King, HBO talking about Rahman-Toney showdown

How will the dominoes fall after Vitali Klitschko's retirement? Newly-named WBC champ Hasim Rahman might defend his title against James Toney.

Originally Published: November 11, 2005
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com

Hasim Rahman, who won the heavyweight championship in 2001 with a stunning one-punch knockout of Lennox Lewis, has become a two-time champion with considerably less fanfare.

Rahman (41-5-1, 33 KOs), who had held the WBC interim title, became the full WBC title holder based on a vote of the organization's board of governors.

Don King/Hasim Rahman
Ed Mulholland/WireImage.comKing (left) has proposed a four-fighter "tournament" to crown an undisputed heavyweight champion. As the new WBC titlist, Rahman would be one of the participants.

He was supposed to challenge champion Vitali Klitschko on Saturday night in Las Vegas, but Klitschko suffered a knee injury in training nine days before the fight and then surprisingly retired on Wednesday. Klitschko's surrender of his belt paved the way for the interim tag to be dropped from Rahman's title.

"The WBC has received a majority voting of the board of governors to declare Hasim Rahman the … WBC heavyweight champion of the world," WBC president Jose Sulaiman said in a statement.

Sulaiman said it would become effective when all of the votes were received, but that is a mere formality. Out of 35 votes, 20 already had been received in favor of elevating Rahman's status.

"After Vitali postponed his fight with me four times, I am thrilled that WBC president Jose Sulaiman is keeping his promise to me by convening his board of governors to automatically upgrade me from interim champion," Rahman said.

Rahman promoter Don King, who controls the other three title holders as well -- Chris Byrd, John Ruiz and Lamon Brewster -- reiterated his desire to hold a tournament to crown an undisputed champion.

However, Ruiz already is committed to a mandatory defense in Germany against Nicolay Valuev on Dec. 17 and Byrd and King are embroiled in a dispute over their contract.

King has talked to HBO about a possible Rahman-James Toney fight for February or March. Rahman also has said he is interested in fighting Wladimir Klitschko, the younger brother of Vitali.

In the meantime, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum is getting over the cancellation of his first major heavyweight promotion since George Foreman regained the title from Michael Moorer in 1994.

"I've been in this business 40 years and these things happen," Arum said. "They are unfortunate but you just have to pick up the pieces and go on. We have a big fight coming up in January with [Erik] Morales and [Manny] Pacquiao, and we're looking forward to that promotion."

Arum said he received a call Tuesday night from Klitschko, who told him of his decision to retire. Klitschko underwent surgery in Los Angeles on Tuesday to repair a torn medial meniscus and a ruptured ACL, and was looking at a minimum of nine months out of the ring.

"We had a about a half-hour telephone conversation," Arum said. "And Vitali apprised me of his plans but asked that I say nothing about them so that he could make the announcement himself on the next day.

"Well, obviously, I'm disappointed. My whole staff at Top Rank is disappointed. But again, these things happen. You know, we have to be big boys about it. If I was a new promoter, an inexperienced promoter, I would take it a lot harder. But I've been in this business so long I've had postponements, I've had cancellations. When it happens it's like a blow in the pit of the stomach but you get over it. Thank God at my age I have my health, I've got a great family, I've got a great business. Don't cry for me, Argentina."

Arum had spent months promoting the fight, which he won the rights to in surprise fashion with a purse bid of $12.001 million. Arum said most of the money already spent on the promotion will be covered by a cancelation insurance policy he took out on the event.

"One thing that [Klitschko] kept reiterating in this phone call was how sorry he was, how he knew how hard we had all worked and did things to make the promotion a success and, obviously, there was no promotion," Arum said. "But, again, money is money. So you lose some money and you make it up, hopefully, on the next promotion.

It took George Foreman 10 years before he changed his mind, but eventually he changed his mind came back to boxing. So I can't predict what's in the future, but as of right now, and based on my conversation with [Klitschko] and based on his statement, he is retired.
Promoter Bob Arum, on the chances that Vitali Klitschko will fight again

"This isn't a case of a fighter who signed the contract going AWOL on you, or somebody decides I'm not going to fight, or there's a breach of contract or something that's wrong happened. This is an injury."

Although fighters are known to retire and make comebacks -- the latest prominent example being Felix Trinidad, who retired for 2½years before coming back in 2004 -- Arum thinks Klitschko probably is done for good.

"Nine months from now, a year from now, could it be that he would change his mind? I don't know," Arum said.

"It took George Foreman 10 years before he changed his mind, but eventually he changed his mind came back to boxing. So I can't predict what's in the future, but as of right now, and based on my conversation with [Klitschko] and based on his statement, he is retired."

Around the ring

King health: King disclosed to ESPN.com he underwent an angioplasty two weeks ago in New York because of a heart problem.

