The show goes on in Las Vegas.
Richard Commey and Jackson Mariñez take the lead on Top Rank’s first card of 2021, which takes place Saturday evening, live on ESPN beginning at 10:00 p.m. ET/7:00 p.m. PT from MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas.
Both boxers made weight for the makeshift main event, marking the first fight back for both Commey and Mariñez after coming off of separate losses.
Commey (29-3, 26KOs)—a former lightweight titlist from The Bronx by way of Accra, Ghana—weighed 136 pounds for his first fight in more than a year. Dominican Republic’s Mariñez (19-1, 7KOs) tipped the scale at 135 ½ pounds for his first televised headliner.
The bout was originally scheduled to serve as the chief support to Saturday’s telecast. The upgrade came Thursday afternoon, in the wake of Russia’s Maxim Vlasov (45-3, 26KOs) testing positive for COVID-19 which forced a postponement of his planned vacant WBO light heavyweight title fight bid versus Joe Smith Jr. (25-3, 21KOs), a top-rated contender and former title challenger from Eastern Long Island, New York.
Commey spent all of 2020 waiting out travel issues in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic before making his way back to the U.S. for training and into the ring this weekend. A 14-month ring absence comes of the delay, having not fought since a 2nd round knockout at the hands of Teofimo Lopez (16-0, 12KOs)—now the unified WBA/IBF/WBO lightweight king—to end his IBF 135-pound title reign in Dec. 2019 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Mariñez returns for the first time since a highly questionable 12-round unanimous decision defeat to Rolando ‘Rolly’ Romero in their Aug. 2020 battle of unbeaten lightweights at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. Most observers had Mariñez prevailing in their Showtime-televised interim lightweight title fight, only for the three judges to award the fight in favor of Romero in what was widely regarded as among the worst in-ring robberies of the year.
Redemption is at stake for both boxers, who now command the marquee on Saturday evening.
The line-up change works to the benefit of Adam Lopez and Jason Sanchez, as their scheduled 10-round regional featherweight title fight was bumped up to the main telecast.
Lopez (14-2, 6KOs)—a 24-year old divisional trialhorse from Glendale, California—and Albequerque’s Sanchez (15-2, 8KOs) both checked in at 126 pounds, as both appear in the Vegas Bubble for a second straight time.
Lopez prevailed in a hard-fought 10-round win over Luis Coria last June, his first fight since a brave showing versus former featherweight titlist Oscar Valdez which he accepted on less than 24 hours’ notice. The Glendale, California native was due to face Coria on the undercard but was upgraded when Valdez’s opponent, Andres Guitierrez miserably missed weight. Lopez floored Valdez in round two before suffering a 7th round stoppage in a bout some felt was halted prematurely.
Sanchez came up short in his lone other Bubble appearance. The 26-year old dropped a 10-round unanimous decision to Puerto Rico’s Christopher ‘Pitufo’ Diaz, also last June. Two fights prior, Sanchez served as the final challenger to Valdez’s featherweight title reign, dropping a 12-round unanimous decision in their June 2019 title fight which also aired on ESPN.
Opening the telecast, unbeaten heavyweight prospect Jared ‘Big Baby’ Anderson looks to maintain his perfect knockout to win ratio as he faces Kingsley Ibeh in a pair of Bubble favorites.
Anderson (7-0, 7KOs) weighed 249 pounds for his fifth straight fight at this venue. The 21-year old from Toledo, Ohio is 4-0 (4KOs) on site, including a 1st round knockout of Luis Peña in his most recent appearance last Halloween.
Ibeh (5-1-1, 4KOs) checked in at 276 pounds for his fourth straight Bubble bout. The 27-year old full-time insurance salesman and former footballer from Phoenix by way of Nigeria avenged his lone career defeat in his first fight in Vegas, which came in the form of a 1st round knockout of Waldo Cortes Acosta las June. Just seven days later, Ibeh earned a six-round majority decision win over unbeaten Patrick Mailata.
In his most recent bout, Ibeh fought 2016 Italian Olympian and current heavyweight prospect Guido Vianello to a six-round majority decision draw last October.
WEIGHTS FOR ESPN+ BOUTS (7:30 p.m. ET/4:30 p.m. PT)
Eric Puente (4-0, 0KOs), Vista, California, 137 pounds vs. Sergio Vega (2-0-1, 2KOs), Woodland, California, 136 pounds—4 rounds, lightweight;
Jahi Tucker (2-0, 1KO), Deer Park, New York, 144 pounds vs. Eric Rodriguez (1-1, 1KO), Bradenton, Florida, 144 ½ pounds—4 rounds, junior welterweight;
Troy Isley (pro debut), Alexandria, Virginia, 157 pounds vs. Bryant Costello (1-1, 1KO), Humacao, Puerto Rico, 158 pounds—4 rounds, middleweight;
Floyd Diaz (pro debut), Las Vegas, 117 pounds vs. Fernando Macias (1-1, 0KOs), Hanford, California, 118 pounds—4 rounds, bantamweight.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox