- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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AROUND THE RING
Brock excited to fight Klitschko
Calvin Brock turned down two previous offers to fight Wladimir Klitschko before agreeing to a Nov. 11 title bout. (Jae C. Hong/AP)
Heavyweight contender Calvin Brock never regretted turning down two offers to fight titlist Wladimir Klitschko. He believed neither deal was right for him. The third one, however, was the charm.
Therefore, Brock, the 2000 U.S. Olympic super heavyweight, will face the 1996 Olympic gold medalist for a heavyweight championship Nov. 11 (HBO) at New York's famed Madison Square Garden.
"I've always said that when I go into a world-title fight, I want to fight the best champion, and after I beat Klitschko, I will be recognized as the most legitimate and best of the world champions," Brock told ESPN.com. "I'm very confident that I am going to win and I feel very blessed. Everyone has been gunning after Klitschko and I am blessed to be the one to get this world title shot. I'm very excited and very happy about everything that is about to take place."
Brock will go into the fight armed with a new three-year contract from promoter Main Events, with whom he has agreed to stay with after spending the past month listening to offers from about 10 other promotional firms.
Klitschko-Brock will formally be announced Sept. 19 in New York, Klitschko adviser Shelly Finkel told ESPN.com.
Finkel had offered Brock the fight early in the summer, but Brock didn't like the terms and opted to fight Timor Ibragimov instead in a June HBO fight. After Brock won, he said Finkel made another offer.
"They came back a second time and it still wasn't right," Brock said.
Finally, when Finkel couldn't finalize a unification fight between Klitschko (46-3, 41 KOs) and Oleg Maskaev, and Shannon Briggs walked away from the fight in order to pursue a shot at the title held by Sergei Liakhovich, he went back to Brock.
This time, the seven-figure deal had been tweaked enough for Brock to bite.
"Brock is a better fight for the public, anyway," Finkel said, referring to Briggs' surprise exit from the picture. "If Wladimir knocks Briggs right out, Briggs was a bum. If Briggs gives him a hard time, they'll say Klitschko's not that good. It was a very hard thing to do, either way. Brock is a fresh face and an undefeated top contender. It's a good fight. There is nothing negative about it."
Klitschko will be making the first defense of the title he won via knockout of Chris Byrd in April in Germany.
Brock said he'd like to be the fighter to break the stranglehold that fighters from the former Soviet Union have on the four major titles.
"It means something to me because the public is itching and demanding to have a U.S. heavyweight champion and I would like to be the one, which will make me a more popular champion," Brock said. "But I don't look at it as added pressure."
Brock (29-0, 22 KOs) certainly will be an underdog against Klitschko, but he is unfazed.
"I think he's very good and everything he has received, he deserves it," Brock said. "But I don't see anything in him I haven't seen before in the amateurs, the pros or in sparring. There's nothing he has that I don't have an answer for. Therefore, I am very confident I will win. But he's a good champion, athletic, good power, good skills. Of all the champions, he's the best."
Brock said he enjoyed being recruited by other promoters -- something he never had a taste of as an unwanted boxer coming out of the 2000 Olympics -- but is happy to be returning to Main Events.
"Main Events is the promoter that got me all the way to the title shot," he said. "They also offered the best terms and the best deal. They're the ones I felt the most comfortable with. I like them, I felt comfortable with them and they got me this far.
"But I enjoyed the experience of talking to all the other promoters to the fullest. It was more of a self-gratification thing. I wanted to see what I was worth. It was what I missed out on when I came out of the Olympics when all of the promoters were running after the other boxers and not me. So it felt great to be the hottest thing in the heavyweight division and have them all calling me."
Main Events, which suffered blows recently with disastrous losses by franchise fighters Fernando Vargas and Arturo Gatti, is happy to keep Brock in the fold.
"It's our belief that he will beat Klitschko and we will have the real heavyweight champion," Main Events' Carl Moretti said. "You want to finish what you started, and we've been with Calvin for a long time. You want to see the cake rise after you have put all the ingredients in."
HBO loss is ESPN gain
Unable to agree with promoter Lou DiBella on the lineup of fights for the Oct. 14 "Boxing After Dark" card, HBO did something very rare on Thursday: It canceled the show and will not have boxing that night.
DiBella offered numerous cards over the past few weeks, but he and the network could never come to an agreement.
The final card offered would have been headlined by super middleweight Peter Manfredo Jr. vs. Joey Spina (19-0-1, 14 KOs) in Providence, R.I., the hometown for both fighters. Manfredo (25-3, 11 KOs) is a popular fighter thanks to his participation on the first season of "The Contender" reality series. He was the runner-up to winner Sergio Mora.
