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Vasiliy Lomachenko is healthy and ready to earn his way back into a lightweight championship fight, but first he needs a convincing victory against Richard Commey on Saturday (ESPN/ESPN+, 5:30 p.m. ET). Then he’ll have to hope that champion George Kambosos Jr. will fight him.
For now, all Lomachenko (15-2, 11 KOs), 33, of Ukraine, can control is to showcase his skills and score an impressive win against Commey in the main event of a Top Rank Boxing card at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
“I’m very excited because this is the next step of my boxing career,” Lomachenko said at Thursday’s news conference at MSG.
Commey (30-3, 27 KOs), 34, of Ghana, was a lightweight champion until he lost his belt to Teofimo Lopez in 2019. A TKO victory over Jackson Marinez in February put Commey on the verge of another title shot as well.
“Losing is part of boxing, so regardless of how you lose, it’s all about coming back,” Commey said. “So whatever happened with the Teofimo Lopez fight, it is what it is and I took it as a man. I knew I needed to come back and I came back very strong, and that is the reason why Loma chose me, and Saturday we are going to see what happens.”
Follow along as Tim Fiorvanti and Michael Rothstein recap every fight from the card. Watch the fights on ESPN+.
Next fight: Vasiliy Lomachenko vs. Richard Commey, 12 rounds, lightweights
Anderson scores another second-round TKO victory
Unbeaten heavyweight prospect Jared Anderson, right, used his powerful right hand to stop Oleksandr Teslenko. Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images
A right. A left. And heavyweight prospect Jared Anderson needed less than two rounds to knock out his 11th straight opponent to close out an impressive 2021.
|— Courtesy of CompuBox|
The 22-year-old from Toledo, Ohio landed over 40 percent of his punches in the first round. In the second round, he landed a right to the head of Oleksandr Teslenko, followed it up with a quick left and sent the Ukranian to the canvas and out of the fight.
Anderson (11-0, 11 KO) started the fight in a southpaw stance — not how he traditionally fights — and Anderson felt like it accomplished what he attempted to do.
“We came in and wanted to confuse him,” Anderson said.
Teslenko (17-2, 13 KO) tried to get up, and the 29-year-old eventually did, but then staggered back, forcing referee Danny Schiavone to stop the bout. It’s the second time Teslenko has been knocked out in his last three fights. It’s also the third straight fight Anderson won by stoppage in the second round — three of his four fights in 2021 ended in Round 2. Four of his last five fights have been stopped in the first or second round. All but three of Anderson’s 11 fights have lasted two rounds or less.
It sets up a potentially big 2022 for Anderson, who looks more and more like he might be the long-term future of the heavyweight division with how he’s been dispatching opponents.
Davis makes pro debut with TKO victory
Lightweight Keyshawn Davis, left, shined in a second-round TKO victory against Jose Zaragoza to start his pro career. Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images
Keyshawn Davis raised his left hand for a second. Seconds earlier, that same fist put a quick end to his opponent Jose Zaragoza on Saturday night.
|— Courtesy of CompuBox|
A brutal left to the body sent Zaragoza (8-4-1, 2 KO) down for the second time in less than a minute in the final 60 seconds of the second round in this lightweight contest. It was a perfectly-placed left hook behind the attempted elbow block by Zaragoza leading to the second-round knockout.
From Jalisco, Mexico, Zaragoza was knocked out for the first time of his career in what was his fourth fight of 2021. Zaragoza had gone the distance in his four prior fights until running into the Davis.
Davis, the silver medalist at lightweight in this summer’s Olympics, was in control the entire fight. In his first fight as a pro fighter, the 22-year-old from Norfolk, Virginia, felt Zaragoza out in the first round and was dominant in the second.
Davis had welterweight champion Terence Crawford — who he has been training with — in attendance to watch him fight and said post-fight, “it means a lot. For real, for real.” He also mentioned working with former WBO junior lightweight champion Jamel Herring as a help.
And as far as where Davis’ career goes, he said post-fight he wanted to move as smart as possible but he’ll go as fast in building his career as his promoter, Top Rank, will let him go
Ali Walsh win, doesn’t shine in third pro fight
Nico Ali Walsh, grandson of Muhammad Ali, wins his third straight fight with a majority decision victory.
