A junior lightweight boxing title showdown headlines a prominent Memorial Day Weekend card tonight from Osceola Heritage Park that will be shown live on ESPN and ESPN Deportes beginning at 10 p.m.
Last summer, Masayuki Ito won the WBO title last in Kissimmee and he’s back for a title defense against 2012 U.S. Olympic boxing team captain and U.S Marine Corps veteran Jamel “Semper Fi” Herring.
“I am excited to return to the United States to defend my world title,” Ito told ESPN Top Rank last week. “I will be at my best, as I know Herring is a tough and experienced fighter. While I ultimately want to unify the 130-pound division, Herring is the task at hand. There is no sense in talking about the future until I take care of business (tonight).”
Ito (25-1-1, 13 KOs) claimed the vacant WBO junior lightweight title with an upset decision win over Christopher “Pitufo” Diaz at the Kissimmee Civic Center last July. The Diaz fight marked Ito’s United States debut.
Herring (19-2, 10 KOs), who served two tours of duty in Iraq as a field electrician, said he dedicates the fight to the memory of his daughter Ariyanah, who would have turned 10 today but died of sudden infant death syndrome.
“I have tremendous respect for Ito, but I plan on being his most difficult challenge," he said. "I don’t want to release too much of the game plan, but I won’t be bullied like his last two opponents once the bell rings.”
The Ito-Herring bout headlines the Top Rank on ESPN card that also includes a 10-round lightweight co-feature between Puerto Rico's own Jose “Sniper” Pedraza (25-2, 12 KOs), the former IBF junior lightweight world champion, and Antonio Lozada Jr. (40-2-1, 34 KOs).
Tickets are $50 for general admission and $100 for VIP ringside.
The entire undercard will stream live in the United States exclusively on ESPN+ starting at 6:30 p.m. Eastern and will showcase a host of prospects in competitive matchups. That card will have a local flavor, as Kissimmee's own and Osceola High alum Antonio Vargas (10-0, 4 KOs), who represented the United States at the 2016 Rio Olympics, will fight Jose Maria Cardenas (16-4, 13 KOs) in an eight-round bantamweight bout.
The card also includes:
A 10-round featherweight bout between prospects Adam Lopez (12-1, 5 KOs) and Puerto Rican puncher Jean Carlos Rivera (15-1, 10 KOs);
Fast-rising flyweight Jeyvier Cintron (10-0, 5 KOs), also a former Olympian (2012 and 2016, for Puerto Rico) challenging one-time super flyweight world title challenger Koki Eto (24-4-1, 19 KOs) in a 10-rounder;
An eight-round super middleweight bout between Steve “So Cold” Nelson (13-0, 10 KOs) and Victor “The Spartan” Darocha (8-4-1, 6 KOs);
Middleweight dynamo Edgar “Pachanga” Berlanga (10-0, 10 KOs) will look to make it 11 first-round KOs in as many fights against Hungarian veteran Gyorgy Varju (7-4, 4 KOs) in an eight-rounder.