- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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LAS VEGAS -- Junior middleweight titlist Ricardo Mayorga always has trash talked his opponents.
He promised to knock out Vernon Forrest and then give Forrest a job cleaning his yard in Nicaragua. He promised to kill Cory Spinks in the ring and send him heaven to be with Spinks' dead mother.
The rhetoric against De La Hoya has been just as vicious in the buildup to their fight Saturday night (HBO PPV, 9 ET) at the MGM Grand. But what is different about Mayorga's verbal abuse this time is that he is also professing deep hatred for De La Hoya, despite having scarcely met him.
When asked why, Mayorga offered some reasons with some classic venom:
"Simply put, I really just don't like him," Mayorga said. "I just don't like him on a personal level. You know, I've always had disdain toward him and especially now that he's going to fight with me. So just to prove that, and I'll repeat what I said before in prior interviews and in the press tour, is I want to stop his heart. I not only want to stop him, I want to stop his heart or detach his retina, one of the two. I really want to do damage to him."
Mayorga was not done, though.
"Just like when you go back to the school yard, there's a kid that you never met once in your life," he said. "You see him, you've never spoken to the kid, but you just don't like him. That's the best analogy I can use, I just don't like him. There's really no explanation behind it."
De La Hoya has fought so many big fights and heard so much talk, that he said it doesn't bother him. In fact, De La Hoya said that Mayorga's vitriol has motivated him more for the fight.
"Well it's not that I don't like him, or I hate him," De La Hoya said. "I don't even know the guy. It's just ever since he started disrespecting me, disrespecting my wife, disrespecting my family, he insulted my heritage -- when opponents talk like that, you have to defend yourself. And the way I'm going to defend myself is in the ring and teach him a lesson. All this anger and hatred toward me started when we started shooting the commercial for the fight. You know he started talking to my face and this and that, and in a press conference he slapped me across the head. You don't do things like that.
"Show some respect here. This guy is pumping me up so much. He has just got under my skin. He hasn't got into my head, but he's got under my skin, and he made me train as hard as I can to really teach him a lesson."
One of the reasons for Mayorga's feelings toward De La Hoya is the fact that De La Hoya twice ravaged Julio Cesar Chavez, Mayorga's boxing idol.
"Chavez was one of my great idols," he said. "When he faced Oscar, that's a perfect example of why I don't like him. Oscar was pretty much in his prime and Chavez was well past his prime and at that point, when I remember seeing him beat Chavez up, I remember saying to myself that I was going to avenge his loss and make him pay for what he did to one of these great idols, his own Mexican idol. And I will make sure that I'm going to detach his retina or stop his heart."
'Danger Zone' notes
De La Hoya on immigration: De La Hoya, whose family came from Mexico to East Los Angeles as illegal immigrants before he was born, has rarely spoken out on hot political issues. However, he talked this week about his feelings on the illegal immigration controversy enveloping the nation.
De La Hoya, who seamlessly moves from Spanish to English in his press conferences, believes that immigrants should at least learn English if they want to live here.
"When immigrants come to this country they come to work," he said. "My family came illegally. They came to work. It's not easy to get a green card. Obviously, you have to work for it. You have to spend time here in this country. You have to respect the flag. You have to speak English. It's part of being in America. I understand that and that's what people should understand. I think this is the land of opportunity. It gave me the opportunity and I really appreciate it."
Hanging on: While De La Hoya, 33, plans to retire before the end of the year -- either after Saturday's fight or following a potential Sept. 16 fight -- he thinks two of his peers have hung around too long.
He said he is saddened to see superstars Roy Jones Jr. and Evander Holyfield still pursuing their boxing careers with severely diminished skills at advanced ages.
"Those guys are making a big, big mistake," De La Hoya said. "Roy Jones is 37, 38. Holyfield is in his 40s. They are making big mistakes. You can obviously see that they do not belong in the ring, especially Roy Jones [having been] knocked out twice [in three consecutive losses]. Evander Holyfield worries me a lot because he is taking unnecessary punishment. It's dangerous and I really feel for him."
