Before fans at the Theater at Madison Square Garden enjoy two light heavyweight championship bouts Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev vs. Igor Mikhalkin, and Dmitry Bivol vs. Sullivan Barrera on Saturday, March 3, Main Events serves up a menu of top international and local prospects on the non-televised undercard.
According to Main Events’ matchmaker and 2015 NABF Matchmaker of the Year, Jolene Mizzone, “matching an undercard like this is a breath of fresh air. The ‘A’ side fighters trust me to do my job and match them with the right opponents. They all want to challenge themselves to be ready when they get to the bigger fights. Some of them even asked me for tougher opposition, which doesn’t happen much these days.”
Vaughn Alexander (11-0, 8 KOs) of St. Louis, Missouri and older brother of former welterweight world champ Devon Alexander, returns to Madison Square Garden 14 years after his 2004 victory there, as he works his way back into the middleweight division. He will face Jaime Solorio (14-4-2, 8 KOs) of Ensenada, Mexico.
Alexander was a rising star when he was sent to prison and served an 11-year sentence. The 32-year-old picked up his career where he left off with life lessons learned and gratitude for the second chance Main Events and his hard work have provided him.
Solorio, 29, is a come-forward fighter and bigger than Alexander. He’s only been stopped once. Solorio will test Alexander’s ability to handle his size and aggressive approach.
Brooklyn native and community philanthropist, Frank “Notorious” Galarza (18-2-2, 11 KOs), will face Norberto Gonzalez (24-10, 14 KOs) of Monterrey, Mexico in a ten-round junior middleweight contest.
Galarza, 32, made his professional debut in 2010 and did not face defeat until 2015. After he signed with Main Events following a 14-month layoff, Galarza won a decisive decision victory in November and can’t wait to continue his road back to championship contention. Outside of the gym, Galarza dedicates his attention to his charitable organization, Youth Fighting Forward, which offers boxing lessons, as well as mentoring and tutoring to underprivileged kids in Brooklyn and Connecticut.
Gonzalez, 36, is a veteran who has fought everyone and took this fight on short notice without a second thought. Forget wins and losses, Gonzalez is a tough customer who puts everyone to the test in typical Mexican style.
Bakhram Murtazaliev (11-0, 9 KOs) of Grozny, Russia will face Kenneth McNeil (11-3, 8 KOs) of Birmingham, Alabama, in the first defense of the IBA Super Welterweight World Title he won at The Garden in November.
Murtazaliev, 25, has quickly made a name for himself since coming to the United States in 2016. He hopes to extend his seven-fight knockout streak and improve his already impressive 82% knockout ratio (9 KOs in 11 wins). This will be his third fight under both the Krusher Promotions and Main Events banners.
McNeil, 28, is coming off a win in his last bout, and a split decision with Samuel Clarkson many observers believe he won. McNeil has never been stopped, so Murtazaliev’s goal of extending his knockout streak will be put to the test in his toughest fight to date.
Astana, Kazakhstan native Meiirim “The Sultan” Nursultanov (5-0, 4 KOs) will face Alejandro Torres (9-3-2, 4 KOs) of Monterrey, Mexico.
Nursultanov, 24, will have a robust cheering section for his second bout at The Garden from enthusiastic Kazakh fans. He has stopped each of his last three opponents. Nursultanov will look to top his most recent performance, which resulted in a TKO win after knocking his opponent, Ismael Bueno, out of the ring.
Torres, age 24, is making his debut at The Garden and appearing in his second bout in the United States. He has been on the short end of several decisions and nearly stopped his last opponent, knocking him down. Torres has only been stopped once, in his professional debut. Nursultanov will need to work hard to make a statement against Torres.
Expect a big show from the heavyweights. Cassius Chaney (11-0, 5 KOs) of Baltimore, Maryland faces Tim Washington (6-5, 6 KOs) of Toledo, Ohio, in a six-round fight.
Chaney, 30, a standout NCAA basketball player at the University of New Haven, switched sports after graduating with his bachelor’s degree in sports management. He’s been a sought after sparring partner, working with Tyson and Hughie Fury. He recently returned to his hometown of Baltimore to work with trainer Calvin Ford, the inspiration for the character “Cutty” in the popular TV series “The Wire.”
