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Boxing Back On ESPN+ Saturday, Pulev In First Fight Since Controversial Kiss Suspension

Michael Woods



Kubrat Pulev, in Stacy Verbeek pic, will fight Saturday, for the first time since being punished for kissing a reporter, without permission.

Sometimes, the sheer and almost overwhelming quantity of boxing matches shown on various platforms can be a bummer, as when solid fights go under the radar, because the press and fans get pre-occupied with other matters.

And, then, sometimes, it can arguably be a positive….

On Saturday night, heavyweight contender Kubrat Pulev is getting back in the ring swing, taking on Rydell Booker, on the Jamel Herring-Lamont Roach undercard, from Fresno.

The card will screen on ESPN+, but no, there hasn’t been much of any hubbub on Pulev’s scrap.

That is saying something, because oh yes, his last bout got mucho attention. On March 23, Pulev (in Stacy Verbeek picture, above) fought and beat Bogdan Dinu. The fight had ups and downs, drama. And the post-fight, that much more drama. A post-fight interview of Pulev by a reporter from Las Vegas named Jenny Ravalo, who works under the pen name “Jenny Sushe,” went off the rails.

They had interacted some during fight week, and it looked like Pulev became (too?) comfortable with Jenny. He leaned in to kiss her, on the lips,  at the close of the interview. The interview then was posted, hit social media, and a flurry of chatter ensued. The reporter publicly stated that she was taken aback by the kiss, horrified by it. Pulev became a boxing focal point of the #MeToo movement, and bore the brunt of a push-back from Gloria Allred, an attorney known for repping women who’ve sought re-dress after alleging being victims of misconduct, unwanted sexual attention and/or via an uneven application of a power dynamic.

Pulev was punished, with a fine and a suspension, from the California commission. He was allowed to re-apply for a license to fight in July, paid his $2,500 fine and did a course in proper conduct to avoid harassment issues. Now, his sentence is over, and he’s free to glove up, and get back to business.

The 38 year old Bulgarian native owns a 27-1 mark, is ranked No. 1 by the IBF, and will meet with a crafty vet, in Booker.

The 26-2 pugilist, also 38, stopped fighting in 2004, because of legal issues. The Michigan native did a stint, exited the lockup, and re-started his pro career in 2018. He’s gone 4-1 since the re-entry into the fight game, and Pulev isn’t in easy in his first fight in eight months.

Here is a release Top Rank sent out, hyping the card:

FRESNO, Calif. (Nov. 7, 2019) — Under the bright lights, above where a pitcher’s mound normally stands, Jamel “Semper Fi” Herring will enter the ring for the first time as a champion.

Herring, who makes the first defense of his WBO junior lightweight world title against Lamont Roach Jr. Saturday evening (10 p.m. ET, ESPN+) at Chukchansi Park (home of the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies), is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served two tours of duty in Iraq. He won the world title on Memorial Day Weekend earlier this year and, in fitting fashion, will defend his belt on Veterans Day Weekend and the eve of the Marine Corps Birthday.

In the 10-round co-feature, IBF No. 1 heavyweight contender Kubrat Pulev (27-1, 14 KOs), seeking a 2020 world title shot, will face Detroit-based veteran Rydell Booker (26-2, 13 KOs). Pulev is angling for a shot at the winner of the Andy Ruiz Jr.-Anthony Joshua rematch, while the 38-year-old Booker is 4-1 since coming back to the ring following a 12-year prison sentence.

In other action, after the main event takes place, 19-year-old lightweight sensation Gabriel Flores Jr. (15-0, 6 KOs) will face Aelio Mesquita (19-4, 17 KOs) in an eight-rounder. Flores, from nearby Stockton, Calif., will have a rabid cheering section.

At Thursday’s final press conference, this is what the fighters had to say.

Jamel Herring

On sparring with the likes of Terence Crawford and Maurice Hooker

“Those guys, they really helped. {Super middleweight contender} Steven Nelson being a veteran helped as well. He motivated me and pushed me… camp has been great. It’s probably been one of the best camps that I’ve had.”

On defending his title on the eve of the Marine Corps Birthday

“It’s all about what happens in the ring. All that will go in vain if I don’t play my part and perform to the best of my abilities and handle my business. It’s definitely great to be a Marine and basically be one of the only Marines on this type of platform. Of course, that’s a great feeling.”

Lamont Roach Jr.

“It’s truly a blessing fighting on Veterans Day weekend just to honor my cousin, who was my late trainer. He was in the Army and dedicated his life to boxing. He was an All-Army champ in, I think, 1983, one of those years. Way before I was born. But he learned the game from them, and he gave the game to me. That old Army training is definitely in me. This weekend is a big weekend for all vets, but at the end of the day, it all boils down to one thing to me, and that’s inside the ring. It’s for that belt right there. Julie {Goldsticker, Herring’s publicist}, hold that belt up for me. It’s gonna go home with me, and I am going to go celebrate with the Washington Nationals and the Mystics, who won the WNBA championship.”

