Strictly Business Boxing
Strictly Business Boxing

Rafael Espinoza-Sergio Chirino

Featherweight World Title Battle Set For June 21st

Live On ESPN+ From The  BleauLive Theater

At Fontainebleau Las Vegas!

(May 11th) Another chapter in Mexico’s historic saga of intra-national showdowns is set to unfold.

 

Rafael “El Divino” Espinoza will make the first defense of his WBO featherweight world title against Sergio Chirino on Friday, June 21, inside BleauLive Theater at Fontainebleau Las Vegas. Espinoza-Chirino will mark the 161st all-Mexican world title fight and the 20th at featherweight.

 

The 10-round junior lightweight co-feature will see Andres “Savage” Cortes and Abraham “El Super” Nova collide in a high-stakes battle presented in association with Murphys Boxing and 12 Rounds Promotion.

 

In a 10-round special attraction, unbeaten middleweights Troy Isley and Javier Martinez will reignite a fierce amateur rivalry.

 

Espinoza-Chirino, Cortes-Nova and Isley-Martinez headline a stacked card streaming live and exclusively in the U.S. on ESPN+ and Sky Sports in the UK and Ireland.

 

Promoted by Top Rank, in association with Zanfer Promotions, tickets go on sale Tuesday, May 14, at 12 p.m. PT via Ticketmaster.com.

 

“From top to bottom, this is a truly great card that promises action, and we’re thrilled to be doing our first show at the beautiful Fontainebleau Las Vegas,” said Top Rank Chairman Bob Arum. “Espinoza can be Mexico’s next great champion, but he has a tough assignment in Chirino. Andres Cortes and Abraham Nova is a great grudge match, and the winner will be in great position to challenge for a world title.”

 

Espinoza-Chirino is one of this year’s most anticipated fights, and we could not be prouder to host it at BleauLive Theater, a sports fan’s paradise where you will feel the intensity of every punch no matter where you're seated,” says Fontainebleau Las Vegas Senior Vice President of Entertainment, Fedor Banuchi. “Espinoza-Chirino title bout underscores Fontainebleau’s 70-year legacy of delivering premier entertainment to our guests and solidifies our status as a top-tier destination for live events.”

 

Espinoza (24-0, 20 KOs) devoted over a decade to his pro career before capturing the WBO featherweight world title in a Fight of the Year contender against Robeisy Ramirez last December. Despite being knocked down in the fifth after taking an early lead, Espinoza rallied late and dropped Ramirez in the twelfth, nearly stopping him before the final bell. Espinoza earned a majority decision in a stunning upset. Standing at 6'1," he is the tallest world champion in featherweight history, a division that has included Mexican greats such as Ruben Olivares, Salvador Sanchez, Erik Morales, and Marco Antonio Barrera.

 

Espinoza said, “I’m excited to return to the ring. I’m training very hard like always. I know that I’ll be facing a Mexican compatriot who is coming to win. I will be ready to defend my title with a lot of grit and heart. And that’s what I’ll do in the ring, fight with a lot of heart and win my first title defense.”

 

Chirino (22-1, 13 KOs) went 9-0 before an early loss to eventual world titleholder Mauricio Lara in August 2018. Since then, he has remained unbeaten, tallying wins in different parts of Mexico. Last year, he decisioned Ally Mwerangi and Sebastian Tinoco Chavez before making his 2024 debut in February by stopping Dennis Contreras with a body shot in the third round. The 29-year-old hopes to make history by becoming the first world champion to come from the Mexican state of Oaxaca. 

 

Chirino said, “We Mexicans are known for having a lot of heart. And whenever there are two of us in the ring, it's a battle. I'm happy for the opportunity, but at the same time, I know I've earned it. I’m coming for that belt. I have a lot of experience. There will be a problem in the ring, and that problem is Espinoza. But I will solve that problem and take home the victory.”

 

Nova (23-2, 16 KOs) had an impressive amateur career spanning almost 200 fights, with notable wins against Frank Martin, Richardson Hitchins, and Nahir Albright. As a pro, he went 17-0 before entering a co-promotional agreement with Top Rank in early 2020. He suffered his first professional setback in June 2022 via a one-punch knockout against Ramirez at featherweight. Following the loss, Nova moved back to junior lightweight, notching victories over Adam Lopez and former world champion Jonathan Romero before a split decision loss in his first world title shot against O’Shaquie Foster in February.