"I had a little blockage and had the angioplasty," King, 74, said of the procedure in which a balloon is used to open a narrow or blocked coronary artery. "I'm OK. The doctor told me all the usual things -- lose some weight, change your diet, the things they always tell you. I'm trying. You have to take it seriously."

Holyfield to fight? King also said he is considering putting former four-time heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield on the Dec. 17 undercard of John Ruiz's mandatory title defense against Nicolay Valuev in Germany.

"We're trying to get him on there," King said. "I'd like to see Evander fight. Around the world they want to see him fight, and he says he's ready to go. Holyfield is ready."

Holyfield (38-8-2, 25 KOs) hasn't fought since losing a virtual shutout to Larry Donald in a 12-rounder Nov. 13, 2004 on a King undercard at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Holyfield has lost three in a row and is 2-5-1 in his last eight bouts since losing his rematch with Lennox Lewis in 1999.

After the Donald bout, Holyfield was suspended indefinitely by the New York commission, which meant he could not box anywhere in the United States. However, the suspension does not have to be honored overseas.

Lacy wants Tarver: Super middleweight champ Jeff Lacy is eyeing a big fight in the wake of his two-round demolition of Scott Pemberton on Nov. 5.

Tarver
Tarver
Lacy
Lacy

Lacy (21-0, 17 KOs), who made a successful fourth defense of his title, was supposed to fight a unification bout with fellow champ Joe Calzaghe last week, but Calzaghe injured his hand in an ill-advised September tune-up fight and pulled out. Nonetheless, there is a possibility that fight could still take place Feb. 4 on Showtime.

If Lacy can't get Calzaghe in the ring, he's interested in facing light heavyweight king Antonio Tarver in an Sunshine State showdown: They're both from the Tampa/St. Petersburg, Fla., area.

"I want the fights that bring out the fans and raise the ratings," Lacy said.

"I want Joe Calzaghe and I want Antonio Tarver, and I don't care in which order I fight them. Moving up in weight is not a problem. The seven extra pounds it takes to become a light heavyweight is very close to my natural weight. I am ready to prove who the best man is and I don't want hear any excuses from either one of them."

A Tarver-Lacy fight has been getting quite a bit of hype in the Tampa media, and Lacy has been doing more trash talking than usual.

"[Tarver] is avoiding my challenge like he avoided his bills and filed for bankruptcy," Lacy said.

Now he's calling out Mike Tyson. Why? Maybe because Mike has been knocked out early in his last two fights? I'm hearing if he can't get Tyson, [Tarver's] heavyweight hit list consists of Joe Louis, James J. Braddock and Butterbean. Oh, scratch Butterbean. He has a pulse.
Super middleweight champion Jeff Lacy, wondering why fellow Tampa-St. Pete resident and light heavyweight titlist Antonio Tarver resists fighting him

"He knows if he ever got into the ring with me he'd be bouncing off the canvas harder than his checks that bounced after he filed for Chapter 7. I'm hearing this guy can't eat enough to get out of the light heavyweight division to avoid fighting me. Everyone knows [he] will do anything to avoid getting knocked out by me in front of the Tampa/St. Pete fans.

"Now he's calling out Mike Tyson. Why? Maybe because Mike has been knocked out early in his last two fights? I'm hearing if he can't get Tyson, [Tarver's] heavyweight hit list consists of Joe Louis, James J. Braddock and Butterbean. Oh, scratch Butterbean. He has a pulse."

Although a Tarver-Lacy fight could be difficult to make given that Tarver has been fighting on HBO and Lacy a Showtime fighter, Dan Birmingham, who trains Lacy, as well as middleweight star Winky Wright, would love to see the fight.

"Jeff, like Winky Wright when he moved from junior middleweight to middleweight to blitz Felix Trinidad, can fight at 168 or 175 pounds with no problems. I wouldn't hesitate to have Jeff challenge Tarver. However, if I were training Tarver, I'm not so sure I would be as confident in taking that fight. Jeff will have Tarver bouncing off the ropes like a pinball bouncing off the bumpers. "

Undisputed cruiserweight title: Two-belt cruiserweight champ Jean-Marc Mormeck of France and titlist O'Neil Bell have signed to fight each other for the undisputed title.

The bout is expected to take place on Jan. 7 on Showtime, which is finalizing a deal with King, Mormeck's promoter.

"The contracts are signed and the fight is made," said Leon Margules, executive director of Warriors Boxing, which promotes Bell.

Bell (25-1-1, 23 KOs) visited King's Deerfield Beach, Fla., office this week to sign for the fight, and had a message for his opponent: "I spoke to Jean-Marc in France by phone and told him he can bid adieu to his titles. Mormeck needs to be ready to face the most devastating fighter in the sport."

