The beast returns in a 50-50, Venado takes on Leo and Ellerbe exits

BOXING moves fast and it’s hard to keep up with all the comings and goings. Here’s a wrap-up of some of the fight announcements, signings and other bits and pieces that might’ve passed you by.

Leonard Ellerbe steps down; Richard Schaefer comes in

The Floyd Mayweather team makeover continues, as it was announced that Leonard Ellerbe, the long-time CEO of Mayweather Promotions, would be leaving the Las Vegas outfit. 

Officially stepping down from his role, coincidently as the Floyd vs. Gervonta difficulties escalated, Ellerbe will be replaced by a familiar face in Richard Schaefer. 

A key part of the defunct promotional entity Probellum, Schaefer was best known for his work alongside Oscar De La Hoya at Golden Boy and has remained linked to boxing ever since.

In a social media statement, Mayweather Promotions thanked Leonard Ellerbe for his efforts: “Mayweather Promotions would like to extend our deepest gratitude to Leonard Ellerbe for his exceptional leadership and unwavering dedication over the years. 

“Leonard has been an integral part of our team, contributing to numerous business endeavors that have played a pivotal role in the success of Mayweather Promotions.”

Hard-working Rubalcava a constructive signing for Matchroom

Leonardo Rubalcava (7-0, 3 KOs) has signed a multi-fight deal with Matchroom. Trained by Robert Garcia, Rubalcava will fight on the June 29 Estrada vs. Rodriguez undercard.

“I’m motivated to showcase my skills on this huge night and proudly represent Teocaltiche, Jalisco, Mexico worldwide,” said Rubalcava.

“Leo is one of the hardest workers in my gym, and he also works for his father, who owns a construction company,” lauded Robert Garcia. 

“He shows up to the gym on his lunch break and spars some of the best fighters in boxing like Vergil Ortiz, Brandun Lee and Raymond Muratalla. Once sparring is done, he goes straight back to work.”

WBO champ Espinoza inks Top Rank agreement

As he closes in on a maiden title defence against Sergio Chirino Sanchez on June 21, Rafael Espinoza has signed a co-promotional deal with Top Rank alongside Zanfer Promotions. 

Espinoza caused a shock at the close of 2023 when he defeated Robeisy Ramirez to win the WBO featherweight title by a thrilling 12-round majority decision.

“I promise to continue giving my all to win the hearts of all the fans. I’m also excited about my main event fight in Las Vegas. I’ll show that this title will stay with me for a long time,” asserted Espinoza (24-0, 20 KOs). 

Promoter Bob Arum added: “Rafael Espinoza is a fighter who gives the fans excitement every time he steps through the ropes. He has all the tools to become one of the great Mexican champions of his era.”

Vicious Venado makes another title defence on the road

Continuing on a Top Rank theme, Luis Alberto Lopez, aka ‘Venado’, keeps his commendable run of activity going by putting his IBF featherweight title on the line in enemy territory once again. 

Former WBO super-bantamweight champion Angelo Leo (who lost that title to Stephen Fulton in 2021) is the challenger on August 10. The fight will take place in Leo’s hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico (Angelo has since relocated to Las Vegas).

“On August 10, I will make it abundantly clear who the king of the featherweight division is. This will be the fourth defense of my world title, and I’m preparing for a great battle against a former world champion like Angelo Leo,” said road warrior Lopez whose globe-trotting exploits took him to Belfast in 2023 to blast away Michael Conlan.

Luis Alberto Lopez drops Michael Conlan in round five

Challenger Angelo Leo responded: “I know Lopez is one of the top champions in my division, and a win over him would be huge for me and my city. I’m in the prime of my career and can’t wait to show the world the fighter I’ve become since winning my first world title in 2020.”

Super-lightweight prospect Lindolfo Delgado tackles Bryan Flores over 10 rounds in the co-feature. Richard Torrez, Alan Garcia, Top Rank debutant Vito Mielnicki Jr and Arnold Khegai also feature.

“It’s a real throwback card in a place where so many classic fights have occurred,” buzzed Bob Arum about returning to New Mexico.

Anthony Yigit retires from the sport

Former European champion Anthony Yigit has retired at the age of 32. The Swedish portsider wraps things up with a commendable 29-4-1 record. The 10 KOs show that he was more of a mover than a banger.

Scoring a 2017 win over Sandor Martin, which looks better with each passing year, Yigit always gave a good account himself but lost when he stepped up in class. 

Rolando Romero, Denys Berinchyk, Ivan Baranchyk and Keyshawn Davis all contributed to his loss column. Communicating the news via social media, Yigit explained how he came to the realisation that boxing is something he doesn’t want to do anymore.

Ex-champion Pinder passes away

Former WBA and WBC bantamweight world champion Enrique Pinder passed away last week at age 76. Pinder boxed from 1966 to 1973 and was a Panamanian national icon.

‘Maravilla’ retired from the sport with a 35-7-2 (13 KOs) record, fighting Rafael Herrera, Chucho Castillo, and Romeo Anaya during his seven-year career. Pinder’s son, Ricardo, announced his death to the national media.

Arslanbek returns to fight Vianello in clash of the contenders

In a battle of heavyweights on the verge of falling into irrelevance, Arslanbek Makhmudov faces off against Guido Vianello over 10 rounds in Quebec City.

The bout takes place on the August 17 undercard of Mbilli-Derevyanchenko. Both men could really do with a statement win in this co-feature clash.

Makhmudov returned to his customary knockout ways on a recent Eye of the Tiger show, finishing off Miljan Rovcanin with a big right hand in round two.

Arslanbek’s loss to Agit Kabayel was concerning as the neck-twitching beast crumbled under Kabayel’s sustained body attack. It was later reported that he had suffered a hand injury, which obviously did not help his cause.

Riydah, Saudi Arabia: Arslanbek Makhmudov v Agit Kabayel, Heavyweight Contest. 23 December 2023. Picture By Mark Robinson Matchroom Boxing.

“Vianello is a tough fighter but also a very good fighter, as we saw in his last fight,” said Makhmudov. “This is an important step for me. I want to show that I am a top contender and to get closer to my goal, I must prove that I’m better than this guy.”

This pair fought before in the World Series of Boxing. Makhmudov won on that occasion almost 10 years ago. Vianello’s pro career has not exactly gone to plan since, although a split decision loss to Efe Ajagba last time out was closely contested as the scorecards suggest.

“I’m ready to compete against the top heavyweights in the world. This is only the beginning of my journey,” stated Vianello. 

“The fight with Arslanbek is exactly what I wanted at this point in my career, and I look forward to a great fight on August 17 in Quebec City.”

A strong undercard also features Osleys Iglesias, Wilkens Mathieu, Leïla Beaudoin, Thomas Chabot, Abdullah Mason and Jahi Tucker.

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