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DSH Boxing Notebook: B-Hop returns for final fight, Ward-Kovalev prepare for battle

This week's version of The Daily Sports Herald's Boxing Notebook celebrates the return of a legend to the ring, as ageless 51-year-old star Bernard Hopkins will Fight one last time before finally calling it a career.  In addition, we will take a look at the upcoming Andre Ward-Sergey Kovalev clash, among other stories.  Check out the latest news below in the sweet science:

B-Hop Returns

A boxing legend will look to add an exclamation point to his nearly three-decade professional career, as Philadelphia's 51-year-old, two-division former world champion and Future Hall of Hamer Bernard Hopkins (55-7-2, 32 KOs) prepares to square off against hard-hitting light heavyweight contender Joe Smith, Jr. (21-1, 18 KOs) in a 12-round fight from Los Angeles' iconic Fabulous Forum.

"While 'The Alien' may be retired, the 'Executioner' has one fight left, and Joe Smith Jr., is going to find out the hard way how well prepared I am for my final fight," Bernard Hopkins said. "A lot of people will focus on my age, the history of my run in the sport, the titles, etc., but I'm focused on one thing -- knocking Joe Smith out."

The bout will take place Saturday, December 17 and will be televised live on HBO World Championship Boxing.

Hopkins, a wily defensive master who knows every trick in the book, owns a resume that reads like a Hall-of-Fame induction ballot. Between holding the record for the number of title defenses as middleweight champion of the world (20) and moving up to the light heavyweight division to capture multiple belts, Hopkins has fought and defeated a who's who of boxing world champions throughout his remarkable 28-year career.

That list includes Roy Jones, Jr., John David Jackson, Glen Johnson, Felix "Tito" Trinidad, Antonio Tarver, Kelly Pavlik, Jean Pascal, and Golden Boy Promotions business partner Oscar De La Hoya.

"To accomplish what Bernard has over the course of nearly 30 years inside the ring and still competing at the highest level of the sport at the age of 51; what else can you call him but a bona fide legend," said De La Hoya. "All of us at Golden Boy Promotions are so proud to work with Bernard each and every day and can't wait to give him the send-off he deserves with an incredibly, dynamic promotion over the next two months."

Meanwhile, Joe Smith Jr., who was born in 1989, nearly three years after Hopkins had his first fight, is coming off the victory of his career, delivering a brutal first-round knockout of established contender Andrzej Fonfara in June and earning the WBC International Light Heavyweight Championship.

The belt will not be at stake in this fight.

"I'm very excited about fighting on HBO," said Joe Smith Jr. "I know now all my hard work and dedication has paid off.  I am looking forward to retiring a boxing legend"

Tickets for the fight -- named, "The Final One" -- will go on sale Monday, October 24th, at 10:00 a.m. PT.

Orlando Salido's injury forces him off Hopkins-Smith undercard

While the news of a final Hopkins fight is a real treat for fans of the sport, one unfortunate development has occurred to one of the better fighters on the card, as Golden Boy Promotions announced that an injury to Orlando Salido's back has forced him out of action.

Golden Boy has indicated that it will announce a new co-main event and a full card in the coming weeks.

Ward prepares for Kovalev fight

Two-time World Champion Andre Ward (30-0, 15 KOs) officially kicked off training camp in Hayward, California, with trainer Virgil Hunter ahead of his November 19 Las Vegas showdown against WBO, WBA, and IBF Light Heavyweight World Champion Sergey Kovalev (30-0-1, 26 KOs).

"I've been in pre-camp mode for weeks now following my last fight, and have been mentally preparing for the work ahead of me," said Ward in a statement.  "It's an exciting feeling to be in full camp mode, where I can dedicate 100% of my mind, body and soul to the battle I am about to face. This is a fight that we have been working up to since last spring. The game plan hasn't changed. I am here and I am ready."


The 12-round mega-fight for the WBO/IBF/WBA light heavyweight title will be held at T-Mobile Arena, and will be produced and distributed live by HBO Pay-Per-View beginning at 6:00 p.m. PT.

