- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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Bantamweight contender Silence Mabuza of South Africa has not only traveled halfway around the world for his first title shot against champion Rafael Marquez, he's done it twice.
To say Mabuza is motivated would be an understatement.
"I believe in life you only get a few chances," Mabuza said.
"This is my opportunity and I am ready to grab it with both hands. I have come a long way from South Africa for this fight. These opportunities don't come easily. I have an opportunity to fight the No. 1 bantamweight in the world, and I believe it is time for me to prove I can step up into the big leagues."
The South African star was scheduled to face Marquez (34-3, 30 KOs) of Mexico on Oct. 1, but Marquez came down with the flu four days before the fight and it was delayed until Nov. 5 (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET/PT).
So Mabuza and his team, which already had been in the United States for three weeks, packed up and made the 36-hour trip home to South Africa. Mabuza took a week off and then went back into training.
Last week, he once again made the long trip back to the United States for the fight at Caesars Tahoe in Stateline, Nev. Super middleweight champ Jeff Lacy (20-0, 16 KOs) defends against Scott Pemberton (29-3-1, 24 KOs) in the main event of a card in which both fights could be explosive.
Mabuza (18-0, 15 KOs), a soft spoken and respectful 28 year old, was initially upset by the delay and the excessive travel. Eventually, he accepted the circumstances.
"It was very, very disappointing to travel all the way to get here and then, the next thing you know, the fight [is postponed] only four days prior to the fight," Mabuza said.
"But I am a professional athlete. These things happen. Also, I saw it as a window of opportunity for me to go back home and work more on some things which I needed to work hard on."
Nick Durandt, Mabuza's manager and trainer, said it was his decision to return to South Africa rather than stay in Las Vegas, where they had been training.
"No. 1, the expense of staying in Las Vegas another month was out of the question," he said. "The expense was astronomical. And, No. 2, I felt we needed to go back to South Africa to work with the sparring partners we had back home in order to prepare properly."
Because promoter Gary Shaw won the mandatory fight at a purse bid, he was under no obligation to pay the expenses of housing and feeding Mabuza's team for an extra month.
"If you're sick, you're sick," Durandt said of Marquez.
"But now we're back to do the business. The postponement gave us time to work even harder. The travel was tough but we got through it. Everything has worked out well. We're ready. There won't be any excuses from our side."
Mabuza has dealt with the travel and the adjustment to the time change before. He's had two previous fights in America, including a dominating decision victory against former titleholder Cruz Carvajal in Las Vegas in May.
Marquez, who has defended the title five times and has knockout wins against Tim Austin and Mark Johnson on his resume, said he was sorry he had to delay the fight.
"I did not want to postpone the fight, but I did not feel well," Marquez said.
"My body was not really up to it and my manager and trainer [Nacho Beristain] told me that I really could not go into this type of a fight if I was not at 100 percent. But I felt very badly about it."
Marquez said he was suffering from severe headaches and was very weak the week before the original fight date. He attributed the illness to the dramatic change in weather between his cold mountain training camp in Mexico to the hot weather in Reno, where the fight was originally going to take place.
"The doctor had also informed me that he would not give his approval for me to fight because I was not in good shape," said Marquez, the younger brother of featherweight king Juan Manuel Marquez.
"I did not want to give any advantage to Silence Mabuza. I respect him as a fighter and an opponent, so I would not give him that advantage by walking into the ring without being completely ready to fight."
Around the ring
'ShoBox' shines: The idea of Showtime's acclaimed "ShoBox: The New Generation" series is pretty simple: Feature prospects against each other in legitimate matchups, not mismatches that are so often made in order to pad a young fighter's record.
Since its July 2001 debut, "ShoBox" has featured several prospects who went on to win world titles, including Ricky Hatton, Jeff Lacy, Juan Diaz, Joan Guzman, Leonard Dorin and Scott Harrison. The series also has featured many quality matchups that have separated contenders from pretenders.
The card set for Nov. 4 (11 p.m. ET/PT), the 67th in the series' history, is perhaps the best the series has ever offered.