“I’m glad that my promotional company moved me the right way. I earned this spot. I wasn’t given this spot. All the hard work that I put in from 9 years old to now is going to show.”

“We know Jamel is a crafty fighter, but we’re gonna bring it to him. I think I can do anything in the ring better than him. I can be a better, taller fighter than him even though I’m shorter than him. I can beat him on the inside, I can beat him all around the ring. So, we’re going to see.”

Kubrat Pulev

“This is boxing. Nothing is sure, but I am here to fight, and I am here to win. That is why I prepared well, and I believe in myself. I know who I am. I’m one of the best in the heavyweight division. And, yeah, my opponent is good also, but I think I’m much, much better.”

“For me, this is one fight and more experience. I must stay in the ring and wait to fight the winner of Joshua and Ruiz. Who wins, it doesn’t matter to me. I’m now concentrated on Booker. He’s a serious opponent.”

Rydell Booker

“This {opportunity} means a lot. Everyone understands my story. I went away to prison for 12 years.  In two years home, I’ve been very active. This fight couldn’t have come at a better time because I was just in camp with {Oleksandr} Usyk when I got the call. I left Usyk’s camp and went to Deontay Wilder’s camp, and so I stayed busy. I get a lot of calls to go help the greats. I was just in camp with Anthony Joshua, learning something from him and vice versa. So I’ve been around the game 31 years, and I come to bring my experience and talents.”

“I don’t take nothing away from nobody’s talent because everybody has their own talent in certain ways. He hasn’t fought a heavyweight like me, slick as me. I understand he lost to {Wladimir} Klitschko. Klitschko was taught by a great who taught me and my coach, Emanuel Steward. They still don’t have the athleticism that I have. I’ll let my talents speak for itself.”

Gabriel Flores Jr.

“This means a lot to me. I’ve fought in Fresno a few times already, and every time I come to Fresno, they treat me real well. It’s like a second home to me. I enjoy it here, and I feel the love. To fight on Veterans Day {Weekend} means a lot because I get to pay some respect to veterans. That’s something I always wanted to do, and to go to the veterans hospital {VA Central California} and talk to them and shake their hands, it was nice… just to hear their stories. I met a man who was a 100 years old, so it was nice to interact with them.”

“Each fight, I get better and better. I fix my mistakes. Every fight, there are mistakes. It’s hard to be perfect. Not everyone sees {my mistakes}. Maybe my father and I do, so come Saturday night, you’re going to see another step up from Gabriel Flores. To beat him, I just have to be myself. He’s got a nice right hand, but it takes more than a right hand to beat me.”

ESPN+, 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT

Jamel Herring vs. Lamont Roach Jr., 12 rounds, Herring’s WBO junior lightweight world title

Kubrat Pulev vs. Rydell Booker, 10 rounds, heavyweight

ESPN+, 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT

David Kaminsky vs. Travis Jerig, 6/4 rounds, middleweight

Robeisy Ramirez vs. Fernando Ibarra, 6 rounds, featherweight

Janibek Alimkhanuly vs. Albert Onolunose, 10 rounds, Alimkhanuly’s WBC Continental Americas and WBO Global middleweight titles

Esquiva Falcao vs. Manny Woods, 10/8 rounds, middleweight

Amir Imam vs. Marcos Mojica, 8 rounds, welterweight

OFF TV (After Herring-Roach)

Gabriel Flores Jr. vs. Aelio Mesquita, 8 rounds, lightweight

Promoted by Top Rank, in association with Golden Boy, tickets are priced at $200, $96, $46 and $29 (not including applicable fees). Tickets can be purchased by visiting, charge by phone at 559.320.TIXS (8497) or at the Chukchansi Park box office (open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m PT to 5 p.m. PT). In honor of Veterans Day and the Marine Corps Birthday, any active or retired service members will receive up to four free tickets to the event by presenting their military ID at the Chukchansi Park box office (while supplies last).

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Use the hashtag #HerringRoach to join the conversation on social media.

Editor/publisher Michael Woods became addicted to boxing in 1990, when Buster Douglas shocked the world with his demolition of the fearsome Mike Tyson. The Brooklyn-based journalist Woods has covered the sport since then, for ESPN The Magazine,, ESPN New York, RING, and he was editor of from 2007-2015. Woods is also an accomplished blow by blow and color man, having done work for Top Rank, DiBella Entertainment, EPIX, and numerous other organizations.