Stevenson, Conlan headline separate MSG cards

Top Rank is taking over the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York for back-to-back boxing cards three days apart next month.

The company announced the featured fights on both shows on Tuesday, and as expected, Shakur Stevenson and Michael Conlan will take center stage.

Stevenson will make his first featherweight world title defense against rugged puncher Miguel Marriaga in the main event on March 14 (ESPN and ESPN Deportes, 10:30 p.m. ET).

In the main event of the card on March 17 (ESPN+, 8 p.m. ET), popular Irish featherweight Conlan will headline his fourth consecutive St. Patrick’s Day show in the Hulu Theater. Conlan will take on Belmar Preciado in a 10-rounder.

“What a great two nights of boxing on ESPN and ESPN+, as we get to see Shakur Stevenson defend his title against the big-punching Marriaga and Mick Conlan continue one of boxing’s great traditions,” Top Rank chairman Bob Arum said. “New York is going to turn out in force to watch two of boxing’s great young stars.”

Stevenson (13-0, 7 KOs), 22, of Newark, New Jersey, won a vacant 126-pound world title by dazzling, near-shutout decision over bitter rival Joet Gonzalez on Oct. 26 in Reno, Nevada. With that win Stevenson became the first male boxer from the 2016 Olympics to win a professional world title.

“We’ve been trying to make this fight with Miguel Marriaga for a long time now,” Stevenson said. “I wanted a strong opponent for my first title defense. He’s been in the ring with multiple world champions, and I am ready to prove that I am the best featherweight in the world. This is my fourth fight at Madison Square Garden, but my first as a world champion and it will be my best performance yet. I know all of my East Coast fans will come out and support on March 14.”

A win by Stevenson likely would set up a title unification fight this summer in England against Josh Warrington (30-0, 7 KOs).

But Marriaga (29-3, 25 KOs), 33, of Colombia, will aim to ruin those plans as he gets a fourth crack at a world title. All three of his defeats have come in world title bouts: by decision to Nicholas Walters, who was overweight and had been stripped of his belt, for a vacant featherweight belt (also at the Hulu Theater) in 2015; a decision to Oscar Valdez for a featherweight belt in 2017; and a seventh-round knockout loss later in 2017 to Vasiliy Lomachenko for a junior lightweight title. Since the loss to Lomachenko, Marriaga has won four fights in a row, each by knockout.

“I always wanted this fight, and the time is right now that he’s a world champion,” Marriaga said. “He speaks often about how people are ducking him, but here I am. Colombia will have a new world champion March 14.”

In the March 14 co-feature, former junior featherweight world titlist Jessie Magdaleno will meet Sakaria Lukas in a 10-round featherweight bout.

Magdaleno (27-1, 18 KOs), 28, a southpaw from Las Vegas, has won two fights in a row at featherweight since losing his junior featherweight belt by 11th-round knockout to Isaac Dogboe in April 2018.

“The guys people don’t know about are the dangerous ones,” Magdaleno said of Lukas. “With the mindset I have now, I don’t think anybody can beat me. My trainer [Jorge Capetillo] and I are looking ahead. I’m just waiting on what’s next, but we have to take care of business against Lukas first. Once we do that, I have every right to call out all of the champions.”

Lukas (23-0, 16 KOs), 35, of Namibia, will be fighting outside of his home country for only the second time; he fought once in Zimbabwe.

“There is a desert storm coming to New York in the name of Sakaria Lukas, and this storm is targeting the destruction of Jessie Magdaleno,” Lukas said.

Conlan (13-0, 7 KOs), 28, of Northern Ireland, made his professional debut at the Hulu Theater in 2017 and drew a sold-out St. Patrick’s Day crowd. The two-time Irish Olympian is coming off his biggest win, a one-sided decision over Olympic rival Vladimir Nikitin, on Dec. 14 in the Madison Square Garden main arena.

“I’m honored to return to the mecca of boxing, Madison Square Garden, and fight for the fourth straight St. Patrick’s Day,” Conlan said. “I know how tough Preciado is, but this fight is a great test as I continue on my path towards becoming a world champion. Fighting in New York City is very special for me. The fans have been very supportive right from the beginning at my pro debut on St. Patrick’s Day in 2017, and I look forward to putting on another tremendous show for them this year.”

Preciado (20-2-1, 13 KOs), 31, of Colombia, has won two fights in a row since a ninth-round knockout loss to former world title challenger Hiroshige Osawa in December 2018.

“The fans will be there to see Conlan, but mark my words, they will remember me,” Preciado said. “I am more than just another opponent. When I win, I won’t be surprised. I am prepared for a hard 10 rounds.”

The March 14 co-feature will pit junior lightweight Mikaela Mayer (12-0, 6 KOs), 29, a 2016 U.S. Olympian from Woodland Hills, California, in a 10-round women’s bout against former featherweight world titlist Melissa Hernandez (23-7-3, 7 KOs), 40, of Puerto Rico.

“I love that I’m going up against a former world champion because it’s going to make for a very competitive, exciting event.” Mayer said. “I’m also happy to be on a Mick Conlan card. He has a huge Irish and European fan base who I hope to impress and turn into fans.”

Top Rank also announced that, for a limited time, purchasing a ticket online to one of the cards will give fans an option to buy discounted tickets to the other card.

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