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Bob Arum: Top Rank's April PPV will feature sport's 'new faces'

Top Rank is teeming with talented fighters, but with longtime broadcast partner HBO dramatically cutting back on its commitment to boxing and dealing with severe budget cuts, the promotional company has been forced to go the pay-per-view route with world titleholders Oscar Valdez, Gilberto "Zurdo" Ramirez and Jessie Magdaleno.

They will each defend their belt on a Top Rank pay-per-view card April 22 at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, promoter Bob Arum announced at a news conference in Manhattan Beach, California, on Tuesday.

The telecast will also feature the professional debut of featherweight Shakur Stevenson, the dazzling 2016 U.S. Olympic silver medalist.

"Oscar Valdez, Gilberto Ramirez and Jessie Magdaleno are becoming the new faces of boxing," Arum said. "They are in the hurt business, and they love their work. That's why their fan base is growing like the S&P. They give the fans great value -- a big bang for the buck. And with Shakur Stevenson, the sky is the limit. He is such a talent."

Valdez (21-0, 19 KOs), 26, of Mexico, will make his second title defense when he squares off with mandatory challenger Miguel Marriaga (25-1, 21 KOs), 30, of Colombia, in the main event.

"Every fight is important to me," said Valdez, a two-time Olympian. "I respect Marriaga, just like every fighter I face, and I will do whatever I have to do to win. This will be the second defense of my belt, and I know the challengers are going to come after me, but I will be more than ready to give the fans a great fight and retain my championship."

Valdez, one of boxing's up-and-coming stars, retained his belt for the first time on the Manny Pacquiao-Jessie Vargas pay-per-view card by scoring a seventh-round knockout of Hiroshige Osawa in November.

"Oscar Valdez is boxing's next big star. He'll be defending his title at the StubHub Center in front of the Southern California fans who love him so much," manager Frank Espinoza said. "It's always nice to catch a star on the rise so that someday you can say, 'Hey, I watched him back in the day,' like they say about Julio Cesar Chavez.

"Oscar Valdez is extremely driven and looking to be a legend. He's ready mentally and physically for the next step."

Marriaga has won five fights in a row since he faced Nicholas Walters for a vacant featherweight world title in June 2016 and lost a unanimous decision. Walters had been stripped of the belt the day before the fight because he failed to make the 126-pound weight limit.

"Second chances are rare in boxing, and I'm going to make the most of my second shot at a world title," Marriaga said. "My trainer, 'Professor' [Samuel] Gomez, and I will be prepared to give the performance of a lifetime on April 22."

Ramirez (34-0, 24 KOs), a 25-year-old southpaw from Mexico, will make his first defense against Max Bursak (33-4-1, 15 KOs), 32, of Ukraine, in the co-feature.

Ramirez won the title by shutout decision against Arthur Abraham in April, but he has been out of action since then because of a knuckle injury that required surgery.

"I feel very happy and I'm thankful for the opportunity of defending my title for the first time," Ramirez said. "I'm motivated and I feel a great desire to return to the ring. I have been active in my hometown of Mazatlan and training like if I was going to fight. Now I'm ready to fight. I feel 100 percent recovered from the injury in my hand. I feel better than ever and with more confidence in my punching power."

Bursak, who fought at middleweight until the past couple of years, has won two fights in a row. However, Bursak has lost whenever he has stepped up to face top opposition, including to Martin Murray and Hassan N'Dam, though he has never been knocked out in any of his defeats. Ramirez aims to impress against him.

"On April 22, I will give the fans an explosive fight with lots of action," Ramirez said. "Max Bursak is a solid, strong fighter. He is a brawler, and he is coming with hunger of triumph for all the Ukrainians.

"It will be very good for three Mexicans to be defending our titles on the same card and even more here, in California, where there is a big boxing fan base."

Bursak offered his take on the title opportunity.

"Ramirez is young, tough and already an experienced fighter, but I'm also not an easy walk," Bursak said. "We have almost similar records and achievements, so it's going to be a very interesting clash. I'm already working hard in the gym, because I'm coming to California to win."

Magdaleno (24-0, 17 KOs), 25, of Las Vegas, will make his first defense against Adeilson Dos Santos (18-2, 14 KOs), 24, of Brazil.

Magdaleno took a big step up in competition on the Pacquiao-Vargas undercard, where he challenged titleholder Nonito Donaire and won a competitive unanimous decision and the 122-pound belt.

"To be a champion today, you have to work hard every day, go after the big challenges and see the big picture," Magdaleno said. "That is what I am doing to express myself and my legacy in the sport, going into a title fight like this one."

Dos Santos, a prohibitive underdog, has won two fights in a row since getting starched in the second round by Fabian Oscar Orozco last March.

"For me, this is a unique opportunity, to be fighting for the world title of a very big entity that is the WBO," Dos Santos said. "I know that Jessie is a very good fighter. He is a real champion. Fighting for the title has always been a dream for me, and today it has come true."

The 19-year-old Stevenson, of Newark, New Jersey, was the most sought-after American amateur coming out of the 2016 Olympics. He signed with Top Rank in February and will face an opponent to be determined in a six-round bout.

His silver-medal finish in the bantamweight tournament at the Rio de Janeiro Games in August was the best by an American male boxer in the Olympics since Andre Ward, his idol and now one of his managers, won a gold medal at the 2004 Athens Games.

"I'm excited to start a new chapter in my boxing career and make my pro debut on April 22 at the StubHub Center," Stevenson said. "There have been so many exciting fights in that building, and I plan to add to that history in my first pro fight. I'm already training hard, and everyone is going to see what I'm all about on April 22."