The doubleheader from the Buffalo Run Casino in Miami, Okla., features four blue chip prospects in junior middleweight Sechew Powell (17-0, 11 KOs) vs. Archak Ter-Meliksetian (15-1, 12 KOs) of Armenia and super middleweight Jaidon Codrington (9-0, 9 KOs) vs. Allan Green (17-0, 11 KOs).
Steve Farhood, Showtime's ringside analyst on the series and a prospect connoisseur, thinks highly of the card.
"As a commentator, I never want to say that one show is better than another, but this show, quite honestly, is the best," Farhood said.
"It truly defines what 'ShoBox' is all about. In both fights, we are going to find some answers. We are going to see who is ready to take his career to the next level and who is not. Codrington is stepping way up in class in his bout with Green, and Powell is also stepping way up in class against Ter-Meliksetian. These two fights are as good as we have ever had on 'ShoBox.' "
Powell is confident he'll be the one take a step forward in his bout.
"I know [Ter-Meliksetian] is a good fighter, but I have seen him fight a fighter similar to me," Powell said. "If he fights the same way he did then, he will not get past three rounds. Archak's success comes from intimidation. That will not work on me."
Said Ter-Meliksetian: "I am ready for anything Powell brings. If he is aggressive, that is good for me. If he comes out and tries to box, that is fine, too. If he just tries to move and counter, it does not matter. I think he will come out and try to box at first, but it will turn into an aggressive fight, which is better for me."
Codrington, who is making a name for himself with knockout after knockout on promoter Lou DiBella's cards in New York, is being hailed by many as a future star.
"This is a big step up for me," Codrington admitted.
"I have always been the type of fighter to rise to the occasion. I do well when in the spotlight. I do not get scared or gun-shy. I knew I would have this big opportunity come up quickly in my career. Lou has kept up his promise to me. He told me that if I perform, he will get me opportunities to move up in class, and he has done that here."
Codrington, the 2002 National Golden Gloves champ at 165 pounds and 2004 New York Golden Gloves champ at 178, said he has no fear of facing Green -- the 2002 National Golden Gloves champ at 178 pounds -- on his Oklahoma turf.
"It is exciting to get a chance to fight in a different part of the country," Codrington said.
"I do not care that this is his home state. In boxing, unlike in any other sport, the fans come to see a fight. They will cheer whoever has the big round, whoever puts on the best show. The best part about this is that all those people that I have made contact with, both in and outside of the boxing world, will have the chance to see me compete on national television. They can finally see what I have been talking about."
Ruiz wants testing: Heavyweight titlist John Ruiz, who lost to James Toney on April 30, only to have the result changed to a no decision and have the title given back to him after Toney tested positive for steroids after the fight, is asking for stronger drug testing in boxing.
Ruiz, who holds the WBA title, is petitioning the organizations in advance of its annual convention next week in South Korea to mandate random testing for performance enhancing drugs. Ruiz also wants the WBA to maintain its current two-year ban from the ratings for any boxer who violates the drug rules.
Ruiz called for similar action in the immediate aftermath of the Toney fight and he is frustrated that there has been no serious action taken.
"Nobody in boxing seems to care or there would be tougher tests," Ruiz said.
"I'm asking the WBA to rule random testing, at the very least, for all world title fights. Fighters are taking steroids and getting away with it. It's very dangerous. Steroids make fighters stronger and quicker; allow them to work out harder, longer and come back from injuries much quicker. It's so easy to take steroids and get away with it because we know when we'll be tested. There's no random testing in boxing.
"Other sports have addressed steroid problems. Boxers risk their lives every time they go into the ring. A fighter taking steroids is going to kill an opponent someday. I only hope it doesn't take a tragedy for the WBA to make a change in its policy."
Ruiz is proposing that fighters be subject to random testing any time between the announcement of a fight until the day of the bout.
Ruiz is scheduled to make his next defense on Dec. 17 in Germany when he faces mandatory challenger Nicolay Valuev of Russia.
Toney lashed out at Ruiz after hearing about his comments.