"No one beats Andre Ward when it comes to training camp," said Ward's trainer, Virgil Hunter.  "We're going into camp with the mentality of another day, another fight, another win. His strive for perfection, work ethic, and consistency is what makes him a champion."

Many experts view this as a pick 'em fight, which leads us to the . . .

Odds on Ward-Kovalev

As WBO, WBA, and IBF Light Heavyweight World Champion Sergey Kovalev and former Two-time World Champion Andre Ward prepare for their epic “Pound For Pound” battle on November 19, fans, media, experts, and odds-makers around the world are split on who will be the favorite to win this virtually even-money battle.

And with good reason. Both Kovalev and Ward are undefeated and in their prime, making for a rare and exciting boxing matchup, and a testament to the moxie of the boxers and the promoters.

“I really believe this could end up being a ‘Fight of the Year’ candidate," said Jay Rood, Vice President of Race and Sports for MGM Resorts International.  "Usually fighters in good form don’t meet up.”

The fact that Ward is the slight favorite is because, in part, the public, especially those bettors who consider themselves as experts or "sharps," tend to go with the boxer over the puncher.

“It’s not very often that a fight in Las Vegas that’s this significant is this close in terms of odds,” said Rood. “Ward opened at -145 and he now is at -150.  I don’t believe it will change much from here.”

Although Ward is considered the boxer and Kovalev the puncher, both are versatile and skilled.  In other words, Ward, the perceived boxer, has power, and Kovalev, the perceived puncher, can box.

“The public is perceiving this fight, right or wrong, as ‘Boxer vs. Puncher,’” added Rood.  “Usually the boxer draws the ‘sharp’ action. Most of the ‘sharp’ money will be on the boxer.”

However, the general betting public appears to be trending toward Kovalev.

According to Rood, “Kovalev will draw good action, otherwise this number would need to be closer to -200 to balance the fight (betting action). I don’t think it will be that one-sided. I think the crowd going to the fight will be 60 percent on Kovalev.”

Curtis Stevens to fight on Ward-Kovalev undercard

Brooklyn's Curtis "Cerebral Assassin" Stevens (28-5, 21 KOs) returns to the ring to face James De La Rosa (23-4, 13 KOs) in a ten-round middleweight showdown on the Kovalev-Ward non-televised undercard.

"I'm happy someone is willing to fight me," said Stevens.  "Bless the gods. Now, it's time to turn it up a notch and get ready to check in and check out. The Bully is back!"

Stevens, 31, of Brownsville, returned to the ring on May 7 of this year and stopped previously undefeated Brazilian prospect Patrick Teixeira in the second round on the HBO Pay-Per-View undercard of Canelo-Khan. The victory over Teixeira catapulted Stevens back into the ranking of all four sanctioning bodies, including top ten ratings in both the IBF and WBC.

This will be Stevens's second fight working with world-renowned trainer and former world champion John David Jackson.

"Curtis Stevens is happy to be stepping back in the ring on November 19 against De La Rosa," said Jackson.  "He is eager to show the world that he deserves another chance to win the middleweight world title."

De La Rosa, 28, had his most recent win when he earned a unanimous decision upset over former title contender Alfredo Angulo on the undercard of Mayweather-Maidana. De La Rosa has suffered two back-to-back losses since his win over Angulo, but both have come at the hands of two previously undefeated prospects in Hugo Centeno Jr. and Jason Quigley.

Commonly, fighters in his position would prefer a tune-up to get back on a winning track but, in this case, De La Rosa opted out of that easy route and decided to test himself against another former title contender in Stevens.

"It's always good to fight on a big stage," said De La Rosa. "As always, I'm coming to fight and put on a show. I know I have a tough fighter in front of me in Curtis Stevens. With his style and my style, we'll warm the fans up for Kovalev-Ward. Thanks to Main Events and AC Sports Management, LLC for putting this together."