DiBella's proposed tripleheader also included super middleweight Allan Green vs. either Jerson Ravelo or Alejandro Berrio and welterweight prospect Andre Berto vs. Nick Acevado, who was eliminated on this season of "The Contender."
When HBO rejected the card, Contender promoters sold it to ESPN, which will air a late-night special Oct. 14 on ESPN2 featuring Manfredo-Spina and Green-Ravelo, Contender promoter Jeff Wald told ESPN.com.
HBO investigated the possibility of replacing its canceled card with a same-day tape delay of the super middleweight unification fight between Mikkel Kessler and Markus Beyer, which takes place Oct. 14 in Denmark. However, that went nowhere because Kessler is close to an agreement with The Contender group to become his American co-promoter. Wald said it made no sense for his group to compete against itself.
He also confirmed that they are close to signing Kessler.
"We had Mikkel over here with [Danish promoter] Mogens Palle for a week and [Contender partner] Ray [Leonard] is probably going over to Copenhagen for the fight with Beyer. So are we the official co-promoters of Kessler right now? No. But are we in serious discussions and do we expect to work with them? Yes."
It is a move that makes sense for The Contender group because the bulk of its boxers fight in the super middleweight division.
'Rock' wants quick return
In the immediate aftermath of Hasim Rahman's 12th-round TKO loss to Oleg Maskaev in their Aug. 12 title bout, the deposed champion talked about taking the rest of the year off before looking to make another run at the title in 2007.
But with a few weeks to reflect on his upset loss, Rahman (41-6-2, 33 KOs) has decided he wants to come back sooner than later and could wind up headed for Germany before the end of the year to face Sinan Samil Sam (26-3, 15 KOs), a fringe contender with a high ranking in one of the sanctioning organizations.
"Now, 'Rock' tells me that he'd like to get back in the ring as quickly as possible, November or December if possible," co-manager Steve Nelson told ESPN.com. "We've asked our promoter, Top Rank, to see if they can make a fight with Sam. 'Rock' made it very clear to me and to Top Rank that he has no problem going to Germany for the fight. We have no problem with that."
To that end, Top Rank this week began talking to the Sam camp about the fight. Sam has won two in a row since November, when Maskaev outpointed him in a title elimination fight to get the shot at Rahman.
"He very much wants to become a three-time heavyweight champion," Nelson said. "He feels he has the ability. He feels the 'Rock' that fought Maskaev wasn't the best he could be and he wants to redeem himself once again."
Rahman, at first, figured to wait until next year before taking an easy, confidence-building fight but changed his mind.
"He wants to fight some type of contender next and then look to pick it up and keep picking it up until we get another title shot," Nelson said.
It is possible a potential Rahman-Sam fight could be sanctioned as a WBC eliminator given that Rahman dropped to only third in the organization's ratings following his loss to Maskaev; Sam is fourth. Nos. 1 and 2 -- Samuel Peter and James Toney -- just fought an eliminator, clearing the way for Rahman and Sam to fight the next one.
"I think there's one more run for 'Rock' at this point of his career, but he cannot afford another misstep," Nelson said. "He has to do everything correctly. If he does, it he can become a three-time heavyweight champion of the world."
Peter wants Maskaev
Immediately following a split decision victory against James Toney last Saturday, Samuel Peter made it clear who he wants to fight next.
"I want Oleg," Peter said, referring to heavyweight titlist Oleg Maskaev, who won his title Aug. 12 by knocking out Hasim Rahman in the 12th round.
Peter's victory against Toney came in an elimination bout and made Peter (27-1, 22 KOs) the mandatory challenger for Maskaev's title.
Dino Duva, Peter's promoter, is trying to get the ball rolling for the mandatory fight.
"We want Maskaev, now," Duva said this week. "I will be contacting [Maskaev promoter] Dennis Rappaport to begin negotiations immediately. Maskaev was obligated by the WBC to fight Toney in his next bout after defeating Rahman. Now that Samuel beat Toney, we expect Oleg to honor that obligation to Sam.
"Sam is ready to fight Maskaev immediately, and fighting him for the WBC heavyweight title is the only thing on Sam's mind right now. We want to make this fight sometime before the end of the year."
Duva's timetable appears a bit ambitious. Maskaev is nursing various injuries following his fight with Rahman and there are also no dates available on HBO or Showtime for a fight the magnitude of Maskaev-Peter.
