Rafael Espinoza-Sergio Chirino Featherweight World Title Battle Set for June 21 at BleauLive Theater at Fontainebleau Las Vegas on ESPN+

LAS VEGAS (May 10, 2024) — Another chapter in Mexico’s historic saga of intra-national showdowns is set to unfold.

Rafael “El Divino” Espinoza will make the first defense of his WBO featherweight world title against Sergio Chirino on Friday, June 21, inside BleauLive Theater at Fontainebleau Las Vegas. Espinoza-Chirino will mark the 161st all-Mexican world title fight and the 20th at featherweight. 

The 10-round junior lightweight co-feature will see Andres “Savage”Cortes and Abraham “El Super” Nova collide in a high-stakes battle presented in association with Murphys Boxing and 12 Rounds Promotion. 

In a 10-round special attraction, unbeaten middleweights Troy Isley and Javier Martinez will reignite a fierce amateur rivalry.

Espinoza-Chirino, Cortes-Nova and Isley-Martinez headline a stacked card streaming live and exclusively in the U.S. on ESPN+ and Sky Sports in the UK and Ireland.

Promoted by Top Rank, in association with Zanfer Promotions, tickets go on sale Tuesday, May 14, at 12 p.m. PT via Ticketmaster.com.

“From top to bottom, this is a truly great card that promises action, and we’re thrilled to be doing our first show at the beautiful Fontainebleau Las Vegas,” said Top Rank Chairman Bob Arum. “Espinoza can be Mexico’s next great champion, but he has a tough assignment in Chirino. Andres Cortes and Abraham Nova is a great grudge match, and the winner will be in great position to challenge for a world title.”

“Espinoza-Chirino is one of this year’s most anticipated fights, and we could not be prouder to host it at BleauLive Theater, a sports fan’s paradise where you will feel the intensity of every punch no matter where you’re seated,” says Fontainebleau Las Vegas Senior Vice President of Entertainment, Fedor Banuchi. “Espinoza-Chirino title bout underscores Fontainebleau’s 70-year legacy of delivering premier entertainment to our guests and solidifies our status as a top-tier destination for live events.”

Espinoza (24-0, 20 KOs) devoted over a decade to his pro career before capturing the WBO featherweight world title in a Fight of the Year contender against Robeisy Ramirez last December. Despite being knocked down in the fifth after taking an early lead, Espinoza rallied late and dropped Ramirez in the twelfth, nearly stopping him before the final bell. Espinoza earned a majority decision in a stunning upset. Standing at 6’1,” he is the tallest world champion in featherweight history, a division that has included Mexican greats such as Ruben Olivares, Salvador Sanchez, Erik Morales, and Marco Antonio Barrera.

Espinoza said, “I’m excited to return to the ring. I’m training very hard like always. I know that I’ll be facing a Mexican compatriot who is coming to win. I will be ready to defend my title with a lot of grit and heart. And that’s what I’ll do in the ring, fight with a lot of heart and win my first title defense.” 

Chirino (22-1, 13 KOs) went 9-0 before an early loss to eventual world titleholder Mauricio Lara in August 2018. Since then, he has remained unbeaten, tallying wins in different parts of Mexico. Last year, he decisioned Ally Mwerangi and Sebastian Tinoco Chavez before making his 2024 debut in February by stopping Dennis Contreras with a body shot in the third round. The 29-year-old hopes to make history by becoming the first world champion to come from the Mexican state of Oaxaca.  

Chirino said, “We Mexicans are known for having a lot of heart. And whenever there are two of us in the ring, it’s a battle. I’m happy for the opportunity, but at the same time, I know I’ve earned it. I’m coming for that belt. I have a lot of experience. There will be a problem in the ring, and that problem is Espinoza. But I will solve that problem and take home the victory.”

Nova (23-2, 16 KOs) had an impressive amateur career spanning almost 200 fights, with notable wins against Frank Martin, Richardson Hitchins, and Nahir Albright. As a pro, he went 17-0 before entering a co-promotional agreement with Top Rank in early 2020. He suffered his first professional setback in June 2022 via a one-punch knockout against Ramirez at featherweight. Following the loss, Nova moved back to junior lightweight, notching victories over Adam Lopez and former world champion Jonathan Romero before a split decision loss in his first world title shot against O’Shaquie Foster in February.

