Alvarez vs Smith Jr – ESPN+ – Aug. 22

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When:
22. August 2020 all-day America/New York Timezone
2020-08-22T00:00:00-04:00
2020-08-23T00:00:00-04:00
Where:
MGM Grand Conference Center
4701 Koval Ln
Las Vegas, NV 89109
USA

Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET / 4:30 p.m. PT live on ESPN+ – from the MGM Grand Conference Center – Grand Ballroom (Las Vegas)

(ESPN+ 7:30 p.m. ET / 4:30 p.m. PT)

• Eleider Alvarez 174.6 lbs vs. Joe Smith Jr. 174.9 lbs
(WBO Light Heavyweight Title Eliminator — 12 Rounds)

• Rob Brant 161.1 lbs vs. Vitaliy Kopylenko 159.5 lbs
(Middleweight — 10 Rounds)

• Julian Rodriguez 141.5 lbs vs. Anthony Laureano 145.9 lbs
(Junior Welterweight — 10 Rounds)

• Clay Collard 159.8 lbs vs. Maurice Williams 158.2 lbs
(Middleweight — 8 Rounds)

• Duke Ragan 125.5 lbs vs. Luis Alvarado 126.8 lbs
(Featherweight — 4 Rounds)

• Robert Rodriguez 119.7 lbs vs. Abel Soriano 119.8 lbs
(Bantamweight — 6 Rounds)

• Adrian Valdovinos 137.2 lbs vs. Israel Mercado 136.6 lbs
(Junior Welterweight — 6 Rounds)

• Wendy Toussaint 154.4 lbs vs. Isiah Jones 157.2 lbs
(Middleweight — 8 Rounds)

Light heavyweights Joe Smith Jr. and Eleider “Storm” Alvarez took the MGM Grand “Bubble” stage for the main event press conference Thursday afternoon in advance of Saturday’s WBO world title eliminator, which will stream live on ESPN+ (coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. ET).

In other action Saturday evening, former middleweight world champion Rob Brant returns against Vitaliy Kopylenko, Julian “Hammer Hands” Rodriguez fights Anthony Laureano in a battle of unbeaten junior welterweights, “Cassius” Clay Collard seeks “Bubble” victory number three against Maurice Williams in an eight-rounder at middleweight. Cincinnati’s Duke Ragan makes his highly anticipated professional debut in a four-round featherweight bout.

This is what two of the division’s heaviest hitters had to say.

Eleider Alvarez 

“I feel 100 percent. I feel no pain since the recovery {from an injured shoulder}, so I feel great.

“{The Michael Seals knockout} was my first fight in 11 months, so I’m happy to be back. I want to put on a good performance. And I felt that with the performance against Seals, I tried. I would’ve been happy with a decision. I was trying different things, but I got the knockout.

“When Oscar Rivas and I first came to Montreal, we didn’t speak English. We didn’t speak French. I knew a little bit of English, but over 10 years, I’ve learned to speak French. I’m even better in French than English. It’s been a special experience for me, and here we are talking in French.

“It was hard for all the boxers, especially in the first two months to train, because everything was closed. We had to adapt to that. Now, things seem to be getting a little more back to normal. The gym is open.

It’s not what it was. Hopefully, the pandemic can be over, and we can get back to normal. There were challenges, but we had them like every other fighter.

“I want to be champion of the world for a second time. Whether it’s by knockout or decision, I know Joe Smith comes to fight. I’m going to do the best I can to win this because I want to be champion of the world for a second time.”

Joe Smith, Jr.

“Being the underdog, I always feel like I have something to prove. I don’t mind it. I like getting in there and proving the world that I belong at the top and should be a champion.

“The {first-round knockout} over Fonfara, I was like a 20-1 underdog in that fight. I came out and definitely shocked the world with that knockout. It got me here. And it got me all the struggles and the opportunities that I’ve gotten since. It all led up to this, and this one’s the big one. I’m really excited to be here and looking forward to getting another shot at a title.

“Same thing with Jesse Hart. I was pretty much the underdog in that fight. He was talking a lot, and I just kept it cool. I went in there and did what I had to do, and I got the win. That’s what I gotta keep doing.

“This is the number one priority right now for me. I’m just focused on getting this win Saturday night, so I trained very hard. I’m well prepared. As far as the tree business is going {Smith and his father own and operate Team Smith Tree Service on Long Island}, it’s doing well. Due to the storms, we picked up some work.

Smith focused on Alvarez

It was a little slow for some time because of the COVID 19, but it has picked up. My father’s out there every day, and he’s doing all the estimates. He’s running the business.

I just pop in here and there. I haven’t been doing much with the company. I’ve just been focused on this.

“The only thing this guy over here is trying to stop me from accomplishing the goal that I have set for myself.

“I’m just going to get in there and give it my all. I plan on coming out on top. I just want to put on a great show for everybody and have a great night.”

JOE “THE BEAST” SMITH JR. IS READY FOR VEGAS AS CAMP CLOSES

As JOE SMITH JR.’s (Long Island, NY 25-3 20KO’s) WBO Light Heavyweight World Championship Title Eliminator against ELEIDER “STORM” ALVAREZ (25-1 13KO’s) comes roaring around the corner on August 22, a unique fight camp comes to a close. Gyms that were once filled with echoing punches on the heavy bag, the clicking of a jump ropes on the floor and the conversation of stories from boxing past, now remain in a deafening silence.

Regardless of the current COVID world, when the phone rings, Long Island’s Common Man, Joe Smith Jr., answers. Come fight night the goal remains the same for Joe Smith Jr., “I just want to keep it going,” he said, ” I got to put on a great show every time I’m in there, so I can have more and more people recognize me.”

