the main event of their Showtime Extreme presentation (7 p.m. ET/PT). In their opener, they’re featuring the 2015 Boxcino Heavyweight Champ Andrey Fedosov (28-3, 23 KO’s) from Shuya, Russia taking on Mario Heredia (11-1, 9 KOs) from Mexico City, Mexico in a 10-rounder. Fedosov, who now lives in Hollywood, trains at the Wild Card Gym with Freddie Roach, while Heredia, who spent quality time training at the Marron Boxing Camp in Lakeside, Calif., finished his training in Mexico City.
Quotes from the various Training Camps and Press Conferences:
Ruslan Provodnikov (On the importance of this fight). “Every fight is important. I come out for every fight to give everything I have. For me, every fight is like the last fight. So this is a very important fight, just like any other. I don’t like to make predictions too much; boxing is an unpredictable sport. It’s hard to say what will happen. Anything can happen. We’ve got a little bit to wait and we’ll see what happens.” (On the style of fighting and the matchup) “I think this is the type of fight that will be exciting and all-action. I think it’s a great matchup and it will be exciting for the fans.” Okay! Nobody ever said Ruslan Provodnikov was a great orator. Boxer/brawler? Yes! Great orator? No.
Next, it was John Molina Jr.’s turn: “Stylistically, I think there are things I have to my advantage. Stature-wise: my height, my reach. But with that being said, when the fight starts, all of that is going to go out the window and we’re going to fight. If we seem cordial to each other now, it’s because we’re professional. If we take it outside of the ring that’s very ignorant and not very mature. Believe me, I understand, and Ruslan understands, that come Saturday night, all of the kindness goes out the window. After the fight, we could be best of friends. But during the fight, I always use the analogy that he’s trying to take food away from my family. So, it’s serious. I have a very competitive spirit. I don’t even like to lose in checkers.”
In the co-feature, they have undefeated, former 154-pound world champ, and 2008 U.S. Olympian Demetrius “Boo Boo” Andrade (22-0, 15 KOs) of Providence, R.I., facing Willie “The Great” Nelson (25-2-1, 15 KOs) of Cleveland, Ohio, in a 12-round WBC Super Welterweight Title Eliminator. “The champ is in. The champ is in.” began Boo-Boo. “I feel good. I’m grateful. I want to thank Showtime for giving me the opportunity to showcase my skill and my talent.” (Aren’t they both the same?) “In my eyes, Willie Nelson and Demetrius Andrade is the number one 154 fight that you don’t want to miss leading up to fighting for a title against a Charlo brother.” You have to like Andrade’s swagger.
Approaching the peak time in his Pro Boxing career, the 28-year-old, 6’1” Andrade has now moved past his most recent troubles which involved the managing of his career. After winning a 12-round decision over Vanes Martirosyan in November 2013 for the vacant WBO 154-pound world title, he found himself fighting just twice. His only title defense was an impressive 7th-round stoppage of the then WBO No. 1 mandatory title challenger Brian Rose. But then, due to promotional issues, Andrade was later stripped of his title for inactivity and his last fight was in October 2015 against the lighter and much shorter (7 inches shorter) Dario Fabian Pucheta who didn’t even make it out of the second round.
Andrade now has a new three-year promotional contract that gives his company, A Team Promotions, 50% of his promotional rights to go along with 25% each for Banner Promotions and Star Boxing.”The tables are turning,” said Andrade, “and people are going to have to step up and fight each other, one way or another. Sometimes, where you are in life is more conducive (beneficial) than your bank account. So, I’m not upset, or mad, or frustrated with a thing that is going on and how everything played out. At this point, there’s a lesson in everything that you go through in life and I learned my lesson.”
Point of fact, the Andrade-Nelson bout is a 12-round WBC title elimination to determine the second mandatory challenger for the new WBC Super Welterweight Champion Jermell Charlo, who, as the WBC’s No. 1 contender, was matched last May 21 against No. 2 rated John Jackson. No. 3 Andrade was originally slated to face No. 5 Charles Hatley in a title eliminator to determine the No. 1 mandatory contender. From here, it gets even more confusing. Of course with the negotiations with Hatley’s promoter, Don King, failing to materialize, Andrade was forced to move on to fight Nelson, who the WBC has ranked at No. 10. The WBC declared Hatley as Charlo’s mandatory challenger, despite being ranked lower than Andrade, with the Andrade-Nelson winner now being declared the mandatory title challenger for the winner of the future Charlo-Hatley match.
(Andrade’s thoughts regarding Nelson?)
“I’ve seen him in the amateurs. I’ve seen him fight tough guys that are top guys today. I know he’s bringing that experience. He’s fought previous guys that I’ve fought. I know I’m going up against a giant but I consider myself a giant as well. It’s going to be a great match, a great fight for the 154-pound division. I feel it’s one of the best fights in the 154 division that’s ever been made. Not looking past Nelson but me, my character, my hard work and my ethics, I’m looking to be the best and fight the best. I want to put it out there and say congratulations to the Charlo twins on making history for being twin brothers to win (titles). But I’m going to make history by taking both of those titles and beating both. Then I’ll beat Lara and unify all of the belts.”
