Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn finalized his annual “Monte Carlo Showdown” card on Wednesday and this year’s edition will feature a pair of world title bouts. The card, which will take place on Nov. 30 (DAZN) at the Casino de Monte-Carlo, will be headlined by Russian contenders Alexander Besputin and Radzhab Butaev meeting for a vacant secondary welterweight title.
A second title bout will feature undisputed women’s welterweight champion Cecilia Braekhus, whose signing with Hearn was announced Tuesday, defending her crown against mandatory challenger Victoria Bustos.
Last month, Hearn, who doesn’t promote Besputin or Butaev, won the purse bid for the fight with an offer of $505,555, to be split evenly between the boxers, and said he planned to put it on the Nov. 30 card. Now that is official.
“This is a long time coming for me,” Besputin said. “I know I belong with the best welterweights, and Nov. 30 is my opportunity to prove that. I’ve prepared for this fight my entire boxing life. I had over 300 fights as an amateur and fought the best fighters the world had to offer. I am used to traveling to fight the best, and I look forward to impressing the fans in Monaco.”
Butaev (12-0, 9 KOs), 25, who fights out of Brooklyn, New York, and Besputin (13-0, 9 KOs), 28, a southpaw who fights out of Oxnard, California, were originally slated to fight for the WBA’s interim welterweight belt but the bout was upgraded to being for the “regular” title when then-“regular” titlist Manny Pacquiao defeated “super” titleholder Keith Thurman on July 20.
“I am excited and honored to be fighting for a world title,” Butaev said. “This is a great opportunity for me, and I will make sure that I do everything to take advantage of it. I have been working towards this moment all of my career and finally it is my time to announce myself to the world.”
Said Vadim Kornilov, Butaev’s manager: “Radzhab is a very special boxer. He has a lot of potential that has not yet been revealed in previous fights. I believe that this fight will really motivate him to open up and perform at his best.”
Braekhus (35-0, 9 KOs), 38, of Norway, widely viewed as the No. 1 female fighter in the world pound-for-pound, has held a welterweight world title since 2009. She will be making her 25th title defense and 11th of the undisputed title as owner of all four major belts in the 147-pound weight class.
“I’m sure that Victoria Bustos will provide a tough challenge, but I have prepared well and look forward to putting on a great performance for my fans in attendance and those watching all over the world,” said Braekhus, who will be fighting for the first time in 11 months.
Bustos (19-5, 0 KOs), 30, of Argentina, a former lightweight world titlist, has won her only fight since losing her title in a unification bout against Katie Taylor in April 2018.
“For me this is a new and huge opportunity to dispute the world titles against the champ Cecilia Braekhus, an opportunity which fills me with joy and happiness,” said Bustos, who is moving up in weight. “To take up this challenge I have moved up one category. I am well prepared for this fight. I won’t let this chance pass, giving a great show and a great fight. This fight will be dedicated to all the boxing fans around the world who love this sport and support female boxing.”
In another notable fight on the card, Chinese heavyweight Zhilei Zhang (20-0, 16 KOs), 36, a 2008 Olympic silver medalist, will face Sergey Kuzmin (15-1, 11 KOs), 32, of Russia, in a major step up for Zhang.
“It’s always been my dream to chase greatness and make the world aware that the Chinese heavyweight is coming to do damage,” he said. “I have been preparing and training hard for whoever they put in front of me. The heavyweight division is wide open now and I’m here to make my presence known.”
Dino Duva of Roc Nation Sports, Zhang’s promoter, has matched him very softly over the years but believes the time has come to unleash him on the division.
“I’ve been telling the boxing world and media for several years that someday Zhilei Zhang will be in the world heavyweight championship mix, and I honestly believe he can win it,” Duva said. “But first things first – on Nov. 30, Zhilei needs to deliver the real goods against a world class Heavyweight like Sergey Kuzmin, and I believe he will do it in a way that opens everyone’s eyes. After that, his historic journey to the world heavyweight championship will be in full force.”
Kuzmin is coming off his first loss, a 12-round decision to contender Michael Hunter on Sept. 13, and looking to bounce back.
“This is an important event for me,” Kuzmin said. “I took this fight as soon as it was offered to me. I know that if I want to grow and become better, I have to fight the best.”
Hearn also announced that former heavyweight world title challenger Hughie Fury (23-3, 13 KOs), 25, of England, a first cousin of lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, will face an opponent to be determined. Fury is seeking to rebound from a decision loss to former titlist Alexander Povetkin on Aug 31.
Also, 2016 Olympian Joe Cordina (10-0, 7 KOs), 27, of Wales, will face Enrico Tinoco (18-5-4, 13 KOs), 29, of Mexico, in a 10-round bout for a regional junior lightweight belt.