Top lightweight contenders Michel “La Zarza Ali” Rivera and Frank “The Ghost” Martin went face to face on Thursday before they meet in a scintillating WBA Lightweight Title Eliminator headlining action live on SHOWTIME this Saturday, December 17 in a Premier Boxing Champions event at The Chelsea inside The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.
WBA Lightweight Title Eliminator – 12 Rounds
Michel Rivera – 134 ½ lbs.
Frank Martin – 134 ¾ lbs.
Referee: Kenny Bayless; Judges: Steve Weisfeld (N.J.), David Moretti (Nevada), Tim Cheatham (Nevada)
IBF Super Middleweight Title Eliminator – 12 Rounds
José Uzcátegui – 167 ½ lbs.
Vladimir Shishkin – 167 ¼ lbs.
Referee: Celestino Ruiz; Judges: Max De Luca (Calif.), Patricia Morse Jarman (Nevada), David Sutherland (Okla.)
IBF Bantamweight Title Eliminator – 12 Rounds
Vincent Astrolabio – 117 ½ lbs.Nikolay Potapov – 117 lbs.
Referee: Robert Hoyle; Judges: Tim Cheatham (Nevada), Chris Migliore (Nevada), Steve Weisfeld (N.J.)
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Super Lightweight Bout – 10 Rounds
Omar Juarez – 141 lbs.
Austin Dulay – 140 ½ lbs.
Referee: Mike Ortega; Judges: Eric Cheek (Nevada), Max De Luca (Calif.), Patricia Morse Jarman (Nevada)
Note: Contracted weight is 141.
Middleweight Bout – 8 Rounds
Elijah Garcia – 164 lbs.
Cruse Stewart – 162 ½ lbs.
Referee: Robert Byrd; Judges: Chris Migliore (Nevada), David Moretti (Nevada), David Sutherland (Okla.)
Note: Contracted weight is 165.
The press conference also featured fighters competing on the SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING® telecast beginning at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT. The action will see former world champion José Uzcátegui return to action against unbeaten former amateur standout Vladimir Shishkin in a 12-round IBF Title Eliminator, while bantamweight contenders face off as Vincent Astrolabio and Nikolai Potapov meet in a 12-round IBF Title Eliminator that kicks off the telecast.
Rivera vs. Martin will pit unbeaten top 135-pound contenders against each other in one of boxing’s most loaded divisions. The matchup is widely considered a step up for both fighters, as the Dominican Republic-native Rivera duels the Derrick James-trained Martin to determine who will be next in line for a world title shot.
Here is what the fighters had to say Thursday from The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas:
“We know that Martin is a good boxer with abilities, but I’m the guy. I’m bigger and stronger. He’s strong and confident too, but I’m more confident. This is my time and I have to do everything to win this fight.
“This fight is everything. I believe that I’m more talented, but I like that he’s confident. For me, this is the best fight of the year. Nobody should miss this fight.
“I’ve really done a lot of work for this camp. This is my first main event and I have to make this my time. I’m dedicated and motivated. On Saturday, everyone will see a new superstar in the ring.
“It’s not normal for two undefeated guys to put their records on the line. I’m telling everyone, you can’t miss this fight. This is going to be amazing.
“He’s a southpaw, but that’s nothing new. I’ve been fighting with guys more experienced than him for a while. We know he’s got Errol Spence Jr. behind him, but that doesn’t mean anything in the ring. I’m one hundred percent confident that I’m winning this fight.
“Everyone knows I’m a confident fighter. That’s because of how hard I work in the gym with Herman Caicedo and my whole team. I’m not going to quit and I’m going to keep pushing and be ready for anything Martin brings.
“I’m so excited to be fighting again on SHOWTIME. I know that with a win on Saturday, I’m going to have the really big fights all set for me.
“Everyone knows me. I’m different. I’m the guy. I will win this fight. We’re going to talk in the ring.”
“We definitely believe in ‘Man Down’. Protect yourself at all times. Because I can get you up out of there at any moment in the fight.
“Come fight night, we’ll see who’s stronger and faster. He may have more length, but we’ll see who dominates and who hits the hardest on Saturday.
“I’m ready and I’m prepared. I put in all the hard work in the gym. Everything is done. Come fight night, I’m ready to put it all on the line. I know that I’m coming out with the victory because of all the overtime I put in while training.
“I’m coming to dominate. He’s a good fighter, but on Saturday night, I’m here to show him exactly what kind of fighter I am.
“This is the fight that’s going to get me to the next level. I’m not looking past Rivera, but my main thing is just to get in there and capitalize off the game plan and get the victory. Then we’ll keep going up from there.
“Rivera is a good, balanced fighter. He can punch, he can counter-punch, and he’s got some finesse to him.
“He’s got a game plan and so do we. We’re going to be ready to adjust. No matter what he comes with, we’re going to have something for him. We’ve got all the answers.
“This is gonna be an action-packed fight. We’re two undefeated fighters that are super hungry. You’re going to see a lot of hunger in that ring. We’re going to come out and do what we do.”
“I’m thankful for everyone here and for my team for putting me in this position. I feel more mature and I feel like my attitude has been changing. I’m grateful to be on this great card.
“This is all or nothing for me because I know that when I pass this test, there are bigger fights ahead. I know that everything is on the line for this fight.
“I’m ready for a rematch with Caleb Plant, or a fight with David Benavidez or even Canelo Alvarez. I have to win this fight and show everyone that I’m still a powerful and dangerous fighter at 168 pounds.
“I came here to do my job. We’re ready and prepared for everything. I pray each of us come out healthy and that the best man wins.”
“I’m prepared for 12 rounds, but I don’t think it’s going to go 12 rounds. He’s a tough guy that’s going to come forward, and that’s perfect. That’s suited for my style.
“I took this fight because I know it’s going to be a tough fight. This is the fight that I need to prove that I can win so that I can become world champion.
“I’ve learned a lot in my pro career, but I believe that a lot more people are going to see how dangerous I am after Saturday.
“I’m ready. This is a tough fight against a guy with good skills. We’ll see how it plays out in the ring.”
“This is a dream come true. I’m excited for this fight. I have to do this for my country and everyone in the Philippines. December 17 I’m coming for the knockout, just like he is.
“The two most important things I took from the Guillermo Rigondeaux fight is the experience and the confidence that I now have.
“We both believe in ourselves and that means it’s going to be a great fight for the fans. It’s going to be toe-to-toe action.
“I’ve had a great training camp. We worked really hard and we know what to expect from Potapov. Even if he surprises us, we’re going to be able to adjust quickly.”
“This is a big opportunity for me and I’m grateful for it. I’m ready and better than ever before. I’m going to show off my boxing skills, but I’m coming for a knockout. I’m going to use this opportunity to show that I’m one of the best bantamweights in the world.
“He can plan for a knockout, but my last opponent brought a pillow to the weigh-in saying he was knocking me out, and we saw how that went. I’m in the best shape of my life and my goal is to win impressively.
“I’m ready for everything. Rust is not going to be an issue. I have an amazing team behind me that has me ready. I’ve been boxing since I was a little kid and this is just another day in the office for me.
“He should be prepared for a tough, high-paced fight with lots of hard punches thrown. The rest is going to take care of itself.”