Adamek-Briggs II official
It was touch-and-go for a few days, but light heavyweight titlist Tomasz Adamek of Poland and promoter Don King settled their differences this week, which will allow Adamek's much-anticipated mandatory rematch with Paul Briggs of Australia to go on as scheduled Oct. 7 (HBO) at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill.
The bout will serve as the co-feature for the card headlined by heavyweight titlist Nicolay Valuev (44-0, 32 KOs) of Russia, who makes his second title defense against New York's Monte Barrett (31-4, 17 KOs).
However, for a few days it looked as though Adamek's fight would be called off. He was suing King for failing to get him the number of bouts he believed he was entitled to under their contract, and was noticeably absent from last week's news conference in Chicago announcing the card.
But King announced Wednesday that Adamek had dropped the lawsuit and that the rematch with Briggs was on.
On May 21, 2005, Adamek and Briggs waged one of the fights of the year, a bloody, toe-to-toe slugfest on the undercard of the heavyweight title bout between then-titlist Lamon Brewster and Andrew Golota.
Adamek won a majority decision to win a vacant light heavyweight title, but the fight was not televised in the United States.
"My first fight with Briggs was the toughest of my career," Adamek said. "I broke my nose in training but I didn't tell anyone and fought through the pain. Don King has given me the chance to clearly show, once and for all, that I am superior to Briggs."
King needed Adamek (30-0, 20 KOs) on the card because he figures to draw a large contingent of fans from Chicago's large Polish-American population. He had thousands cheering him on the first time he fought Briggs (25-2, 18 KOs).
"I am happy to announce that I lived up to my end of the deal by delivering the rematch that Tomasz Adamek wanted with Paul Briggs and he has kept his part of the bargain by dropping the action against me," King said. "The only dispute left to be settled will be in the ring at Allstate Arena on Oct. 7, and that is good news for boxing fans in Chicago."
King also has added to the undercard Irish heavyweight Kevin McBride (34-4-1, 28 KOs), who ended Mike Tyson's career last year. McBride will face Chicago's Mike Mollo (16-1, 10 KOs). Also on the card is the previously announced lightweight elimination fight between Mat Zegan of Poland and Nate Campbell of Jacksonville, Fla.
Warren tops Golden Boy
British promoter Frank Warren, who promotes featherweight titlist Scott Harrison of Scotland, won a purse bid Tuesday for Harrison's mandatory defense against interim titlist Juan Manuel Marquez.
Warren's winning bid of $748,000 beat the $715,000 bid of Marquez promoter Golden Boy.
The date and venue for the fight have not been announced, but per the order of the WBO, the bout must take place within 90 days. If it happens, it would probably be in Scotland.
"I'm delighted that I have secured my man the home advantage for his world-title defense against Marquez," said Warren, who anticipates a difficult fight.
Marquez, of Mexico, claimed the interim belt Aug. 5 with a seventh-round TKO of Terdsak Jandaeng after Harrison, who has battled alcohol dependency and depression, was granted a medical extension of the deadline to make his mandatory defense.
Whether Harrison will be able to fight remains a question mark. Besides the stint in rehab, Harrison was hit this week with three charges of assault and one fraud charge from incidents this summer, according to media reports in Great Britain.
If Harrison can't go, he will be stripped and Marquez would become full WBO title holder.
Whether Marquez faces Harrison next or someone else, it will be his first fight since signing last week with Golden Boy, who added the former champion to its growing stable of star fighters.
"We are incredibly excited to work with a great fighter like Juan Manuel Marquez," said Golden Boy president Oscar De La Hoya. "He is one of the most dangerous fighters in the world and a serious threat to any fighter from 126 to 130 pounds."
Marquez (45-3-1, 34 KOs) considered other promotional offers, including one from Gary Shaw, who promoted his Aug. 5 fight. Shaw also recently signed Marquez's brother, bantamweight champion Rafael Marquez. Had Juan Manuel Marquez stuck with Shaw, the Harrison bout was being considered to fill Showtime's Nov. 4 card.
The brothers have been promoted by the same company throughout their careers, first Forum Boxing and then Top Rank, but decided to go their separate ways.
Golden Boy executive Richard Schaefer hoped to negotiate a deal for Harrison-Marquez with Warren, or win the purse in order to use the fight as the main event for a possible Oct. 21 HBO PPV card.
