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Newsletter: The Fight Corner: Los Angeles is positioned to land a significant fight card

Nonito Donaire healing after loss to Guillermo Rigondeaux
Nonito Donaire
(Harry How / Getty Images)

Hi, my name is Lance Pugmire, and welcome to our weekly boxing/MMA newsletter. Let’s get right to the news.

Los Angeles is positioned to land another significant fight card if the founders of the World Boxing Super Series embrace the wishes of their television partner, the streaming service DAZN.

Joe Markowski, DAZN’s executive vice president for North America, said at a Saturday meeting with reporters in New York that he’d like both of the two pending World Boxing Super Series’ tournament finales to be staged as part of a doubleheader in the U.S.

The junior-welterweight final is between New Orleans’ Regis Prograis (24-0, 20 knockouts) and Scotland’s Josh Taylor (15-0, 12 KOs) and the bantamweight finale pits unbeaten pound-for-pound talent Naoya Inoue (18-0, 16 KOs) versus veteran four-division champion Nonito Donaire (40-5, 26 KOs).

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The bouts are expected to be staged by October.

As DAZN seeks more subscribers, Markowski said, “The merger of the two finals makes sense for us. It’s a bigger event, there’ll be stronger marketing. Naturally, the desire is to have it in the United States, and we’ll see what happens. We’re a key stakeholder and we’ve been vocal with them.”

Prograis’ promoter Lou DiBella added, “Josh Taylor’s fans will travel. I want to see it where it makes the most noise.”

Prograis says he saw “a lot of holes” in Taylor’s defense during the Scot’s home semifinal victory, and with an eye toward fully unifying the division and pursuing a welterweight dream match against former fully unified 140-pound Terence Crawford, he is training at Santa Monica’s Churchill Boxing Club.

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He likes the idea of making the fight site “neutral,” and DiBella said, “as a big fan of the World Boxing Super Series … I think when you look at the quality of the matchups, it’s good stuff, but it’s not resonating enough … to make it resonate, you need to go someplace to get the worldwide press attention it deserves.

“If you put them together, it’s a gigantic show. Try to create something that transcends an ordinary fight card, at an arena full of people, with so much press attention.”

Inoue has been especially destructive in his recent work to elevate in the pound-for-pound rankings, and Prograis, with his World Boxing Assn. belt, envisions himself climbing the ranks while charming with his deep knowledge of the sport’s history and his interesting bravery outside the ring.

“I like swimming with sharks, chasing [baby] alligators, skydiving, riding dirt bikes 100 miles an hour with my shirt off – all of it,” Prograis said. “I guess it’s just the adrenaline that I like. I’ll be daring, but I’m smart. I won’t wrestle or swim with something that can truly kill me.”

More 140-pound news

DAZN is close to confirming it will stream the 140-pound title unification between World Boxing Council champion Jose Ramirez of Fresno and World Boxing Organization champion Maurice Hooker July 27, probably in Dallas.

Prograis fought Hooker as an amateur, and has engaged in a long-running beef on social media with Ramirez.

The division became even more compelling Saturday night when Hooker promoter Eddie Hearn of England had former four-division champion Mikey Garcia of Oxnard sitting next to him at Andy Ruiz Jr.’s shocking seventh-round technical knockout of Anthony Joshua at Madison Square Garden.

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While Garcia has been connected to a possible welterweight date against Danny Garcia, it was pretty clear from his welterweight loss to champion Errol Spence Jr. in March that returning to a lower weight class will be in his best interest.

Cejudo chasing greatness

UFC flyweight champion and Los Angeles native Henry Cejudo seeks to join Conor McGregor, Amanda Nunes and Daniel Cormier as simultaneous two-division champions Saturday when he meets Marlon Moraes in the main event of a pay-per-view in Chicago.

“It’s about being attentive to the fact that this guy has put a lot of guys on the floor,” said Cejudo, who views the bout as an opportunity to fill a needed void for the UFC’s sagging star power.

“I think I am the face of the sport now, and winning this will solidify that. I’m the only man that speaks three languages, has an [Olympic wrestling] gold medal, a flyweight title and can take the bantamweight belt. It would be crazy for these people not to give me the [No. 1] pound-for-pound spot. It would be crazy for me not to be the face of the UFC. I believe I’m the greatest combat athlete of all time.”

Cejudo says he’d consider pursuing a 2020 Olympic spot in wrestling.

“Who’s giving me the freedom to do that is me,” Cejudo said, adding in a serious tone that he is capable of becoming a pro boxer, too. “Tell [three-division boxing champion] Vasiliy Lomachenko that he can wait in line … why not? One round boxing, one round of MMA and we’ll see who makes it out.”

UFC additions

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Former women’s featherweight champion Cris Cyborg will return to the octagon July 27 in Edmonton against Felicia Spencer on the UFC 240 card headlined by the Max Holloway-Frankie Edgar featherweight title fight, and middleweight Derek Brunson will fight Ian Heinisch Aug. 17 at Honda Center on the UFC 241 card headlined by the Daniel Cormier-Stipe Miocic heavyweight title rematch.

So long from here

Returning home from New York on Sunday night, I scooped up the newspaper on my driveway and opened up the Los Angeles Times’ Sports section on my dinner table to see my story on Ruiz’s upset over Joshua – cover story, above the fold.

Not a bad way to go out for my final Sunday at the L.A. Times.

Starting Monday, I’ll be joining the subscription sports service, The Athletic, as Senior Writer for Boxing as it launches ambitious new combat sports coverage with several talented writers in the industry.

I thank The Times for allowing me to mention that. I so appreciate Editor Norman Pearlstine, Sports Editor Angel Rodriguez, the entire sports staff and each of my gifted colleagues for the daily inspiration they’ve provided me.

Rodriguez, along with fight-friendly columnists Dylan Hernandez and Arash Markazi, will certainly maintain the standards of coverage that I’ve tried to bring to you -- our deserving, loyal readers of combat sports. And none of this would be possible if Rodriguez hadn’t first invested in my request to expand our coverage in 2015, just before Mayweather-Pacquiao became the most lucrative fight of all time.

Last year, Hernandez paid me an incredible compliment as he explained his surprise that an impressive L.A. crowd of more than 12,500 showed up at Staples Center to watch Mikey Garcia, not too far removed from his 2 ½ years out of the ring that threatened his relevance.

“You know,” Dylan said of The Times’ pre-fight coverage of Garcia, “a lot of that crowd was thanks to you.”

When I delivered the keynote speech last month to the North American Boxing Federation convention, I noted one of the seminal moments of my nearly 20 years here, at a time when then-managing editor and current New York Times Editor Dean Baquet had plucked me from sports investigations and shifted me to hard news, covering law enforcement and courts.

I’d been sent to San Quentin Prison to cover the scheduled night-time execution of Kevin Cooper, convicted of killing a Chino Hills family and a young boy who spent the night at their home.

Over the course of 90 minutes, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor issued an opinion sparing Cooper’s life, the Rev. Jesse Jackson led a band of relieved death-penalty protesters singing at the prison gate, and I interviewed the murdered boy’s mournful family in a nearby motel lobby, broken up over their pursuit of justice being denied.

With deadline nearing, I phoned the office to tell an editor, Monte Morin, of everything that was happening, and I wondered if any other Times reporters were joining me in recapping all of this.

“Lance,” Morin said, “you are the L.A. Times.”

The privilege was all mine.


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