- Dan Rafael, Boxing
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Ever since Roy Jones' unanimous decision victory against Bernard Hopkins for a vacant middleweight title in 1993, there has been high interest in a rematch, and on a few occasions it was close to being solidified.
Now, 12 years later, they've finally made a deal.
Jones and Hopkins agreed Friday morning to a March 11 rematch on HBO PPV, representatives of both fighters told ESPN.com.
"I think it's very exciting. Bernard is very happy about it and so is Roy. It's fantastic," said Richard Schaefer of Golden Boy Promotions, which promotes Hopkins.
"We have a deal," said Jones' adviser Brad Jacobs. "I have Richard's word that Hopkins is in. and Roy told me, 'Let's go.' Everybody reviewed what was on the table and were able to agree to it."
The deal was fairly easy to make relative to other major fights because the sides didn't bicker over the money, quickly agreeing to a 50-50 deal.
Schaefer said no site has been secured yet but that there is interest from venues in Atlanta, Memphis, Chicago and Washington (where the 1993 fight took place).
Hopkins, who was considering retirement after his second consecutive close decision loss to Jermain Taylor on Dec. 3, initially asked for a 60-40 revenue split with Jones. But Hopkins backed off in recent days, telling ESPN.com that he had spoke personally with Jones and decided that he "would do it 50-50 across the board because this fight is for history."
The fight will match two of the era's biggest stars in a 12-round light heavyweight fight that amounts to a farewell bout for both of them.
"The way we look at it is that it really is the final chapter," Schaefer said. "That might just be the name of the fight because I think both guys are tremendous legends, and each one wants to end his career with a win. It's funny that 12 years ago they fought each other and their careers after that fight took much different paths, yet they still both became legends. And here they are closing their careers against each other. I think it's a fitting end to their respective careers."
Hopkins, who turns 41 in January, promised his late mother, Shirley, before she died that he would not fight past 40, although he will put that date off by several weeks to get in his finale with Jones.
Hopkins (46-4-1, 32 KOs) lost a unanimous decision to Jones in 1993 -- all three judges scored it 116-112. But after Jones moved up in weight, Hopkins eventually claimed the middleweight title. He ruled the division for more than a decade, making a division-record 20 defenses, including knockout victories against Felix Trinidad and Oscar De La Hoya, until two close decision losses to Taylor this year.
Jones (49-4, 38 KOs), who turns 37 on Jan. 16, is a former middleweight, super middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight champion. For a decade he was considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, an nearly untouchable fighter with blazing speed and power. But he has slipped recently, losing three consecutive fights, including two by knockout.
In his last fight on Oct. 1, he lost a decision in his rubber match with light heavyweight king Antonio Tarver, but said afterward that he wanted at least one more fight.
"I think it's a perfect fight for both guys," Jacobs said. "You have Hopkins, who is a legend in the middleweight division, and the same is true of Roy in the light heavyweight division. He owns the win over Hopkins and it's the right fight for both guys at this time."
Hopkins would have preferred to fight Tarver in order "to do what Sugar Ray Robinson fell one round short of, and that's win the light heavyweight title." However, Tarver is well over 200 pounds now while he is filming the movie "Rocky Balboa," and probably wouldn't be able to get into light heavyweight fighting shape by March.
Around the ring
Judah still wants Tszyu: Undisputed welterweight champ Zab Judah says plainly that his biggest fight is a showdown with junior welterweight titlist Floyd Mayweather Jr., the pound-for-pound king.
They are on course for an April 8 showdown as long as Judah defeats mandatory challenger Carlos Baldomir of Argentina on Jan. 7 (Showtime).
If Judah wins and then for some reason the Mayweather fight isn't completed, Judah has a back-up plan in mind: A rematch with Kostya Tszyu.
"The Mayweather fight, definitely. It is a bigger money fight," Judah said about his preference. "The world wants to see it. Excitement is what thrills the people. If somehow the Mayweather fight does not happen, I am welcoming with open arms Kostya Tszyu."
Tszyu and Judah were both junior welterweight champions when they met for the undisputed title in 2001, and Tszyu scored a second-round knockout that was followed by Judah's emotional outburst.
Upset with referee Jay Nady's stoppage, Judah went berserk in the ring. He threw a stool toward Nady and shoved his fist under Nady's chin. Ultimately, Judah was fined $75,000 and suspended for six months by Nevada boxing officials.
But Judah (34-2, 25 KOs) has matured since then and rebounded from the worst night of his career. He moved up in weight and eventually claimed the undisputed 147-pound title with a knockout of Cory Spinks in February.