The idea of doing a pay-per-view card on that date had been scrapped for a couple of weeks, but Golden Boy reconsidered after signing Marquez, who would headline the card if it happens. Others ticketed for the possible card are junior featherweight titlist Daniel Ponce De Leon in a defense and junior welterweight Juan Lazcano, perhaps against Manuel Garnica, who upset former titlist Carlos Maussa two weeks ago.
• Reason No. 10,876 why the WBC is a joke: Erik Morales is ranked as the No. 1 contender at lightweight, and has been for the past few months. Never mind that Morales has been fighting as a junior lightweight and that his next fight, a Nov. 18 rubber match with Manny Pacquiao, is contracted as a junior lightweight match. Oh, and one more thing: When Morales did test the 135-pound division in September 2005, he lost a lopsided decision to Zahir Raheem. Raheem, meanwhile is all the way down at 14th, despite losing only a close decision to Acelino "Popo" Freitas since beating Morales easily.
• With junior welterweight titlist Miguel Cotto headed up to welterweight for a Dec. 2 Showtime fight, he plans to vacate his 140-pound belt. The move will clear the path for Ricardo Torres -- who pushed Cotto to the brink in a courageous defeat last September -- to face Mike Arnaoutis for the vacant title. They will probably meet Nov. 18 on the Manny Pacquiao-Erik Morales III HBO PPV undercard. Torres' promoter Top Rank and Arnaoutis' promoter Joe DeGuardia have been working on an agreement for a couple of weeks. "Certainly it is a fight we expect to take place soon, and if it turns out to be in November on HBO PPV, that would be great," DeGuardia told ESPN.com. "I think we'll end up coming to an agreement. It's good for both fighters and it's good for the promoter who's guy wins. It makes sense for all of us to make the fight." Neither fighter has gotten much work lately. Arnaoutis (17-0-2, 9 KOs), who suffered a cut in training and withdrew from a July fight with Vivian Harris, has scored three consecutive first-round knockouts since December. Torres (29-1, 27 KOs) scored a second-round knockout in June, his only bout since the seventh-round knockout loss to Cotto.
• As expected, Ricky Hatton has officially vacated the welterweight belt he won from Luis Collazo in May in order to go down in weight to face Juan Urango for the junior welterweight title Hatton vacated when he moved up in weight to challenge Collazo. Urango subsequently won the vacant 140-pound title. The bout will take place in Atlanta either on Dec. 9 or Jan. 13, depending on how HBO's fall schedule shakes out. If middleweight champ Jermain Taylor fights a rematch with Winky Wright on HBO PPV Dec. 2 at Las Vegas' Mandalay Bay, which is being discussed, Hatton would remain on Dec. 9. If Taylor-Wright doesn't come off and Taylor instead faces former junior middleweight titlist Kassim Ouma Dec. 9 in Taylor's hometown of Little Rock, Ark., Hatton would move into January.
• Robert Guerrero, the exciting 23-year-old southpaw from Gilroy, Calif., who claimed a featherweight belt via eighth-round TKO against Eric Aiken on last week's Samuel Peter-James Toney undercard, could be back in short order. Guerrero (19-1-1, 12 KOs) probably will make his initial title defense on the Nov. 4 HBO PPV undercard of the Carlos Baldomir-Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. The probable opponent is mandatory challenger Orlando Salido (27-9-2, 18 KOs), who will be getting his second questionable title shot. He got one in September 2004, when then-champ Juan Manuel Marquez outclassed him to win a lopsided decision. Salido is one of the many ludicrous IBF mandatory challengers, having "earned" this title shot with a fifth-round TKO of fellow journeyman Rogers Mtagwa in March. In addition to Guerrero's defense, the Baldomir-Mayweather televised undercard also could include red-hot rising welterweight contender Paul Williams.
• Women's boxing star Laila Ali, daughter of Muhammad Ali, will appear on the Nov. 11 undercard of the Wladimir Klitschko-Calvin Brock heavyweight championship fight at New York's Madison Square Garden, Klitschko adviser Shelly Finkel told ESPN.com. The bout will not be part of HBO's telecast. Ali (22-0, 19 KOs), a super middleweight, is widely considered the best female fighter in the world. She hasn't fought since December, but only because a summer fight in South Africa was canceled when the promoters had problems raising the money to finance the card.
• Although Showtime announced during its Samuel Peter-James Toney telecast last Saturday that its Nov. 4 card would be headlined by heavyweight titlist Sergei Liakhovich defending his belt against Shannon Briggs, the deal for the fight is not yet complete, according to Liakhovich manager Ivaylo Gotzev. "We're still fine-tuning the contract, but that is not stopping Sergei from training," said Gotzev, who also manages Peter. "We're 95 percent there, but we still have to sign the contract. I'd like it to happen Nov. 4 on Showtime." The issue is, of course, money. King and Liakhovich are a couple of hundred thousand dollars apart. There is also no venue in place yet for the bout, which has potential to be highly entertaining given the styles of the fighters. Possible locations for the bout include Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Phoenix (where Liakhovich resides) and Chicago.
