Another day, another hit to the current boxing schedule.
For the third time in less than a week, Top Rank has been forced to endure the fall out of an ESPN-televised main event. The latest was among the most anticipated bouts among the company’s current summer boxing series in Las Vegas, as Ivan Baranchyk suffered a rib injury during a recent sparring session and thus is forced out of his planned July 7 clash versus California’s Jose Zepeda, sources from both boxers’ camps confirmed to BoxingScene.com on Friday.
The Athletic’s Mike Coppinger was the first to reveal the unfortunate development.
The junior welterweight pairing—due to take place at MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas, along with all of Top Rank’s closed-doors boxing series dating back to its June 9 premiere—was viewed as a true pick-‘em matchup between a former 140-pound titlist in Baranchyk and a two-time title challenger in Zepeda. The winner would have undoubtedly positioned himself for a big fight later in the year, even if not a straight away shot at either of the two unbeaten and unified titlists in Jose Ramirez and Josh Taylor.
Instead, it will be a trip to the injured list for Baranchyk (20-1, 13KOs), a 27-year old Belarusian based out of Miami, Oklahoma whom briefly held a junior welterweight title. His reign lasted less than seven months, scoring a gruesome stoppage of unbeaten Anthony Yigit in their October 2018 vacant title fight before dropping a competitive but clear 12-round decision to Taylor last May on the road in Glasgow, Scotland.
Just one fight has followed, a 4th round stoppage of Gabriel Bracero last October in New York City.
Zepeda (31-2, 25KOs) entered 2020 riding high following a 10-round win over former two-division titlist Jose Pedraza last September. The bout was his third of a productive 2019 campaign that saw his stock soar even in defeat as he dropped a narrow 12-round decision to Ramirez last February on the road in Fresno, California.
The 31-year old from La Puente, California suffered his lone other loss in a title fight as well, enduring an injury just two rounds into his July 2015 challenge of then-unbeaten lightweight titlist Terry Flanagan, once again on the road in his opponent’s hometown of Manchester, England.
Event handlers were in discussion of the July 7 show and not in a position to comment to BoxingScene.com as to whether a replacement opponent will be secured for Zepeda. Tentative plans call for a possible rescheduling of the bout in late July, depending on how soon Baranchyk can recover.
The rest of the card has yet to be announced, though BoxingScene.com’s Ryan Burton previously reported a potential clash between California’s Andy Vences (23-1-1, 12KOs) and Mexicali’s Luis Alberto Lopez (20-2, 11KOs). The bout—once confirmed—could wind up with an unexpected upgrade should Zepeda no longer remain on the show and another main event is not secured in time.
News of Baranchyk’s injury comes just two days after Top Rank lost its July 16 event. Former light heavyweight titlist Eleider Alvarez suffered an injured shoulder in training camp which postponed his title eliminator versus Joe Smith Jr. (25-3, 20KOs). Hope remains for the bout to be rescheduled in mid-to-late August. The winner will advance to the final round of a four-man WBO light heavyweight tournament.
Earlier in the week, Top Rank was forced to reshuffle two July dates both impacted by the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Reigning 130-pound titlist Jamel Herring tested positive for COVID-19, thus forced to push back his planned title defense versus Puerto Rico’s Jonathan Oquendo from July 2 to July 14. The same show will also feature unbeaten 130-pound contender Mikaela Mayer (12-0, 5KOs), who was pulled from the June 9 series premiere due to what was later confirmed as a false positive of her COVID-19 test.
The new July 2 headliner will now feature Pedraza versus Brooklyn’s Mikkel LesPierre. Their bout was due to headline the June 18 edition of Top Rank Boxing on ESPN, only for LesPierre to be pulled from the show due his manager, Jose Taveras testing positive for COVID-19.
In all, Top Rank has endured six postponement or cancellations—including four main events—due to injury or COVID-19, all within the past three weeks.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox