Ito to defend title against Herring on May 25

Junior lightweight Masayuki Ito traveled from Japan to the Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee, Florida, and won a vacant world title last July, and he will return to that location to make his second defense.

Ito will take on 2012 U.S. Olympian Jamel Herring there in the main event of a Top Rank Boxing on ESPN card on May 25 (ESPN/ESPN Deportes, 10 p.m. ET with preliminary bouts streaming on ESPN+ beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET), Top Rank announced on Thursday.

At the post-fight news conference for unified lightweight world champion Vasiliy Lomachenko's knockout victory of Anthony Crolla on April 12 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum introduced Ito and announced that he had signed him to a co-promotional deal with Japan's Teiken Boxing and that the Herring fight would take place. Now it is official.

"I am excited to return to the United States to defend my world title," Ito said. "I will be at my best, as I know Herring is a tough and experienced fighter. While I ultimately want to unify the 130-pound division, Herring is the task at hand. There is no sense in talking about the future until I take care of business on May 25."

Ito (25-1-1, 13 KOs), 28, outpointed Christopher Diaz in a blazing battle on July 28 to win the belt that Lomachenko vacated to move up in weight. Ito retained the title in his first defense by seventh-round knockout of Evgeny Chuprakov on Dec. 30 in Tokyo.

Herring (19-2, 10 KOs), 33, of Coram, New York, a former U.S. Marine who served two tours of duty in Iraq as a field electrician, will get a world title opportunity on a meaningful weekend to him.

"Not only is this fight landing on Memorial Day weekend, but May 25 would've been my daughter Ariyanah's 10th birthday," Herring said. "She passed away from sudden infant death syndrome, and I am dedicating this fight to her. I have tremendous respect for Ito, but I plan on being his most difficult challenge. I don't want to release too much of the game plan, but I won't be bullied like his last two opponents once the bell rings."

The co-feature will see the return of former two-division world titlist Jose "Sniper" Pedraza (25-2, 12 KOs), who will face Antonio Lozada Jr. (40-2-1, 34 KOs) in a scheduled 10-round fight.

Pedraza won a vacant junior lightweight belt against Andrey Klimov in 2015 and made two defenses before losing it to Gervonta Davis by seventh-round knockout in 2017. He won his next three fights in a row, including a decision over Ray Beltran last August to win a lightweight title.

Pedraza, 29, of Puerto Rico, lost the belt by one-sided decision to Lomachenko in December and will look to bounce back against Lozada, 29, of Mexico.

"I feel very happy because on May 25 I will be fighting in a big world championship event where I will be facing a great Mexican warrior like Antonio 'Canitas' Lozada in front of my people in Kissimmee," Pedraza said. "I know I will get all that affection and support of all the Puerto Rican fans. They can't miss this great card. I want them to enjoy it and leave the venue happy. I'm more than ready to get back in the picture for a world championship opportunity."

Lozada scored his biggest win 13 months ago when he stopped heralded prospect Felix Verdejo in the 10th round. Lozada is 1-0-1 since, and aiming for another upset.

In undercard bouts that will stream on ESPN+:

  • Featherweights Adam Lopez (12-1, 5 KOs), 22, of Glendale, California, and Jean Carlos Rivera (15-1, 10 KOs), 23, of Puerto Rico, will meet in a 10-rounder. Lopez has won four fights in a row and Rivera is looking to rebound from a decision loss in October.

  • Junior bantamweight prospect Jeyvier Cintron (10-0, 5 KOs), 24, a 2012 and 2016 Puerto Rican Olympian, will take on former interim flyweight titlist Koki Eto (24-4-1, 19 KOs), 31, of Japan, in a 10-rounder. Eto has won seven fights in a row since a decision loss to then-junior bantamweight world titlist Carlos Cuadras in 2015.

  • Super middleweight Steve Nelson (13-0, 10 KOs), 30, of Omaha, Nebraska, who is a stablemate and friend of welterweight titlist Terence Crawford, will meet Victor Darocha (8-4-1, 6 KOs), 29, of Brazil, in an eight-round bout.

  • Junior welterweight Yomar Alamo (16-0, 12 KOs), 24, of Puerto Rico, will defend his regional belt in a 10-rounder against an opponent to be determined.

  • Bantamweight prospect Antonio Vargas (10-0, 4 KOs), 22, a 2016 U.S. Olympian from Kissimmee, will fight Jose Maria Cardenas (16-4, 13 KOs), 22, of Mexico, in an eight-rounder.

  • Middleweight Edgar Berlanga (10-0, 10 KOs), 21, a Puerto Rican from New York, will have his second fight since signing with Top Rank when he faces Gyorgy Varju (7-4, 4 KOs), 28, of Hungary. Berlanga has won all of his fights by first-round knockout, including on last week's Crawford-Amir Khan undercard.

  • Puerto Rican junior lightweight prospect Henry LeBron (8-0, 6 KOs), 21, will face Luis Ruiz Lizarraga Jr. (6-12-1, 2 KOs), 25, of Mexico, in a six-rounder.