By Ryan Burton
Top Rank matchmaker Brad Goodman has advised BoxingScene.com that former champion Jose Benavidez Jr. will make his long awaited return on February 3rd in Corpus Christ, Texas.
WBO super middleweight champion Gilberto Ramirez faces Habib Ahmed in the ESPN headliner while IBF super flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas defends his title against Israel Gonzalez in the televised co-feature.
Ancajas, who is co-promoted by Manny Pacquiao Promotions and Top Rank, will be making his US debut.
Benavidez (25-0), who held the interim WBA super lightweight title, will face Mathew Strode (24-5) in a welterweight bout. The 25-year-old Benavidez hasn't fought since his July, 2016 unanimous decision victory over Francisco Santana in Las Vegas. A month later Benavidez was shot while walking his dog outside of his Arizona home. Benavidez is now fully recovered and will face Strode in a fight scheduled for 8 rounds.
Super middleweight title challenger Jesse Hart (22-1) will also return to action against Thomas Awinbomo (25-7) in a 10 round bout that will stream live on ESPN3.com. The Philadelpnhia native's last fight was a narrow points loss to Ramirez in September. Hart hit the canvas early in the fight but battled back to lose by the scores of 113-114 and 112-115 twice.
The rest of the card will be rounded out by 17-year-old Northern California super featherweight prospect Gabriel Flores Jr (5-0) who faces Alex Solorio (4-2), 2016 Honduran Olympian Teofimo Lopez (7-0) against John Delperdang (10-4), Australian super middleweight Rohan Murdock (21-1) versus Frankie Filippone (24-6-1) and 17-year-old prospect David Kaminsky making his pro debut against DeAngelo Alcorn (0-1).
The fight card will kick off 2018 for Top Rank as part of their exclusive output deal with ESPN. They have already announced other shows on February 16th, March 10th and 17th.
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