Washington, 37, joins the list of fighters making their first appearance in New York at The Garden. Washington has plenty of power and always comes to fight and make a statement. With all of his wins coming by knockout, Washington is a “go big or go home” opponent.
Alexey Evchenko (15-10-1, 6 KOs) of Chelyabinsk, Russia takes on Khiary Gray-Pitts (15-3, 11 KOs) of Worcester, Massachusetts in an eight-round welterweight fight.
Evchenko, age 34, makes his American debut after fighting primarily in Russia. He is a road warrior who has won his last six bouts in Russia and has the opportunity to introduce himself to fans and make a strong first impression that will stick with them.
Gray-Pitts, 25, is fighting for the first time outside Rhode Island and Connecticut. He is coming off his first win at welterweight over the rugged Greg Jackson. When this tough match was offered to Gray-Pitts, he didn’t hesitate, which says a lot about his attitude.
Middleweights Leshawn “Lightning” Rodriguez (8-0, 7 KOs) and Martez Jackson (4-1-2, 2 KOs) are scheduled for six rounds of action.Rodriguez, 24, of Shirley, New York is generating buzz among fans who love his take-no-prisoners, hard-hitting style. He enjoyed an outstanding amateur career, amassing a record of 160-15 and winning two NY Daily News Golden Gloves before making his professional debut in 2016. Rodriguez promises to entertain and hopes to achieve his third straight knockout victory.
Jackson, 34, from Atlanta, Georgia, has a knack for ruining perfect records. Both of his draws came against previously undefeated opponents. Jackson has never been stopped and his sole loss came to Madiyar Ashkeyev, who is also on the card. Jackson has the ability to dictate the pace and Rodriguez will be tested to keep up with him in his toughest fight to date.
Madiyar Ashkeyev (8-0, 4 KOs) of Merki, Kazakhstan will face Jose Antonio Abreu (13-3, 8 KOs) of La Romana, Dominican Republic in a six-round junior middleweight match-up.
Ashkeyev, 29, enjoyed an outstanding amateur career. He earned a bronze medal at the Asia Cadet Boxing Championships (2004), second place at the XIX International Boxing Tournament (2011), and first place at the XX International Boxing Tournament (2014). He scored a second-round stoppage in his professional debut in 2015 over Tavorus Teague, and is coming off a seventh round TKO over Shawn Cameron in his most recent bout. Ashkeyev trains in Oxnard at the Boxing Laboratory under the guidance of Marco Contreras, and is managed by Egis Klimas, who also manages champions Sergey Kovalev, Oleksandr Usyk and Vasyl Lomachenko.
Abreu, 30, made his professional debut in 2012 and won his first 12 bouts with seven of those wins coming by way of knockout. After suffering his first career loss in 2016, Abreu redeemed himself in his next fight by scoring a second round TKO over Euri Gonzalez. With two difficult defeats in a row, Jose is in “must-win” situation against Ashkeyev, which makes him a dangerous opponent.
Opening the evening, two-time NY Daily News Golden Gloves Champion Ismael Villarreal (1-0) from the Bronx, New York returns after his successful professional debut for his second fight at The Garden against Anthony Woods (1-6) of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in a four-round super middleweight bout.
Villarreal, 20, son of former super lightweight fighter Otilio Villarreal, is quickly gaining fans and making a name for himself despite also carrying a full course load at Brooklyn Community College.
Woods, 31, originally from Georgia, wanted to play in the NFL as a kid. But after he got into a few scraps with neighborhood kids, he decided boxing suited him better. Woods says his attitude is why he’s never been stopped and he doesn’t intend for this to change against Villareal.
Mizzone said, “I am lucky to work with these boxers because they all want to fight the best. It is my job to challenge them, to advance their career, and it is their job to win!
“Every undercard fight is a must-win fight for both participants, whether it be to get to the next level, or to be able to get the next opportunity. I promise every fan who comes to this card on March 3 will be entertained from top to bottom, start to finish!”