THE CO-MAIN EVENT FEATURES WILLIE NELSON VS. VANES MARTIROSYAN, THE EAST COAST RETURN OF FORMER UNDISPUTED LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMP CHAD DAWSON AND UNDEFEATED DOMINIC WADE AGAINST KEANDRE LEATHERWOOD
Undefeated Rances “Kid Blast” Barthelemy (20-0-0, 12 KOs), of Las Vegas by way of Cuba, will defend his IBF junior lightweight title against former world title challenger and IBF No. 3-ranked challenger Fernando David “El Vasco” Saucedo (52-5-3, 8, KOs), of Florencio Varela, Argentina, in the main event of a SHOWTIME Boxing Special Edition quadrupleheader on Saturday, Oct. 4, live on SHOWTIME (9 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the West Coast) from the Fox Theater at Foxwoods Resort Casino, in Mashantucket, Conn.
In other 10-round fights on a four-fight telecast: Willie “The Great” Nelson (23-1-1, 13 KOs), of Cleveland, Ohio, will be opposed by Vanes “The Nightmare” Martirosyan (34-1-1, 21 KOs), of Glendale, Calif. by way of Armenia, in a collision of once-beaten junior middleweights, former light heavyweight world champion “Bad” Chad Dawson (32-3, 18 KOs), of Las Vegas by way of New Haven, Conn., fights for the first time in his home state in five years when he goes up against Tommy Karpency (23-4-1, 14 KOs), of Adah, Penn, and promising middleweight Dominic “Lights Out” Wade (16-0, 11 KOs) of Largo, Md. will put his perfect record on the line against KeAndre Leatherwood (14-2-1, 10 KOs), of Birmingham, Ala.
The 5-foot-11, 29-year-old Barthelemy, a boxer-puncher with good skills, movement and punching power, is making the first defense of the 130-pound title he won with a dominant 12-round decision over defending champion Argenis Mendez in his last fight on July 10 in Miami, Fla.
The victory, scored 115-111 three times, came in a rematch of a bizarre scrap on Jan. 3, 2014, in Minneapolis that went into the books as a no-decision after the former Cuban amateur standout knocked Mendez out after the bell had sounded to end the second round.
With Mendez finally in his rearview mirror, Barthelemy is looking forward to Oct. 4 and beyond.
“I’m very excited to be fighting on SHOWTIME for the first time,’’ said Bathelemy, who defected from Cuba shortly before his pro debut in September 2009. “The goal when you start out your career is to win a world title and fight on a major network. Now that I have accomplished both I want to prove I’m one of the best fighters in the world.
“Saucedo has fought a lot of guys. He’s one of the highest ranked contenders in the IBF so I’m coming in totally prepared and focused. I want to win obviously, but I’d like to win impressively.
“I want to show everybody that I’m the best at 130 pounds no ifs, ands or butts, and that includes Mikey Garcia, Orlando Salido, who’s called me out … So the opportunities are there for me. But first I have to defeat Saucedo.’’
A veteran of 60 pro fights, the 33-year-old, 5-foot-7 Saucedo has won 14 in a row, including seven by way of knockout. This will be not only his first time fighting on SHOWTIME, but also his first time fighting in the United States.
His last loss came in his first world title fight on a 12-round unanimous decision to WBA 126-pound titleholder and hometown favorite Chris John on Dec. 5, 2010, in Jakarta, Indonesia.
“Saucedo is a veteran who gets one last chance to prove he can succeed at the highest level,’’ said SHOWTIME Expert Analyst Steve Farhood. “To date, he’s been strong in Argentina but less effective outside his native country. Barthelemy is one of the brighter young titlists in boxing.’’
Saucedo, who captured the WBC Silver 130-pound belt three outings ago, is coming off a third-round TKO over Luis Juarez, last June 27 in Buenos Aires.
Farhood regards the co-feature between Nelson and Martirosyan as a “throwback fight between contenders where the stakes are self-evident.’’
“This type of matchup you don’t see anymore,’’ Farhood said. “Martirosyan is a legitimate top-10 contender while Nelson is just outside the top 10. The winner will be clearly in line for a shot at a title.’’
Nelson, a 6-foot-3½, 27-year-old, has won seven in a row since his lone defeat (on ShoBox on an eight-round majority decision to Vincent Arroyo in April 2011). Nelson was triumphant in his other ShoBox start on a unanimous 10-round decision (97-92 twice and 95-94) over left-handed former Cuban amateur star and previously unbeaten prospect Yudel Jhonson in May 2012.
