One of the worst kept secrets in boxing was made official on Sunday, with Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn’s announcement that former middleweight world titlist Daniel Jacobs will face Maciej Sulecki on April 28 in the main event of an HBO-televised card at Barclays Center in Jacobs’ hometown of Brooklyn, New York.
Jacobs, Sulecki and others on the card are scheduled to appear at a news conference with Hearn on Tuesday afternoon in New York.
Hearn also announced two other bouts, the expected co-feature between heavyweight contender Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller and former world title challenger Johann Duhaupas in a title eliminator and a women’s lightweight world title unification fight between Katie Taylor and Victoria Bustos.
After Jacobs (33-2, 29 KOs), 31, lost a close decision challenging unified world champion Gennady Golovkin last March, he left adviser Al Haymon, signed an exclusive contract with HBO and with Hearn and had the first fight of his new deal in November, when he easily outpointed Luis Arias.
The fight with Sulecki will be the second fight of the contracts, and Jacobs’ aim is to land a fight later in the year against the winner of the May 5 rematch between Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez.
“I’m delighted to stage our first show at Barclays Center,” Hearn said. “Daniel Jacobs faces a tough test against Maciej Sulecki, and I believe victory will lead him to the winner of GGG and Canelo, [who fight] the following week. That’s what Daniel wants, that’s what HBO wants, and it’s what the fans should demand.”
The fight will be Jacobs’ sixth at his hometown arena, where he serves as the spokesman for their boxing-branded merchandise.
“I’m very excited to be back in the Barclays Center. It always feels like home fighting there,” said Jacobs, who lives close to the arena. “I’m looking forward to fighting Sulecki on April 28. He’s an undefeated guy that I know will be looking to make a name for himself by beating me. I’m looking to have a great training camp and get myself focused to really put on a show for the Brooklyn fans come April 28.”
Sulecki (26-0, 10 KOs), 28, of Poland, got the fight with Jacobs over other candidates, such as Spike O’Sullivan and former titlist Andy Lee. Sulecki moved down to junior middleweight for his three fights in 2017, including a 10-round decision win against former secondary titlist Jack Culcay in October, but he will return to middleweight to face Jacobs.
“This is an excellent opportunity for me to fight one of the very best middleweights in the world,” Sulecki said. “I’ll be very well prepared to stay undefeated and defeat Jacobs in front of the Polish boxing fans at Barclays Center as I continue my march to become a world champion.”
Miller (20-0-1, 18 KOs), 29, also from Brooklyn, and Duhaupas (37-4, 24 KOs), 37, of France, will fight an eliminator that will move the winner a step closer to a mandatory fight with unified titlist Anthony Joshua, who is promoted by Hearn.
One scenario under discussion is that if Miller wins and England’s Joshua retains his belts against Joseph Parker in their title unification fight on March 31 in Cardiff, Wales, then Joshua could make his American debut this summer at Barclays Center in a defense against Miller.
Miller, who is co-promoted by Dmitry Salita and Greg Cohen, knocked out former world title challenger Mariusz Wach in the ninth round in November on the Jacobs-Arias undercard and knows that a win over Duhaupas will position him for the world title opportunity he wants.
“Nothing makes me more gratified and blessed to do what I love best, and that’s to get back in the ring and continue to solidify my place as the next heavyweight champion of the world,” Miller said. “This fight on April 28 is just the next step to being recognized as the best in the world and a training ground for [potential fights against titleholders] Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder.”
Duhaupas gave Wilder a tough fight in an 11th-round knockout loss in 2015 and owns wins over secondary titlist Manuel Charr and Robert Helenius. He has won three fights in a row by knockout.
“A top heavyweight does not have to be heavy or light, fat or slim. A heavyweight just needs to be strong,” Duhaupas said. “I will show on April 28 that I am strong enough to beat Jarrell Miller.”
Taylor (8-0, 4 KOs), 31, a two-time Olympian from Ireland who won a gold medal at the 2012 Games, won a vacant world title by unanimous decision against overweight Anahi Esther Sanchez in October and has made one defense, a similarly lopsided decision against Jessica McCaskill in December.
Taylor, who will be boxing in the United States for the third time, will attempt to unify two belts against Bustos (18-4, 0 KOs), 29, of Argentina, who won her belt in 2013 and will make her sixth title defense in her first fight outside of her home country.
“Becoming unified champion is very important to me,” Taylor said. “Last year was great, but I’m not really one for looking back, and it’s all about the next challenge. I believe that winning my first world title as a pro is just the start of it. I want to fight all the other champions and unify the lightweight division.
“Bustos is one of the longest-reigning champions in women’s boxing, so I’m expecting a very tough fight. I’ve been back in training camp in Connecticut since the beginning of the month, so the hard work has started, and I’m excited to have the chance to win another world title.”
HBO’s telecast is scheduled to include only the Jacobs-Sulecki and Miller-Duhaupas fights “as of now,” according to HBO Sports president Peter Nelson. However, he told ESPN that he will talk to Hearn about the possibility of airing Taylor-Bustos. HBO is in its 45th year of televising boxing and has never aired a women’s boxing match.
Hearn also announced that former heavyweight world title challenger Artur Szpilka (20-3-0, 15 KOs), a 28-year-old Polish southpaw, and Brooklyn-based junior welterweight Shohjahon Ergashev (11-0, 11 KOs), 26, of Uzbekistan, will fight on the card against opponents to be determined.