The highly-anticipated rematch between The Ring and WBC junior bantamweight champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Juan Francisco Estrada is one day away, and there’s plenty to be excited about when the power-punching Thai and the Mexican technician clash styles in a matchup that produced a contender for Fight of the Year in 2018.
Streamed live on DAZN (7:30 p.m. ET / 4:30 p.m.) from The Forum in Inglewood, California, the undercard is set to be a suitable primer for the main event and a few of the fighters spoke with The Ring ahead of the show billed as ‘City of Champions.’
Topping the Matchroom Boxing undercard is a junior featherweight unification bout between Danny Roman (WBA) and TJ Doheny (IBF).
“After winning the world title, this is the biggest fight of my career,” Roman proclaimed. “Because I’m not fighting (just) anybody, I’m fighting another champion of my division. IBF versus WBA. He did the same thing as I did and went to Japan to win the world title, so you gotta have respect for the man. I know it’s going to be the toughest fight of my career, so we’re ready for that.”
Roman (26-2-1, 10 KOs) won his WBA junior featherweight title by beating Ryo Matsumoto via unanimous decision in Tokyo last February, just two days after the first iteration of Sor Rungvisai-Estrada. Roman, 28, has defended the belt twice since, but for this unification fight he will get to be fighting in his hometown – ending a two year absence from Southern California.
“My manager Eddie Gonzalez has helped keep the people away so I can keep myself focused,” said Roman, who attended Leuzinger High School, just four miles south of The Forum. “We haven’t changed anything even fighting at home – we’re still training for the best. We trained as hard as we always do. The only thing that changes is the strategy.”
As for the strategy, Roman, a fundamentally-sound boxer out of the orthodox stance, gave a sneak-preview of what to expect in the ring come fight night.
“TJ is a smart fighter,” Roman said. “He knows how to use the ring. He has a great left hand, It’s gonna be a great fight. He might me moving around a little bit so we have to bring the fight to him.”
Doheny (21-0, 15 KOs) comes all the way from the small town of Portlaoise, Ireland and for this fight, he made a slight change to his normal regiment by training there exclusively.
“My training camps are usually in Boston,” Doheny explained. “Started pre-camp in Ireland, and I was comfortable there. I was enjoying it and I was happy. So I said, you know what, I’m gonna have my camp here. My coach Hector Bermudez, who is one of the most dedicated boxing trainers in the world, he had no problem coming to me. He had to leave a few fighters behind to come just to get me ready for this fight. I have to take my hat off to my coach for making such a sacrifice. I’ll repay him on Friday night when I get that belt.”
Same as Roman did early last year, Doheny beat out Ryosuke Iwasa in a close unanimous decision win to take the IBF title at Korakuen Hall, but the 32-year-old is well-schooled in taking his act on the road.
“It doesn’t matter,” Doheny said about fighting on Roman’s turf. “Look at my record. I’m constantly in people’s backyard. I’m trespassing all the time, taking their 0s and taking their belts. That’s what I’m all about.
“I have great belief in my ability and I have great belief in my work ethic. Nobody works harder than me. I want this more than anybody. I want to prove that I’m the best 122-pounder in the world, and come Friday night I get to do that.”
Jessie Vargas (28-2-2, 10 KOs), a former title holder at junior welterweight and welterweight, will make his 154-pound debut against veteran Humberto Soto in what is also his first fight under the guidance of acclaimed trainer Freddie Roach.
“I left Vegas for camp for the first time in my career to train in Los Angeles,” said Vargas. “I had a great training camp with my amazing trainer.”
Vargas (26-2-2, 10 KOs) hasn’t won since December 2017 after draws against Adrien Broner and Thomas Dulorme last year.
“Shout out to Soto for springing the upset against Brandon Rios to make this fight happen. We are two Mexican warriors and we are going to go to war on Friday night on DAZN. I need to take care of business.”
The 38-year-old Soto (69-9-2, 37 KOs) dominated Rios this past February to win a unanimous decision and lengthen an incredible professional career that stretches almost 22 years.
