Four of boxing’s most electrifying young talents hope to strike the Heisman pose Saturday, Dec. 10, at Madison Square Garden.
Former lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez makes his second appearance at junior welterweight in the 10-round main event against former two-weight world champion Jose “Sniper” Pedraza.
In the 10-round heavyweight co-feature, Jared “The Real Big Baby” Anderson aims for his 13th straight knockout against the battle-tested Jerry “Slugger” Forrest.
Puerto Rican junior middleweight star Xander Zayas steps up in class against 28-fight veteran Alexis Salazar in a scheduled eight-rounder special feature. And, in the televised opener, Tokyo 2020 Olympic silver medalist Keyshawn Davis looks to jumpstart his world title ambitions in an eight-round lightweight duel versus Juan Carlos Burgos.
Lopez-Pedraza, Anderson-Forrest, Zayas-Salazar, and Davis-Burgos will be broadcast LIVE on ESPN, ESPN Deportes and ESPN+ at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT immediately following the Heisman Trophy Ceremony.
Promoted by Top Rank, tickets starting at $51 go on sale Tuesday, Nov. 1 at 12 p.m. ET.
“Four of boxing’s mega talents, headlined by the great Teofimo Lopez, will be in action December 10 at the iconic Madison Square Garden. This will be a special evening,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “Lopez is targeting a junior welterweight title shot in 2023, and Jose Pedraza is a Puerto Rican warrior hungry for another world title opportunity. With Jared Anderson, Xander Zayas, and Keyshawn Davis, this card features three additional fighters who will one day be headlining superstars.”
Lopez (17-1, 13 KOs) toppled pound-for-pound king Vasiliy Lomachenko in October 2020 to become the lightweight champion. Thirteen months later, he lost his titles via split decision to George Kambosos Jr. He returned August 13 as a junior welterweight and stopped Pedro Campa in the seventh round. Lopez is no stranger to “Heisman Night,” as he’s authored two of the most indelible Top Rank on ESPN moments on that platform.
In 2018, he knocked out Mason Menard in 44 seconds, donned the jersey of Heisman winner Kyler Murray, and topped things off with the Heisman pose and a backflip. One year later, he stopped Richard Commey in the second round to win the IBF lightweight world title and immediately put on the jersey of that year’s victor, LSU’s Joe Burrow. He didn’t forget the pose or the signature backflip that time, either.
Lopez said, “It’s Heisman Night at Madison Square Garden. I’m born for this stage. Once I beat Jose Pedraza in front of my hometown fans, I am coming for all the junior welterweight belts in 2023. The Takeback is in full effect, and I am on a mission to become a champion again.”
Pedraza (29-4-1, 14 KOs), from Cidra, Puerto Rico, won world titles at junior lightweight and lightweight before moving up to the 140-pound ranks in 2019. Despite a competitive decision loss to Jose Ramirez and a draw against Commey in his last two fights, Pedraza still ranks among the most accomplished junior welterweight contenders. Ranked No. 10 by the WBO and WBC, Pedraza can earn another title opportunity with a win over Lopez and move closer to his goal of becoming the first male Puerto Rican boxer since Miguel Cotto to capture world titles in three weight divisions.
“I am here to face the elite fighters of the division, and to me, that is what Teofimo represents,” Pedraza said. “I have come to show that I am still one of the best fighters at 140 pounds. I’m still a threat to everyone in the division, and on December 10, I’m going to prove it. For me, the goal doesn’t change. I want to be crowned world champion in a third division, and I know I’m going to achieve it.”
Anderson (12-0, 12 KOs), the fighting pride of Toledo, Ohio, has seen his stock skyrocket since turning pro in October 2019 following a decorated U.S. amateur career. He has prototypical heavyweight size at 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, and he’s stopped nine of his 12 foes in two rounds or less, including four straight second-round stoppages. In August, he returned from an eight-plus month layoff to knock out Serbian veteran Miljan Rovcanin.
“I’m happy to finally be getting a step-up fight,” Anderson said. “Hopefully, this solidifies my place as a contender and confirms that I’m not a prospect anymore.”