Talkin' Smack 

Bob Arum, poking fun at Donald Trump while promoting Manny Pacquiao's fight:
"Our ticket sales are great with Las Vegas fighters on this card in significant world championship fights.  Fans in Las Vegas can still buy their tickets online or by phone.  And to Mr. Trump's chagrin, the only drug testing taking place at Thomas and Mack, between now and November 5, will be the ones given by the Nevada State Athletic Commission to the fighters on the Pacquiao - Vargas card."

Heavyweight boxer LaRon Mitchell:
"I'm 36-years-young. I know that sounds old, but I'm like a Cadillac with 50,000 miles that has been parked in the garage for much of its life. I have no wear and tear."

Boxer Scott Alexander, on opponent LaRon Mitchell:
"I understand LaRon is a school teacher, but on October 21, I'll be teaching him a lesson."

Damon Allen credits B-Hop for inspiration

Damon "No Smilin" Allen revealed that his idol and mentor is a familiar face around Golden Boy Promotions -- GBP partner and former middleweight and light heavyweight World Champion Bernard Hopkins.

"I look up to Bernard Hopkins, and I am thankful for the doors he has opened for me and my career," Allen said. "His career motivates me to make the sacrifice to do what I love. I spend countless hours, multiple times a day, training and practicing my craft. While some days I'm tired and exhausted I still go 100 percent day in and day out -- and that is Bernard's influence."

Allen was on hand at the parade that Philadelphia threw for Hopkins following his 2004 defeat of Oscar De La Hoya, with the then 12-year-old Allen posing for photos with Hopkins as he delivered a speech to thousands of well-wishers.

"It's not every day that you come across talent who has the dedication, discipline, and natural skill that Damon has," said Hopkins. "I look back at the day in Philadelphia where that young boy looked up at me with his fists raised, and see where he is now -- who knows where he will be in the years to come as he fertilizes his talent."

Anthony Ogogo to fight for WBC belt

Anthony Ogogo (11-0, 7 KOs) will fight for his first pro title when he clashes with Craig Cunningham (16-1, 3 KOs) for the vacant WBC International Middleweight title at the Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham on October 22, live on Sky Sports.

"I'm delighted that this fight has now been confirmed and am incredibly excited to be fighting for my first title on such a great card in Birmingham live on Sky Sports," said Ogogo.

Ogogo's first shot at professional hardware comes after three successive wins following a difficult battle with injuries.

The 27-year-old London 2012 Olympic bronze medal hero has blown away those three opponents inside three rounds since his return in May.

"I'm feeling fitter and stronger than I ever have done before and am looking forward to getting in the ring on fight night and doing the business," said Ogogo.

Cunningham successfully defended his Midlands Area Middleweight title in a six round toe-to-toe war against Ryan Aston in May, and then dropped down to add the Super-Welterweight strap by beating tough Jason Welborn over ten rounds.

Those wins extended the 28-year-old's streak to five since his sole loss to former WBC International champion Tom Doran, and the Oldbury man will be confident to crash the Lowestoft man's party.

"I am fiercely ambitious and determined to reach the very top of this sport, but know that I can't look beyond Cunningham," said Ogogo.  "He is a good fighter with a good record, but I am completely focused on what I need to do to win that belt."

Ogogo and Cunningham's clash is part of a huge night of action in Birmingham topped by a fierce local derby between Frankie Gavin and Sam Eggington for the vacant WBC International Welterweight title.

A host of Birmingham boxers are in title action as Gamal Yafai defends his Commonwealth Super-Bantamweight title against Sean Davis, Marcus Ffrench and Robbie Barrett meet for the vacant English Super-Flyweight title, Don Broadhurst and Louis Norman fight for the vacant English Super-Flyweight title and the vacant Midlands Area Super-Lightweight crown is up for grabs between Jordan Cooke and Andy Keates.

Former World title challenger Brian Rose is in action alongside Cori Gibbs, Sam Bowen, Ryan Kelly, Joe Sherriff and Lennox Clarke.

Local boxer Danny Roman climbs to fifth in WBA rankings

Danny Roman (20-2-1, 7 KOs) continues to make news for all the right reasons. The super bantamweight from Los Angeles now occupies the No. 5 position in the WBA rankings. The move into the top five launches Roman into serious world championship consideration.