Said Mormeck (30-2, 21 KOs), who unified titles with a victory against Wayne Braithwaite in April: "Bell was mistaken. He must have meant I am the most devastating puncher in boxing. I think I proved to the world that I am a very special boxer when I met and defeated the great champion Wayne Braithwaite. I am very excited for the opportunity to become the undisputed cruiserweight world champion."

The winner of Mormeck-Bell will become only the second undisputed champion since the division was created in 1980. The first fighter to unify the three major titles was Evander Holyfield in 1988 when he defeated Carlos De Leon -- also on Showtime. Holyfield then moved up to heavyweight, where he also became undisputed champion.

Mormeck stopped Virgil Hill on Feb. 23, 2002 to win the title and unified belts with a unanimous decision against Braithwaite on April 2.

Bell, a Jamaica native living in Atlanta, claimed a vacant title with a highly controversial decision victory against Dale Brown on May 20, and has made one defense.

Displaced fights: Arum is trying to find spots for the two title bouts -- welterweight titlist Antonio Margarito vs. Manuel Gomez and junior bantamweight beltholder Martin Castillo vs. Alexander Munoz in a rematch -- that were left in limbo when Klitschko-Rahman was canceled.

Castillo
Castillo
Margarito
Margarito

Arum tried to convince HBO to buy Margarito-Gomez and put it on the Nov. 19 Floyd Mayweather-Sharmba Mitchell broadcast, which was to have featured the replay of Klitschko-Rahman. HBO declined, despite Margarito-Gomez being a potentially action-packed fight.

He also tried to sell both fights as a doubleheader to Showtime for its Jan. 7 telecast, but the network has other plans.

Arum said his next option is to pair Margarito-Gomez with a February or March Miguel Cotto fight and to put Castillo-Munoz on the Morales-Pacquiao HBO PPV undercard on Jan. 21.

"One thing is sure, those fighters and those fights are not going to be abandoned," Arum said. "Because as a failsafe, if I can't secure a position on HBO or Showtime for Margarito I will, against the Olympics, mount a pay-per-view card around Margarito in February."

Morales-Pacquiao II: Top Rank officially will announce the Jan. 21 HBO PPV rematch between junior lightweights Morales (48-3, 34 KOs) and Pacquiao (40-3-2, 32 KOs) on Saturday morning at the Wynn Las Vegas. The fight, dubbed "The Battle," will take place at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. They'll move on to Los Angles for another press conference on Tuesday.

Wladimir Klitschko/Samuel Peter
Peter (right), who lost this decision to Wlad Klitschko in September, is ready for action again.

Morales won their first action-packed fight via decision on March 19. Although Pacquaio stopped Hector Velazquez and Morales lost an upset decision to Zahir Raheem on a Sept. 10 doubleheader, the rematch is set.

The undercard is not set yet, but expect to see middleweight contender Kelly Pavlik on the show. Junior bantamweight champ Martin Castillo's rematch with Alexander Munoz -- originally slated for the postponed Vitali Klitschko-Hasim Rahman undercard -- could also be on the card.

Peter returns: Heavyweight contender Samuel Peter, who knocked down Wladimir Klitschko three times in their September fight but lost a decision in the title eliminator, will try to shake off the loss.

Peter (24-1, 21 KOs) will face Robert Hawkins (21-4, 7 KOs) on Dec. 15 at the Seminole Hard Rock resort in Hollywood, Fla.

In the co-feature, heavyweight Lance Whitaker (31-3-1, 26 KOs) faces 2000 Olympic silver medalist Sultan Ibragimov (18-0, 15 KOs) of Russia.

Also on the Warriors Boxing pay-per-view card, rising junior welterweight Juan Urango (16-0-1, 13 KOs) of Colombia will faces former lightweight champ Cesar Bazan (44-7-1, 29 KOs).

Sturm injured: Former middleweight titlist Felix Sturm, best known for his questionable decision loss to Oscar De La Hoya in June 2004, suffered an elbow injury and will need surgery, according to promoter Universum.

Sturm
Sturm

Sturm was supposed to challenge Maselino Masoe for a minor title on Nov. 26 in Germany but hurt his left elbow in training.

"I'm so sorry for my fans but health comes first," Sturm said. "I tried everything to cure my injury in time, but my doctor convinced me that this is impossible."

The Universum card will still go on with bantamweight titlist Wladimir Sidorenko (17-0, 6 KOs) making his first defense against Jose de Jesus Lopez (21-5, 16 KOs). Also on the card: Michel Trabant (41-2, 18 KOs) faces Mark Suarez (24-2, 12 KOs) in a welterweight title eliminator and junior welterweight Mohamad Abdullaev (15-2, 12 KOs), in his first fight since losing a title shot against Miguel Cotto in June, faces Andreas Kotelnik (24-2, 11 KOs).

