SAN ANTONIO — Saturday’s Showtime-televised card at The Alamodome has been billed, “Danger Zone,” and several of its featured fighters offered indications of their malevolent intentions during Thursday’s final press conference at The Marriott Rivercenter Hotel.
Hard-hitting welterweight Marcos Maidana (34-3, 31 knockouts), who has a tattoo of a .45 caliber pistol on his left hip, pointed two cocked fingers at the head of WBA beltholder Adrien “The Problem” Broner (27-0, 22 KOs), who promptly raised his two middle fingers in response during their post-conference photo opportunity.
Mexican junior featherweight challenger Cesar Seda (25-1, 17 KOs) promised “a war” with Mexican-American WBC titleholder Leo Santa Cruz (25-0-1, 15 KOs), and WBA 175-pound beltholder Beibut Shumenov (13-1, 8 KOs) vowed to demonstrate that he is “the best light heavyweight in the world” against Tamas Kovacs (23-0, 14 KOS).
During his turn at the podium, hammer-fisted boxer-puncher Keith “One Time” Thurman (21-0, 19 KOs) brought it all together while describing his mentality entering his 147-pound clash with Mexican brawler Jesus Soto-Karass (28-8-3, 18 KOs) .
“Like I’ve said before, man, I’m trying to bring the excitement.This card, it’s called ‘The Danger Zone,’ and it’s a guaranteed fact that whenever you come into the ring with Keith ‘One Time’ Thurman, that you’re automatically stepping into the danger zone. This is the last fight of the year, and it’s my favorite time of the year,” said Thurman, before raising his two, balled fists into the air for emphasis.
“Christmas came early. I have two presents for Soto (Karass) right here. They’re wrapped in two, nice packages… He says that he has a new passion for the sport, and I believe him. I’ve seen it when he fights. I don’t think that this fight is going to go the whole 12 rounds either. I’m looking forward to putting him down on that blue canvas and make sure that he gets his sleep real nice…Come out and enjoy the show. One time. Every time.”
In the Alamodome, Thurman and Soto Karass return to the site of their last fights in July.
Thurman scored a 10th-round knockout of Argentina’s previously unbeaten Diego Chaves, whom he dropped once each in the ninth and final round.
On the same card, Soto Karass rose from an 11th-round knockdown to drop and stop former two-time welterweight beltholder Andre Berto in the 12th.
“Soto is a real tough opponent. He gave Berto his all,” said Thurman of Clearwater, Fla., who referenced a fourth-round knockout of ex-beltholder Carlos Quintana in November of 2012.
“Last year, [against Quintana] I ended the year with a tremendous fourth-round stoppage. Just like last year, for me, this is going to be the icing on the cake.”
BRONER: ‘I’M GOING TO TAKE OVER BOXING AFTER FLOYD MAYWEATHER’
A 24-year-old like Thurman, Broner was not to be outdone.
While being introduced by Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer, the Cincinnati resident rose from his seat at Schaefer’s right, and began to pace back and forth behind him, throwing punches and slipping the blows of an imaginary opponent.
“Dec. 14, I’m really not worried about the fight. I know that he’s going to come to fight. He always comes to fight. He’s a fighter. That’s what we do. Training camp was great. I’ve got a lot on my plate. Every boxer wants to be where I am right now. I’m going to take over boxing after Floyd Mayweather,” said Broner.
“Every fighter wants to be in this position, so I don’t get mad when I hear that Keith Thurman wants to fight me. He’s supposed to. Who don’t want to be where I’m at… It really don’t matter. On Dec. 14, we got Maidana. I respect his coach, and I respect him as a fighter… I can’t trash talk somebody who don’t speak English. He’s looking at me crazy right now, and I don’t know if he’s faking or not… He’s a very respectful guy, so I can’t disrespect him. But on Dec. 14, I’m going to beat his ass, though. I’m going to beat his ass, for sure.”
At that point, Maidana, and his trainer, Robert Garcia, smiled and exchanged words.