"The momentum has been building for a long time," said the 26-year-old Roman. "Now that I'm here, I'm ready to challenge anyone, anywhere."

Roman, who currently holds the NABA Title, first appeared on the WBA list last August, and ever since then, has been inching closer to the top spot with every win.

"We expect Roman to fight sometime in November," said Alex Camponovo, long time matchmaker and general manager at Thompson Boxing. "The date and opponent will be announced at a later time."

During his twelve fight winning streak, Roman has produced impressive, one-sided wins against veteran opposition. The growing list includes: Enrique Quevedo, Chris Martin, Daniel Noriega, Giovanni Caro, and Erik Ruiz.

He won the vacant NABA Championship last July against Noriega, and has made four successful title defenses. The most recent came against Quevedo in August.

Maurice Hooker and Darleys Perez to battle on Ward-Kovalev undercard

Rising star and NABO Junior Welterweight Champion Maurice Hooker (21-0-2, 16 KOs) will defend his NABA junior welterweight title against Darleys Perez (33-2-1, 21 KOs)in a ten-round bout on the televised undercard of Kovalev-Ward on Saturday, November 19.

"I want to thank my team at Maple Avenue Boxing Gym, Roc Nation Sports and HBO for giving me the opportunity to show the world a 'Mighty Mo' performance on the undercard of the 'Fight of the Year'," said Hooker. "For my part, I promise to put on a show for the fans in Las Vegas and the Pay-Per-View audience at home. No one punches like me. It's going to be lights out."

In his last appearance on August 6, Hooker captivated the crowd at Oracle Arena as the co-feature of Andre Ward-Alexander Brand. He wasted no time outperforming Washington D.C.'s Tyrone Barnett, landing a flurry of punches before scoring a technical knockout at the 2:17 mark of the opening round to retain his NABO junior welterweight title.

"I will be dedicating this fight to Aaron Pyror, who passed away, earlier this week," said Hooker.  "I can't think of a better way to honor 'The Hawk's' legacy than with a big win. I look to be a world-class junior welterweight champion like him."

Perez is coming off a May 20 knockout victory over fellow Colombian Ubadel Soto, an impressive bounce back following a tough title defense loss to Anthony Crolla, the previous year. The veteran fighter, who resides and trains full-time in the U.S., will step up a weight class to meet Hooker.

"This is my chance get back into the limelight. I have fought all over the world and facing Maurice Hooker in Las Vegas on November 19 is perhaps my last chance to show that I have a lot left inside the ring and I plan to take full advantage of it because losing is not an option," said Perez. "I will move up to the 140-pound division and I will be ready to challenge this young lion who has never fought a guy like me before. There will be fireworks in Las Vegas and I plan to go home a winner."

Shelestyuk to fight on ShoBox card

Undefeated 2012 Olympic Bronze Medalist Taras "Real Deal" Shelestyuk (14-0, 9 KOs) will face upset-minded Jaime Herrera (15-3-1, 8 KOs) in the 10-round welterweight main event of a ShoBox: The New Generation tripleheader on Friday, November 4, on Showtime from Omega Products International Event Center in Corona, Calif.

Shelestyuk was a member of a 2012 Ukrainian Olympic team that included featherweight gold medalist Vasyl Lomachenko and heavyweight gold medalist Oleksandr Usyk.

Shelestyuk (pronounced "TARE-as SHELL-es-took) averaged 85 punches per round in his ShoBox debut last November, winning an impressive 10-round unanimous decision over Aslanbek Kozaev. In his most recent start and lone outing this year last May 20, the 5-foot-10, 30-year-old Shelestyuk knocked out Erick Martinez in the third round at Ontario, Calif.

"My training is going great, I am more powerful and my speed is better," said the former international standout. "Herrera is a rough fighter, but it doesn't matter to me because I am looking to step up and get into championship level fights.''

Shelestyuk, who is trained by Eric Brown at Wild Card West, possesses solid skills, movement and punching power. Since turning pro in March 2013 he has exclusively campaigned in the United States.