• Golden Boy Promotions announced that it has re-signed junior featherweight titlist Daniel Ponce De Leon of Mexico to a new promotional contract. "Golden Boy Promotions is committed to the success of Daniel Ponce De Leon and we are very pleased that he has decided to remain in the Golden Boy family," company chief Oscar De La Hoya said. De Leon (27-1, 25 KOs), managed by De La Hoya's father, Joel De La Hoya Sr., has made two defenses of his 122-pound title
and is pleased to remain Golden Boy. "I knew that my contract was due to expire and I had no doubts about re-signing," he said.
• While super middleweight mandatory contender Librado Andrade (23-0, 17 KOs) awaits the outcome of the Oct. 14 unification bout between champions Markus Beyer and Mikkel Kessler, he will stay busy against Richard "The Alien" Grant (19-13-1, 5 KOs) on Sept. 15 (Telefutura, 8 p.m. ET) at Chicago's Aragon Ballroom. The winner of Beyer-Kessler is obligated to fight Andrade next, as long as he beats Grant. Also on the card: 2004 Mexican Olympian Abner Mares (8-0, 5 KOs), a blue-chip junior featherweight prospect who lives in Montebello, Calif., against an opponent to be named. It will be Mares' first bout since undergoing an emergency appendectomy the day before a fight in May.
• Former junior featherweight champ Oscar Larios returns Oct. 6 in Tucson, Ariz., to headline a Telefutura-televised card against an opponent to be named, Golden Boy Promotions announced. Larios (56-5-1, 36 KOs) jumped up two weight classes in July and lost a hard-fought decision to junior lightweight star Manny Pacquiao. For his return, Larios will move down to fight as a featherweight.
• Middleweight titlist Arthur Abraham, who was born in Armenia but grew up in Germany, this week relinquished his Armenian citizenship and became a German citizen. "I was born in Armenia, my roots are there. But I grew up in Germany. Here I made something of myself," Abraham said. "Therefore, I owe everything to Germany. I like living here. Germany is my home and that's final." Abraham will be back in action Sept. 23, when he faces mandatory challenge Edison Miranda in a bout that was supposed to be in August but was postponed when Abraham became ill a few days before the fight.
• Junior flyweight titlist Koki Kameda (12-0, 10 KOs), the 19-year-old Japanese mega star, and rival Juan Landaeta (20-4-1, 16 KOs) of Venezuela have set a date for their much anticipated rematch: Oct. 8 in Tokyo. Kameda won the 108-pound title on a highly controversial split decision Aug. 2 in a fight that captivated Japan. Roughly 60 million people -- almost half the population -- watched the fight. "I wasn't satisfied with my performance at all last time," Kameda said. "I will show my real strength and dispatch Landaeta next time."
• Sycuan Ringside Promotions is excited about its recent signing of 22-year-old Native American light heavyweight Shawn Hawk (12-0, 10 KOs) of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. He is the first Native American boxer signed by the Native American-run promotional company. Most of Hawk's fight have come in the Northwest, but he figures to branch out into place such as California and Las Vegas under the direction of Sycuan, which also promotes such notable fighters as welterweight champ Carlos Baldomir, junior featherweight champ Israel Vazquez, junior lightweight titlist Joan Guzman and hot prospect Jorge Paez Jr.
• Junior lightweight champ Marco Antonio Barrera's spit-decision win against Rocky Juarez in May -- a fight initially called a draw before an error was discovered -- was one of the fights of the year. It was so good, and so close, that Barrera and Juarez are doing it again Sept. 16 on HBO PPV. To get you set for the rematch, the HBO2 service will replay their first hard-hitting bout Sept. 9 at 11 p.m. ET/PT. HBO2 will offer several replays and it will also be available on HBO On Demand through Sept. 25.
"On Nov. 18, Manny Pacquiao will have Erik Morales eating his heart out. And by the looks of Erik at the recent press conference, that seems to be the only thing Erik hasn't eaten."
-- Trainer Freddie Roach on Morales, whose girth was noticeable at last month's news conference announcing the rubber match between Roach's fighter, Pacquiao, and Morales
1dMarc Stein and Ramona Shelburne