(Willie “The Great” Nelson’s thoughts on the matchup)
“I’m excited for this fight. I think both of us feel like this fight is going to be the shot that both of us have been looking for. I feel like this is my time right now. With me and Boo-Boo’s past history, unfortunately, we had to come to this fight. We’re pretty cool as friends, but it’s our time, so we have to get in there and show the world what we’re made of.”
(On the reason behind Nelson’s lengthy layoff)
“One of the reasons was because of the death of Steve Smith but also because it’s hard getting fights. Nobody wants to fight a 6’4” junior middleweight that’s actually coming to fight and that has decent pop. Besides that, look at my career. My career has been nothing but fights and layoffs. I’ve been a pro since I was 19 and I only have 27 pro fights. That’s been my career: fights and layoffs.”
In the final bout, they are featuring cruiserweights, 25-year-old Stivens “Superman” Bujaj (15-0-1,10 KOs) of New York, N. Y. by way of Kelmend, Albania, going up against Sergio “Tota” Ramirez (11-0, 7 KOs) of nearby Tijuana, B. C., Mexico.
Factoids Ramirez should have considered before taking this fight with Stivens “Superman”Bujaj:
- After 11 bouts, this will be Ramirez’s first fight against someone with a winning record.
- In his last fight, Bujaj was fighting for the vacant WBC International Cruiserweight title.
- Bujaj’s last bout featured toe-to-toe head hunting between the Chicago and New York City Golden Gloves champions.
- While Bujaj’s last opponent Wright fought as move forward aggressor. Bujaj went backwards entire bout throwing counter bombs.
- Despite the pleas from both corners, neither fighter significantly worked the body. Power shot war.
- Bujaj had blood bleeding profusely from his mouth due to a broken jaw from a punch thrown by Wright.
As mentioned, Showtime is offering additional boxing that same night when you consider the Showtime Extreme bouts will be preceding the above Showtime Championship Boxing tripleheader. They have former world title challengers, 5’10” tall, southpaw Willie Monroe Jr. (19-2-0, 6 KOs) of Rochester, New York facing the 27-year-old, 6’1” tall John “Apollo Kid” Thompson (17-2-0, 6 KOs) from Newark, New Jersey in a 10-round middleweight match in the main event of their Showtime Extreme Show which will air at 7 p.m. PT. Monroe had impressive victories over Brandon Adams, Vitaliy Kopylenko and Brian Vera before losing to Gennady Golovkin on May 16 of last year. In the Sho Extreme co-feature, they have Boxcino 2015 heavyweight champion Andrey Fedosov (28-3, 23 KOs) facing Mario Heredia (11-1, 9 KOs) in a 10-round heavyweight bout.
Willie Monroe Jr., of nearby Rochester, N.Y., and Thompson, of Newark, N. J., have near identical records. The 29-year-old Monroe won the 2014 Boxcino Middleweight Tournament with victories over Donatas Bondorovas (18-4-1), Vitaly Kopylenko (23-0) and Brandon Adams (14-0). He followed Boxcino up with an impressive 10-round unanimous decision win over perennial contender Brian Vera in January. Monroe’s win streak set up an opportunity for him to fight middleweight kingpin Gennady Golovkin on May 16, 2015. As you might recall, Monroe came up short in that title opportunity.
The 27-year-old Thompson won the 2015 Boxcino Junior Middleweight tournament with wins over Ricardo Pinell (10-1-1), Stanyslav Skorokhod (9-0) and Brandon Adams (17-1). Following that tournament, he traveled to Manchester, England to fight undefeated Liam Smith for the WBO Junior Middleweight title on October 10, 2015. Thompson was impressive and ahead on the scorecards until he got stopped in the seventh round.
Since winning the Boxcino tournament after stopping Donovan Dennis in the eighth round of their heavyweight clash on May 22, 2015, Andrey Fedosov had to take some time off to deal with some lingering injuries. After healing, he once again started to train at the famed Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles with Freddie Roach.”I got some time to rest and now I feel better and stronger than ever,” said Fedosov. “I’ve been sparring with some of the best heavyweights in the world and I feel after this fight, I will fight one of the big names if not one of the champions in the heavyweight division. I’ll be ready to fight for a title after this fight.”
Like Fedosov, Mario Heredia, of Mexico City, Mexico, is looking for that signature win to catapult his career so he can become a major player in the suddenly open heavyweight division. “I was scheduled to be in the Boxcino tournament, but I had an injury, and I feel I would have won it. Now to be able to face and beat the champion will prove what I thought all along.”