Featured image: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing.
Fresh off becoming undisputed super-featherweight champion, Alycia Baumgardner (14-1, 7KOs) looks to exorcise some demons against the only fighter to defeat her as a professional at the Masonic Temple in Detroit on Saturday.
Almost five years ago to the day, the Dominican Republic’s Christina Linardatou (14-2, 6KOs) had her hand raised against the American after eight rounds at 130lbs.
World title glory has since followed for both women – Baumgardner holding all four belts at super-featherweight while Linardatou has twice reigned as champion at super-lightweight – but the 2018 result still occupies a place in the former’s mind heading into this weekend.
“This is what I’ve been waiting for, this is a full circle moment for me. I can just picture myself at the first fight, knowing who I am now and the growth that was necessary for me to be here,” said Baumgardner this week.
“[I’m a] completely different fighter and she will see that this Saturday.”
Four victories followed for the Ohio native after her loss before she burst onto the world scene with a brutal second-round stoppage of then WBC champion Terri Harper in Sheffield.
A hellacious right hand thundered against the Briton’s chin, leaving her out on her feet before referee Mark Lyson quickly intervened to prevent further damage.
World champion status was confirmed for the American who quickly moved to tie up the other three major belts in the next two years.
Her first defence also took place on UK soil against Edith Matthysse in Manchester before she edged a narrow split-decision victory over arch rival Mikaela Mayer to claim the IBF and WBO belts in London.
The final piece of the puzzle was added with a dominant ten-round decision over former WBA champion Elhem Mekhaled as Baumgardner scored two knockdowns to complete her undisputed crown.
Despite talk about a potential rematch against Mayer up at lightweight, the 29 year old was insistent on righting the only blemish existing on her 15 fight record.
The first fight saw her enter the ring as a five-bout novice – a stark difference to the dynamic between the pair heading into this rematch.
Baumgardner insists she will dispose of the Greek in spectacular fashion before moving on to chase the big names in the weight divisions above.
“If you know anything about being a hunter, you’ll know you have to kill your prey. I’m gonna make sure that bow is struck all the way through her heart, so she can’t get up anymore after that.
“Even though I’m the undisputed champion, I still have that dog in me as an eight year old girl and this is the perfect girl to bring that animal out. I’m ready.”
Though it is Baumgardner who has rightly drawn the majority of the attention this week, Linardatou has also enjoyed her fair of success since their initial encounter.
Her next fight saw her become WBO super-lightweight champion with a sixth-round stoppage of Kandi Wyatt before she successfully defended the belt three months later.
The second defeat of her career followed next against Irish hero Katie Taylor in Manchester who defeated the Dominican wide over ten rounds.
Linardatou dusted herself down and, after Taylor vacated, the belt was back around her waist three months on when she beat Prisca Vicot stateside.
Pregnancy forced her to vacate the title in 2021 but now sets her sights on picking up a second victory over Baumgardner.
“I have already beat her and I will do it again. I’m looking forward to it,” she said this week.
“She’s very strong. In the last round Alycia was always hugging [but] I was all the time hunting, like every fight.”
The main event is expected to start at around 4am UK time, live on DAZN.
Cuban amateur sensation Andy Cruz makes his long-awaited professional debut in the chief support, taking on Mexico’s Juan Carlos Bugos (35-7-3, 21KOs) over ten rounds at lightweight.
Cruz is rated among the greatest amateur fighters of all-time, adding gold at the Tokyo Olympics to his three World Championship gold medals.
The 27 year old left his native Cuba after an agreement to turn pro in the country turned sour and was announced as Matchroom’s latest stellar signing in May.
Michigan heavyweight Jermaine Franklin (21-2-0, 14KOs) also looks to return to winning ways after back-to-back defeats on British soil to Dillian Whyte and Anthony Joshua.
After multiple scheduled opponents, Franklin now takes on Mexican Isaac Munoz Gutierrez (17-0-1, 14KOs) over ten rounds.
- Alycia Baumgardner vs Christina Linardatou – 10 x 2 Super-Featherweight (WBC, WBA, WBO & IBF titles)
- Andy Cruz (debut) vs Juan Carlos Bugos – 10 x 3 Lightweight
- Jermaine Franklin vs Isaac Munoz Gutierrez – 10 x 3 Heavyweight
- Ja’Rico O’Quinn vs Carlos Mujica – 10 x 3 Super-Bantamweight
- Joshua James Pagan vs Gabriel Smith – 6 x 3 Welterweight
- Joseph Hicks vs Ramses Agaton – Super-Middleweight 6 x 3
- Jermarco Holloway vs Angelo Snow – Welterweight 6 x 3
- Cameron Pankey vs Misael Reyes – Featherweight 6 x 3