WBA 115-pound titleholder Kal Yafai finally has his fight with mandatory challenger Norbelto Jimenez set, as the two will take to the ring in Providence, Rhode Island, on June 29, part of the Andrade-Sulecki card on DAZN.
Yafai (25-0, 15 KO) won his title back in Dec. 2016, and has defended successfully onfour occasions. His most recent fight came on Nov. 24 in Monte Carlo, where he won a decision over Israel Gonzalez, but wasn’t happy with his performance.
The 30-year-old Yafai says he’s aiming to look better this time out.
“It was a disappointing night for me in Monte Carlo. I didn’t perform how I’d normally like to perform,” Yafai said. “Everyone can see that that wasn’t myself in there that night but like I said on the night, I don’t like to make excuses.
“I get in the ring and I fight, and when I get in the ring to fight I should beat them up, at my best, and if I’m not at my best I shouldn’t be in the ring fighting. There’s a few things that I could have done better, but I’ve rectified all of my issues that I had going into that fight and hopefully I can show that it was just an off night in my last fight.”
That fight followed one in Fresno in May 2018, where he defeated David Carmona on a Top Rank card that also featured IBF titleholder Jerwin Ancajas, with the talk before the fight being that the two would meet in a unification after. That never happened.
“We all thought we were going to fight Jerwin Ancajas afterwards, the IBF champion, but they didn’t seem to be up for it at all,” Yafai said.
“It’s been a bit frustrating at times, and I had a hand injury earlier this year. After my last fight, and especially the performance, it’s given me that hunger to want it even more, to stay at the top and get those big fights. I think at times I’ve got a bit complacent, before my last fight, and that’s completely changed for this one so I’ll be at my game 100 percent.”
Jimenez (29-8-4, 16 KO) doesn’t have an imposing win-loss record, but the Dominican hasn’t actually lost a fight since 2011, going 27-0-3 in his last 30 fights, after starting his career 2-8-1. He could have easily given up after an 0-4 beginning to his career, but here he is.
Jimenez’s biggest fight to date was a 2014 trip to Japan, fighting for this same WBA title in 12-round split draw against Kohei Kono.
“He’s obviously going to be a good fighter because he’s my mandatory,” Yafai said. “I know he boxed for the world title nearly four-and-a-half years ago against Kono and he drew in Japan. Since then he hasn’t really boxed fighters of a high calibre. It’s a long time to box guys at that level and then step up and fight someone like me. I’m looking to show everyone that I’m one of the finest world champions out there and make my mark in America.”
Jimenez, 28, is quite confident he can pull the upset in Providence.
“I feel like they are underestimating me, and that makes me happy because it motivates me every day much more,” Jimenez said.
“It has been a long wait after fighting to a draw in Japan in my first world title opportunity. On June 29, the Dominican Republic will have a new world champion, and his name is Norbelto ‘Meneito’ Jimenez.”