Jones and Holyfield could appear together on a pay-per-view card on July 29.
De La Hoya said he thinks at least part of their reason for continuing to fight is financial.
"I really truly feel it has something to do with their financial situation," he said. "They have made a lot of money, but they spend a lot of money also, and when you retire those big purses aren't coming in anymore. And when you are so used to spending so much and you have cars and you have homes and you have 500 roosters (like Jones), how are you going to feed them?
"Evander has what, nine kids? And if you don't have the right people behind you making sure you are investing well, then you have to keep on fighting. I think that has something to do with it."
Cutting down: Anyone who has followed Mayorga's career knows that he loves to smoke and drink beer.
Mayorga said he has been able to cut out the beer drinking while training. Smoking, however, is another story.
"Right now I'm smoking about three to four cigarettes per day as opposed to two or three packs a day when I'm not training," he said.
Guzman-Jauregui: The most interesting undercard fight looks like the junior lightweight match between former featherweight titlist Joan Guzman (24-0, 17 KOs) and former lightweight titlist Javier Jauregui (51-12-2, 35 KOs). It's a match that figures to produce action given their aggressive styles.
But for Guzman, it's a way for him to show that he belongs among the elite stars in his loaded division, which includes Manny Pacquiao, Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales.
"I plan on stealing the show Saturday night and I am going to show everyone what kind of fighter I am -- exciting, strong and a thrill to watch," said Guzman, who is on the show due to a recent co-promotional deal between Sycuan Ringside Promotions and Golden Boy. "I can put on a real show and remind the people they will be seeing me as the main event very soon."
Guzman had been scheduled to fight featherweight titlist Scott Harrison later this month in Great Britain, but the fight was postponed three times and Harrison decided to move up in weight and sign with Golden Boy.
Around the ring
Adamek-Johnson? Light heavyweight titlist Tomasz Adamek (30-0, 21 KOs) of Poland could face former world champ Glen Johnson (44-10-2, 29 KOs) on Aug. 5 in Hollywood, Fla., on Showtime but there are obstacles that must be overcome.
The key issue is litigation between Adamek and promoter Don King. They have been at odds since Adamek won a vacant belt in a sensational brawl against Paul Briggs last May. Adamek, who has fought once since then, has complained that King has breached their contract by not giving him enough fights.
"If Showtime and Warriors commit to do the show and King seeks an injunction, what do we do if he gets it or if he sues Showtime," said Leon Margules, executive director of Warriors Boxing, which promotes Johnson. "Showtime wants to do the fight, Adamek and his representatives want to do the fight and we want to do the fight."
If Johnson signs for the fight and it doesn't come off, he will have forfeited a mandatory shot against Clinton Woods, another 175-pound title holder. A Woods-Johnson mandatory is due within 90 days of May 13, when Woods is scheduled to fight Jason DeLisle in an optional defense.
"The worst thing I could do is commit to the Adamek fight and have someone pull it out from under us," Margules said. "That's the dilemma."
More IBF insanity: The other fight Showtime would like to do to fill its Aug. 5 date is a heavyweight bout between powerful Samuel Peter and speedy southpaw Sultan Ibragimov, a 2000 Olympic silver medalist from Russia.
But, like the proposed Adamek-Johnson bout, there are issues, namely the IBF's unwillingness to sanction it for No. 1, even though Peter and Ibragimov are the two highest ranked contenders in the IBF's usually questionable ratings.
The IBF's top contender is Ray Austin, who according to Margules, turned down an elimination bout against Ibragimov to determine the mandatory challenger for champion Wladimir Klitschko.
No. 2 Calvin Brock is unavailable because he has a fight scheduled next month.
Peter is fourth and Ibragimov, whom Margules promotes, is fifth. According to Margules, the IBF is insisting that No. 6 John Ruiz -- a King fighter -- be involved in the eliminator.
The IBF's ridiculous reasoning is that Ruiz should get the fight first because when Peter fought April 28, six days after Klitschko beat Byrd to win the title, he made himself unavailable for consideration in an eliminator that would take place months later.