Nico Ali Walsh understands his career has been “fast-tracked” because of his grandfather, Muhammad Ali, and because of his lack of an amateur career. And that self-awareness could help him down the road. But in his Madison Square Garden debut, Ali Walsh learned a lot in a majority decision win over a game Reyes Sanchez.
|— Courtesy of CompuBox|
Ali Walsh’s decision win — a 40-36, 39-37, 38-38 — was an all-over-the-place scorecard. The 21-year-old Ali Walsh, from Las Vegas, appeared to win the first two rounds of the fight. But Sanchez, a 29-year-old from Topeka, Kansas who had only fought one fighter over-.500 in his career, rallied in the third round landing 22 of 57 punches.
Meanwhile, Ali Walsh barely threw a punch, let alone landed one. This after Walsh had one of his best rounds as a pro in the second round, staggering the previously-undefeated Sanchez (6-1, 2 KO) with multiple combinations.
After the fight, Ali Walsh (3-0, 2 KO) acknowledged he needed to learn how to become more of a complete fighter — sensible since he’s had three pro fights and a negligible amateur career. And Saturday night was another learning lesson for a fighter picking up teaching moments on the biggest stages in the sport.
Zayas makes statement with another impressive stoppage win
Junior middleweight top prospect Xander Zayas, right, stayed unbeaten with a first-round TKO victory over Alessio Mastronunzio. Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images
Six fights, six wins. At 19 years old, Puerto Rican middleweight standout Xander Zayas couldn’t have scripted a better 2021, or a better ending to the year than his first-round knockout of Alessio Mastronunzio on the Lomachenko-Commey undercard.
Zayas (12-0, 9 KOs) gained control of the fight just 10 seconds into the action, as an overhand right floored Mastronunzio (9-2, 3 KOs). The 26-year-old from Italy never really recovered, and referee Danny Schiavone was looking closely with the thought of stopping the fight. A six-punch flurry from Zayas wobbled Mastronunzio’s legs, and that was enough for the ref to stop the fight at 2:52, giving Zayas his fourth knockout of the year.
“I told you I came here to make a statement,” Zayas told ESPN’s Mark Kriegel after the fight. “That’s what I did.”
Zayas’ message following what may have been his most impressive result of the year thus far was simple. “I’m prospect of the year. I hope I let everyone know who is the prospect of 2021.”
Valdez scores fifth KO victory in his sixth fight
Welterweight Pablo Valdez, left, defeated Julio Cesar Sanchez by fourth-round TKO. Sarah Stier/Getty Images
Pablo Valdez’s professional career didn’t start until he was 35 years old, but thus far his in-ring journey has been as close to as good as it gets. The now-38-year-old welterweight from New York wowed a sizeable contingent of local fans inside Madison Square Garden with a fourth-round knockout victory over Julio Cesar Sanchez.
Valdez (6-0, 5 KOs) completely took over the fight in Round 4, starting with a barrage of punches in the corner that knocked Sanchez down for the first time. Once action resumed, both fighters quickly returned to the corner and Valdez immediately knocked Sanchez down again. Body shots led to a third knockdown in Round 4 with 30 seconds left, and yet, Sanchez returned to his feet once more.
With a final left hook to the liver, Valdez knocked Sanchez down for a fourth and final time. The referee called a stop to the fight at 2:40 of the fourth round. Valdez, a promising amateur, saw his career sidelined as he spent eight years in prison before renewing his boxing aspirations in the same gym as surging knockout artist Edgar Berlanga. Sanchez, 28, from the Dominican Republic, lost his fourth consecutive fight after starting his career 11-0 with 6 knockouts.
Bauza punishes Williams in fourth-round TKO victory
Junior welterweight John Bauza, left, sent Michael Williams Jr. to the canvas five times in a fourth-round TKO victory. Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images
On paper, the fight between John Bauza and Michael Williams Jr. was an intriguing clash of undefeated junior welterweights in their early 20s looking to step up. In reality, Bauza struck early and often, knocking Williams down five times within four rounds on his way to a knockout victory.
A Bauza counter right hand just 30 seconds in sent Williams flying to the canvas, and it rarely got better for Williams. Bauza chased him around the ring in pursuit when he wasn’t landing punches, and when he caught up, Bauza made it count. A massive looping left hook in Round 2 knocked Williams down again.