Forrest (26-5-2, 20 KOs) is the ultimate heavyweight litmus test, a 6’1, 230-pound southpaw who has mixed it up with some of the division’s most notable names, including Carlos Takam, Michael Hunter, and Zhang Zhilei. His only stoppage loss came nearly 10 years ago, and he held Hunter and Zhilei to 10-round draws in 2021. Forrest returned in May and dropped a 10-round decision to two-time world title challenge Kubrat Pulev.
“I’m in camp now. I’m excited and motivated to make a big statement. Jared is the up-and-coming fighter, and all the pressure is on him,” Forrest said. “After my last performance, I feel everyone has forgotten how good I am. I’ve been in the ring against top fighters, and I know that I can compete at the top level. The question is, what can he do against an experienced veteran like me? I am coming to send the ‘Big Baby’ home crying after his first loss. This will be a great fight for the fans in attendance at Madison Square Garden and those watching nationally on ESPN.”
Zayas (14-0, 10 KOs), the youngest signee in Top Rank history, turned pro as a 17-year-old in October 2019 on the same card as Anderson. Since that debut, he’s developed into Puerto Rico’s newest sensation and has knocked out three of his past four foes. He received the co-feature spotlight on the Lopez-Campa card, knocking out Elias Espadas in five riveting rounds.
In March, Zayas shined at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden with an eight-round drubbing over Louisiana-born spoiler Quincy LaVallais. Salazar (24-4, 9 KOs), from Guadalajara, Mexico, has won 16 of his last 17 bouts, the only defeat coming via third-round knockout to rising middleweight contender Carlos Adames. He has not fought since January 28, an eight-round decision over Valentin Martinez Guzman in Tijuana, Mexico.
Zayas said, “I am very happy to be part of another amazing card at the legendary Madison Square Garden, and as always, I’m grateful to Top Rank for giving me these opportunities to showcase my skills on such a big stage. Salazar is a strong Mexican veteran, and with this performance, I’m looking to close the year strong and set the tone for a big 2023.
Davis (6-0, 5 KOs) hopes to open the ESPN telecast with his blend of in-fighting and precision that has already made him a lightweight contender to watch. The 23-year-old phenom from Norfolk, Virginia, fought three fought pro fights in 2021 before becoming one of the standouts of Team USA’s boxing team at the Tokyo Olympics.
He stopped 2016 Olympic silver medalist Sofiane Oumiha before dropping a tight decision to Cuban sensation Andy Cruz in the gold medal match. Since signing with Top Rank last November, he’s scored a pair of knockouts, most recently a fifth-round drubbing of Omar Tienda on the Shakur Stevenson-Robson Conceição bill in Newark, New Jersey.
Burgos (35-6-3, 21 KOs), from Tijuana, is a three-time world title challenger who has fought the likes of retired four-weight world champion Mikey Garcia and undisputed lightweight champion Devin Haney. He has never been knocked out and has experienced a career renaissance of late. In March, he held highly regarded prospect Angel Fierro to a draw.
Davis said, “I will send another message to the lightweight division to end the year. Burgos is a veteran who demands respect, and I can’t overlook the man in front of me on December 10. It’s an honor to fight on ESPN after the Heisman Trophy Ceremony, and I plan on representing Norfolk while putting on a show for all the fans tuning in.”
Undercard action — streaming live and exclusively on ESPN+ — is highlighted by featherweight prospect Bruce “Shu Shu” Carrington and welterweight standout Jahi Tucker. Carrington (5-0, 3 KOs), the latest prodigy from the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, steps up in his first scheduled eight-rounder against Texas native Juan Tapia (12-4, 4 KOs). Carrington, a 2020 Olympic Trials gold medalist, shut out Jose Argel on the Stevenson-Conceição undercard. Tapia, who has battled the likes of Stevenson and Olympic bronze medalist Vladimir Nikitin, has never been knocked out.
Tucker (9-0, 5 KOs) looks go 10-0 in an eight-rounder against Ivan Pandzic (14-2-1, 8 KOs). Tucker, from Deer Park, New York, is 4-0 in 2022, including a near-shutout decision over Jose Luis Sanchez in his last outing.