 

Nova said, “We’ve been on a collision course for a long time. It was eventually going to happen. Andres has been nipping at my heels for a while, calling me out and running his mouth at press conferences. Well, on June 21 in Las Vegas, he’s going to get a taste of what he’s been craving. Be careful what you wish for. No Fear! No Doubt!”

 

Cortes (21-0, 12 KOs), a Las Vegas native, made his mark in July 2020 by overcoming a visit to the canvas to secure a decision victory against Alejandro Salinas at the MGM Grand Las Vegas Bubble. In 2021, he maintained his momentum by outpointing Eduardo Garza in May, knocking out former world title challenger Genesis Servania in the first round in August and vanquishing Mark Bernaldez in three rounds in November. The 26-year-old inked a deal with Top Rank the following March and has since gone 5-0 with three knockouts, including last July’s seventh-round stoppage win over Xavier Martinez and February’s fourth-round TKO against Bryan Chevalier.

 

“This is going to be a painful night for Abraham Nova. He thinks I’m his ticket to another title shot, but I am going to plant him on the canvas,” Cortes said. “I’m ready for a title shot, and nobody, especially not Nova, will stop me from achieving my dream.”

 

Isley (12-0, 5 KOs) kicked off his pro career in February 2021 and notched his first 10 wins before joining forces with 2023 Trainer of the Year Brian “BoMac” McIntyre. Since then, the Olympian has excelled, registering a dominant points verdict over Mexican veteran Vladimir Hernandez last November on the Shakur Stevenson-Edwin De Los Santos bill before knocking out Marcos Hernandez in round seven in March. Martinez (10-0-1, 3 KOs), a five-time national champion, started his professional journey in July 2020. He only has one blemish, a split draw against Joeshon James. The Milwaukee native is coming off his most significant victory, an eight-round decision over Raul Salomon in February.

 

Isley and Martinez are familiar foes, having fought four times as amateurs. Isley bested Martinez in the finals of the 2016 and 2017 U.S. National Championships. Martinez responded with victories at the 2018 U.S. National Championships and 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials.

 

“This isn’t the amateurs anymore,” Isley said. “Javier is going to see the difference in skill when we fight on June 21 in Las Vegas. He’s a tough fighter with a lot of heart, but that won’t be enough for him to win the fight.”

 

“This is the end of the rivalry. We fought some great battles as amateurs, and this one is the tiebreaker,” Martinez said.  “I’ve wanted this fight ever since I turned pro, and on June 21, I will show Troy that our last two amateur fights were not a fluke. I was the better fighter then, and I am the better fighter now.”

 

The undercard includes a pair of Las Vegas natives and the Top Rank debut of a fast-rising prodigy:

 

Bantamweight prospect Floyd Diaz (11-0, 3 KOs) makes his second 2024 appearance in an eight-round tilt versus Francisco Pedroza (18-11-2, 10 KOs). The Las Vegas native shined with an eight-round decision over Puerto Rican vet Edwin Rodriguez in March. Pedroza, after giving stiff tests to Gary Antonio Russell and Jason Moloney, bested three-time Olympian Rau’shee Warren over six rounds in August 2022.

 

Junior lightweight southpaw DJ Zamora (12-0, 9 KOs), also a native of Las Vegas, will face Jose Antonio Meza (9-9, 2 KOs) in an eight-round contest. The 21-year-old earned two victories in 2023, dispatching Jesus Abel Ibarra in three rounds in March and decisioning Nikolai Buzolin across eight in July.

 

Junior bantamweight phenom Steven Navarro (1-0, 1 KO) will make his Top Rank debut in a six-rounder against Juan Pablo Meza (7-3, 2 KOs). The 13-time U.S. national amateur champion entered the professional ranks by stopping Jose Lopez in six in April.

 

Albert Gonzalez (8-0, 4 KOs), a featherweight standout trained by Robert Garcia, takes on Conrado Martinez (9-1) in a six-rounder. Gonzalez returns after blasting out Joel Alberto Mora last month.

 

About BleauLive Theater

BleauLive Theater is the entertainment hub of Fontainebleau Las Vegas, a 90,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art, customizable theater capable of hosting up to 3,800 guests. More information about Fontainebleau Las Vegas dining, events, entertainment, rooms and suites can be found at fontainebleaulasvegas.com.

