Nine months after suffering the only loss of his career, Egidijus Kavaliauskas returns to the ring to face Mikael Zewski in a 10-round welterweight battle that headlines a Top Rank card at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas on Saturday (ESPN+, 7:30 p.m. ET).
Kavaliauskas (21-1-1, 17 KOs) had won six of his past 10 fights by stoppage until he was stopped by Terence Crawford in the ninth round challenging for the WBO world title, but not before a great third round where he almost dropped Crawford.
Kavaliauskas wants another shot at the title and the first step is to beat Zewski.
“I want to face the best opponents at welterweight,” Kavaliauskas said during a news conference Thursday. “My goal is to become mandatory and fight for another world title. I would like to fight the top names at 147.
“If I get the opportunity to fight Crawford, I would do it all over again. I want to face him again. I know he is beatable. Everyone is. I liked how the fight started but not how it ended. I lost focus in the middle of the fight. At the end of the day, that fight gave me more confidence. I was definitely in the fight. It made me a better fighter. I corrected the mistakes I did make, and now I’m coming stronger.”
Zewski (34-1, 23 KOs) hasn’t lost in over five years and is going for this ninth consecutive victory. He also wants to get closer to his first title opportunity.
“I would love to fight the top guy in the division,” Zewski said. “That’s Terence Crawford, but I’m not really thinking about that right now. The guy that I have to beat right now is Kavaliauskas, and I have my total focus on him. I’m not looking at the future. ‘Mean Machine’ is the present and I’m going to beat him.”
In the co-main event, power puncher Miguel Marriaga (29-3, 25 KOs) faces Joet Gonzalez (23-1, 14 KOs) in a 10-round featherweight bout.
Marriaga’s three losses happened in title fights against Nicholas Walters in 2015, and Oscar Valdez and Vasiliy Lomachenko in 2017.
Gonzalez lost a unanimous decision against Shakur Stevenson last October — the first blemish of his career.
Stay here for live undercard results and analysis.
Egidijus Kavaliauskas vs. Mikael Zewski, 10 rounds, welterweights
Fight in progress …
Gonzalez shines in victory over Marriaga
Joet Gonzalez showed that there are no lasting ill effects from his WBO featherweight world title fight loss to Shakur Stevenson last October, putting forth a dominant performance in a unanimous decision victory over veteran Miguel Marriaga, whom he steadily beat to the punch throughout.
After 10 rounds, all three judges scored the fight for Gonzalez, 97-93 and 99-91 (twice).
After two relatively even rounds to start the fight, the 26-year-old Gonzalez (24-1, 14 KOs) began to ramp up his work rate and pressure in Round 3. He landed lashing right hands that snapped back the head of the experienced Marriaga, who tried his best to hold his ground. But as the rounds went on, and as Gonzalez built offensive momentum, the 33-year-old Marriaga (29-4, 25 KOs) simply couldn’t keep up with the withering pace set by his younger foe.
Marriaga started backing up in the middle rounds, and Gonzalez began to land left hooks to the body. While Gonzalez wasn’t able to score a knockdown, he forced Marriaga into survival mode for much of the second half of the fight.
“It was what I expected. He was a tough guy,” said Gonzalez after the fight. “He’s been in there with three world champions. He tried to make a last run for it, so I expected the best Marriaga because he knows his time was cut short. I expected the best Marriaga, and he put up a good fight.”
Gonzalez suffered a cut below his right eye that began to bleed in the ninth round, but that didn’t affect him as he just kept coming forward. Gonzalez threw 466 punches and landed 177, outpacing Marriaga who landed 108 punches out of 351 thrown.
For Gonzalez, this was a solid win. Marriaga’s only losses had come against Nicholas Walters, Oscar Valdez and Vasiliy Lomachenko in title fights. With the victory, Gonzalez served notice that he is still very much a threat in the featherweight division.
“This puts me back in the position I want to be,” said Gonzalez. “I wanted to be back in with tough guys. I told my manager, Frank Espinoza, and my team at Golden Boy that I didn’t want no tune-up fights. I wanted to show people that I could compete with the top guys and be in with heavy hitters and boxers and compete for another title real soon.
“I want another world title shot. I think I’ve earned it.”
Fight takewaway: Is Gonzalez a legit featherweight contender? What would be a great next fight for him?
