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Arizona Boxing News & Notes With Don Smith: Hernandez off RJJ Card, Q & A with Dejan Zlaticanin

Dejan Zlaticanin.

Boxing Fans, Arizona Boxing Middleweight Andrew ?Hurricane? Hernandez aka ?The fighting Pride of Phoenix? has decided to remove himself from the Friday, January 27 scheduled Roy Jones Jr. Promotions produced boxing show at the Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix. Andrew took to social media to update his fans on his personal action and the confident pugilist is predicting he will fight somewhere in the month of January. RJJ Promotions is searching for a replacement to fill the Co-Main Event slot.

I talked to the Phoenix Native about his decision to vacate the card and he calmly told me money and the lack of a suitable opponent was the motivating factors for his change of mind. There were other mitigating circumstances that led the charismatic fighter call a halt to his advertised bout at the Celebrity.

Hernandez, 16-5-1- 7 knockouts, suffered a sobering knockout loss (3rd round) to highly regarded super middleweight Jesse Hart on 11/4/16 in Las Vegas and the defeat in correlation with the acknowledgement of his 31st birthday observed on December 29th preys heavily as he contemplates his future in boxing. The veteran fighter isn?t satisfied with being the 40th ranked middleweight; he wants a title other than to be addressed as sir- in layman?s terms, Hernandez is hungry to become a world champion and he wants to put himself in the best position to realize his dream.

He says there will be changes made on his management team and he will be assertive in the decision making process and he may even travel and train out of state in an effort to sharpen his game; time waits for no one. Just a hunch; but, don?t be surprised if Hernandez doesn?t patch up his once chilly relationship with Iron Boy Promotions and fight on their 2/25 show at the Celebrity.

With Hernandez absent from the RJJ card, the bout sheet reads as follows: WBA-NABA-USA super welterweight champion John Vera (15-0) defends his title against Salim Larbi (20-6-2) in the Main Event. The co-main bout pairing will be addressed soon.

In a special bout, popular Arizona Featherweight Keenan Carbajal (12-2-1) takes on Gustavo Molina (23-13) loser in 5 of his last 8 bouts. Super Featherweight Cesar Alan Valenzuela ((14-4-1) takes on rugged Jose Silveria (17-20) in what could be one of the best bouts of the evening. Jose has lost a half of dozen bouts that could have gone his way; but, didn?t. Cesar always puts out 100 %. Also scheduled to fight on the card is 19 year old featherweight Edward Ceballos (4-1-1) who is trained by his father and the young pugilist workouts at Fuentes Boxing in Phoenix. Ceballos is waiting for an opponent to be selected.

The opening bout figures to be between Phoenix bantamweight Ryan Riddell (2-0) and Francisco Muro (3-5) from Tucson. Expect at least 2 more bouts to be added to the lineup sheet before the first bell chimes. All bouts are subject to change.

Ticket prices for the Celebrity Theatre 1/27 show are as follows: $24.00 (rows 14-25), $44.for (Rows 5-13) and $79.00 for (rows 1-4). Tickets remain available at the Celebrity box-office, located south of Van Buren on 32nd Street in Phoenix; look for a huge sign on the Westside of 32nd Street.

Q & A With The Champ: It is too early to predict how 2017 will rank with previous boxing years; but, the PBC promoted show set for 1/28/17 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas offers a star studded boxing lineup that should produce a lot of cheers from fans seated at the venue and spectators who stay at home and watch 3 champions defend their title against very challenging opponents on Showtime.

In the Main Event, consensus 2016 fighter of the year Carl ?The Jackal? Frampton (23-0-14 knockouts) defends his WBA featherweight crown against former 3 time division champion Leo ?El Terremoto? Santa Cruz (32-1-1-18 knockouts), the man he took the title away from In July 2016. It was a war to remember and both fighters promise more of the same intense action.

In the Co-Main Event, gritty Montenegrin Native Dejan Zlaticanin (22-0-15 knockouts) will defend his World Boxing Council Lightweight title against former 2 division world champion Mikey Garcia (35-0-29 knockouts). Zlaticanin is the second foe for Garcia since his 2 ? self-imposed retirement began after his heated dispute with Top Rank Boxing. After a bitter verbal battle, TR released the 29 year-old Garcia who returned to the ring in July 2016 with a 5th round stoppage of former WBC featherweight champion Elio Rojas after knocking Rojas 4 times in the fight.

The third title tiff on the Showtime presentation features the pride of Wales Lee Selby (23-1-8 knockouts) defending his IBF world featherweight belt against Argentinean Jonathan Barros (41-4-22 knockouts).

