Promoter Bob Arum says that top lightweight Terence Crawford and featherweight titleholder Nicholas Walters are tentatively slated to return to HBO airwaves on March 21 from The Theater at Madison Square Garden, giving two of boxing's breakout new stars of 2014 their first fight dates of the new year.
Crawford (25-0, 17 KO) is moving up to 140 pounds for his next fight, which could be a fight against Chris Algieri (20-1, 8 KO) for the vacant WBO junior welterweight title. Algieri won the belt last June, but was stripped ahead of his November fight with Manny Pacquiao, which he lost at a 144-pound catchweight. The move to strip Algieri of that title seemed political at the time, and perhaps made in case Pacquiao moved down to 140 pounds as it was rumored he would following that fight. That would have given the WBO the chance to put Pacquiao into an immediate 140-pound title fight, but without rematching Algieri.
Crawford, 27, went 3-0 in 2014, beating Ricky Burns in March to win the WBO lightweight title, then making successful defenses in Omaha against Yuriorkis Gamboa and Ray Beltran, both HBO main event fights in front of rabid hometown crowds. The win over Beltran also made Crawford the RING Magazine lightweight champion of the world, though that distinction would be given up with the move to 140.
If that fight goes through, it's a solid main event. Arum says it is being negotiated. Algieri is promoted by Joe DeGuardia's Star Boxing, and DeGuardia dropped an appeal of the title being stripped in order to work on a deal with Arum for the fight with Crawford.
Walters (25-0, 21 KO) thrashed Nonito Donaire in October, making a major splash in his first fight on U.S. TV. That followed a May win over Vic Darchinyan in Macau, which was similarly dominant. The Jamaican "Axe Man" got a lot of fight fans buzzing with the way he handled former pound-for-pound elite Donaire, and has an argument as being the best featherweight in boxing right now.
Rob Mittleman, Walters' adviser, says the opponent has been agreed in principle, and will be Gamalier Rodriguez (25-2-3, 17 KO), a 28-year-old Puerto Rican whose best win is probably over Orlando Cruz, who has never been anything more than a fringe contender.
Top Puerto Rican prospect Felix Verdejo (16-0, 12 KO) and local draw Seanie Monaghan (23-0, 15 KO) are also being considered for the card. Verdejo is scheduled to fight next on February 28 in Tampa, headlining a UniMas-televised card against Marco Antonio Lopez (24-5, 15 KO).