Herrera, a pro since December 2009, seems to be a legitimate test for Shelestyuk. Herrera has won three straight, defeated undefeated prospects in four of last nine fights, and is 8-1-1 overall since dropping a decision to Adrian Granados in 2012. One of those wins was an upset knockout of one-time highly ranked welterweight and world title challenger Mike Jones on Aug. 23, 2014.

"Taras is a great fighter and I know I'm the underdog, but I've surprised some fighters before and I'm confident and ready to give it my best and win again," said Herrera. "I'm coming into this fight with the same mentality I had in those fights against the other unbeaten guys. The way I see it, Taras has everything to lose and I fight as I have nothing to lose.''

In the co-feature, undefeated cruiserweights Constantin Bejenaru (11-0, 4 KOs, 0-1-1 in World Series of Boxing) and Stivens Bujaj (16-0-1, 11 KOs) will collide in a 10-rounder for the vacant WBC International and WBC Continental Americas titles.

"Bujaj is a great boxer, we are both undefeated but there can only be one victor, and I do not plan on losing this fight,'' Bejenaru said.  "I entered this fight with the intention of winning. That is what I train to do, that is what I am going to do.

Bejenaru (pronounced "bay-zhin-nah-ROO") was an accomplished amateur. The southpaw boxed on the Romanian national team for 10 years and was a nine-time national champion.

In his ShoBox premiere last April 15, the active and athletic native of Ungheni, Moldova, scored a unanimous eight-round decision over previously unbeaten Alexey Zubov (10-0), a former Russian amateur champion and seven-time European amateur champion.

"As a man who has been boxing for over 22 years, I feel extremely grateful to have been given this opportunity," Bejenaru said.  "In my previous ShoBox fight, I was labeled as the underdog. Those who doubted me quickly changed their opinions once they saw me fight, and even more so once the referee raised my hand in victory.''

Bujaj (pronounced "Boo-ha") was born in Kelmend, Albania, but relocated to the Bronx, New York at an early age. The unbeaten prospect was a two-time New York Golden Gloves Champion at heavyweight who's made for good fights every time out and mostly made it look easy. This is Bujaj's third scheduled 10-round start, while Bejenaru will be making his 10-round debut.

The 26-year-old has won his last four in a row, including his last two by knockout, since boxing a split 10-round draw in a slugfest with then-undefeated three-time Chicago Golden Gloves champion Junior Wright (10-0) in May 2014.

"I'm getting prepared,'' said Bujah who's coming off a first-round TKO over previously undefeated beaten Sergio Ramirez (11-0) on June 11. "I'm training like this is a world title fight, and I'm totally ready to win. I know my opponent is undefeated and I can't overlook him. The way I feel, I'm on my 'A' Game. I was training in Las Vegas and now I am back in New York with Sharif Younan and I am ready to do everything I can to win this fight."

Manuel Avila to face Jose Ramirez at LA Fight Club card

On November 4, LA Fight Club will showcase one of its last two events for 2016, as International Boxing Association Featherweight Title holder and rising Golden Boy Promotions contender Manuel "Tino" Avila (21-0, 8 KOs) will face a significant test, taking on former WBO International featherweight title holder Jose Ramirez (27-5-2, 16 KOs) in a ten-round fight, Golden Boy Promotions announced.

The main event will be broadcast live on Estrella TV's Boxeo Estelar.

The co-main event of the night will feature hard-hitting local Angelino, Emilio Sanchez (13-0, 9 KOs) stepping in against Mexico's Diuhl Olguin (10-5-2, 9 KOs) for an eight-round super bantamweight bout.

LaRon Mitchell to face Scott Alexander in heavyweight clash

It's official. LaRon Mitchell (14-0, 13 KOs) and Scott Alexander (12-1-2, 6 KOs) will fight for the vacant NABF Jr. Heavyweight Championship on Friday, October 21, Thompson Boxing Promotions announced.

"The heavyweight division is hot right now," said Henry Ramirez, trainer of Alexander.  "This is a fifty-fifty shot with the winner taking that next step toward earning a world title shot. Scott is one of the most disciplined fighters I've worked with. He 's focused. I know LaRon and his team are going to be focused. This is a pick 'em fight."

