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Bob Arum details early 2018 ESPN boxing schedule, says Anthony Joshua-Joseph Parker bout 'very, very close'

Bob Arum details early 2018 ESPN boxing schedule, says Anthony Joshua-Joseph Parker bout 'very, very close'
Bob Arum attends a news conference at Def Gym in the Sheung Wan district of Hong Kong on Jan. 27, 2016. (Isaac Lawrence / AFP / Getty Images)

Veteran boxing promoter Bob Arum turned 86 Friday, and his age-defying energy is seen in his passion for the boxing matches he's scheduled — or is closing in on — for early next year.

Arum, who co-promotes New Zealand's World Boxing Organization heavyweight champion Joseph Parker (24-0, 17 knockouts), said negotiations are "very, very close" in finalizing a March 31 title-unification bout against unbeaten International Boxing Federation/World Boxing Assn. champion Anthony Joshua (20-0, 20 KOs) of England.

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The bout would be staged at Principality Stadium in Wales, and Showtime is expected to televise the match, Arum told the Los Angeles Times. Joshua scored a 10th-round technical knockout of Carlos Takam at that rugby stadium on Oct. 28.

"I give Parker a shot with Joshua. Joshua doesn't have a chin, man," Arum said. "Parker, you can hit him with a baseball bat and nothing happens.

"Now, I don't say Parker is the second coming of [Vasyl] Lomachenko, but he has a really good chin. He's a tough guy, and he hits OK. Joshua's been hurt in a lot of fights. I don't demean him, but Parker has a hell of a chance."

Joshua's promoter, Eddie Hearn, has proposed a 70-30 split with Parker, whose team is countering for 65-35.

"It seems to me with a little tugging and so forth, they can do 2/3 and 1/3 and that's what I think is going to happen," Arum said.

Arum also said he's planning a March or April bout that will match unbeaten former four-belt junior-welterweight champion Terence Crawford in a WBO welterweight title fight, likely against champion Jeff Horn of Australia, who has a tuneup fight this week. The Crawford fight could be ESPN's first pay-per-view since the network announced its union with Arum earlier this year, the promoter said.

And Manny Pacquiao is looking at an April date in Mexico or the Middle East against a lesser welterweight that will position him for a title shot against the Crawford-Horn winner later in 2018, Arum said.

Before heading to a lunch with reporters to announce some of the fights and dates on his company's early 2018 ESPN schedule, Arum told The Times at a Friday breakfast that one of those bouts will be a March 17 St. Patrick's Day card at Madison Square Garden headlined by the World Boxing Council 140-pound title fight between Central California's unbeaten Jose Ramirez and Brooklyn's Amir Imam.

Ramirez was expected to fight in Fresno in February, but he required additional time to heal from a hand injury, Arum said.

Ireland's Michael Conlan, who sold out the Garden's 5,000-seat Theater when UFC champion Conor McGregor escorted him to the ring on St. Patrick's Day this year, also will be on the Ramirez-Imam card, Arum said.

Arum's Top Rank and ESPN are planning three March dates and two in February.

On Feb. 3, Arum's unbeaten super-middleweight world champion Gilberto Ramirez will meet Habib Ahmed in Corpus Christi, Texas, and Jerwin Ancajas, the International Boxing Federation super-flyweight champion from the Philippines, will meet Israel Gonzalez.

On Feb. 16 in Reno, Santa Monica-trained Ray Beltran will fight for the vacant WBO 140-pound belt against South African fighter Paulus Moses, Arum said. Alex Saucedo, who also trains at Wild Card West, will be on that card, along with unbeaten light-heavyweight Oleksandr Gvozdyk (14-0, 12 KOs).

Arum said he's awaiting clarification, expected to arrive Friday from the WBC that could make top-rated contender Eleider Alvarez (23-0, 11 KOs) Gvozdyk's opponent, to become the mandatory to a proposed Adonis Stevenson-Badou Jack title fight.

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Southern California-trained Oscar Valdez, the WBO featherweight champion, and Jessie Magdaleno, the WBO super-bantamweight champion, are being eyed to fill either of ESPN's March 10 or March 31 dates.

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