The fourth round would be the end of the line as Bauza finally put the fight away with three knockdowns. The first was the result of a flurry in the corner, and Williams never really recovered. The third and final knockdown was a right jab and left hook combination that folded Williams with his knee bent awkwardly underneath him. Referee Charlie Fitch finally called a stop to the fight at 2:18 of the round.
Bauza (16-0, 7 KOs), 23, from Puerto Rico, won for the second time in 2021, in the fourth scheduled eight-round fight of his career. Williams, 22, of Fayetteville, North Carolina, was fighting for the sixth time in 2021.
Wilkins outpoints Tapia in hard-fought bout
James Wilkins, left, outpointed Juan Tapia during their featherweight fight to win a unanimous decision. Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images
Junior lightweight James Wilkins scored one of the biggest wins of his professional career on Saturday, defeating a game opponent in Juan Tapia by unanimous decision, in their eight-round bout.
Wilkins, 26, scored the only knockdown of the fight in Round 4 with a short left jab to Tapia’s chin. Tapia controlled several long stretches with effective counterpunching, often dropping his hands to try to entice Wilkins to come forward. But ultimately, those stretches were not enough for Tapia to convince any of the judges to score the fight his way. All three had it for Wilkins, by three different scores: 77-75, 77-74 and 76-75.
It was a bounce back for Wilkins, who saw a four-fight win streak snapped in July in a 10-round decision loss to Bryan Chevalier. It was also a victory on home turf for the fighter from Staten Island. Tapia, 28, of Brownsville, Texas, saw a two-fight win streak snapped. Tapia previously fought recently crowned WBO junior lightweight world titleholder Shakur Stevenson in an eight-round decision loss in 2018.
Kelvin Davis dominates, stops Schwartzberg to stay unbeaten
Welterweight prospect Kelvin Davis, right, stayed unbeaten with a second-round TKO victory over Ryan Schwartzberg. Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images
Saturday could be a big night for the Davis brothers, and before Olympic silver medalist Keyshawn enters the ring for his first fight with Top Rank Boxing, his older brother Kelvin set the table with a second-round TKO.
Kelvin Davis (3-0, 2 KOs) started slowly against Ryan Schwartzberg (1-4-1, 1 KO), but fighting out of a southpaw stance, Davis was able to land at will against Schwartzberg, who stood square to Davis’ face for most of the welterweight fight.
Several combinations stunned Schwartzberg late in Round 1, but referee Sparkle Lee did not rule it a standing knockdown. Davis started Round 2 with a big left hook to Schwartzberg’s head, and Schwartzberg wobbled again — seemingly tapping back into his MMA background as he started moving towards Davis’ legs as if he was going for a wrestling-style takedown.
Davis dropped Schwartzberg with a right hook, left uppercut combination to Schwartzberg’s jaw. Schwartzberg stood up, but Lee told him to, “show me something.” Schwartzberg, who was bleeding from his nose and breathing hard, made it to the end of the round, but the fight was stopped after Schwartzberg’s corner informed the referee that Schwartzberg couldn’t see out of his left eye.
It was a step in the right direction for Davis, who is from Norfolk, Virginia, as his last fight — on the Canelo Alvarez-Billy Joe Saunders card — ended in shaky fashion when he was knocked down by Jan Marsalek at the tail end of a four-round bout. This was Davis’ first fight training under Brian “BoMac” McIntyre.
This was the third straight loss for Schwartzberg, 31, who is from Dania, Florida, and has had all six of his pro boxing fights in 2021.
Ward demolishes Norwood with first-round TKO
Light heavyweight prospect Joe Ward, left, won his sixth consecutive fight with a TKO victory over Britton Norwood. Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images
“Mighty” Joe Ward kicked off the Vasiliy Lomachenko-Richard Commey undercard with a clinical TKO victory against an overmatched Britton Norwood.
Ward (6-1, 3 KOs), a light heavyweight who represented Ireland in the 2016 Olympic Games, stung Norwood to the body early and then unleashed a three-punch combination that sent Norwood crumbling to the canvas. Norwood got back to his feet, but wouldn’t last much longer.
A series of unanswered punches to Norwood’s head followed, and Ward even looked to referee Charlie Fitch at one point. Fitch stepped in at 1:35 into Round 1 and stopped the fight.
This was the sixth consecutive victory for Ward, 28, who is trained by Joey Gamache. Norwood (10-4-1, 7 KOs), who is from Jackson, Mississippi, suffered his first loss since April 2018.