NEW YORK – The highly anticipated return to the ring of WBA Middleweight World Champion and Olympic Gold medalist Andre Ward (27-0, 14 KO’s) against former World Title Challenger Paul Smith (35-5, 20 KO’s) of England on June 20 has been elevated to another level with the announcement that the event will now include a live musical performance by Los Angeles-based rapper Nipsey Hussle immediately before Ward and Smith do battle. Fans will also be able to catch the action and performance live on BET Networks in the United States and globally on TIDAL.com, the newly launched music streaming service that combines the best high fidelity sound quality, high definition music videos and expertly curated editorial.
Tickets priced at $250, $125, $90, $60 and $30, not including applicable service charges and taxes, are on sale now and available at all Ticketmaster locations, online at Ticketmaster.com and charge by phone at (800) 745-3000.
In an intriguing televised co-featured bout pitting two unbeaten prospects against one another, Cleveland native Antonio Nieves (12-0, 6 KO’s) and Stephon Young (13-0-1, 5 KO’s) of St. Louis will battle it out over eight rounds in a featherweight bout. Cleveland has been known as a hotbed for producing promising boxers, including undefeated prospect Nieves who was a highly touted amateur, winning over 60 fights while becoming a five-time Cleveland Golden Gloves champion, a National Golden Gloves silver medalist and competing in the Olympic Trials. 28-year old Nieves made his professional debut on November 12, 2011 securing a unanimous decision against DeWayne Wisdom at La Villa Banquet in Cleveland, Ohio. Nieves has continued to rack up victories picking up five wins in a busy 2014, including three by knockout. In his last outing, less than two weeks ago on June 6, Nieves earned a first round technical knockout win over Gabor Molnar at Presque Isle Downs Casino in Erie, Pennsylvania. On June 20, fellow undefeated prospect Young will look to end Nieves’ winning streak. Also a decorated amateur who rose as high as a number two national ranking and narrowly missed making the 2012 U.S. Olympic Boxing Team, Young made his pro debut on August 12, 2011 with a unanimous decision victory over Ricky Lacefield at Ameristar Casino in Saint Charles, Missouri. Young’s undefeated run continued most recently on March 27 against Jesus Gonzalez with a second round technical knockout at The Ambassador in Saint Louis, Missouri.
In addition to the action inside the ring, Roc Nation Sports will bring other major names to the throne boxing experience at Oracle Arena including notable event emcee, radio personality, MTV news correspondent and Oakland-native Sway Calloway, who will serve as the event’s host, and hit master DJ Franzen, resident DJ at Las Vegas’ Hot 97.5. Sway and Franzen will entertain together throughout the night to keep the energy up between bouts.
There will be several notable faces ringside ready to catch all the action on June 20 including WBC and Ring Magazine Middleweight World Champion Miguel Cotto, Michael B. Jordan, Frank Gore (Indianapolis Colts), Colin Kaepernick (San Francisco 49ers), E-40, Brice Butler (Oakland Raiders), Marcell Reece (Oakland Raiders), James Jones (Oakland Raiders), Too Short and Ryan Coogler.
In non-televised undercard action, Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s undefeated prospect Luis “Cuba” Arias (10-0, 4 KO’s) will make his second appearance of 2015. Arias began boxing at the age of seven and compiled an amateur record of 140-25, earning U.S.A Boxing’s number one men’s junior ranking in 2006, the number one men’s under-19 ranking in 2008 and the number one men’s ranking in 2010. He captured the U.S.A. Men’s Under-19 National Championship in 2008 and two U.S.A Men’s National Championships in 2009 and 2010. Arias’ professional debut took place on November 10, 2012 at Staples Center in Los Angeles where he defeated Josh Thorpe via a four-round unanimous decision. He began 2013 with three victories, all by knockout, which were followed by a decision win over DonYil Livingston on May 4 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. He closed the year with three more victories including a second-round knockout of Cameron Allen in his first scheduled eight-round fight. In his most recent bout on March 14 at Coliseo Roger L. Mendoza in Caguas, Puerto Rico, Arias defeated Zachariah Kelley when Kelley was disqualified in the second round for repeated low blows. On June 20, he’ll look to keep his winning ways going in a six round super middleweight bout against an opponent to be determined.