Zlaticanin, WBC Lightweight Champion since he captured the crown on June 11, 2016, is trained by Jose Benavidez SR. whom I have known for years. Jose was a longtime Phoenix resident until he moved to California last year. We have kept in touch ad he was instrumental in helping me secure an interview with the 32 year old southpaw fighting champion from Montenegro. I am grateful for his assistance and a special thanks to the champ for agreeing to my request.

The official language in Montenegro is Montenegrin while Serbian is also practiced and I worried about a language barrier with the champ; but, his team managed to overcome what I feared might be a problem; however, all of the 10 questions were answered with a thank you note attached to the returned email-thank you champ. We promised the 32 year old champion that we would respect his answers without any cute or dishonest editing-we kept our word! ABNN was forced to rework one answer to make it clearer; but, didn?t change the essence.

The winner of the Zlaticanin/Garcia title bout will be in a position to challenge one of the three other reigning lightweight champions: Jorge Linares (WBA & The Ring), Robert Easter Jr. (IBF) and Terry Flanagan (WBO). Also waiting in the wings is Phoenix lightweight Ray Beltran who has already challenged Mikey Garcia and Beltran is sure Garcia will defeat the WBC lightweight king from Montenegro- Zlaticanin thinks differently!

ABNN: Odds makers have you losing your WBC World Lightweight Title to former two division title holder Mikey Garcia on January 28, 2017 at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. Do you feel disrespected and if so, does that motivate you?

DZ: I don?t pay attention to odds makers, I convinced them many times that they are wrong and I will do the same once again and they will lose their money.

ABNN: light heavyweight boxer Bosko Draskovic represented your country (Montenegro) in the 2012 Olympics; did you aspire to be an Olympian?

DZ: When I was an amateur boxer, I was dreaming of becoming a professional champion of the world and now I make my dream come true. Amateur boxing can?t even compare with professional boxing, the name tells you everything-amateur; so it?s not worth talking about!

ABNN: Garcia is 3 inches taller than you, do you have to fight inside to win and do you stand by your prediction of a knockout victory?

DZ: This question is hard to answer; it depends on what will be his tactic; if he fights toe to toe he will be knocked out, but if he wants to fight from a distance, I will find a way to his head and hurt him.

ABNN: Montenegro is better known for developing soccer players than boxers, what has your winning the WBC World Lightweight title done for the sport of boxing in your homeland?

DZ: For now nothing has changed except I have become a hero to young people who love sports. In our country, situation is very bad, they want to mix sport with politics and I don?t want that. I think sports need to connect people not separate them.

ABNN: Your hometown of Podgorica, Montenegro is a 13 hour & 5 minute flight (6,304.7 miles) to Las Vegas site of your 1/28 fight with Mikey Garcia. When you make a flight of such great length, how do you preoccupy your time while in the air?

DZ: On every long pilot, I go to the pilot and ask him/her to allow me to fly the plane; ha-ha! I?m joking of course, on long flight I behave like all other passengers, I watch TV, listen to music and I take a book(s) to read.

ABNN: Does your fighting from a natural southpaw stance give you an advantage when you fight Garcia on 1/28?

DZ: Yes, I think my southpaw stance will give me a distinct advantage and the success of my left will disarm him and cause problems for him. [*forwarded answer was hard to understand, so ABNN took a cautious effort to rewrite it for the benefit of the reader; hope we got it right.]

ABNN: Given the length of flight, how many of your fellow Montenegrins do you expect to travel to the venue from Montenegro to watch you defend your title? And if they stay home to watch the telecast on Showtime, at what time will they be watching it live in your native land; if they decide to stay up?

DZ: Yes, a lot of them will arrive to watch me, they already but the tickets for the fight on the internet and also there will be a lot of people from my country who live here in the U.S. For them who watch it on Showtime from Montenegro, air time for my fight is 4 a.m. home.

ABNN: Garcia has won two world titles at lighter eight divisions; does give you an advantage since you have more experience than the former champ who has only 1 fight (last year) as a lightweight.

DZ: Yes, that can be to my advantage because my body is used being on that weight for a long-time. I think everything will be changed when he feels how strong I am and I will not be scared like his former opponents. I will be smart, Strong and patient. I am a champion and my Green belt isn?t going anywhere.

ABNN: How did you develop your self-confidence and if you weren?t a fighter, what would your profession be?

DZ: Self-confidence, I develop in my head, I believe in myself, I believe in and he gives me strength, without God, people are empty. And with all that, motivates me that I need to secure a better life for my family. I Have a daughter, Sofja and she is my life.

ABNN: If you do beat Garcia, you will become an even bigger boxing star, what will do you with the increased celebrity; should you win?

DZ: Yes, after beating Garcia I will become a bigger star than I am now. What will I do after that...nothing! I will be the same as now, standing firm on the ground and I will do the job I love and that?s boxing.

