When Edwin Rodriguez and Thomas Williams Jr. collide Saturday at the StubHub Center in Carson, California (Fox, 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT), there won’t be a world title up for grabs. There could be, however, in the winner’s next fight.
In fact, Adonis Stevenson, the left-handed 175-pound champion from Canada, calls the match between Edwin Rodriguez (28-1, 19 KOs) and Thomas Williams Jr. (19-1, 13 KOs) “an audition to fight me.”
Stevenson (27-1, 22 KOs) has been idle since September, when he successfully defended his crown for a sixth time with a third-round stoppage of Tommy Karpency. The 38-year-old has possessed his title since June 2013, when he scored a first-round knockout of champion Chad Dawson in Montreal.
The man known as Superman is expected to return to the ring at some point this summer against a yet-to-be-determined opponent. But should he take care of business in that bout, Stevenson sees the Rodriguez-Williams winner in his future.
“I’m the king,” Stevenson said. “I am the one who was the first to knock out Chad Dawson when Dawson was the No. 1 guy in the division. I’m the king because I beat the king. Everything has to go by me.”
TRAINER JAVAN ‘SUGAR’ HILL HONORS HIS UNCLE WITH NAME CHANGE
Stevenson’s trainer, Javan “Sugar” Hill now goes by Javan “Sugar” Hill Steward in honor of his late uncle and Hall of Fame trainer, Emanuel Steward, who died in October 2012.
“My mom, Laverne, is Emanuel’s sister,” Steward said. “It’s something that Emanuel always talked to me about. I have a father who never has really been a part of my life, and my uncle was always a part of my life.
“This is my mother’s maiden name, and I’ve always wanted it. It’s like a [tribute] to him for what he’s taught me in boxing and in life.”
ERROL SPENCE JR. MOVES ANOTHER STEP CLOSER TO FIRST TITLE SHOT
Coming off a sensational three-knockdown, fifth-round stoppage of former 140-pound titleholder Chris Algieri on April 16, Errol Spence Jr. was the buzz of the 147-pound division. Based on the exhilarating victory, pundits placed the 26-year-old southpaw among the elite in what is a stacked weight class.
After tearing through Algieri, Spence (20-0, 17 KOs) said he believes he’s ready to fight for a title. Turns out he’ll have to take one more step before he gets that opportunity. He has been ordered to face Russia’s Konstantin Ponomarev (30-0, 13 KOs) for the No. 1 spot in the IBF rankings.
The winner will then face champion Kell Brook (36-0, 25 KOs) of England. Promoter Tom Brown expects to soon begin discussions with Ponomarev’s promoter to make the match, which is likely to take place in July.
Two of Ponomarev’s past three victories were against a pair of 26-0 fighters, Mikael Zewski (unanimous decision last May) and Brad Solomon (split decision on April 9).
CARL FRAMPTON OFFICIALLY MOVES UP TO FACE LEO SANTA CRUZ
The loaded 126-pound division just got a little bit more interesting with the news that Leo Santa Cruz (31-0-1, 17 KOs) will defend his title against former unified 122-pound champ Carl Frampton (22-0, 14 KOs).
Frampton, a 29-year-old from Northern Ireland, successfully defended his 122-pound title with a split decision victory over Scott Quigg on February 27 in the U.K. He will relinquish that belt to jump into one of the hottest divisions in boxing.
In addition to Santa Cruz—a three-division champion who knocked out Kiko Martinez hours after Frampton defeated Quigg—the weight class features titleholders Gary Russell Jr. (27-1, 16 KOs), Lee Selby (23-1, 8 KOs) and Jesus Cuellar (28-1, 21 KOs), as well as former champ Abner Mares (29-2-1, 15 KOs).
Russell is coming off a second-round KO of Patrick Hyland on April 16, while Selby scored a 12-round unanimous decision over Eric Hunter the previous week. Meanwhile, Cuellar will put his title on the line against Mares on June 25 at Barclays Center in the top undercard bout before the long-awaited 147-pound clash between champion Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter (CBS, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
ANTHONY JOSHUA TO DEFEND HEAVYWEIGHT CROWN AGAINST DOMINIC BREAZEALE
Also on June 25, newly crowned heavyweight champ Anthony Joshua (16-0, 16 KOs) will make his first defense against Dominic Breazeale (17-0, 15 KO) at the O2 Arena in London.
Joshua, a 26-year-old U.K. native who won a gold medal for England in the 2012 Olympic Games, will be returning to the site of his greatest professional triumph, as he snatched Charles Martin’s title with a vicious second-round knockout at the O2 on April 9.
It will be a battle between two towering young heavyweights, as Breazeale stands 6-foot-7 while Joshua is 6-foot-6.
A 30-year-old Southern California native, Breazeale last fought on January 23 when he overcame a slow start and defeated veteran Amir Mansour, who didn’t answer the bell for the sixth round because of a broken jaw.
Breazeale watched the Joshua-Martin contest and was not impressed by Martin’s lackluster performance, and therefore claims he won’t use it as a gauge of what he should do against the power-punching Brit.
“There’s not much you can take from the Martin fight,” Breazeale said. “Joshua just showed me what I already knew. The last four or five fights I’ve watched, nothing’s changed with Joshua. He’s a fundamentally sound guy, works off the jab and the right hand.”
Like Joshua, Breazeale took part in the 2012 Olympics, but they were on opposite sides of the bracket and didn’t face each other, nor did they ever meet as amateurs.
“He’s was a good, solid fighter then, and I believe that he’s an even better fighter, now,” said Breazeale, who lost his only Olympic match. “I was good then, but I’m a lot better now.
“It’s going to come down to who capitalizes on mistakes. He’s going to make a mistake, and I’m gonna make him pay for it.”
Lem’s Corner is published each Wednesday at PremierBoxingChampions.com.