Local Hayward, California favorite Aaron Coley (9-1-1, 6 KO’s) joins the undercard looking to come back from his first professional loss which came via unanimous decision against the highly touted Ievgen Khytrov at Aviator Sports Complex in Brooklyn, New York on April 10 in fight that was televised on Showtime’s ShoBox. He will look to get back on a winning track on June 20 when he takes on Yosmani Abreu (4-9-2) of Las Vegas, Nevada in a six round junior middleweight clash.
Hailing from Riverside, California and fighting out of the boxing hotbed of Oxnard, undefeated junior lightweight Daniel “Twitch” Franco (10-0-3, 7 KO’s) 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. Despite being enrolled as a full-time student at Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga, 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. In his most recent bout on January 17, he scored an impressive first-round knockout win over Sergio Najera at the Oceanview Pavilion in Port Hueneme, California. On June 20, Franco, who recently signed an exclusive promotional agreement with Roc Nation Sports, will see action in an eight round junior lightweight bout against Jonathan Alcantara (7-13-2, 1 KO) of Los Angeles, California.
Another product of the Bay Area, Oakland’s Tony Hirsch (18-6-2, 8 KO’s) captured the vacant WBC United States Middleweight Title against then-undefeated Wes Capper by majority decision in his last fight on March 14, 2015 at Sam’s Town Hotel & Gambling Hall in Las Vegas, Nevada. Hirsch joins the undercard on June 20 looking to continue his winning ways an opponent to be named in a six round middleweight fight.
Meng “Cold Blood” Fanlong (1-0) was the Chinese national light heavyweight champion for seven consecutive years from 2008 to 2013. Hailinging from Chi Feng, Inner Mongolia, the seven-time national Chinese champion also was awarded a gold medal during the Chinese National Games. Fanlong’s list of credits in the amateurs also includes representing China in the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, where he won his opening bout before falling to highly touted Brazilian Yamaguchi Falcão in the round of 16; reaching the finals of the Asian Championship in 2011 when his took home the silver medal; winning three bouts at the 2011 World Amateur Boxing Championships in dominant fashion to reach the quarterfinals; and making it to the semifinals of the 2010 Asian Games, from which he brought home a bronze medal. Meng made his professional debut on January 17, 2015 at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut, scoring a decision victory over Marcellus Yates. He will now look to continue his professional rise when he takes on Albert Avina (0-3) of Stockton, California in a four round cruiserweight bout on June 20.
Rounding out the undercard will be Wang “Jimmy” Zhimin (9-1) of Ning Bo, China who will face Jose Guzman (6-10-1) of The Bronx, New York in a six round junior welterweight bout. In 2010, Zhimin reached the final of the Chinese National Boxing Championships where he received a silver medal. A year later in 2011, Zhimin reached the pinnacle of his amateur career when he won the gold at the World Series of Boxing in his native China. In 2012, he won another silver medal, this time at the Erdos International Boxing Competition. Zhimin made his professional debut on January 17, 2015 at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut scoring a unanimous decision victory over Kin Moy (Pro Debut).
Ward vs. Smith, a 12 round bout presented by Roc Nation Sports, takes place Saturday, June 20 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California, will be televised live on BET and streamed globally on TIDAL.com at 10:00 PM ET/7:00 PM PT and is presented in association with Matchroom Sport. The fight is sponsored by The Waterfront Hotel, Venue Kings , Shoe Palace, Q 102.1, 95.7 the GAME and KBLX 102.9. In addition to the great action inside the ring, the event will feature several notable Roc Nation touches that will further serve spectators with an enhanced fan experience, including Nipsey Hussle taking to the ring for a special performance prior to the main event. The event will be hosted by notable emcee Sway Calloway and will also feature hit master DJ Franzen who will serve alongside Sway throughout the night. Tickets priced at $250, $125, $90, $60 and $30, not including applicable service charges and taxes, are on sale now and available at all Ticketmaster locations, online at Ticketmaster.com and charge by phone at (800) 745-3000. Doors open at 3:00 PM, the first fight begins at 3:10 PM and the BET telecast and TIDAL.com stream begins at 10:00PM ET/7:00 PM PT.