"Most real fighters do their talking with their fists and not their mouths. Remember, I said real fighters," Toney said.
"Ruiz has done nothing but cry since being handed his WBA belt back. If he was a real man, a real fighter, he would have tried to get me back into the ring to show everyone that James Toney could not have kicked his ass if my test didn't show up positive.
"But he knows what I stated as the cause of my positive test was the truth, prescribed medication used to reduce inflammation in my recent bicep/triceps surgery. If this wasn't the case, and he actually believed that I was using performance enhancing drugs to beat him, I can only think he would want this overblown middleweight, with the world watching his next drug test, to get back into the ring with him immediately so he could manhandle me as he said he could have done without the positive test.
"Stop talking and whining about getting your butt kicked. I was fat, out of shape and fighting with one arm and kicked your ass. Face up to it."
Mexico vs. Thailand: Golden Boy Promotions' "Boxing World Cup" kicks off Saturday night (HBO Latino, 10 ET/PT) at the Desert Diamond Casino in Tucson, Ariz., where four top Mexican fighters will face four of Thailand's best with four WBO titles at stake in an intriguing tournament-style event.
• Fernando Montiel (31-1-1, 24 KOs) puts his junior bantamweight title on the line against two-time Olympian Pramunansak Phosawan (28-0-1, 16 KOs) in the main event.
• Ratanachai Sor Vorapin (65-8, 42 KOs) defends his bantamweight belt against Jhonny Gonzalez (30-4, 26 KOs).
• Daniel Ponce De Leon (26-1, 25 KOs) faces Sod Looknongyangtoy (25-0, 10 KOs) for a vacant junior featherweight title.
• Hugo Cazares (21-3-1, 15 KOs) defends his junior flyweight title against Kaichon Sor Vorapin (17-7, 6 KOs), Ratanachai's younger brother.
The nation that wins the most fights (including two other non-title Mexico-Thailand matches that aren't being televised) will receive a 15-pound, 18-karat gold cup trophy designed by sponsor IceLink Watch. The cup will be set with more 15,000 diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds and other precious stones.
If the countries tie in victories, it will come down to which one has the most world champions at the end of the night.
Golden Boy hopes to have the winning team defend the cup next year against another nation.
Unification fights? Showtime appears poised to open 2006 strong. One card that the network is considering for its Jan. 7 show with promoter Don King would feature a pair of title unification fights.
The main event being talked about would pit two-belt cruiserweight champ Jean-Marc Mormeck of France against titlist O'Neil Bell for the undisputed title, which would mark only the second time in division history that an undisputed champ would be crowned. Evander Holyfield did it in 1988 -- also on Showtime -- when he defeated Carlos De Leon.
The second fight on the proposed card would see Roman Karmazin facing Daniel Santos to unify junior middleweight titles.
"We've had some good discussions with Don but there is no deal at the moment," said Leon Margules, executive director for Warriors Boxing, which promotes Bell.
"I think Don wants to make a deal. He's been pushing to make the fight and I have no problem taking the fight and my guy (Bell) has no problem with taking the fight."
Warriors card: After co-promoting pay-per-view shows with Cedric Kushner that featured Shannon Briggs vs. Ray Mercer in August and last week's card headlined by David Tua vs. Cisse Salif, Warriors Boxing is planning a solo card on Dec. 15 (PPV on tape delay) at the Hard Rock resort in Hollywood, Fla.
Margules, who became the Warriors Boxing executive director in August after several years with the Team Freedom promotional company, said the main event will feature a 12-round heavyweight clash between Lance Whitaker (31-3-1, 26 KOs) and Sultan Ibragimov (18-0, 15 KOs).
Also on the card will be heavyweight Samuel Peter, the Dino Duva-promoted contender who is looking to rebound from his first loss, a decision to Wladimir Klitschko in September. Peter's tentative opponent for the 10-rounder is Robert Hawkins.
Also on the card: exciting junior welterweight Juan Urango vs. former lightweight champ Cesar Bazan and middleweight prospect "Irish" John Duddy against an opponent to be named.
