Expert Sports Picks – Two-Time World Champion and top-rated pound-for-pound fighter Andre Ward (29-0, 15 KOs) will return to the ring on Saturday, August 6, to continue his conquest of the light heavyweight division when he takes on power-punching Colombian Alexander Brand (25-1, 19 KOs) at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. The event, which will be televised live on HBO World Championship Boxing beginning at 10:35 p.m. ET/PT, will now include six bouts of non-televised action for ticketed fans to enjoy before the main showdown.
The promising undercard lineup will feature East Bay familiar, Bilal Mahasin and a collection of Roc Nation Sports’ brightest prospects including, Daniel “Twitch” Franco, Rudy “The Revelation” Puga Jr. and Darmani “Rock Solid” Rock. Roc Nation Sports’ sparkplug Maurice “Mighty Mo” Hookeralso looks to ignite Oracle Arena as the card’s co-feature in a 10-round NABO Junior Welterweight Title clash against Tyrone Barnett.
Maurice “Mighty Mo” Hooker (20-0-2, 15 KOs) was born and raised in Oak Cliff, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, where he found a boxing home at Maple Avenue Boxing Gym by way of an outreach program for at-risk youths. His natural talent was soon noticed resulting in him competing as an amateur, during which time he participated in over 100 fights, compiling a record of 97 wins and only 7 losses, with 67 victories coming by way of knockout. Hooker turned professional on April 29, 2011, taking on the vastly more experienced Tyrone Chatman at the Orpheum Theater in St. Louis. After four rounds, the judges saw the fight 40-36, 37-39 and 38-38, making the fight a split draw. Undeterred, in his next fight on June 24, 2014, Hooker scored his first professional win, knocking out Wilbert Mitchell in the first round at the Dr. Pepper Arena in Frisco, Texas. Eleven wins (eight by knockout) later, he took on undefeated Abel Ramos on January 17, 2014 in a bout that was featured on ShoBox from the Cook Convention Center in Memphis. After eight close, hard-fought rounds, the judges saw the fight a draw. Four consecutive knockout victories would follow before he took on fellow undefeated prospect Eduardo Galindo on June 26, 2015 at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center in Dallas for the vacant NABO Junior Welterweight Championship. “Mo” did not disappoint his legion of hometown fans who saw him capture the title with a sixth round technical knockout victory. On October 17, 2015, Hooker successfully defended his title at Madison Square Garden in New York City against his toughest opponent to date in Ghislain Maduma. The 10-round decision win came on the undercard of Gennady Golovkin vs. David Lemieux and was featured on the event’s “freeview” as well as streamed online around the world. “Mighty Mo” made his debut under the Roc Nation Sports banner on the undercard of Andre Ward vs. Sullivan Barrera, this past March at Oracle Arena in Oakland, CA, where he annihilated opponent Wilfrido “La Roca” Buelvas of Columbia in the first round of a 10-round junior welterweight bout by way of technical knockout. Hooker looks to advance his undefeated record when he takes on Tyrone Barnett (23-4-1, 15 KOs) on August 6 at Oracle Arena. Barnett was in action this past February, with a technical knockout victory over Daniel Attah at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The D.C. native is eager to stop Maurice Hooker’s momentum and take home the NABO title.
Hailing from Riverside, California and fighting out of the boxing hotbed of Oxnard, undefeated junior lightweight Daniel “Twitch” Franco (13-0-3, 8 KOs) began boxing at the age of eight, amassing an amateur record of 67-15, winning the Oxnard PAL Championship in 2006 and the California State Silver Gloves Championship in 2007 along the way. During Franco’s professional debut on December 18, 2010, he defeated Emanuel Machorro at Club 401 in Ontario, California via a third round technical knockout. Franco impressed early in his career, compiling an undefeated record with two draws in venues throughout California by the end of 2013. One of those draws came against Alejandro Ochoa at Quiet Cannon in Montebello, California on September 20, 2013, but in a rematch three months later, Franco outmatched Ochoa scoring a six-round unanimous decision victory at Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles. On June 20, 2015, during Ward’s return to the ring at Oracle Arena, Franco saw action in an eight round junior lightweight bout against Jonathan Alcantara and won by unanimous decision. In his most recent fight on March 26, 2016 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California on the Andre Ward vs. Sullivan Barrera undercard, the unbeaten Twitch met Mexico’s German “Panteonero” Meraz in an eight-round featherweight bout. Franco scored a technical knockout over the veteran fighter in the final round of the fight. August 6 will be Franco’s third appearance at Oracle when he takes on Renton, Washington’s Marcelo Gallardo (7-3-2, 3 KOs). The 26-year-old Gallardo has been known to play the spoiler role, scoring unanimous decision victories over unbeaten prospects Christopher Diaz and Vic Pasillas in 2015.
Having compiled an exceptional amateur record of 99-8, Rudy “The Revelation” Puga. Jr. (8-0, 7 KOs), the promising prospect from Salinas, California made his professional debut on September 2, 2011, scoring a fourth round technical knockout victory over Raul Talamontes at the Sports Complex in his hometown. Back in the ring less than two months later, Puga Jr. raised his record to 2-0 with a first round technical knockout of Jose Jesus Hurtado at the Sherwood Inn in Salinas. In June 2012, he sent Thomas Turner to the mat four times scoring a second round technical knockout win at the Joint at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. After a little more than a year away from the ring, he rededicated himself to the “sweet science” with a vengeance and on February 17, 2014, Puga Jr. made his comeback stopping Charon Spain in the third round with an overpowering body shot at the Salinas Storm House in his native Salinas. Puga Jr. rounded out 2015 with a four-round technical knockout of Katrell Straus and a six-round unanimous decision over Juan Carlos Rojas. On February 12, Puga Jr. extended his undefeated streak to 7 fights by knocking out Alejandro Osuna in two rounds at the Double Tree Hotel in Ontario, California. In his most recent fight on March 26, 2016 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California on HBO’s Andre Ward vs. Sullivan Barrera undercard, Puga Jr. extended his undefeated streak against Carlos “Kalimba” Lozano by way of a technical knockout in the sixth round. The Southern California native returns to the Bay Area on August 6 to face an opponent to be announced.