ABNN: Thank you Dejan for your time and best wishes to you and your family and a special thank you to your trainer David Benavidez SR. for hooking us up.

Editor?s Note: Fast rising super middleweight David Benavidez (16-0-15 knockouts) didn?t have a foe when we mentioned his presence on the 1/28 card in our last column before we left for our once in a millennium vacation; but, the terrific power puncher will face Sherali Mamajonov (14-1-7 knockouts in yet another test for the 20 year old who I watched as a youngster in Phoenix.

The rest of the undercard: Super Lightweight Josh Taylor (7-0) vs. TBA, Featherweight Jorge Lara ((28-0-20 knockouts) vs. Oktay Takalak (16-0-5 knockouts) and lightweight Ivan Redkach (19-2) Vs. TBA. On paper, it?s the best card, I?ve seen in a while. In front of a Showtime screen is the place to be on 1/28, if you can?t make it to the MGM Grand in Las Vegas; at least the three title bouts will be shown!

Boxing News & Notes: It?s official, Roberto Duran?s 2016 film bio ?Hands of Stone? has been declared a box office flop. The film was made on a $24,000,000 budget while the movie has brought in a mere $4,712,792 in domestic gross. Domestic Distributor (The Weinstein Company) has released the critically panned flick overseas in hopes that Duran?s popularity will help the financiers of the flick break even. For the record here are the names of the top 5 all-time grossing boxing movies and their gross dollar amounts: (1) Rocky lV released 11/27/85 has grossed $127,873,716 to date (2) Rocky 111 released 5/28/82 has grossed $125,049,125 to date (3) Rocky released 11/21/76 has grossed $117,235,147 to date, (4) Creed released 11/25/15 has grossed $109,767,581 to date, (5) Million Dollar Baby released 12/15/04 has grossed $100,492,203 to date and there you have the top five all-time grossing boxing films. Ali, released in 2001 ranks 11th

More Stuff: ABNN is investigating a report that someone is selling Knock Off boxing equipment and the offense is criminal and punishable if culprits are caught and charged; please report anything that smells funny or looks suspicious..?.??. Iron Boy?s next boxing show will be held at the Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix on 2/25?..IB Promotions has plans to introduce their next MMA show on March 10?..The Arizona Boxing Commission has yet to update their Website and the monthly commission meeting scheduled for Wednesday 1/11 isn?t listed??..UFC returns to Phoenix with a big MMA show at the Talking Stick Resort Arena in downtown Phoenix on Sunday 1/15. Fans can call 602-379-7800 for ticket prices and available seating??.Phoenix Boxer Luis Espinoza and Ariel Arismendez are expecting their first child, we wish them the best. Luis is training with high profiled trainer Joel Diaz in California?.. Amanda Nunes victory over Rhonda Rousey was painful to watch. I saw the battle on 12/30 while on vacation and I hope her pitiful performance will lead her to retire. I don?t want to see her get hurt??Fight Hard is thinking about staging a boxing show at Legends Event Center at the end of March; but nothing is in cement?..several local boxers are trying to fight out of state instead of waiting for shows to develop in Arizona?..The state of Nevada Boxing Commission blinked two or three times before approving the Garcia/Zlaticanin 1/28 title tiff. Something about the champ being from Montenegro and finding records to substantiate his record. For the love of fried sweet potatoes, the man is a world champion; how qualified can you get.

Where are they Now: Several readers inquired about the whereabouts of Michelle Rosado, aka ?Ragin Babe? and 1996 Olympic Gold Medal Winner Vassiliy Jirov.

Ms. Rosado, is a boxing enthusiast, Radio Talk Show host (The Morning Punch- In Show) and marketing Manager. She is credited with promoting 5 boxing shows at medium sized venues in the Grand Canyon State. We found phone # for her; but, the info is for members of the press only and we respect her request to not make it public. Readers and her fans can go to her listed website: or contact Ralph Velez Jr. on Facebook for more information. Her telephone area code is assigned to Commonwealth of Pennsylvania where she resided before coming to Arizona. We have been told that she no longer resides in Arizona; however, she did collaborate with Top Rank on a show held in Tucson last year. ABNN was on assignment in Vegas at the time and couldn?t attend the TR event. Mr. Velez worked as a ring announcer for Ms. Rosado.

Jirov owned and operated Keep Punching boxing in Scottsdale until last year when he closed his business, shut his phone down, and headed for Texas. He had partners; but, they are no longer residing in Arizona. Owning and operating boxing gyms is a hard way of making a living unless present a unique concept; get ready for hard times?..Until Next Time!

Click here to view a list of other articles written by Don Smith.

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