Gatti-Damgaard set: Arturo Gatti's 12-round fight with Danish southpaw Thomas Damgaard (37-0, 27 KOs) has been locked in for Jan. 28 (HBO) at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., promoter Main Events announced.
Gatti (39-7, 30 KOs), who won titles at junior welterweight and junior lightweight, is moving up to welterweight after losing his 140-pound belt in June on a sixth-round TKO to Floyd Mayweather.
Damgaard, a former European welterweight and junior welterweight champ, has fought all of his previous bouts in Denmark.
He has three notable names on his record, all of whom he faced when they were past their prime: former lightweight titlist Philip Holiday, whom he outpointed in 2000; former junior welterweight titlist Khalid Rahilou, whom he stopped in four rounds in 1999; and former lightweight champ Greg Haugen, whom he stopped in six rounds in 1999.
King roast: King will be the subject of the annual Friars Club celebrity roast on Friday in New York. This year's roast "is expected to entertain with the type of brash political humor that the Friars Club is known for" read the news release trumpeting the event.
The "roastmaster" will be Donald Trump. Among the fighters scheduled to attend: Evander Holyfield, Lamon Brewster, Michael Spinks, Zab Judah, John Ruiz and Ricardo Mayorga.
Other celebrities expected include Geraldo Rivera, Greta Van Susteren, Leroy Neiman, Robin Givens and former New York mayor David Dinkens.
Quick hits: Toney plans on staying busy. Toney, who outpointed Dominick Guinn on Oct. 1 in his first fight following a three-month steroid suspension and the subsequent stripping of the world title he won from Ruiz in April, will be back in the ring on Dec. 1 in Hollywood, Calif. The fight against an opponent to be named will headline a "Best Damn Sports Show Period" card (Fox Sports Net). Promoter Dan Goossen said that former welterweight champ Vernon Forrest will fight in the co-feature against an opponent to be named. Forrest, now a junior middleweight, has won two fights since coming back in July from a two-year layoff caused by shoulder and elbow injuries. Former bantamweight champ Tim Austin (26-1-1, 23 KOs), now campaigning as a junior featherweight/featherweight, will have his second fight since a 2½–year layoff when he faces Julio Coronell in an eight-rounder in Northern Louisiana on Nov. 11. Austin, idle while fighting a sexual assault charge for which he was vindicated, returned on Sept. 3 to stop Reynaldo Hurtado in the fifth round. Austin, who made nine title defenses, hopes to work his way back into contention, and would like to move to junior lightweight for significant fights with Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera or Manny Pacquiao. Former heavyweight titlist Bruce Seldon will face Tye Fields (34-1, 31 KOs) in a 10-rounder on Friday night in Las Vegas. Seldon (35-5, 31) lost his title on a first-round knockout to Mike Tyson in 1996 and then was idle (partly because of a jail term) until making a comeback in March 2004. Seldon, 38, won two fights and then was stopped in the ninth round by Gerald Nobles in his most recent bout in May 2004. Promoter Joe DeGuardia's Star Boxing announced it has signed lightweight Nate Campbell (27-4-1, 23 KOs). In his last fight, Campbell, a former junior lightweight title challenger, rejuvenated his career with an upset 10th-round knockout of "Kid Diamond" Almazbek Raiymkulov on the Oct. 1 Antonio Tarver-Roy Jones III undercard. "Talk about announcing your arrival at a new weight. Nate Campbell dominated, dropped and stopped a guy being touted as the next superstar," said DeGuardia, who also promotes Tarver. "Kid Diamond held Joel Casamayor to a draw and could have easily gotten the decision, and Nate just totally took him apart. We're excited about his chances of winning the world title, now that he's carrying his full power into fights again. Nate is clearly more dangerous at 135 lbs."
Quotable: "It is about making money. That is the motivation for everything." -- Super middleweight Scott Pemberton, who, after 11 years as a pro, will get a long-awaited title shot against Jeff Lacy on Nov. 5.
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.
11hK. Lee Davis