“We can be friends after that… Guess what? I don’t go for the knockouts, but this is going to be a knockout, man,” said Broner. “I really feel like I’m going to knock this guy out, man. This is going to be his first stoppage loss. I’m going to stop this guy, and then, it’s on to the next one.”
MAIDANA: ‘THEY MIGHT SAY BRONER IS ONE OF THE BEST, BUT I DON’T THINK HE IS’
Broner could profit from the use of tactics similar to those of boxer-punchers who have troubled Maidana in the past, including IBF beltholder Devon Alexander and Amir Khan, and technicians like Andriy Kotelnik, who have beaten him. Experienced ex-beltholders Erik Morales and DeMarcus Corley also hindered Maidana before losing decisions.
Maidana was dropped three times while scoring two knockdowns during a sixth-round knockout win over future 147-pound beltholder Victor Ortiz in June of 2009.
As a result, Maidana is in pursuit of his fourth straight stoppage wins against Broner, having knocked out Soto Karass and Josesito Lopez during that time.
“They might say Broner is one of the best, but I don’t think he is. He’s definitely different compared to any other opponents I’ve fought,” said Maidana. “But I’m prepared. I’m ready for him. I’m going to hit him hard, very hard, with all I have and I’ll get busy with him. I hope he’s ready, because I am.”
SOTO KARASS ON THURMAN: ‘I’M COMING TO KNOCK HIM OUT’
Prior to facing Berto, Soto Karass had earned a majority decision over Selcuk Aydin in January.
“I’ve been on big cards before. But my job is to go out and win and give the fans what they want,” said Soto Karass. “I’m coming to knock him out. If he wants to box, I’m going to take him to school. My heart is in this fight.”
SHUMENOV: ‘I’M GOING TO FIGHT HARD FOR WHAT’S MINE’
However, Shumenov (13-1, 8 knockouts), a 30-year-old Kazakhstan native living in Las Vegas, knows that division counterparts such as RING and WBC champion Adonis Stevenson, WBO beltholder Sergey Kovalev, and IBF titleholder Bernard Hopkins may all be focused on his performance against Kovacs (23-0, 14 KOs).
“I know Tamas is undefeated,” said Shumenov, who will end an 18-month absence with the fifth defense of his belt, having last been in the ring for a unanimous decision over Enrique Ornelas in June of 2012.
“He’s very ambitious, and he came here to take what’s mine. But I’m not going to let him take my title. I’m going to fight hard for what’s mine, and I’m going to show the world that I’m the best light heavyweight champion of the world.”
Meanwhile Kovacs, a 36-year-old from Galanta, Slovakia, said that he did not travel all this way to lose.
“This is a very big opportunity for me. This is the fight of my life. I’ve been training and preparing for this fight since September. On Saturday, I’m coming out with all I have,” said Kovacs.
“It took me 40 hours to get to San Antonio. It was a difficult trip, but it was worth it…This is my chance, and I’m going to take it. I know Shumenov is a good boxer, but I’m good and also clever, so he better watch out.”
SANTA CRUZ WANTS CARL FRAMPTON AFTER SEDA
“I always dreamed of being in this type of fight. I want to be here for a long time. I want to defend the title and probably move up in weight and win another title belt. I want to make my whole family and Mexico happy. Hopefully, everything goes well on then, we do maybe one or two defenses of the belt,” said Santa Cruz.
“Then we move up. If there are good opponents at 122, like Carl Frampton, then we’ll do it. Frampton has been calling me out, and people say that’s a good fight because he comes forward. So if it’s not Carl Frampton, then it’s whoever they put in front of me. I’ll fight anybody.”
Fans have come to expect all-action affairs with Santa Cruz, and another such bout is likely given Seda’s penchant for body punching.
“Well, we’re the ones who are going to come forward and work the body, and hopefully, break him down. That way, we can end my year with three fights and then three knockouts.”