This says a lot about the class of Shakur Stevenson, whose slick boxing helped him dominate Gonzalez last fall. On Saturday, Gonzalez served notice that he is still very much a tough matchup for anyone at 126 pounds. He’s an active pressure fighter, who builds momentum through the rounds.
He’s just 26 years old, and he is entering his physical prime. Gonzalez is also a focused and determined fighter and you get the sense that in his second title opportunity he will be better — and he wont be facing Stevenson, who is now campaigning as a junior lightweight.
I’m still on Twitter break but I’m logging in to say Joet is a really good fighter he looked real good tonight against Marriaga and deserves his tittle shot 💪🏾 #SeeYallSoon
— Shakur Stevenson (@ShakurStevenson) September 13, 2020
Looking forward, a very logical fight is one with Xu Can, who holds a version of the WBA featherweight title and is promoted by Golden Boy. Can is an absolute windmill who throws a multitude of punches, round after round. A Can-Gonzalez fight would be an all-action affair, and from a stylistic perspective, much easier to decipher for Gonzalez than Stevenson was.
Jumakhonov demolishes Ramos in KO victory
Aleem Jumakhonov stopped Jorge Ramos in Round 3 of a scheduled eight-round featherweight contest, when Jumakhonov landed a right hand over the top that sent Ramos down and Ramos was unable to beat the count of referee Robert Byrd.
Despite having a three-inch advantage in height, the 5-foot-10 Ramos (7-3-1, 4 KOs) never truly established his jab or utilized his length. From the onset of the fight, Jumakhonov was able to march straight forward and get inside, where he let his hands go liberally.
Jumakhonov, who dropped an eight-round majority decision against Martino Jules inside the Top Rank bubble at the MGM Grand on July 16, kept his vow to be more active with his hands and steadily pounded away at Flores.
Flores stops Rodriguez in Round 5
Manuel Flores scored an impressive fifth-round knockout of Jonathan Rodriguez in a battle of unbeaten bantamweights. Flores, a southpaw, showed an impressive all-around skill set and slowly chipped away at Rodriguez.
There were a lot of similarities between the two coming into the fight, as both Flores and Rodriguez had eight fights under their belt and both are 21 years old. But the one thing that separated them was that Flores is a left-handed boxer, and he used that as an advantage to create openings against Rodriguez, who has problems defending that attack.
After two relatively close rounds to start the bout, which was scheduled for six rounds, Flores (9-0, 6 KOs) scored a knockdown of Rodriguez (8-1, 3 KOs) with an uppercut-right hook combination. Though Rodriguez was still game after the knockdown, Flores began to slowly break him down with his accurate punching.
In the fifth, a booming left hand capped off a big series of punches that forced referee Robert Hoyle to wave the fight off at 1:11 of that round.
Chavez dominates Gonzalez late for win
Anthony Chavez recovered from a rough start to defeat Adan Gonzalez by unanimous decision in a well-contested junior lightweight contest. Chavez had issues early on with the aggression of Gonzalez, but his superior technical skills took over in the second half of the bout.
All three judges had Chavez up by scores of 58-55 after six rounds.
Chavez hit the deck in Round 1 in what was originally ruled a knockdown. But after the Nevada State Athletic Commission reviewed the sequence, it ruled that it was a clash of heads more than Gonzalez’s right hand that caused the fall.
In the third round, a short, compact left hook from Chavez (9-1, 3 KOs) sent Gonzalez (5-4-2, 2 KOs) sprawling to the ropes, and referee Robert Byrd ruled it a knockdown. From that point on, Chavez took control of the bout and started to become more and more aggressive. While Gonzalez was still willing to trade, Chavez landed the cleaner blows, working off his quick, flipping jab.
Puente stays unbeaten
Lightweight Eric Puente defeated Luis Norambuena by unanimous decision to kick things off Saturday in a hard-fought four-round bout. Puente (4-0) remains undefeated, winning by scores of 39-37, 40-36 and 40-36.
Coming into this contest, neither boxer had scored any knockouts in his career, but they weren’t shy about letting their hands go. Puente worked behind a steady jab, while Norambuena (4-6-1) proved to be a persistent opponent who kept coming at Puente.
The rounds were relatively close, but Puente landed the cleaner punches.