"Peter vs. Ibragimov would happen Aug. 5 on Showtime in a minute if the IBF would sanction it," Margules said. "Me and (Peter promoter) Dino Duva can make a deal in a minute."
Ibragimov (19-0, 16 KOs), who impressed many with his seventh-round destruction of Lance "Mount" Whitaker in December, doesn't care who he faces. He just wants a title shot.
"I have always dreamed of becoming the heavyweight champion and now I'm just one win away from my goal," Ibragimov said. "There is no heavyweight in the world that can beat me."
Austin's status as a No. 1 contender is mind-boggling given that his most notable fights are a split-decision win against Owen Beck in September 2005 and a draw against Larry Donald in April 2005.
Meanwhile, on Showtime: While most of the boxing world's attention this week is on Saturday night's Mayorga-De La Hoya fight, Showtime also has a card Saturday night (9 ET/PT) from Worcester, Mass., featuring junior middleweight belt holder Alejandro "Terra" Garcia (25-1, 23 KOs) of Mexico facing Worcester's own Jose Antonio Rivera (37-4-1, 24 KOs), a former welterweight titlist.
Also on the card: exciting junior bantamweight titlist Luis Perez (23-1, 15 KOs) of Nicaragua defends against mandatory Dimitri Kirilov (28-2, 10 KOs) of Russia.
For Rivera, it is a return to the same hometown ring where he lost his welterweight belt on a thrilling split decision to Luis Collazo 13 months ago. Rivera is psyched to get a second opportunity for an important fight in front of his fans.
"Not many people, never mind boxers, get a second chance like this," Rivera said. "Last time I lost a split decision to Collazo. There are no excuses. Collazo came into my hometown and won a split decision, but he didn't fight a 100 percent Jose Rivera. I pride myself on being in top condition so I am stronger in the later rounds, but I didn't have any energy left in that fight.
"I'm glad that [first title fight in Worcester] is over and I'm looking forward to a new chapter in my career. I have big plans in 2006."
Although Rivera is predicting victory, he was respectful of Garcia for agreeing to fight him in Worcester.
"I want to thank 'Terra' Garcia for coming all the way to Worcester to give me a title shot," Rivera said. "I want to thank him for coming here to fight me for his title
because not many champions do that."
Garcia said traveling to enemy turf was no big deal.
"I am not concerned about fighting in Rivera's hometown," Garcia said. "Once the bell rings, I only focus on the opponent, not the surroundings. It will be just me and Rivera in the ring. Rivera may have a big crowd rooting for him, but I still have my fists. They are the great equalizer. Having a big crowd of people on hand to support you is great, but what good is it if you give them nothing to cheer about?"
Calzaghe maps future: Joe Calzaghe doesn't yet have an opponent for his July 8 bout, which will take place in front of a hometown crowd in Cardiff, Wales, but 33-year-old unified super middleweight champ knows which fights he would like beyond that fight.
"Antonio Tarver is my main objective," Calzaghe said of the light heavyweight champion. "I'd also love to fight the winner of Winky Wright and Jermain Taylor. Those would be two massive opportunities out there for me, but obviously, they're all fighting in June so we're looking at the autumn as a possibility."
Both fights are far more realistic now than they have been because Calzaghe is headed to HBO for his summer fight, although promoter Frank Warren and HBO are still discussing potential opponents.
That list-leading contender to get the fight is Librado Andrade. Others mentioned include Peter Manfredo Jr. and light heavyweight contender Briggs of Australia, who lost a close decision to Adamek for a vacant title in a spectacular action fight last May.
One name removed from consideration is Allan Green, who nearly got knocked out by a journeyman in a shaky performance on ESPN2's "Wednesday Night Fights" last week.
Tarver, Taylor and Wright all fight on HBO, which recently outbid Showtime for the rights to Calzaghe's next fight.
Tarver would first have to defeat Bernard Hopkins, who plans to retire, on June 10 to make a fall fight with Calzaghe possible.