“I think this Friday the fans will be the winners, not me or Jessie Vargas,” proclaimed the former two-weight world titleholder. “We are going to put on a show. I will leave it all in the ring on Friday night.”
Anthony Sims Jr. has never fought in his adopted hometown of Los Angeles since turning pro five years ago. Now, after a long road that had a rocky beginning when signed to promoter Don King, the super middleweight prospect will do so against his best opponent to date in Vaughn Alexander.
“It’s very important to be fighting at The Forum where a lot of big-time fights happened at,” said Sims, who reps nearby Compton. “You’re gonna see old school boxing. Sticking and moving and grooving. Nothing to it but to do it.”
Originally, however, there were bigger plans for this occasion until tragedy struck in Los Angeles last month.
“We had spoken to (Nipsey Hussle) about bringing me out for this fight,” Sims said of the rapper who was tragically murdered on March 31. “Before everything happened, I went up to The Marathon store and we were discussing that process.”
“It’s life. Crazy shit happens,” Sims lamented, before being asked if there will be any sort of tribute. “I want to but I think it will be too emotional. I’d rather listen to that funky shit I usually come out to.”
Sims (18-0, 17 KOs) has developed a following in the U.K. since signing with Matchroom Boxing midway through last year. He has stayed active in the ring, winning four times by knockout. The affable 24-year-old has also spent plenty of time in the U.K., fighting there twice under the Matchroom banner, and the experience has furthered a worldly personality that is driven by a positive message.
“As a fighter, it gives me different aspects of the fight game,” Sims said about his time in the U.K. “How fans work, how the judges are, how the referee is, how opponents are – it’s a different world. As far as personally, it helps me spread my message and my testimony. Each one teach one. Spreading the message of mental illness, anxiety, depression and how I keep out of it and share my story to help other people. It’s great that I get to go over there and do it.”
Alexander (14-2, 9 KOs) won’t be an easy out for the old-school stylist, being that he’s never been stopped, but Sims is confident he has the tools to outbox the cagey 33-year old.
“I’ve watched him and I don’t really think much of him,” Sims admitted. “He just comes forward.”
Junior welterweight prospect Austin “Ammo” Williams will be making his professional debut against Joel Guevara (3-4-1, 2 KOs) and the Houston, Texas native has been champing at the bit after going through his first pro camp.
“The camp was amazing,” said Williams. “It was tough from beginning to end. Also, there was an adjustment being in different places because it was my first time in California for a professional camp. The new experiences made it seem like it was a long time. I’m really thankful for all my sparring partners because everyone tried to bring it. I know that I’m more than ready.
“The fans are gonna see me express myself. I’m gonna try my hardest to be extremely calm. You’re not gonna see me come out frantic. Once I analyze and find this guy’s weakness, I’m definitely gonna go and hurt him.”
Middleweight prospect Diego Pacheco (2-0, KO) is making his stateside debut after starting out in Tijuana, Mexico.
“I had an amazing camp, the best one of my pro career so far,” Pacheco said. “I feel amazing. It’s like a dream come true for me to fight at The Forum and in LA – my hometown.”
Freakishly tall at 6-feet 4-inches, Pacheco, 18, looks to showcase himself against Guillermo Maldonado (1-0) and start an intriguing campaign in his debut under Matchroom.
“Yeah, definitely better for the pro game,” Pacheco said about his style. “As an amateur, everyone told me that my style would fit the pros. Now I get to make it happen. The fans are gonna see an amazing fight from me, as well as the other guys on the card. There’s going to be amazing performances at The Forum so don’t miss it.”
Also slated on the undercard at The Forum are two Uzbekistan-born prospects facing respected opponents.
Shakrahm Giyasov (7-0, 6 KOs) takes on Emmanuel “Tranzforma” Taylor (20-5, 14 KOs) in a 10-round junior welterweight contest, and Murodjon “MJ” Akhmadaliev (5-0, 4 KOs) faces Mexico’s Carlos Carlson (23-5, 14 KOs) in an 8-round featherweight bout.
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