Tszyu (31-2, 25 KOs), meanwhile, reigned as 140-pound champ until June. That's when Ricky Hatton punished him until Tszyu retired on his stool after 11 rounds.
Now, Tszyu, 36, is quietly making plans for a comeback as a welterweight and has already been in touch with Showtime about a date in the first half of 2006.
Judah has pined for a rematch since their 2001 match.
"Kostya Tszyu has a personal invitation from Zab Judah, and anytime that he feels that he is ready to step up to the plate, I am ready to show the world that our first fight was a fluke," Judah, 28, said. "You see how Ricky Hatton beat the life out of him? He's dead right now. Let me finish him off and show the world that I am the best pound-for-pound fighter. Please bring him on. Bring him back from the dead and let's just do it. It's been five years now? Let's stop playing."
Judah said he would stop Tszyu in far quicker fashion that Hatton did.
"I promise you. I had him out in the first round; you saw that," Judah said about the first meeting. "He was holding on for life. Listen, my speed and power is nothing to play with. A lot of guys look at it and take it as a joke, but you see time and time again they are hitting the floor like dust."
Tszyu, in a statement, said if he returns to the ring a rematch with Judah is appealing.
"I read about Zab Judah's invitation for me to move up to welterweight for a rematch and it is nice to have options," Tszyu said. "The fight could be interesting, but many things have to happen first and I have to clear my mind."
Morales corner: Junior lightweight Erik Morales, who fired his father, Jose Morales, as head trainer following an upset decision loss to Zahir Raheem in September, has reshaped his corner. Now training the former three-division champ is Jose Luis Lopez Sr., the father of former welterweight titlist Jose Luis Lopez Jr.
Morales is training for a Jan. 21 (HBO PPV) rematch against Manny Pacquiao, whom he defeated on a decision in one 2005's most explosive fights.
When Morales and Pacquiao met the first time the gloves they wore was a major issue, but it won't be this time.
Before the first fight, Pacquiao's former promoter, Murad Muhammad, negotiated the contract with Morales promoter Top Rank, agreeing that Pacquiao would wear the Winning brand of gloves that Morales preferred. Pacquiao was livid that he was unable to wear Reyes, which are known as a "puncher's" glove because the padding is distributed differently than in Winning gloves, which have more padding on the fist.
However, Muhammad is out of the picture now, replaced by promoter Gary Shaw, and for the rematch the fighters can wear the brand of gloves they prefer.
Pacquiao is expected to opt for Reyes. But in a twist, Lopez has Morales training in Reyes gloves.
Ruiz, Stone split: Norman "Stoney" Stone, the volatile longtime manager and sometimes trainer of two-time heavyweight titlist John Ruiz, announced his retirement this week.
The announcement comes less than a week after Ruiz lost his heavyweight title to Russian Nicolay Valuev on a controversial decision in Germany. The loss was followed by a Stone meltdown in the ring during which he swiped the belt off Valuev's shoulder, wound up in a fight with a member of Valuev's entourage, and finally left the ring while shouting curses toward the Valuev camp.
Had Stone not walked away, he would have been fired because Ruiz and the rest of his team were fed up with the constant distractions caused by Stone's volcanic behavior, according to the Boston Globe.
"I'm done," Stone, 54, said in a statement. "I'm tired of boxing and last week's bad decision was the last straw. I'm going to relax with my family and spend a lot of time with my two little grandchildren. I'll always support Johnny. Even in retirement I'll be covering his back. I'm sorry if my actions sometimes upset people, but I always had John's best interests at heart. It was a great ride."
Stone worked with Ruiz for 20 years, going back to Ruiz's amateur days. When few believed in Ruiz -- especially after a brutal 19-second knockout loss to David Tua in 1996 -- Stone stuck by him, even mortgaging his home three times to financially support Ruiz's career.
"I'm sorry to see him go," Ruiz said. "We've been together for 20 years and it was an up-and-down, roller-coaster ride. It's going to be tough moving on without him."
They reached the top together in 2001 when Ruiz outpointed Evander Holyfield in a rematch to become the first Hispanic to hold a piece of the heavyweight title.
But in recent years, Stone's emotion often got the better of him. He incited a fight with trainer Alton Merkerson at the weigh-in for Ruiz's fight with Roy Jones in 2003. In 2004, his verbal assault on a referee led to his ejection from Ruiz's corner during a title defense against Andrew Golota.
Stone, a Vietnam veteran, was named co-manager of the year in 2002 by the Boxing Writers Association of America.
Cotto returns: Junior welterweight titlist Miguel Cotto will return March 4 in Puerto Rico, either on HBO or, in the unlikely event that they can't make a deal, as the headliner on a Top Rank pay-per-view card.
