Featherweights Michael Conlan and Shakur Stevenson were both amateur standouts who participated in the 2016 Olympics. They are among boxing's best blue-chip prospects, and Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, who signed both of them, envisions an eventual big-money showdown between them down the road.
While that potential fight is a few years away at the earliest, Top Rank made it official Tuesday that they will both box on the same card. Each will fight in six-round televised matches on the undercard of junior lightweight world titleholder Vasyl Lomachenko's defense against junior featherweight titlist Guillermo Rigondeaux on Dec. 9 at the sold-out Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Those three fights, plus a 10-rounder between junior lightweights Christopher "Pitufo" Diaz and Casey Ramos, will be televised live on ESPN and ESPN Deportes beginning at 9 p.m. ET. The entire card, beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET, will stream live on the ESPN App.
Conlan (4-0, 4 KOs), 26, who twice represented Ireland in the Olympics and claimed a bronze medal in 2012, will take Luis Fernando Molina (7-3-1, 2 KO), 29, of Argentina, in a return to the arena where he made his pro debut in front of a St. Patrick's Day sellout crowd on March 17, when his pal, UFC star Conor McGregor, walked him to the ring.
"I'm really excited to go back to the Garden. It's my first time back since my pro debut, and I'm looking forward to putting on another great show for all the fans that are coming too see me," Conlan said. "It feels already like it's my second home. Dec. 9th is a huge night for boxing, and I'm honored to be a part of it."
The telecast will open with southpaw Olympic silver medalist Stevenson (3-0, 1 KO), 20, of Newark, New Jersey, facing Oscar Mendoza (4-2, 2 KOs), 26, Santa Maria, California. Stevenson, who spent much of his training camp in Southern California sparring with Lomachenko, had his second pro fight in Madison Square Garden's main arena on May 20.
"I'm feeling great and ready to perform again at Madison Square Garden," Stevenson said. "My fight there in May was one of my best, so I'm excited to return and outdo my last performance on one of the biggest boxing cards of the year, Lomachenko-Rigondeaux. I'm looking to really make a name for myself and put on an amazing performance for everyone at the Theater and all the viewers tuning in on ESPN.
"Getting the chance to spar with Vasyl Lomachenko, in this camp, prepared me well for this fight and showed me where I am skillwise, mentally and overall as a boxer. I am ready for anything, and I was blessed to have the chance to go out to California and spar with Lomachenko."
Diaz (21-0, 13 KOs), 23, of Puerto Rico, and Ramos (24-1, 6 KOs), 28, of Austin, Texas, both know a good performance in front of a big audience would be a major lift to their careers.
"You will see a more disciplined 'Pitufo' -- one that fights intelligently, with more quickness, but above all else, one that fights with a lot of hunger inside the ring," Diaz said. "I have been eating gym for a couple of months, and I also ate gym during Thanksgiving. On Dec. 9, I will eat Casey Ramos. I have a great opportunity in front of me. This will be the fight and the performance that will launch me to the next level. If Lomachenko and Rigondeaux don't give the fans the kind of fight they want, 'Pitufo' Diaz will steal the show."
Said Ramos: "I think of Madison Square Garden as the Mecca of boxing. Lots of history and big names have fought there. I am looking forward to coming from Texas and fighting there. Fighting on ESPN makes it even more special where a fighter like me can gain expansive fan base exposure. As far as Diaz in front of me, I don't think he's fought the caliber of fighters I have -- meaning he has less experience than me. So those advantages will be shown in the ring on Dec. 9 -- my experience and ability -- in a win over Diaz."
The card will also include lightweight Mikaela Mayer (2-0, 2 KOs), a 27-year-old from Los Angeles. She was on the 2016 U.S. Olympic team and will face Nydia Feliciano (9-8-3, 0 KOs), 29, of Bronx, New York, in a four-rounder.
"I'm beyond excited to fight in New York City, not only because I'll be fighting at the historic Garden, but because of the energy I know New York boxing fans are going to bring to the venue," Mayer said. "They're some of the most passionate fans in the United States, and I want to give them a great show. I'm grateful to be with a promoter who sees what female boxers can bring to the table, and I thank them for giving me such a stage to perform on. This is where the best of us women belong, and I'm ready to show New York my skills."
Former heavyweight world title challenger Bryant Jennings (20-2, 11 KOs), 33, of Philadelphia, will face Don Haynesworth (13-1-1, 11 KOs), 35, of Greensboro, North Carolina, in an eight-round bout.
Jennings, who made a good account of himself in a decision loss to then-world champion Wladimir Klitschko at Madison Square Garden in 2015, will be fighting for the second time since signing with Top Rank and returning to the ring after a 20-month layoff. In his most recent fight, he scored a second-round knockout of Daniel Martz on Aug. 19.
"People may think it is easy to go into the ring on fight night, but it is not," Jennings said. "I've been working at our gym in Philadelphia getting into the right comfort zone while in the ring fighting. That means being at ease when you go to work and attack your opponent in special unique ways to make him unsettled and uncomfortable. There is a lot of thought process going on when you are inside the ropes. This is my fourth time at Madison Square Garden. Looking forward to it."
There will also be an eight-round featherweight bout on the card between Jose Gonzalez (8-0-1, 2 KOs), 21, of New York, and Denver's Adan Gonzalez (3-1-1, 2 KOs).