Photos: Chris Toney
The six main-event fighters on Friday’s big NBC Sports Network met at Wednesday’s final press conference at the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem in Bethlehem, PA. Headlining the seven-bout card is a 12-round fight for the #1 slot in the IBF world junior middleweight rankings between Charles Whittaker, of Georgetown, Cayman Islands, and Gabriel Rosado, of Philadelphia, PA. The winner is guaranteed a shot at current champion Cornelius Bundrage, of Detroit, MI, within six months.
Ranked #2 by the IBF, Whittaker, 38, has not lost a fight in eight years and has a record of 36-12-2, 21 K0s. Rosado, ranked #3 by the IBF, has had a big year so far, knocking out Jesus Soto-Karass and Sechew Powell. He is 20-5, 12 K0s.
“It’s going to be a great fight,” said Whittaker,. “Gabriel is young. I’ve seen a few of his fights. He comes hard and he comes in shape. He says he is going to be #1 and I know I’m going to be #1 after Friday. The fans are going to be the recipient of a great fight.”
“It’s a great opportunity again to be in the main event on NBC Sports Network,” said Rosado. “I’m excited to showcase my skills nationally again. I’ve trained extremely hard. We finished up our last couple of weeks in camp in Phoenix, AZ. Camp was great there and I feel strong. I am not taking Charles Whittaker lightly.
“I expect him to bring his A game and I’m ready for that. I want him to come with his A game because it will bring out the best in me. Russell (co-promoter Peltz) said I am ranked No. 3 but after Friday I will be ranked No. 1. I feel like mentally and physically I will break him down. I will set him up in the early rounds and I will take him out in the middle rounds. My plan is to get him out of there by the sixth round.”
In a 10-round light-heavyweight matchup, hard-hitting but soft-spoken Sergey Kovalev, of Fort Lauderdale, FL, says only he will “try to show you a great fight” when he opposes five-time New York State Golden Gloves champion Lionell Thompson, of Buffalo, NY.
Kovalev, 29, returns to the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem where he blew away Darnell Boone, of Atlanta, GA, in two rounds June 1.
Thompson, 27, who accepted this fight two weeks ago after world-rated Gabriel Campillo, of Madrid, Spain, pulled out, looks forward to a breakhrough win for himself.
“I stay in the gym and I stay ready,” said Thompson, who is 12-1, 8 K0s, with his only loss coming to a Canadian fighter by split decision in Canada. “I’ve been in camp with Chad Dawson and Isaac Chilemba and I stay ready for opportunities like this. I always knew this opportunity was going to come soon. I had the best preparation, the best training, the best sparring. Sergey is a good fighter and I am ready to go out there and show my skills and talent to the world.”
Hometown hero Ronald Cruz opens the televised card at 9 pm when he makes the first defense of his WBC Continental Americas welterweight title against rugged Antwone Smith, of Miami, FL.
“I’ve had a lot of time to get ready for this fight,” said Cruz, 25, who is 17-0, 12 K0s. “Smith has had a lot of time to get ready for this fight. There will be no excuses. Just expect a very tough and exciting fight.”
Smith, 25, of Miami, FL, said he has been training in California for this important match.
“I been training about six and one-half weeks for this fight,” said Smith, who is 21-4-1, 12 K0s. “I left home and I went away to prepare. The little that I do know about him (Cruz), I know he’s a steady guy. I can give him that but I suffered a lot looking past people. I didn’t think much of Lanardo Tyner and he beat me (in July, 2010). It was a lack of preparation. So I am taking Ronald Cruz seriously. I am not looking past him and I am not worried about what is next. I am totally focused on Ronald Cruz.”
First fight is 7.15 pm (ET). Tickets are priced at $80 and $55. NBC Sports Network will televise the Cruz-Smith, Kovalev-Thompson and Rosado-Whittaker fights, beginning at 9 pm (ET). The card is being promoted by Main Events and Peltz Boxing Promotions, Inc., in association with the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem.