- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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Junior featherweight titlist Jonathan Romero (23-0, 12 KOs) of Colombia, who outpointed Alejandro Lopez in February to win a 122-pound belt that Nonito Donaire vacated, will make his first defense Aug. 17 (HBO) at the Revel Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, N.J. The opponent isn't set, but the leading candidate is Spain's Kiko Martinez (28-4, 20 KOs), a former European champion who is promoted by middleweight champion Sergio Martinez.
Whomever Romero faces, the fight will be the co-feature on the card headlined by middleweight titlist Daniel Geale (29-1, 15 KOs) of Australia, who will be making his American debut in a defense against England's Darren Barker (25-1, 16 KOs), whose only loss came by 11th-round knockout against Martinez in a 2011 championship fight in Atlantic City.
Welterweight prospect Thomas Dulorme (18-1, 13 KOs) of Puerto Rico will also be on the card, and his bout will be televised on HBO Latino. Dulorme was being lined up to face former lightweight titlist Paul Spadafora (48-0-1, 19 KOs), who has been fighting at junior welterweight and welterweight for the past several years. However, according to HBO, after going far down the road on a deal, Spadafora ultimately rejected the fight. Dulorme's team is still searching for an opponent.
• Assuming Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. gets his visa issues worked out and his planned fight with Brian Vera goes on as planned at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sept. 7, Top Rank and HBO are planning for Las Vegas welterweight Jesse Vargas (22-0, 9 KOs) to be in the televised co-feature. HBO and Top Rank want to match him with Luis Carlos Abregu (35-1, 28 KOs), but Vargas' team has so far balked at the match, according to Top Rank.
• Ryota Murata, the heralded 2012 Olympic middleweight gold medalist from Japan, will make his pro debut Aug. 25 in Tokyo. He'll face Akio Shibata (21-7-1, 9 KOs) in a scheduled six-rounder. Murata recently signed a co-promotional contract with Akihiko Honda's Teiken Boxing, the No. 1 promoter in Japan, and Top Rank, which will handle any of his bouts outside of Japan. Murata's gold medal was the first for a Japanese boxer in the Olympics since Takao Sakurai claimed one at the 1964 Tokyo Games. Murata is also the first Japanese fighter to win an Olympic medal in a division other than bantamweight or flyweight.
• Puerto Rican flyweight prospect Jonathan "Bomba" Gonzalez (13-0, 11 KOs) is stepping up his level of opposition in a major way. He will face former junior flyweight champion Giovani Segura (29-3-1, 25 KOs) of Mexico on Aug. 17 in a 10-rounder in Carolina, Puerto Rico. Promoter Peter Rivera said that the winner could face flyweight titlist Juan Francisco Estrada, who will first defend against Milan Melindo on July 27 (HBO2) in Macau, China.
"Segura beat two times our champion Ivan Calderon, and the fight is a fight that Bomba always has told us he wanted since he started his professional career," Rivera said.
• Middleweight titlist/knockout artist Gennady Golovkin is steadily building his name and audience. According to Nielsen, Golovkin's vicious third-round body-shot knockout of Matthew Macklin on Saturday drew 1.1 million viewers, the biggest audience of GGG's three HBO fights. It was a 35 percent increase over his January undercard fight against Gabriel Rosado, which drew 813,000 viewers -- a nice increase over his HBO debut last year against Grzegorz Proksa, which drew 685,000 viewers for a main event. What it means is that Golovkin is clearly gaining an audience with each successive fight.
• British lightweight contender Kevin Mitchell (33-2, 24 KOs), 28, was blown out in his most recent fight, getting stopped in the fourth round by titleholder Ricky Burns in September. Mitchell will return Saturday in London against Sebastien Benito (10-6, 3 KOs) of France for what should be a routine destruction. The scheduled 10-rounder is designed to get Mitchell back in the ring so that he can shake off some rust and move back in the direction of another title shot.
"It's a great division, and I want to get back up there," Mitchell said. "Where do I see myself in it? I want to be a world champion. I'm not here to mess around and play games, be second best and get stopped in four rounds. I'm in it for the long haul and I want to beat the top boys. Anthony Crolla just beat Gavin Rees [last Saturday], and they both interest me, and I'll be keeping a close eye on the Derry Mathews and Tommy Coyle fight next week. There are some big British dust-ups out there, and I love those fights as much as the fans and TV do. I want to correct the loss against Ricky for the world title and become a world champion. I've been out of the ring for too long and it's time to get back in there. I feel a lot of relief, really, as I feel like I've got something to work."
Junior featherweight titlist Jonathan Romero (23-0, 12 KOs) of Colombia, who outpointed Alejandro Lopez in February to win a 122-pound belt that Nonito Donaire vacated, will make his first defense Aug.