 

About Fontainebleau Las Vegas

Fontainebleau Las Vegas is a 67-story, vertically integrated luxury resort. Rooted in the 70-year history of the iconic Fontainebleau brand, Fontainebleau Las Vegas brings a legacy of timeless elegance and unparalleled service to the Strip. Certified by the Green Building Initiative with three Green Globes, the resort’s thoughtful design allows guests to move effortlessly among 3,644 luxury hotel rooms and suites, 550,000 square feet of customizable meeting and convention space, 150,000 square feet of gaming space, a collection of world-class restaurants and shops, exquisite pools, vibrant nightlife, and vitality-enhancing spa and wellness offerings. Located at 2777 S. Las Vegas Blvd., adjacent to the acclaimed Las Vegas Convention Center expansion, Fontainebleau Las Vegas is created by Fontainebleau Development in partnership with Koch Real Estate Investments.

 

About ESPN+

ESPN+ is the multi-sport, direct-to-consumer video service from The Walt Disney Company’s Direct-to-Consumer and International (DTCI) segment and ESPN. It reached 2 million subscribers in less than a year and offers fans thousands of live events, on-demand content and original programming not available on ESPN’s linear TV or digital networks, along with premium editorial content.

 

Programming on ESPN+ includes hundreds of MLB and NHL games, exclusive UFC, Top Rank boxing and PFL fights and events, top domestic and international soccer (Serie A, MLS, FA Cup, UEFA Nations League, EFL Championship, EFL Carabao Cup, Eredivisie, and more), thousands of college sports events (including football, basketball and other sports), Grand Slam tennis, international and domestic rugby and cricket, new and exclusive series, acclaimed studio shows and the full library of ESPN’s award-winning 30 for 30 films. Fans subscribe to ESPN+ for just $4.99 a month (or $49.99 per year) and can cancel at any time.

 

ESPN+ is available as an integrated part of the ESPN App (on mobile and connected devices) and ESPN.com.

 

About ESPN

In the UK, ESPN operates a successful and growing business that includes a collection of leading sports websites and apps, an expanding sports content sales business, live and on-demand streaming service ESPN Player, and a long-term collaboration with BT Sport that includes BT Sport operating an ESPN-branded channel as part of its television business.

 

ESPN UK combines bespoke content from an experienced London-based team with the best writing on other sites in ESPN’s global digital portfolio, including ESPNcricinfo.com and ESPN FC. More than 100 staff from multiple locations contribute to ESPN UK’s coverage across football, rugby, cricket, tennis, boxing and golf, offering both a local and global view.

 

ESPN’s UK business is part of ESPN International, a division of ESPN, Inc., which has grown to include ownership — in whole or in part — of 26 television networks outside of the United States, as well as a variety of additional businesses that allow ESPN to reach sports fans in more than 60 countries and territories across all seven continents. Since 1983, ESPN (founded in Bristol, Connecticut, in 1979) has grown around the world, establishing itself as the leading global sports media brand – ESPN.com is one of the world’s leading sports websites. The company’s philosophy to global growth is to always serve sports fans and be locally relevant to them, with content and products that tap into their great passion and dedication. ESPN is 80 percent owned by ABC, Inc., which is an indirect subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company. The Hearst Corporation holds a 20 percent interest in ESPN.

 

About Top Rank

Innovation has been the standard at Top Rank since it was established in 1966 by Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum. The boxing industry’s leading promotional company, Top Rank has shaped, developed, and promoted the careers of top international pay-per-view superstars and Hall of Famers, including Muhammad Ali, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Tommy Hearns, George Foreman, Sugar Ray Leonard, Aaron Pryor, Alexis Arguello, Oscar De La Hoya, Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Miguel Cotto, Erik Morales, Terence Crawford, and Vasiliy Lomachenko.

 

Top Rank has promoted some of the most memorable fights in the sport’s history, including 26 Ali events, Leonard vs. Hearns, Pryor vs. Arguello, Duran vs. Leonard, Hagler vs. Hearns, Leonard vs. Hagler, Foreman vs. Holyfield, Morales vs. Barrera, De La Hoya vs. Trinidad, and the most lucrative fight in boxing history, Mayweather vs. Pacquiao. In addition to the previously mentioned super fights, Top Rank possesses one of the largest sports libraries, which includes nearly 10,000 fights.

 

Known for creating strategic collaborations between athletes, sponsors, and television networks, Top Rank has been an architect of boxing’s global growth by staging high-profile events in landmark settings around the world, including Madison Square Garden, MGM Grand Garden Arena, Staples Center, Wembley Arena, Araneta Coliseum, The Venetian Macao, Yankee Stadium, Radio City Music Hall, The “Fabulous” Forum, and AT&T Stadium. Top Rank has also been the leader within the boxing industry in creating unforgettable in-arena experiences for fans and embracing 21st century technological advancements to distribute world-class fights and shoulder programming across a variety of platforms.

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