Santa Cruz will be facing a southpaw for the first time since June of 2012, when he dethroned Vusi Malinga for the IBF’s vacant bantamweight belt. Even though Santa Cruz pitched a virtual shutout against Malinga, he is not taking Seda lightly.
Santa Cruz defended the belt he won from Malinga three times — twice by stoppage — before winning his 122-pound debut by fifth-round knockout over Alexander Munoz in May.
In facing Seda, Santa Cruz will be making the first defense of the WBC junior featherweight belt he won by third-round knockout over Victor Terrazas in August.
Seda has won five straight, including two by stoppage, since rising in weight after a unanimous-decision loss to WBO 115-pound titleholder Omar Narvaez in 2011.
Seda hopes to restore glory to Puerto Rico, whose last reigning titleholder, Roman “Rocky” Martinez, was dethroned as WBO junior lightweight beltholder with an eighth-round knockout loss to Mikey Garcia last month.
If not Frampton, then Santa Cruz would like to face Mijares, who rebounded from a split-decision loss to Terrazas in April with July’s sixth-round knockout of Carlos Jacobo.
“If I could pick the next fight after this one with Seda, then it would be Mijares,” said Santa Cruz. “I’m willing to give him the opportunity. He’s the No. 1 mandatory, so I would fight him.”
CANELO ALVAREZ’S BIG BROTHER, RICARDO, DEBUTS ON AMERICAN SOIL
Junior welterweight Ricardo “Dinamita” Alvarez (27-4, 20 KOs), the 32-year-old older brother of Mexican star Canelo Alvarez, 23, will make his American debut in pursuit of his 14th victory in his past 15 bouts and his 11h stoppage during that streak against Rod Salka (18-2, 3 KOs).
“Dec. 14 at the Alamodome is going to be a good night for me. It’s my debut in United States and I’m really excited,” said Ricardo Alvarez.
“I’m thankful for this fight. This is my first time fighting here. I’m thankful for my promoters, my camp, my friends and my family for all their support.”
Prior to losing to Floyd Mayweather Jr. by unanimous decision in September, Canelo Alvarez unanimously decisioned the previously unbeaten Austin Trout in April, drawing nearly 40,000 to The Alamodome.
“Canelo is very strong, mentally. He knows that he lost, but he also knows that he tried his best. He’s there and he’s thinking very positively about his career and the things that are coming up,” said Ricardo Alvarez of Canelo Alvarez, who is slated to compete on March 8, July 26 and Nov. 22 of 2014.
“I think that if the fight with Miguel Cotto happens, it would be a great fight for Canelo because Cotto, he fights, and styles make fights. They match perfectly, and if that happens, it would be a terrific fight. With [Erislandy] Lara, that would be a great fight, also, but I think that a fight between Canelo and Cotto is better.”
JERMAIN TAYLOR WANTS TO BE FRONT AND CENTER ONCE AGAIN
Former undisputed middleweight cham Jermain Taylor (31-4-1, 19 KOs), who will face Juan Carlos Candelo (32-12-4, 21 KOs) on Saturday, quipped about his position out of the spotlight on a rear seat on stage behind the podium and the main event fighters.
“I’ve got to get my stuff together,” said Taylor, who turned 35 in August and is ending a 14-month ring absence. “Ain’t no way I should be way back there. I’m still boxing. I’m still training and I’m still boxing.”
BRONER, MAIDANA, THURMAN, TAYLOR AMONG AL HAYMON’S GROWING LIST OF FIGHTERS
Broner, Maidana, Thurman, Santa Cruz, Shumenov and Taylor are all advised by Al Haymon, as are bantamweight Rau’Shee Warren, lightweights Jamel Herring and Robert Easter Jr., all of whom will fight on Saturday night.
Another clash of Haymon boxers at Barclays last Saturday matched WBC titleholder Sakio Bika in a draw with super middleweight rival Anthony Dirrell, and Alexander being dethroned as IBF welterweight beltholder by Shawn Porter.
Photos / Nicole Sparks, Soobum Im – Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com