Dawson's day: Super middleweight prospect "Bad" Chad Dawson (18-0, 13 KOs) faces Ian Gardner (19-2, 7 KOs) -- who is moving up from middleweight -- in a 12-round battle of southpaws Nov. 18 in a "ShoBox" main event (Showtime, 11 p.m. ET/PT) at New Haven, Conn., Dawson's hometown.

It's not out of the question that the winner eventually could find himself in a title fight, according to "ShoBox" analyst Steve Farhood.

"If Dawson overpowers Gardner, he will make a loud and far-reaching statement," Farhood said. "Jeff Lacy needs solid American opposition. Allan Green emerged last week [with an 18-second knockout of Jaidon Codrington], and Dawson is looking to do the same."

Chi ready to go: Featherweight titlist Injin Chi (30-2-1, 18 KOs), who pulled out of a high-profile August title defense against Rocky Juarez with an injury, has recovered and will return Jan. 29. Chi, of South Korea, will face Takashi Koshimoto (38-1-2, 17 KOs) in Fukuoka, Japan. Koshimoto's only loss came via ninth-round knockout against then-champion Freddie Norwood in 2000.

When Chi pulled out of Juarez fight, which HBO had planned to televise, substitute Humberto Soto upset Juarez to claim an interim title. If Chi defeats Koshimoto, and Soto wins a Dec. 17 bout against Jorge Solis, Chi and Soto will meet in a mandatory fight.

Quick hits: King said he and Richard Schaefer of Golden Boy Promotions have agreed to a deal in which junior middleweight titlist Ricardo Mayorga would defend against Oscar De La Hoya on May 6 on HBO PPV. However, King tempered his statement, adding, "In concept we have it done, but you know how that goes." … With Rahman installed as the WBC's heavyweight titlist in the wake of Klitschko's retirement, the process of determining the next mandatory challenger begins Saturday in Hamburg, Germany. Although neither has done much to earn his position, the WBC has sanctioned Sinan Samil Sam (24-2, 15 KOs) vs. Oleg Maskaev (31-5, 25 KOs) in an elimination bout to determine the No. 1 contender. Neither Sam or Maskaev are rated in the top 10 by ESPN.com or Ring magazine. … Welterweight prospect Joel Julio, 20, the power punching wrecking machine from Colombia, has been added to Main Events' Nov. 30 card at Scheutzen Park in North Bergen, N.J., rather than fight Friday night in Kissimmee, Fla. Julio (24-0, 21 KOs) will face Hicklet Lau (19-14-2, 9 KOs). Featherweight Jason Litzau (15-0, 14 KOs) headlines against Mexico's Miguel Munguia (15-4-1, 13 KOs). … Heavyweight Toney's fight against Rob Calloway and lightweight titlist Juan Diaz's rematch with mandatory Lakva Sim has been moved from Dec. 1 to Dec. 15 (Fox Sports Net), according to promoter Dan Goossen. … Heavyweight Kevin McBride of Ireland, who was supposed to face British champion Matt Skelton on Dec. 10 in London, has pulled out of the fight. It was to be McBride's first bout since his stunning upset of Mike Tyson in June. Instead, Skelton will face John McDermott. The Danny Williams-Audley Harrison main event, which matches Britain's other two top heavyweights, is still a go. … Junior welterweight Ricardo Torres, who put up a valiant fight before being stopped in a sensational bout with titlist Miguel Cotto in September, returns to the ring Dec. 10 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to face fringe contender Henry Bruseles, who best known for being stopped by Floyd Mayweather Jr. in January. The fight will be part of a pay-per-view card available in Puerto Rico. It will be headlined by strawweight champ Ivan "Iron Boy" Calderon defending against former titlist Daniel Reyes of Colombia. … Heavyweight Shannon Briggs (43-4-1, 37 KOs), who pulled out of a fight last week in New York because Hurricane Wilma in Florida interrupted his training in Miami, has lined up a fight against Brian Scott (25-6, 16 KOs) in Fort Smith, Ark., on Nov. 26. … Featherweight prospect Robert "The Ghost" Guerrero (16-0-1, 9 KOs) headlines the Dec. 2 "ShoBox" card (Showtime) when he faces Gamaliel Diaz (19-5-2, 9 KOs). … Rising welterweight prospect Delvin Rodriguez (16-1, 9 KOs) returns to action Nov. 23 when he faces Virgil McClendon (22-5, 8 KOs) in the main event of a Northeast Promotions card in White Plains, N.Y.

Quotable: "Yeah, Roy Jones' gold medal." -- Carl Moretti, the vice president of promoter Main Events, on his answer to a Seoul, South Korea, street vendor, who asked him if he was looking for anything in particular while Moretti was shopping during down time at the WBA convention last week.

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.

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