After dealing Johnson his initial setback, Nelson, who’s very tall for the weight class, upset undefeated prospect and 2008 Virgin Islands Olympian, John Jackson, on a unanimous 10-round decision (98-92 and 96-94 twice) to capture the NABF 154-pound belt on Sept. 15, 2012.
Nelson underwent surgery on his left elbow in late 2013, but has fought twice since, winning a clear 10-round decision over hard-trying Luis Grajeda in his most recent outing last Aug. 8.
An amateur standout before going pro in May 2006, Nelson doesn’t plan to make radical changes in his style and technique against Armenian-born Martirosyan.
“I think Martirosyan is a good fighter,’’ said Nelson, a former U.S, amateur standout and eight-year pro. “He’s well-rounded–decent speed, decent power. But I’m going to use the same game plan for him as I do for everybody else. I’m not going to change nothing. Basically, I’m just going to work on keeping him on the outside on the end of my punches.”
Martirosyan, 28, is coming off a unanimous 10-round decision over Mario Lozano last March 21 in Cabazon, Calif. In his first start for new trainer, Joe Goossen, and new promoter, Goossen Tutor, Martirosyan dominated; he scored a knockdown with a right hand in the second and consistently outboxed and outworked Lozano to win going away by 100-89 three times.
A 2004 U.S. Olympian, Martirosyan is 6-foot-tall boxer-puncher who possesses good power, movement and speed. He’ll be looking to make it two-for-two for his new team on Oct. 4.
“I’ve been training for this fight for over 2 and a half months–it’s been a long camp,’’ said Martirosyan, who lost a 12-round split decision to undefeated lefthander and 2008 U.S. Olympian Demetrius Andrade (117-110, 114-113 and 112-115) in a fight for the vacant WBO junior middleweight belt on Nov. 19, 2013. “Every time I spar, I’m sparring 15 rounds, 20 rounds. We’re working really hard. I’ve never in my life sparred so long or experienced something like this.
“I think Nelson is a good fighter. He always finds a way to win even though he gets hurt or dropped, and you’ve got to respect him for that. But he has to respect me, too, because I’ve never been so hungry in my life,” said Martirosyan. “This is basically do-or-die for me.”
In a sensational amateur career in which he was an eight-time National champion, the lanky Martirosyan upended Timothy Bradley, who went on to win super lightweight and welterweight world titles, Austin Trout, who would become the WBA super welterweight titlist, and Andre Berto, who went on to win the WBC and IBF welterweight belt.
In the second televised fight of the evening, “Bad Chad” continues the second chapter of his career, as he calls it, against Pennsylvania native Karpency in an attempt to get a step closer to another world title shot.
Dawson is coming off a 2:35 first-round knockout over George Blades last June 21 on SHOWTIME EXTREME.
The knockout over the outclassed Blades snapped a two-fight losing streak for the former two-time light heavyweight world champion. ”It was good to get some of the ring rust off,’’ he said. “I think the time off did me a lot of good. I got a little rest and got to spend time with my family.
“With that fight out of the way, I’ll be sharper and in better shape this time. Nothing’s really changed for me. I’m just back to being myself and working hard and doing the right things. I’m strong and I’ve got that hunger back. ’’
Once considered one of the most talented pound-for-pound boxers in the world and the last fighter to defeat Bernard Hopkins, “Bad Chad” also owns victories over Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson (twice each), Tomasz Adamek and Adrian Diaconu. This will be his first fight in Connecticut since he unanimously outpointed Johnson in their rematch in November 2009, and his first at Foxwoods since 2004.
But questions remain about whether Dawson can regain his past form. “Dawson is at a point in his career where he has to give fans reason to think he can again be a dominant light heavyweight again,’’ Farhood said.
Fellow southpaw Karpency, 28, has won two consecutive fights, including a unanimous 10-round decision over Dhalir Smith last July 26. He has experience against good opposition. In February 2012, he fought WBO light heavyweight champion Nathan Cleverly in England; in his next fight he met hard-hitting, world-ranked Andrzej Fonfara. He’s also been in with Karo Murat.
Wade and Leatherwood will square off to open the telecast in a 10-round middleweight bout.
Twenty-five-year-old Wade has won five in a row since returning to the ring in February 2013 after a two-year layoff. In his ShoBox debut and first scheduled 10-rounder, the former amateur star stepped up in class and won a unanimous decision over Nick Brinson. He also registered a spectacular one-punch second-round TKO over Marcus Upshaw.
Leatherwood is a 5-foot-10, 25-year-old who’s won two straight fights since losing a 10-round decision to Hugo Centeno in a disappointing effort in his ShoBox debut on March 8, 2013. Leatherwood is coming off a first-round knockout over Mickey Scarborough last April 5.