Brooklyn’s undefeated Junior “The Young God” Younan (9-0, 7 KOs) is considered one of New York City’s best boxing prospects. Younan, trained by his father Sherif, a former professional boxer himself, began fighting competitively at age eight and only two years later was called a “boxing prodigy” by the New York Times. He compiled an amateur record of 90-5, racking up an impressive series of titles along the way including nine Junior Olympic championships, nine Junior Metro championships, eight New York State Silver Gloves championships and five Regional Silver Gloves championships. In 2011, he was crowned National Junior Golden Gloves champion and was U.S.A. Boxing’s number one rated junior boxer in his weight class. Less than a month after his 18th birthday, Younan made his professional debut on November 9, 2013, at the Aviator Sports and Events Center in Brooklyn, New York, stopping Kenneth Schmitz in the first round. During his recent match up on the Andre Ward vs. Sullivan Barrera undercard that took place March 26, 2016, Younan scored a four round unanimous decision over Christian Solarzano, pitching a shutout on all three scorecards. Facing his stiffest test to date on May 13, 2016 on the undercard of throne boxing’s Dusty Hernandez-Harrison vs. Mike Dallas, Jr. on BET and Tidal.com, Younan overwhelmed Rodrigo Almeida of Woburn, Massachusetts with a technical knockout in the first round at the DC Armory in Washington, D.C. Returning to Oakland on the Ward vs. Brand undercard, Younan is set to take on Jaime “Zarco” Solorio (5-2-2, 4 KOs) on August 6. Fighting out of Baja, California, the Mexico native is riding an undefeated streak in his last six fights.
At the age of 20, Darmani Rock (3-0, 3 KOs) is already drawing comparisons to former heavyweight greats of the past. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Rock was brought to a local boxing ring by his father at age twelve after he lost a street fight to neighborhood bullies. Standing at 6’4”, he moves with an unparalleled lightness and speed for a fighter his size. Rock earned nation-wide accolades following a banner year in 2014 when he took home the USA Boxing Junior and Youth Open, Youth Continental and Youth World super heavyweight titles. During the 2014 Junior and Youth Open in Reno, Nevada, Rock shut out the 2013 National Youth Champion, John Luna, 3-0. This impressive performance was followed by another super heavyweight title at the Youth Continental Championships in March 2014 in Quito, Ecuador where he defeated Argentina’s Kervin Espinola 3-0. Rock then took home the gold medal at the prestigious World Youth Championships in Bulgaria in April 2014 by a 2-1 decision over Germany’s Peter Kadiru. Rock also took home the 2014 World Junior Amateur Championship and capped off 2014 by being named Philadelphia’s Amateur Boxer of the Year at the annual Briscoe Awards. His most noteworthy win, however, came in May 2015 when he beat Cam Awesome in Las Vegas for the National Golden Gloves title. Rock also captured the 2015 U.S. National Amateur super heavyweight championship. He ended his amateur career as the number one rated super heavyweight in the United States (and the number five rated super heavyweight in the world) going 19-5 in national tournaments. Rock made his highly anticipated professional debut, after signing an exclusive promotional agreement with Roc Nation Sports, against Rockville, Maryland’s Carlos Black on May 13, 2016, as the co-feature of Roc Nation’s throne boxing card at the Armory in Washington, D.C. Following a devastating left hook, Rock brought his opponent to the floor with a right-left combination at the 1:54 mark of the first round. Without wasting any time, Rock followed his impressive debut by demolishing his next two opponents, Bobby Favors and Hassan Lee, both by way of knockout in the first round of the respective bouts. Making his Oracle Arena debut on August 6, Rock looks to keep his fierce win streak alive when he takes on Mike Kyle (1-2-1, 1 KO). The Boise, Idaho native seeks to reaffirm the impression he has set on Oakland where he scored his first career win and knockout over James Kirby this past January.
Bilal “Rebellious” Mahasin (8-3-1, 1 KO) is no stranger to Oakland fight fans. A resident of the Bay Area’s eastern shore, Mahasin made his professional debut in 2002 with great promise, winning his first three fights. On November 10, 2013, he fought one of the area’s top junior welterweight fighters, Moris Rodriguez, at the Red Lion Hotel in Sacramento, California. East Bay supporters made the trek to the state’s capital for Mahasin’s triumphant return which came by way of a six-round unanimous decision. Mahasin has accrued a ring record with a majority of the results coming as wins, and has transitioned up a weight class to super welterweight. He last fought on June 11, 2016 at the 16th Street Rail Station in Oakland, going the distance with a six-round unanimous decision over Vincente Guzman. Mahasin is ready to take on journeyman Luis Alfredo Lugo (14-25-1, 5 KOs) on August 6 at Oracle Arena in front an ever-steadied fanfare.
Ward vs. Brand is a 12-round fight presented by Roc Nation Sports and sponsored by Corona Extra, Verizon, ProSupps, Corporate Travel Management Solutions (CTMS), Brand Jordan, Verizon, Shoe Palace, Ticketmaster and The Clorox Company, supporting the Bay Area Community for over 100 years.
Tickets priced at $250, $120, $90, $40 and $30, not including applicable service charges and taxes, are available at all Ticketmaster locations, online at Ticketmaster.com (http://bit.ly/WardBrandPR) and charge by phone at (800) 745-3000.
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