- Miguel Maravilla
Top Rank on ESPN: Joshua Greer Jr., Jose Pedraza and Emanuel Navarrete to Headline at MGM Grand and
LAS VEGAS (June 9, 2020) — Don’t blink. Top Rank on ESPN’s summer schedule resumes with a trio of shows, commencing Tuesday, June 16, with the return of bantamweight contender Joshua “Don’t Blink” Greer Jr. in a 10-rounder against 23-year-old Filipino upstart Mike Plania at the MGM Grand Conference Center – Grand Ballroom in Las Vegas. The action continues from MGM Grand Thursday, June 18, when former two-weight world champion Jose “Sniper” Pedraza will face former world title challenger Mikkel LesPierre in a 10-round super lightweight showdown. Week 2 concludes Saturday, June 20, at TV Azteca Studios in Mexico City, when WBO junior featherweight world champion Navarrete will fight Uriel “Yuca” Lopez in a 10-round featherweight bout. Navarrete-Lopez will headline one of two June cards from TV Azteca Studios, which will be promoted by Top Rank in association with Zanfer Promotions. All three Week 2 events will air live on ESPN and ESPN Deportes (in Spanish), with start times to be announced shortly. “It is exciting to see these great fighters back in action and in fights that promise to be action-packed,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “Greer and Pedraza have tough opponents in front of them, but if they are victorious, we could see them in world title fights before the end of the year. Navarrete is the king of the 122-pounders, a throwback fighter who wants to stay as active as possible.” June 16 MGM Grand Conference Center – Grand Ballroom Main Event Joshua Greer Jr. (22-1-1, 12 KOs) vs. Mike Plania (23-1, 12 KOs) 10 rounds, Bantamweight Greer, the Chicago product who taunts potential KO victims with custom-made pillows, is knocking on the doorstep of a world title shot. He has won 19 fights in a row and is currently the WBO No. 1 contender at bantamweight. Plania, meanwhile, has won eight straight bouts since a March 2018 decision loss to Juan Carlos Payano, a fight that propelled Payano to a world title shot against pound-for-pound great Naoya Inoue. “Whoever the opponent is, it doesn’t matter. I prepare the same,” Greer said. “Every fight is a world title fight for me. I’m ranked number one in the world, so I have to take advantage of this opportunity. ‘Mr. ESPN’ is back!” Co-Feature Antonio DeMarco (33-8-1, 24 KOs) vs. Giovani Santillan (25-0, 15 KOs) 10 rounds, Welterweight Former lightweight world champion DeMarco, who is coming off a competitive decision loss to top contender Jamal James, represents a quantum leap in class for the 28-year-old Santillan. A native of San Diego who has stopped his last four opponents, Santillan hopes to become the first man to knock out DeMarco in nearly eight years. In his last bout, he overcame a nearly 19-month layoff to knock out Wilfrido Buelvas in two rounds. Undercard Nikoloz Sekhniashvili (5-0, 4 KOs), a 26-year-old who hails from the nation of Georgia, will make his 2020 debut against Detroit native Isiah Jones (8-1, 3 KOs) in a six-rounder at super middleweight. Sekhniashvili, trained by Javiel Centeno, is part of a deep stable of fighters that includes Puerto Rican phenom Xander Zayas and lightweight contender George Kambosos Jr. Super featherweight prospect Edward Vazquez (7-0, 1 KO), from Fort Worth, Texas, will face an opponent to be named in a six-rounder. Puerto Rican-born heavyweight Hector Perez (6-2, 3 KOs) will fight southpaw spoiler Juan Torres (5-2-1, 2 KOs), from Cypress, Texas, in a six-round bout. Torres has won two straight and has never been knocked out in a professional match. June 18 MGM Grand Conference Center – Grand Ballroom Main Event Jose Pedraza (26-3, 13 KOs) vs. Mikkel LesPierre (22-1-1, 10 KOs) 10 rounds, Super Lightweight Pedraza, who won world titles at junior lightweight and lightweight, is taking another run at the super lightweight division following last September’s decision loss to Jose “Chon” Zepeda. His opponent LesPierre challenged Maurice Hooker for a world title last year, dropping a unanimous decision. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Brooklyn resident received deliveries and assisted doctors and nurses at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in Manhattan. “I am very excited to finally return to the ring after this long break. During quarantine, I made adjustments and trained hard from home, Pedraza said. “Despite everything that is happening in the world, my team and I have had a great training camp. I have done many runs up the mountains in Cidra, Puerto Rico. I am now focused on giving the fans a great show on June 18 against Mikkel LesPierre. We know he is a world-class fighter, but I am, too, and I am determined to return to the top once again.” “I’m excited and blessed to be a part of the first round of televised sports as we navigate through this pandemic,” LesPierre said. "Jose Pedraza is a good fighter and a former world champion, but I feel that I have the tools to beat him. It will be a great fight and an opportunity for me to take my career to the next level. The Maurice Hooker fight was just a taste of what the elite level is all about. I'm determined to get back to title contention. This fight is the first step toward that goal. I’m ready to go." Co-Feature Gabriel Flores Jr. (17-0, 6 KOs) vs. Josec Ruiz (21-2-3, 14 KOs) 10 rounds, Lightweight The 20-year-old Flores, fresh off a win on the Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury 2 undercard, returns in his first scheduled 10-rounder. Flores, the Stockton, California native who signed with Top Rank when he was 16 years old, packed more than 10,000 spectators into the Stockton Arena last May to establish himself as one of the sport’s top regional ticket-sellers. Ruiz is unbeaten in his last 16 bouts. Undercard David “The Lion of Zion” Kaminsky (6-0, 3 KOs) will face noted spoiler Clay Collard (6-2-3, 2 KOs) in a six-rounder at super middleweight. Collard, who also is a veteran MMA pro, has defeated unbeaten prospects in his last two fights. In four-round bouts each, Puerto Rican super featherweight Frevian Gonzalez (2-0, 1 KO) will fight an opponent to be named, while super lightweight Victor Rodriguez (2-0, 1 KO) will face Justin Horsley (0-1). June 20 TV Azteca Studios Main Event Emanuel Navarrete (31-1, 27 KOs) vs. Uriel Lopez (13-13-1, 6 KOs) 10 rounds, Featherweight Boxing’s most active world champion, Navarrete defended his title five times (all by KO) in nine months, most recently knocking out Jeo Santisima on the Wilder-Fury 2 Pay-Per-View undercard. Navarrete is fighting as a featherweight for the first time in nearly three years in what will be his sixth bout in 13 months. Lopez has a 2016 knockout victory over longtime Japanese contender Ryo Matsumoto. Undercard action will feature Carlos “Chinito” Ornelas (25-2, 14 KOs), who will take on Edwin “Pupo” Palomares (12-3-1, 3 KOs) in a 10-rounder at featherweight. Featherweight prospect Sergio Chirino Sanchez (14-1, 8 KOs) will look to extend his winning streak to six against Gustavo Alan Pina (8-2, 5 KOs) in an eight-round bout. Former interim world champion Silvia Torres (20-2-2, 7 KOs) will face 21-bout veteran Edith de Jesus Flores in an eight-rounder at light flyweight. Mexico City-based flyweight prospect Ivan Armando Garcia (5-0, 3 KOs) will fight Roberto Palomares (5-4-1, 1 KO) in his first scheduled six-rounder.