Heavyweights Pulev, Booker set for ESPN+ card

Bulgarian heavyweight contender Kubrat Pulev, who is a mandatory challenger for the winner of the Dec. 7 rematch between unified world titlist Andy Ruiz Jr. and Anthony Joshua, will risk his status against Rydell Booker.

Pulev and Booker will meet in a scheduled 10-round bout in the co-feature of the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN+ card on Nov. 9 (ESPN+, 10 p.m. ET, with preliminary bouts beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET) at Chukchansi Park in Fresno, California, Top Rank announced on Tuesday, along with the rest of the undercard. The card is headlined by the previously announced fight between junior lightweight world titlist Jamel Herring and mandatory challenger Lamont Roach.

“This fight with Rydell Booker is very important because of what’s at stake,” Pulev said. “Everything is on the line. I am the top contender in the heavyweight division, and I am the mandatory challenger for the winner of the Andy Ruiz Jr.-Anthony Joshua rematch. I want the winner. It doesn’t matter who it is.”

Top Rank chairman Bob Arum, who co-promotes Pulev, said if Pulev wins he will get a title shot early next year.

“Kubrat Pulev is ready to fight for a heavyweight title today, but he has one final test before that can become a reality,” Arum said. “He is motivated to knock out Booker and get ready for his title shot in early 2020.”

Pulev (27-1, 14 KOs), 38, has won seven fights in a row since he suffered a fifth-round knockout loss in a mandatory title shot against then-unified heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko in 2014.

Pulev worked his way back to a mandatory position and a shot at then-titlist Joshua and was supposed to fight him in October 2017. However, Pulev suffered a shoulder injury in training and had to withdraw from the bout. Pulev once again became the IBF’s mandatory challenger by winning a unanimous decision against Hughie Fury (lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury’s first cousin) last October in a title elimination fight.

Pulev preserved his status with a seventh-round knockout of Bogdan Dinu on March 23, after which Pulev was suspended by the California State Athletic Commission for kissing a female reporter on the lips without her consent. At a hearing in July, Pulev was reinstated after paying a $2,500 fine and completing a course on sexual harassment.

Booker (26-2, 13 KOs), 38, of Detroit, was once a promising prospect, but after suffering his first loss, a decision to James Toney in 2004, he went to prison for 12 years for trying to sell 35 pounds of cocaine and did not box again until 2018. He is 3-1 during his comeback, winning three six-round decisions against low-level opponents and losing a 10-round decision to unbeaten Jermaine Franklin.

“It’s a big deal for me. This is a chance for me to show everyone that I still have it,” Booker said. “I haven’t missed a beat. This opportunity couldn’t have come at a better time. I was in camp with [Oleksandr] Usyk for six weeks before I got the fight. The numbers made sense, so I jumped at the opportunity.”

In other undercard bouts Top Rank also announced:

  • Middleweight Janibek Alimkhanuly (7-0, 3 KOs), 26, a 2016 Kazakhstan Olympian fighting out of Oxnard, California, will defend his regional belt against Albert Onolunose (24-2-1, 8 KOs), 39, of Canada, in a 10-rounder.

  • Middleweight contender Esquiva Falcao (24-0, 16 KOs), 29, a 2012 Olympic silver medalist from Brazil, will face Manny Woods (16-8-1, 6 KOs), 32, of St. Petersburg, Florida, in a 10-round fight.

  • Lightweight prospect Gabriel Flores Jr. (15-0, 6 KOs), 19, of Stockton, California, will face Aelio Mesquita (19-4, 17 KOs), 28, of Brazil, in an eight-round bout.

  • Former junior welterweight world title challenger Amir Imam (21-2, 18 KOs), 28, of Albany, New York, will face Marcos Mojica (16-4-2, 12 KOs), 34, of Nicaragua, in an eight-round welterweight bout. The fight will be Imam’s first since signing with Top Rank and his first in the 20 months since losing a decision to Jose Ramirez for a vacant junior welterweight title in March 2018 and being involved in litigation with former promoter Don King over his contract.

  • Featherweight Robeisy Ramirez (0-1), 25, who won 2012 and 2016 Olympic gold medals for Cuba, will face Fernando Ibarra De Anda (2-1, 0 KOs), 19, of Fairfield, California, in a six-rounder. Ramirez, a southpaw, who defected and fights out of Gulfport, Florida, will try to rebound from a disastrous and heavily hyped professional debut that went awry on Aug. 10 when he got knocked down in the first round and shockingly lost a four-round split decision to Adan Gonzales.

  • Middleweight David Kaminsky (5-0, 2 KOs), 19, an Israel native fighting out of Tarzana, California, will face an opponent to be determined in a six-round fight.

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