The "Path to Glory" 10-round title fight originates from the Doubletree Hotel in Ontario, California.  Doors open at 6:30 p.m. local time with the first bell at approximately 7:45 p.m.

"The drive and desire burns inside me," said Mitchell.  "That's my motivation. My whole team has the determination to become a world champion no matter who gets put in front of me. The only thing that is on my mind is beating Scott. I can't get caught up with who might be next."

Tickets are priced at $40, $60, and $100 and are available for purchase online at ThompsonBoxing.com, or by calling 714-935-0900.

"Every fight is different, but as a boxer-puncher my job is to adjust," said Alexander.  "Whatever is working for him, I have to make the adjustment to take that away. LaRon likes to load up on his punches and I think I can exploit that."

Magdaleno defeats Hovanissyan at LA Fight Club

Diego Magdaleno (29-2, 12 KOs) defeated Art Hovanissyan (17-3-3, 9 KOs) via unanimous decision in a slugfest in the most recent edition of Golden Boy's LA Fight Club.

"Entering the ring, every boxer has a chance to get the knockout-and that's what I came for. However, I'm satisfied with the unanimous decision that I received tonight," said Magdaleno.

The bout showcased both of the fighter's relentlessness in the ring, as both exchanged punches from start to finish. During the fourth round, Magdaleno received a head butt, resulting in a cut over his eye, but that didn't stop him from winning the fight with the judges all scoring it 99-91.

"I knew what to expect from my opponent, but I feel like I didn't fight as well as I should have. However, I did fight with my whole heart," said Hovhannisyan. "Going forward, I'll be looking over the tape with my coach to go over my mistakes and what I should work on. I want to thank Golden Boy for tonight's event and this opportunity. The next steps are getting rest and healing my hand which was hurt in the fight."

The evening's co-main event broadcast on the Estrella TV Boxeo Estelar featured tough Philadelphia fighter Damon "No Smiling'" Allen Jr. (11-0-1, 4 KOs) facing experienced Mexican fighter Luis Arceo (28-15-5, 18 KOs) in a fight going the distance. Throughout the bout, each fighter attempted to gain the upper hand going up against one another with exchanges of hits and blocks-resulting in a draw with all three judges scoring it 76-76.

"I knew it was going to be a tough fight because Arceo had a ton of experience under his belt," spoke Damon Allen. "I made the fight harder than it had to be. It was a learning experience, and we are definitely going back to the drawing board after this. I want a rematch."

Arceo expressed his thoughts on the bout.

"I honestly feel like I was robbed," said Luis Arceo. "Each time I would unleash my punches, he would run away. I was the tougher fighter, and I am glad that the judges saw that. I entered the ring as the underdog, and with this draw I feel like I was vindicated."

Golden Boy Promotions to showcase boxers on "Fighter Spotlight" 

Golden Boy Promotions announced this week the launch of "Golden Boy Promotions Fighter Spotlight," an interactive digital series specifically designed to give fans an inside look at the fighters in the Golden Boy Promotion's stable prior to upcoming fights.

The spotlight series will offer all types of unique content for fans, including:

  • Snapchat Takeovers - Each fighter will give an exclusive peek into fight prep.
  • Instagram & Snapchat Stories - Tune in, keep up with the featured fighter.
  • Behind-the-Scenes-Video - Live streams and exclusive interviews
  • Fighter Profile - Everything you ever wanted to know... stats, fun facts, Q&A's and more.
  • VIP Newsletter- Weekly publication serving over 50,000 subscribers worldwide.

Golden Boy rolls out its first "Fighter Spotlight" series with middleweight knockout artist David Lemieux.

Lemieux makes his highly anticipated comeback to the ring when he faces Argentinian fighter Cristian Rios on October 22nd on his home turf in Montreal.

By Staff of TheDailySportsHerald.com and news services


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DSH Boxing Notebook: B-Hop returns for final fight, Ward-Kovalev prepare for battle

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