Yafai to defend title vs. Jimenez on Andrade card

Boxing

Junior bantamweight world titleholder Khalid Yafai will make his mandatory defense against Norbelto Jimenez on June 29 at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island, Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn announced Wednesday.

The bout will be part of the DAZN-streamed card headlined by middleweight world titlist Demetrius Andrade defending against Maciej Sulecki in his first hometown fight as a professional.

Yafai (25-0, 15 KOs), of England, will be making his fifth title defense and second in the United States.

“I fought in America last year, and we all thought we were going to fight Jerwin Ancajas afterward [in a title unification fight], but they didn’t seem to be up for it at all,” said Yafai, who turned 30 on Tuesday. “It’s been a bit frustrating at times, and I had a hand injury earlier this year. After my last fight, and especially the performance, it’s given me that hunger to want it even more, to stay at the top and get those big fights. I think at times I’ve got a bit complacent, before my last fight, and that’s completely changed for this one, so I’ll be at my game 100 percent.”

In his last fight, Yafai won a unanimous decision against Israel Gonzalez in November in Monte Carlo but was not pleased with his performance.

“I’m very excited to be back in action,” Yafai said. “After my last fight, I’ve got to go out there and win and look good doing so. It was a disappointing night for me in Monte Carlo. I didn’t perform how I’d normally like to perform. Everyone can see that that I wasn’t myself in there that night, but like I said on the night, I don’t like to make excuses.”

Next up is Jimenez (29-8-4, 16 KOs), 28, of the Dominican Republic, who will be coming off a one-year layoff and getting his second shot at a 115-pound world title. In his only fight outside his home country, Jimenez traveled to Japan and lost a split decision to Kohei Kono in 2014. Jimenez has not lost since dropping a four-rounder in 2011.

“He’s obviously going to be a good fighter because he’s my mandatory,” Yafai said. “I know he boxed for the world title nearly four-and-a-half years ago against Kono, and he drew in Japan. Since then he hasn’t really boxed fighters of a high caliber. It’s a long time to box guys at that level and then step up and fight someone like me. I’m looking to show everyone that I’m one of the finest world champions out there and make my mark in America.”

Jimenez said he is ready to finish the task he didn’t complete when he got the draw with Kono.

“I feel like they are underestimating me, and that makes me happy because it motivates me every day much more,” Jimenez said. “It has been a long wait after fighting to a draw in Japan in my first world title opportunity. And now I just want to say that on June 29, the Dominican Republic will have a new world champion, and his name is Norbelto ‘Meneito’ Jimenez.”

If Yafai wins, he could be headed to a unification fight in his next bout against Juan Francisco Estrada (39-3, 26 KOs), 29, of Mexico, who won a belt by outpointing Srisaket Sor Rungvisai in a rematch on April 26 in Inglewood, California.

“This is a big fight for Kal, especially in light of what [lies] ahead,” Hearn said. “If he can beat Jimenez, it’s very likely his next fight will be a unification with pound-for-pound star Juan Estrada, so he must get the job done in Providence.”

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