Fighters, who are often characterized as creatures of habit, have dealt with this “new normal” in different ways. For Smith Jr., it was a change he recognized, but something he knew he must embrace and make ‘common’, “It was different but as far as training goes, when your training you’re not really around people going out and doing things, so the last two months haven’t made a big difference because I would separate myself from everyone normally.”

Smith Jr. will be returning for his second consecutive bout on ESPN (this time on ESPN+), where he was last in action this past January, defeating then #3 world rated light heavyweight JESSE HART (then 26-2 21KO’s) in classic upset fashion. Smith believes it’s his duty as a fighter to to bring live sporting entertainment into the homes of millions who have otherwise been in a sport drought, “Boxing has been carrying the sports world. We have to make sure if we have a fight coming up that we stay in quarantine to not mess anything up and be able to get in there to put on a show for the fans.”

After tuning in to the ESPN boxing summer series, Smith Jr. says the circumstances will not faze him come fight night, “I have watched a few fights on ESPN. It’s definitely different, but boxing is a lonely sport, when you’re training it’s only you and your trainer, that’s it.”

Brant-Kopylenko to serve as co-feature beginning at 10 p.m. ET

Former middleweight world champion Rob “Bravo” Brant’s comeback begins in a Las Vegas “Bubble.” Brant, who lost his belt to Ryota Murata last July and had a January return scrapped due to a torn biceps, will fight Vitaliy Kopylenko in a 10-round middleweight tilt Saturday, August 22 from the MGM Grand Conference Center.

Brant-Kopylenko will serve as the co-feature to the Eleider-Alvarez-Joe Smith Jr. light heavyweight world title eliminator live and exclusively on ESPN+ (10 p.m. ET).

The undercard stream (ESPN+, 7:30 p.m. ET) features the return of boxing’s newest cult hero, “Cassius” Clay Collard, the former UFC fighter who is the leading contender for 2020 Prospect of the Year.

“We have a can’t-miss main event and the highly anticipated returns of Rob Brant and Clay Collard. What a night at the fights inside the ‘Bubble,’” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “Rob is rejuvenated and ready to begin his ascent towards another world title. As for Clay, whenever he fights, he delivers.”

Brant (25-2, 17 KOs) upset the odds in October 2018, defeating Murata by unanimous decision to win the WBA world title nearly one year removed from his loss to Jürgen Brähmer. He defended his world title once, then traveled to Murata’s home country of Japan intent on repeating the deed. Instead, Murata turned the tables, knocking out Brant in the second round of a slugfest that saw 354 punches thrown in 334 seconds of action. Following the Murata defeat, Brant hired a new trainer in Brian McIntyre, who is best known for his work with pound-for-pound king Terence “Bud” Crawford and WBO junior lightweight world champion Jamel “Semper Fi” Herring.

Kopylenko (28-2, 16 KOs), from Vasylkiv, Ukraine hopes to rebound from a May 2019 split decision loss to Steven Butler. Prior to the Butler loss, he’d won six consecutive bouts. A 12-year pro, Kopylenko advanced to the semifinals of the 2014 “Boxcino” middleweight tournament, which aired as part of the ESPN “Friday Night Fights” series.

“I have worked extremely hard, even though the current climate through the pandemic has been a bit hectic,” Brant said. “After physical therapy, I stayed focused on my nutrition, thanks to my wonderful wife, Tiffany, and began doing a lot of distance running until I was cleared to start punching again. I have been in camp for close to three months now and feel very strong and confident. Kopylenko is talented with a great body attack. I am very confident, but I respect his skill set and will prepare like this is a world title bout. I’m back!”

Collard (8-2-3, 3 KOs) will face Maurice Williams in a middleweight bout scheduled for eight or six rounds, his third “Bubble” appearance since June 18. Collard is 4-0 in 2020, including three victories over previously undefeated prospects. Williams (7-1, 3 KOs) has won five in a row since a fifth-round TKO loss to Dennis Knifechief in November 2016. He has since avenged his loss to Knifechief twice, including a third-round TKO victory.

“I just look at this as another fight. Nothing’s really changed other than the attention I’m getting,” Collard said. “I’m loving all of this. I’m just training and getting ready to do what I love.

“I didn’t know how I’d like fighting without fans and being quarantined, but I enjoy fighting for Top Rank in the ‘Bubble.’ I’m just blessed to be part of this experience.”

In other undercard action:

In a 10-round duel of unbeaten junior welterweights, Julian “Hammer Hands” Rodriguez (19-0, 12 KOs) will take on “Action” Anthony Laureano (13-0, 4 KOs). Rodriguez, a seven-year pro from Hasbrouck Heights, N.J., went 3-0 in 2019 following a nearly two-year layoff.

Star Boxing-promoted prospect Wendy Toussaint (11-0, 5 KOs) will take on “Bubble” veteran Isiah Jones (9-2, 3 KOs) in a middleweight fight scheduled for eight or six rounds. Jones, who went 1-1 inside the “Bubble” in June, is coming off a majority decision victory June 30 over the previously unbeaten Donte Stubbs.

In scheduled six-round contests, Robert Rodriguez (8-0-1, 4 KOs) will fight Abel Soriano (10-0, 7 KOs) at bantamweight, while knockout artist Israel Mercado (7-0, 7 KOs) will battle fellow California native Adrian Valdovinos (5-0-1, 4 KOs) at junior welterweight.

Former U.S. amateur star Duke Ragan, from Cincinnati, will make his long-awaited professional debut against Luis Alvarado (1-1) in a four-rounder at featherweight.

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