Wednesday, May 3rd 2023
Toledo’s Knockout King is BACK: Undefeated Heavyweight Sensation Jared Anderson Headlines Homecoming Battle against Zhan Kossobutskiy at Huntington Center LIVE on ESPN
Anderson-Kossobutskiy and Arslanbek Makhmudov-Raphael Akpejiori heavyweight co-feature will be broadcast live on ESPN, ESPN Deportes and ESPN+ at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT
Undefeated Cleveland standouts Dante Benjamin Jr. and Tiger Johnson set to return in undercard action
Tickets go on sale TODAY, May 2, at 1 p.m. ET and can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com
TOLEDO, Ohio (May 2, 2023) — Early fireworks await this Fourth of July weekend as Toledo’s knockout king heads home to headline an action-packed heavyweight doubleheader featuring a quartet of the division’s hardest-hitting punchers.
Jared “The Real Big Baby” Anderson will collide against Kazakhstan’s Zhan Kossobutskiy in a 10-round main event Saturday, July 1, at Toledo’s Huntington Center. Anderson will fight for the first time as a pro in his hometown, just a few days shy of the 104th anniversary of Jack Dempsey’s historic win over Jess Willard on July 4, 1919, at Toledo’s Bay View Park. Dempsey’s triumph heralded a new era in his illustrious career, and Anderson expects to do the same in his first headlining attraction.
In the 10-round heavyweight co-feature, Montreal-based wrecking ball Arslanbek Makhmudov takes on Nigeria’s Raphael Akpejiori. The Makhmudov-Akpejiori showdown rounds out a doubleheader featuring four undefeated knockout artists with a combined record of 64 wins and 61 stoppages. Anderson-Kossobutskiy and Makhmudov-Akpejiori will be broadcast live on ESPN, ESPN Deportes and ESPN+ at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.
Promoted by Top Rank, in association with Universum Boxing, tickets go on sale TODAY, May 2, at 1 p.m. ET and can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com.
“Jared Anderson is a proud son of Toledo, and we are thrilled to bring Top Rank and ESPN to the ‘Glass City’,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “Ever since Jared turned pro, we have set our sights on Toledo as a fight destination. He is now the best young heavyweight in the world, and the time was right to bring ‘The Real Big Baby’ home. Zhan Kossobutskiy is a ferocious puncher in his own right, and I expect an action-packed fight in front of a raucous, sold-out Huntington Center crowd.”
Anderson (14-0, 14 KOs) debuted in the paid ranks in 2019 and has developed into a top contender. He has never gone beyond the sixth round, as he has stopped five of his opponents in the first round and another five in the second round. In 2020, he garnered global attention as Tyson Fury’s primary sparring partner, but he is now carving his own path. In his last fight, he knocked out then-undefeated George Arias in the third round, the second unbeaten fighter to have fallen victim to Anderson’s punching power. Ranked at No. 7 by the WBO and No. 11 by both the WBC and WBA, the 23-year-old now turns his attention to the division’s top dogs.
Anderson said, “To my family, friends, and fans in Toledo, I cannot wait to come home. This is a dream come true. Trust me, I am going to put on a show for you all. The support of my city has pushed me my entire career, and I know everyone will be in my corner on July 1.”
Kossobutskiy (19-0, 18 KOs) is a 34-year-old southpaw from Kostanay, Kazakhstan. He has only gone the distance once in his career, a 10-round unanimous decision win over Kamil Sokolowski in August 2020. He has not gone passed the sixth round since. In 2021, he went 3-0 with three knockouts, stopping once-beaten Nigerian Onorede Ehwareme, iron-chinned Philadelphian Joey Dawejko, and then-undefeated Dominican Alexis Garcia. In 2022, he dispatched former world title challenger Johann Duhaupas in the fifth round and is coming off a third-round knockout over previously unbeaten contender Hussein Muhamed in November.
Kossobutskiy said, “The fact that this fight will take place in the United States, in my opponent’s hometown, will make this fight interesting. I like to box strong opponents. Such fights are needed in the heavyweight division. I haven’t watched his fights. They say that he is good, but we will analyze him in the process of my fight preparation.”
Makhmudov (16-0, 15 KOs) made his professional debut in December 2017 by knocking out Jaime Barajas in the first round. He secured five additional first-round stoppages in his first seven fights, and in 2019, he became the first fighter to knock out tough-as-nails veteran Jonnie Rice. Later that year, he knocked out former world champion Samuel Peter in the first round, starting a series of four consecutive first-round knockouts. In September 2022, Makhmudov went the distance for the first time against former world title challenger Carlos Takam. In his most recent bout, he stopped Michael Wallisch in only one round in December. The 6’5, 265-pound powerhouse is set to face the tallest opponent of his career.
Makhmudov said, “Fighting for the first time in the United States, the Mecca of boxing, represents a major opportunity for me, not only because it will give me a chance to showcase my talent on the world stage, but also because it brings me one step closer to my dream of becoming a world champion. I’ve been dedicating my life to boxing, putting all the hard work and sacrifices for this moment. I’m ready. I want to fight the best, and I’m ready to give a great show to the boxing fans all over the world.”
At 6’8′ and 260 pounds, Akpejiori (15-0, 14 KOs) casts an intimidating presence. A former collegiate basketball and football player for the University of Miami, he is a fistic natural, having stopped ten of his opponents in the first round and another four in the second round. In June 2022, the 32-year-old went the eight-round distance for the first time in his career against veteran Terrell Jamal Woods. In his most recent fight, Akpejiori scored a first-round knockout against Dell Long in January. Akpejiori will have a nearly three-inch height advantage over his opponent.
Akpejiori said, “I do not expect this to be an easy fight, but I have prepared for this moment for a long time. I’m used to the hard work. I’m used to the adversity, the obstacles, and the pain. This is just another chapter, and I am more than ready for it. This is an opportunity to represent the African continent on a global scale, and I do not intend to disappoint.”
The ESPN+-streamed undercard will feature Toledo-born first responder DeAndre Ware and a pair of Cleveland’s sterling undefeated talents: Tiger Johnson and Dante Benjamin Jr.
Ware (15-4-2, 9 KOs) will return in a six-round super middleweight fight. He is a local firefighter who saved the life of Top Rank coordinator Pete Susens after performing CPR before a weigh-in inside the MGM Grand Las Vegas Bubble in 2020. Nearly three years later, Ware returns on a Top Rank show seeking to rebound from a defeat to unbeaten contender Christian Mbilli last September.
Rising U.S. Olympian Johnson (8-0, 5 KOs) will see action in an eight-round junior welterweight clash. Following a 2022 in which he went 5-0 with three knockouts, Johnson kicked off 2023 with an eight-round unanimous decision win in April over Alfonso Olvera
Light heavyweight prospect Benjamin (6-0, 4 KOs) will make his third appearance of 2023 in a six-round bout. Benjamin began the year with a first-round knockout over then-unbeaten prospect Emmanueal Austin in January and is coming off a second-round destruction of Jasper McCargo in April.
Husam Al Mashhadi (6-0, 5 KOs), the fighting pride of Dearborn Heights, Michigan, will participate in a six-round junior middleweight fight. The explosive southpaw prospect, who has packed venues in his hometown, is coming off a six-round decision over Gabriel Smith in March.
Junior middleweight standout Jahi Tucker (10-0, 5 KOs) hopes to follow-up April’s action-packed decision victory over Nikoloz Sekhniashvili in an eight-rounder against an opponent to be named.