BOXING

Brian Norman Jr. Chasing Full Welterweight WBO Recognition If Terence Crawford Vacates

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For Jolene Mizzone, president of Fighters First Management, watching Brian Norman Jr. secure the WBO interim welterweight title might be the most meaningful moment of her career to date.

Norman stopped Giovani Santillan in his hometown of San Diego in the 10th round last Saturday.

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Fighters First Management was founded by Georgia-based entrepreneur David Basha with Adrian Clark serving as CEO, and Mizzone being brought on as the president of the company, which has been growing since its inception in 2022. Norman (26-0, 20 KOs) was seen as the crown jewel of the company.

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It has been speculated that Terence Crawford, the current WBO welterweight titleholder, will vacate as he pursues titles at junior middleweight. Should that occur, Norman will be elevated or have a chance to become full titleholder later this year.

“The first thing I did when he knocked him out, I jumped and almost hit the ceiling,” Mizzone said. “I ran over to David and said, ‘You got your first world champion.’”

Mizzone, a lifelong boxing enthusiast, began her career as a matchmaker for Main Events 25 years ago. Norman, meanwhile, garnered attention from sparring sessions with Crawford and Gervonta Davis. Clark and Norman’s father quickly connected, leading to Norman Jr. signing with the management company.

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“Long story short, we signed Brian – our company is out of Georgia, he’s from Georgia,” Mizzone said. “I go to Top Rank, they wanted to sign him, we get the contract and he signs with Top Rank. His first fight, he didn’t look spectacular.”

Doubt began to creep in as Norman Jr. turned in several underwhelming performances. He struggled in a competitive fight with Jesus “Ricky” Perez, had a forgettable bout with Quinton Randall and was dropped by Janelson Figueroa Bocachica before the fight was ruled a no-contest after a clash of heads opened cuts on both fighters.

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A rematch looked likely until Mizzone’s phone rang.

“A few days later, I get a call from [Top Rank matchmaker] Brad Goodman,” Mizzone said. “What do you think about Santillan? I said, ‘Giovani?’ He said, ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘When?’ This was after the Bocachica no-contest. I called Adrian and said, ‘Adrian, the gods are looking out for us.’ He said, ‘What do you mean?’ I said, ‘We just got offered the Giovani fight.’”

Mizzone explained that the management team and Norman Sr. agreed on the fight within five minutes.

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“All of us felt very confident,” Mizzone said. “My only concern was he was going into hostile territory. He’s the underdog. It’s in his backyard. A week before the fight, it turns into a championship fight. There was a lot of stress. He’s a 23-year-old kid. Can he handle it?”

Norman Jr. not only handled it but also won the fight in emphatic fashion. With her fighter on the verge of being named a world titleholder, Mizzone is excited to look forward.

“After Saturday, all those past performances are forgotten,” Mizzone said.

 

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