Nova said, “We’ve been on a collision course for a long time. It was eventually going to happen. Andres has been nipping at my heels for a while, calling me out and running his mouth at press conferences. Well, on June 21 in Las Vegas, he’s going to get a taste of what he’s been craving. Be careful what you wish for. No Fear! No Doubt!”

Cortes (21-0, 12 KOs), a Las Vegas native, made his mark in July 2020 by overcoming a visit to the canvas to secure a decision victory against Alejandro Salinas at the MGM Grand Las Vegas Bubble. In 2021, he maintained his momentum by outpointing Eduardo Garza in May, knocking out former world title challenger Genesis Servania in the first round in August and vanquishing Mark Bernaldez in three rounds in November. The 26-year-old inked a deal with Top Rank the following March and has since gone 5-0 with three knockouts, including last July’s seventh-round stoppage win over Xavier Martinez and February’s fourth-round TKO against Bryan Chevalier.

“This is going to be a painful night for Abraham Nova. He thinks I’m his ticket to another title shot, but I am going to plant him on the canvas,” Cortes said. “I’m ready for a title shot, and nobody, especially not Nova, will stop me from achieving my dream.”

Isley (12-0, 5 KOs) kicked off his pro career in February 2021 and notched his first 10 wins before joining forces with 2023 Trainer of the Year Brian “BoMac” McIntyre. Since then, the Olympian has excelled, registering a dominant points verdict over Mexican veteran Vladimir Hernandez last November on the Shakur Stevenson-Edwin De Los Santos bill before knocking out Marcos Hernandez in round seven in March. Martinez (10-0-1, 3 KOs), a five-time national champion, started his professional journey in July 2020. He only has one blemish, a split draw against Joeshon James. The Milwaukee native is coming off his most significant victory, an eight-round decision over Raul Salomon in February.

Isley and Martinez are familiar foes, having fought four times as amateurs. Isley bested Martinez in the finals of the 2016 and 2017 U.S. National Championships. Martinez responded with victories at the 2018 U.S. National Championships and 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials.

“This isn’t the amateurs anymore,” Isley said. “Javier is going to see the difference in skill when we fight on June 21 in Las Vegas. He’s a tough fighter with a lot of heart, but that won’t be enough for him to win the fight.”

“This is the end of the rivalry. We fought some great battles as amateurs, and this one is the tiebreaker,” Martinez said.  “I’ve wanted this fight ever since I turned pro, and on June 21, I will show Troy that our last two amateur fights were not a fluke. I was the better fighter then, and I am the better fighter now.”

The undercard includes a pair of Las Vegas natives and the Top Rank debut of a fast-rising prodigy:
·      Bantamweight prospect Floyd Diaz (11-0, 3 KOs) makes his second 2024 appearance in an eight-round tilt versus Francisco Pedroza (18-11-2, 10 KOs). The Las Vegas native shined with an eight-round decision over Puerto Rican vet Edwin Rodriguez in March. Pedroza, after giving stiff tests to Gary Antonio Russell and Jason Moloney, bested three-time Olympian Rau’shee Warren over six rounds in August 2022.
·      Junior lightweight southpaw DJ Zamora (12-0, 9 KOs), also a native of Las Vegas, will face Jose Antonio Meza (9-9, 2 KOs) in an eight-round contest. The 21-year-old earned two victories in 2023, dispatching Jesus Abel Ibarra in three rounds in March and decisioning Nikolai Buzolin across eight in July.
·      Junior bantamweight phenom Steven Navarro (1-0, 1 KO) will make his Top Rank debut in a six-rounder against Juan Pablo Meza (7-3, 2 KOs). The 13-time U.S. national amateur champion entered the professional ranks by stopping Jose Lopez in six in April.
·      Albert Gonzalez (8-0, 4 KOs), a featherweight standout trained by Robert Garcia, takes on Conrado Martinez (9-1) in a six-rounder. Gonzalez returns after blasting out Joel Alberto Mora last month.

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