According to Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, Cotto will probably face former lightweight titlist Raul Balbi, although HBO has not approved him yet.
Another name Arum raised as a potential opponent is Andreas Kotelnik, who lost a close decision to highly regarded contender Junior Witter in July but rebounded to outpoint 2000 Olympic gold medalist Mohamad Abdulaev on Nov. 26. Cotto scored a ninth-round TKO of Abdulaev in June.
Arum also said that Cotto's perforated ear drum -- which led to balance problems in recent fights -- is fully healed.
Big British bouts: Frank Warren, the most powerful promoter in the United Kingdom, has put together two matches British fight fans have looked forward to:
• Heavyweights Danny Williams (34-4, 28 KOs) and Matt Skelton (18-0, 17 KOs) will square off on Feb. 25 in London, and the winner will earn the right to be called Britain's best big man.
Williams banished Audley Harrison from contendership Dec. 10, knocking the 2000 Olympic gold medalist down and winning a split decision to claim the Commonwealth title in a dreadful fight.
Skelton fought on the undercard and knocked out John McDermott in the first round to retain the British title.
Williams and Skelton were supposed to meet in June but Williams backed out the day before the bout, citing illness.
"Me and Danny have got unfinished business to settle, so he had better turn up this time," Skelton said.
Williams has faced much better competition that Skelton, including knocking out Mike Tyson and challenging then-champion Vitali Klitschko last year. But Williams said that despite the gap in experience, he respects Skelton far more than he did Harrison.
"Unlike Audley Harrison, who is a complete joke, I look at Skelton as a warrior and I know he will come to have a fight," Williams said. "For the last five years Harrison was like an irritating boil on my bum and it's a great relief to me that I finally popped it. I've proved to everyone that Harrison was a fraud and all-hype, and now that episode is over with I want to move on and beat Skelton to claim back my Number One spot in Britain before fighting for a world title again."
• Cruiserweight titlist Johnny Nelson will face up-and-comer Enzo Maccarinelli on March 4 in Manchester. The fight will be on the card headlined by the Jeff Lacy-Joe Calzaghe super middleweight unification bout, and although both will air live on ITV in England, only Lacy-Calzaghe will be part of Showtime's coverage in the United States.
Nelson (45-12-2, 29 KOs) and Maccarinelli (22-1, 17 KOs) fought on the same card last month in Italy. Nelson made his 14th title defense with a decision against Vincenzo Cantatore and Maccarinelli knocked out journeyman Marco Heinichen in the first round.
"Enzo's one of the most exciting prospects in the division but I'm afraid it will end in tears for him on the night," said Nelson, 38, who has held his version of the title for almost seven years. "He must realize that in my time I have mixed and dealt with a better, harder and more experienced class of opponent than he has ever faced. On the night of our fight it will be two weeks shy of my 20th anniversary of fighting professional and in that time I have had 59 fights, won 45, boxed all over the globe in my opponents' back yards, held the British, European and world titles and mixed it up with the heavyweights. How can Enzo's résumé compare to that?
"It will be man vs. boy, master vs. student, Mr. Miyagi vs. the Karate Kid, Obi-Wan Kenobi vs. Luke Skywalker."
Said Maccarinelli, a power-punching 25-year-old, "I've been ready to fight Nelson for the last two years and I know that I can knock him clean out. He has always backed off from fighting me and has come up with excuses that I'm not experienced enough and that he would knock me out, but we will find out on the night. Johnny's been a good champion for the last six years and he's a nice fella, but this is business and I'm going to knock him into retirement."
What's in a name? Before cruiserweight champ Jean-Marc Mormeck (31-2, 21 KOs) of France faced Wayne "Big Truck" Braithwaite in their April unification fight, Mormeck was asked why he didn't have an intimidating nickname like so many other fighters do. It wasn't the first time he had been asked that.
Now, as Mormeck heads into his Jan. 7 (Showtime) fight for the undisputed title against fellow champ O'Neil Bell, Mormeck is ready to adopt a nickname.
"Americans have always asked me why I don't have a fighter nickname," Mormeck said. "So, I have decided they will choose for me."
Fans can vote for the moniker that Mormeck will adopt at Showtime's Web site, sho.com/boxing. Pick from these five: "The Marksman," "Mighty," "The Wrecker," "The Black Thunder" and "Hit The Deck." Voting will remain open until Jan. 7, and the winning nickname will be revealed -- including to Mormeck -- as ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. introduces him in the ring.