"He hasn't fought any great fighters and as far as I'm concerned, he's overrated," Calzaghe said of Tarver. "He's beaten an old man in Roy Jones, who Tarver wouldn't have touched five years ago, struggled against another old man, Glen Johnson, in two fights and as far as I'm concerned, I'll knock him out. I don't really rate Tarver and I think that he's a boring fighter to watch."
Calzaghe, who unified two 168-pound belts with a masterpiece against Jeff Lacy in March, is also interested in the other title holders in his division, Markus Beyer of Germany and Mikkel Kessler of Denmark.
"When Markus Beyer first won the WBC title from Richie Woodhall in 1999, we tried to make a fight with him and it was impossible," Calzaghe said. "It may be easier to make now. Beyer's getting older and probably looking for a big payday, but there's bigger fish out there."
As for Kessler, Calzaghe said, "Mikkel Kessler is a good fighter, he's undefeated and probably a better fighter than Beyer, but does Kessler mean that much outside of Denmark? These are the things that have to be looked at. Obviously, come November, if the fights can't be made with Tarver or one of the top middleweights, then maybe we'll go that route."
Day in court: Former welterweight champ Zab Judah, father and trainer Yoel Judah, and Floyd Mayweather Jr. adviser Leonard Ellerbe, are scheduled to appear before the Nevada Athletic Commission on Monday at a hearing to determine their punishment for their roles in the melee that erupted during the 10th round of Judah's decision loss to Mayweather on April 8.
The commission, which is still holding Judah's $1 million purse, is expected to fine and suspend all three.
After Judah hit Mayweather with a severe low blow and punched him behind the head, Roger Mayweather, Floyd's uncle and trainer, entered the ring to confront him. That led to Yoel Judah and Ellerbe also entering the ring, which ignited a brawl.
Roger Mayweather already has been fined $200,000 and had his license revoked for at least a year.
Outgoing commission executive director Marc Ratner, who will work two club shows next week before heading for his new job with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, said that the Judahs and Ellerbe are expected to appear at the hearing to explain their actions.
New foe for Pereira: Featherweight titlist Valdemir Pereira (24-0, 15 KOs) of Brazil was supposed to make his first defense against former European junior featherweight champ Esham Pickering (29-4, 11 KOs) of England, on next Saturday's Ricky Hatton-Luis Collazo undercard at the TD Banknorth Garden in Boston.
However, Pickering suffered a rib injury in training and will be unable to fight. Pickering's most likely replacement is American Eric Aiken (15-4, 12 KOs), who scored a major upset April 1 when he knocked out former bantamweight champ Tim Austin in the sixth round in Cleveland on the undercard of the Sergei Liakhovich-Lamon Brewster heavyweight title bout.
• Former featherweight champ Juan Manuel Marquez is planning his return after losing a close decision to Chris John in Indonesia in March. Plans are in the works for Marquez, who plans to move up to junior lightweight, to appear in HBO's Aug. 5 televised opener against fellow Mexican Humberto Soto, an interim featherweight titlist who would also move up in class. Soto gained acclaim last summer when he upset Rocky Juarez on HBO. The Aug. 5 card is headlined by the rescheduled Ike Quartey-Vernon Forrest junior middleweight bout.
• If Showtime can't land Adamek-Johnson or Peter-Ibragimov for Aug. 5, the third option for the slot (and the easiest fight to make) is welterweight titlist Antonio Margarito against Joshua Clottey. Margarito is available because Floyd Mayweather Jr. rejected an $8 million offer to fight him. Mayweather instead wants to see if he can put together a fight with De La Hoya, should De La Hoya beat Mayorga on Saturday night.
• Hasim Rahman's mandatory heavyweight title defense against Oleg Maskaev will be announced Wednesday in New York. The fight, which is Aug. 12 in Las Vegas on HBO PPV, has been dubbed "America's Last Line of Defense" given Rahman's status as the only American remaining as a heavyweight champion out of the four title holders. The fight is also a rematch. In their first fight on Nov. 6, 1999, Maskaev (32-5, 25 KOs) rallied to knock Rahman (41-5-2, 34 KOs) out with one huge right hand in the eighth round, a punch that sent Rahman sailing out of the ring, onto the HBO broadcast table and ultimately to the arena floor.
