Masayuki Ito won the WBO junior lightweight title last July in Kissimmee, Florida. For his second title defense, he’s returning to back there. In an announcement that Top Rank Boxing made official Thursday was his match with Jamel “Semper Fi” Herring.
Ito, who recently signed a long-term co-promotional contract with Top Rank, will defend his title against the 2012 U.S. Olympic boxing team captain and U.S Marine Corps veteran Herring Saturday, May 25 at Osceola Heritage Park. Ito-Herring will headline a special Memorial Day weekend edition of Top Rank on ESPN beginning at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT on ESPN and ESPN Deportes. In the co-feature, former two-division world champion Jose “Sniper” Pedraza looks to rebound against Antonio Lozada Jr in a 10-round lightweight contest.
Memorial Day Weekend – The Junior Lightweight Championship is on the line as Masayuki Ito and Jamel Herring face off May 25 on @ESPN. ALSO: Jose Pedraza takes on Antonio Lozada Jr. ? pic.twitter.com/5LosdthBqn
— Top Rank Boxing (@trboxing) April 25, 2019
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. The Diaz fight marked Ito’s United States debut and the first time he’d fought away from his native Japan. He returned home for his first title defense on Dec. 30, scoring a seventh-round TKO over Evgeny Chuprakov.
“I am excited to return to the United States to defend my world title,” Ito said in a press release. “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 on May 25.”
Herring (19-2, 10 KOs), who served two tours of duty in Iraq as a field electrician, turned pro in December 2012 and won the first 15 bouts of his career. He lost a pair of fights as a lightweight, including a razor-thin decision to Ladarius Miler in August 2017. Following the Miller defeat, Herring signed on with Top Rank, hired trainer/manager Brian McIntyre and moved down to 130 pounds. Since then, he is been 3-0, including a victory over John Vincent Moralde last September on the Jose Ramirez-Antonio Orozco card in Fresno, California. In his last bout last December in Corpus Christi, Texas, he looked impressive over Adeilson Dos Santos.
“I need to thank my management team and Top Rank for this opportunity,” Herring said in a press release. “Not only is this fight landing on Memorial Day weekend, but May 25 would’ve been my daughter Ariyanah’s 10th birthday. She passed away from sudden infant death syndrome, and I am dedicating this fight to her.”
“I have tremendous respect for Ito, but I plan on being his most difficult challenge. 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.”
Pedraza (25-2, 12 KOs) won the IBF junior lightweight title in 2015 and made a pair of title defenses. Following a 2017 TKO loss to Gervonta Davis, he moved up to the lightweight division. In his third bout at lightweight, he won a unanimous decision over Ray Beltran to claim the WBO title. Less than four months later, he faced off against WBA champion Vasiliy Lomachenko to unify world titles. He was competitive, but Lomachenko scored a pair of 11th-round knockdowns to win by unanimous decision. Lozada (40-2-1, 34 KOs) burst onto the world stage last March, knocking out highly touted prospect Felix Verdejo in the 10th and final round. Since then, he is 1-0-1, including a disputed draw versus Hector Ambriz.
“I feel very happy because on May 25 I will be fighting in a big world championship event where I will be facing a great Mexican warrior like Antonio ‘Cañitas’ Lozada in front of my people in Kissimmee,” Pedraza said in a press release. “I know I will get all that affection and support of all the Puerto Rican fans. They can’t miss this great card. I want them to enjoy it and leave the venue happy.”
“I’m more than ready to get back in the picture for a world championship opportunity.”
The entire undercard will air live in the United States exclusively on the streaming service ESPN+ starting at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT and will showcase a host of prospects in competitive matchups.
In a 10-round crossroads bout featuring a pair of one-loss featherweight prospects, Adam Lopez (12-1, 5 KOs) will face off against Puerto Rican puncher Jean Carlos Rivera (15-1, 10 KOs). Lopez has won four in a row, while Rivera is looking to rebound from a unanimous decision loss last October to the unbeaten Jason Sanchez.
Jeyvier Cintron (10-0, 5 KOs), one of the sport’s fastest-rising 115-pound prospects, will face his toughest test to date against former interim flyweight world champion and one-time super flyweight world title challenger Koki Eto (24-4-1, 19 KOs) in a 10-rounder. Cintron represented his native Puerto Rico at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, becoming the first two-time boxing Olympian in his nation’s history.
Steve “So Cold” Nelson (13-0, 10 KOs), a stablemate of pound-for-pound king Terence “Bud” Crawford, will take on Victor “The Spartan” Darocha (8-4-1, 6 KOs) in an eight- round super middleweight bout.
NABO junior welterweight champion Yomar “The Magic” Alamo (16-0, 12 KOs) will defend his belt in a 10-rounder against an opponent to be determined.
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.
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.
Super featherweight prospect Henry “Moncho” LeBron (8-0, 6 KOs) will seek to extend his knockout streak to three versus Luis Ruiz Lizarraga Jr. (6-12-1, 2 KOs) in a six-rounder.