Garden party: Promoter Don King continues to load up his Jan. 7 card at New York's Theater at Madison Square Garden. The latest addition is a welterweight title eliminator between Mark Suarez (24-2, 21 KOs) and James Webb (18-0, 15 KOs), whom King recently signed. King also promotes Suarez. Undisputed welterweight champ Judah faces mandatory Baldomir in the main event, and the Suarez-Webb winner will become a future mandatory. Also on the card: Mormeck-Bell, junior flyweight titlist Will Grigsby vs. mandatory Ulises Solis and Genaro Garcia vs. Ricardo Vargas in a bantamweight title eliminator.
DeGuardia signings: Promoter Joe DeGuardia has signed a pair of former champions looking for another shot to his Star Boxing stable.
DeGuardia told ESPN.com that he has signed former light heavyweight champ Montell Griffin and former featherweight titlist Derrick "Smoke" Gainer.
DeGuardia said he hoped to have them each fight on separate cards in February.
"Both of them seem to be rejuvenated in terms of their desire," said DeGuardia, who also promotes light heavyweight king Tarver. "I look Montell and Derrick as fighters who have been to the mountaintop and now that they've gotten older they realize that this is their last hurrah. Both of them have tremendous experience and I think both of them could be players in their respective divisions."
Quick hits: With the Hasim Rahman-James Toney heavyweight title fight landing on March 18 and probably going on HBO, Wladimir Klitschko's next bout will be bumped from that date and probably into April. Klitschko is expected to challenge for a heavyweight belt against either Chris Byrd or Lamon Brewster. Either fight would be a rematch for Klitschko -- he easily outpointed Byrd in 2000 but was stopped by Brewster in the fifth round on April 10, 2004.
• Slick strawweight champ Ivan "Iron Boy" Calderon of Puerto Rico will face former titlist Isaac Bustos on Feb. 18. The bout will be part of Top Rank's pay-per-view card from the Aladdin Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Welterweight titlist Antonio Margarito defends against Manuel "Shotgun" Gomez in the main event of the four-bout broadcast.
• With British promoter Warren placing the Williams-Skelton heavyweight fight on Feb. 25 in London, it means he will reschedule Scott Harrison's mandatory featherweight title defense against Joan Guzman. That fight was originally slated for Feb. 25 but will be pushed back, probably into March.
• With undisputed welterweight champ Judah and unified cruiserweight champ Mormeck set to defend their titles Jan. 7 on a Showtime doubleheader, Showtime On Demand will offer subscribers a chance to look back at significant bouts from 2005 involving both champions. From Dec. 21 through Jan. 7, Showtime On Demand will offer Mormeck's title unification victory against Wayne Braithwaite from April; and from Dec. 26-Jan. 7 it will offer Judah's title-winning rematch against Spinks from February.
• King has expressed interest in putting on a boxing exhibition for U.S. troops in Iraq. "I intend to answer the President's call and do all I can to support our troops," King said during a recent interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "Our men and women in uniform around the world are defending our freedom and liberties. They need to know that we appreciate their service and sacrifices to honor their bravery and dedication. I intend to stage exhibition matches in Iraq displaying the skills of many great champions from the boxing world. I want to entertain the troops, raise their morale and let our soldiers know that the American people are 100 percent behind them. It will be an unforgettable, historic event. I'll even stage a true championship match if I am allowed." King said he is discussing the formal arrangements with the White House, USO and the Department of Defense.
• Junior middleweight prospect Vanes Martirosyan (6-0, 3 KOs), a 2004 U.S. Olympian trained by Freddie Roach, managed by Shelly Finkel and promoted by Top Rank, suffered a cut above his right eyebrow while sparring this week. The injury forced him to pull out of a bout scheduled for Friday night.
• Super middleweight contenders Otis Grant and Librado Andrade will meet in an elimination bout, probably April 8 in Montreal, with the winner earning a shot at titlist Markus Beyer. GYM Promotions of Canada won this week's WBC purse bid with an offer of $161,500, topping a $125,000 bid from Andrade promoter Golden Boy Promotions. The fighters will split the bid amount 50-50.
Quotable: "We have taken all precautions to make sure that Jose Luis makes the weight. I have hired on stand-by a rabbi who performs circumcisions, and if he comes in over weight the rabbi will do the appropriate thing." -- Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, joking with the media about what will happen if Jose Luis Castillo again fails to make weight for his Feb. 4 rubber match against lightweight champion Diego Corrales as Castillo did when they met in a rematch on Oct. 8.
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.
Roy Jones and Bernard Hopkins agreed to a March 11 rematch on HBO PPV, representatives of both fighters told ESPN.com.