• Bantamweight Jose Navarro (21-2, 11 KOs), a 2000 U.S. Olympian, has reunited with promoter Lou DiBella and will face Vernie Torres (27-6, 15 KOs) of the Philippines May 17 on ESPN2's "Wednesday Night Fights." Navarro's two losses both came in junior bantamweight title fights in Japan, a highly controversial decision loss to Katsushige Kawashima in January 2005 followed by a close decision loss to Masamori Tokuyama on Feb. 27. After the first loss, Navarro split with DiBella, who signed him out of the Olympics. Also on the card will be boxing's most loveable journeyman, the entertaining Emanuel Augustus (32-26-6, 17 KOs), who will face Adrian Mora (15-0-1, 8 KOs) in a junior welterweight bout, and welterweight mega prospect Andre Berto (11-0, 9 KOs), a 2004 Olympian for Haiti.
• Undefeated cruiserweights Felix Cora Jr. (18-0-2, 9 KOs) and Vadim Tokarev (21-0-1, 14 KOs) of Russia will face each other in the May 18 pay-per-view co-feature on the "Tribal Pride" card at the Seminole Hard Rock Live Arena in Hollywood, Florida. The card -- called "Tribal Pride" because it the first co-promotion between Native American promotional companies Warriors Boxing and Sycuan Ringside Promotions -- is headlined by former titlist Julio Diaz (32-3, 24 KOs) facing Ricky Quiles (39-6-3, 8 KOs) for an interim 135-pound title, which is available due to a serious arm injury suffered by belt holder Jesus Chavez. Also on the card: interim junior featherweight titlist Celestino Caballero (24-2, 17 KOs) of Panama returns to U.S. shores for the first time in a year to defend against Nicaragua's Moises Castro (24-6-1, 14 KOs); and former K-1 kickboxer Siala "Mighty Mo" Siliga will make his pro boxing debut in a heavyweight bout.
• Hot middleweight prospect John Duddy (16-0, 14 KOs), who is so popular with Irish fight fans that he sold out the 5,000-seat Madison Square Garden Theater in New York recently despite the fight being a complete mismatch, has signed a promotional deal with Irish Ropes. "We've worked with John on a handshake deal," Irish Ropes president Eddie McLoughlin said. "I'm sure he got better offers from other promoters, but we have built a team of people that he's very comfortable with." Many promoters, including Bob Arum and King, were after Duddy and made substantial offers. Duddy's next fight will on Arum's June 10 pay-per-view card headlined by junior welterweight titlist Miguel Cotto vs. Paulie Malignaggi. Duddy will face Freddy Cuevas (25-8-1, 17 KOs).
• Former junior welterweight champ Kostya Tszyu's mind is clearly not on boxing these days. He is instead concerned with his dancing career. After nine weeks of dancing, Tszyu has advanced to next week's finals of Australia's version of the reality series "Dancing with the Stars." Although he has not announced his boxing plans, Tszyu hasn't fought since being dethroned by Ricky Hatton last summer.
• Featherweight titlist Takashi Koshimoto (39-1-2, 17 KOs) of Japan makes his first defense against 22-year-old Rudy Lopez (18-2, 12 KOs) of Mexico. They'll meet July 30 in Fukuoka, Japan. Koshimoto, a 35-year-old southpaw, claimed a belt with an upset decision victory against Injin Chi in January. Should Koshimoto win, he is expected to face Chi in a rematch later this year.
Quotable: "Mayorga made the biggest mistake of his life by talking the way he has from the beginning of this promotion. He definitely got under my skin but he certainly did not get in my head. He doesn't realize that he's made it worse for himself and on Saturday night, he is going to know what I am talking about."
-- Oscar De La Hoya, on junior middleweight titlist Ricardo Mayorga, who relentlessly trash talked about De La Hoya and his wife, Millie, throughout the promotion
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.