Notebook: Expect monsters of the middleweights

Originally Published: January 26, 2007
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com

AROUND THE RING
Green-Miranda is on

Edison Miranda
Friday Night FightsEdison Miranda's rise to prominence included an impressive FNF performance over Howard Eastman on March 24, 2006.

Top Rank promoter Bob Arum finally relented this week by allowing HBO to put a 10-round middleweight clash between Allan Green (23-0, 16 KOs) of Tulsa, Okla., and Colombia's Edison Miranda (27-1, 24 KOs) on his March 3 undercard.

Welterweight titlist Miguel Cotto is headlining in his native Puerto Rico against mandatory challenger Oktay Urkal, but it has blowout written all over it, and HBO wanted to beef up the broadcast by adding the potential slugfest between hot contenders Green and Miranda, neither of whom is promoted by Arum.

HBO was further moved to spice up the show because it is well-aware that rival Showtime is going the same night with a possible fight of the year candidate of its own in junior featherweight champ Israel Vazquez defending against bantamweight champ Rafael Marquez. Set the DVR, because Green-Miranda also has fight of the year promise.

Green promoter Tony Holden and Miranda co-promoter Leon Margules of Seminole Warriors Boxing quickly made a deal this week, but they were initially blocked by Arum from putting the fight on his card.

Arum preferred, understandably, to use one of his own fighters in the slot. He hoped to make a fight for junior lightweight contender Humberto Soto in place of injured welterweight titlist Antonio Margarito, who was originally supposed to fight on the undercard in order to set the table for a June 9 HBO PPV fight against Cotto.

However, Arum and HBO couldn't agree on a Soto opponent. After a couple of days of heated discussion, Arum finally yielded to HBO's pressure.

"I talked to [HBO sports president] Ross Greenburg and I removed any objection," Arum told ESPN.com. "I am allowing them to put that fight on my card."

Said Margules, "I think it shows HBO's commitment to putting on the best fights in the sport and making sure the cards are compelling. We're happy they are showing a commitment to two young fighters everyone is talking about in Allan and Edison. I think Bob did something that is great for the sport, and it will enhance the show. Edison trains and lives in Puerto Rico and he is ecstatic about fighting in his new home."

Arum said he didn't ask HBO for any financial concessions or the promise of a future date, although he said he hopes the network will consider buying a Soto-headlined card later in the year.

Allan Green
Green

"I didn't want anything for it," Arum said. "I just didn't like how it was handled. But Ross and I had a heart to heart. I talked with Ross and we aired our differences on the situation and I decided it was in everybody's best interest to go along with what HBO wanted."

As a gesture of good will, Arum said HBO promised him that it would televise a highlight package of an undercard fight involving blue-chip prospect Juan Manuel Lopez, a 2004 Puerto Rican Olympian with a bright future.

"We didn't ask them for any funds for that fight because Lopez is fighting on the card anyway," Arum said. "We just want the exposure for him and HBO said they would show clips of his fight."

The Green camp is just happy to finally get on HBO and to be in a significant fight.

"We are very grateful to Bob Arum and Top Rank for allowing this fight to happen," said Bobby Dobbs, Holden's matchmaker. "It's a victory for boxing fans."

Margules said Arum could benefit by having the fight on his card because the winner would become a prime possibility to eventually face Kelly Pavlik, Arum's top middleweight contender who fights Saturday night in his HBO debut.

Cunningham gets rematch
Cruiserweight contender Steve Cunningham (19-1, 10 KOs), who lost a disputed split decision to Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (37-1, 27 KOs) when they met for a vacant belt in November in Poland, is getting the rematch he campaigned for.

Steve Cunningham
Cunningham

Cunningham protested the result on several grounds during a hearing two weeks ago. The IBF granted the rematch based on the fact that neither fighter was given a postfight urinalysis, violating an IBF rule mandating a postfight drug screen for boxers involved in title bouts.

"I am very happy with the decision," Cunningham said. "We knew we were wronged in Poland and I am glad that IBF took the time and did their due diligence to see the matter through. I feel I won the first fight and the second time around I will prove it in a more definitive fashion. I have been training since I returned from Poland. I look forward to rematch."

Negotiations are supposed to start immediately, and if the camps can't reach agreement, there will be a purse bid.

HBO ramps up for De La Hoya-Mayweather

The May 5 Oscar De La Hoya-Floyd Mayweather Jr. HBO PPV fight is a huge event, and HBO is treating it that way.

Floyd Mayweather
Mayweather

Oscar De La Hoya
De La Hoya

The network regularly promotes its pay-per-view offerings with the help of half-hour preview shows that air on HBO during the two weeks before the fight. De La Hoya-Mayweather is too big for just one show, so HBO is going to air a four-episode prime-time countdown series previewing the junior middleweight championship fight.

The first three episodes of "De La Hoya/Mayweather 24/7" will premiere on Sundays (April 15, 22 and 29) at 10:30 p.m. ET/PT. The final episode will air May 3 at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT.

HBO is clearly putting all of its muscle behind the fight -- the first three episodes will air following a block of original episodes of "The Sopranos" and "Entourage," two of HBO's most popular shows.

"In 35 years of televising boxing, this is a first for HBO," Greenburg said. "De La Hoya vs. Mayweather will be the most highly anticipated fight of the year and we are going to provide our subscribers with an all-access series that is sure to be provocative and compelling television."

Greenburg said he believed the series would appeal to more than just hardcore boxing fans because of the access producers have been granted.

"The producers will be living at the fighters' camps 24/7," he said. "Our approach will be to produce a totally unique viewing experience as these two world-class athletes prepare for a defining moment in their respective careers. And we appreciate the commitment and cooperation of the fighters and their teams with this ambitious project."

Juarez makes it official

After weeks of discussion, Golden Boy announced that it has signed junior lightweight contender Rocky Juarez (25-3, 18 KOs), who lost a pair of fights in 2006 to Golden Boy cornerstone Marco Antonio Barrera, the division champion.

Rocky Juarez
Juarez

The first fight in May was an all-action brawl that was called a draw before a tabulation error resulted in a Barrera split-decision win. Barrera methodically and easily won a decision in the September rematch.

Juarez's contract with Main Events expired after the second fight and, after weighing offers from a variety of promoters, he and manager Shelly Finkel opted to go with Golden Boy.

"Seeing Rocky Juarez in back to back fights with Barrera showed us not only Rocky's skill and determination in the ring, but his character as well, and he is a perfect fit for our company," said Golden Boy boss De La Hoya. "We're honored to have him on the team and we're looking forward to leading him to a world championship."

Said Juarez: "I'm excited to begin the next phase of my career with Golden Boy Promotions. Oscar knows what it takes to get to that next level in this game, and I'm ready to do what it takes to not only get there, but stay there."

Juarez, 26, will make his first appearance for Golden Boy on Feb. 9, when he headlines a Telefutura card against Emmanuel Lucero at the Diamond Desert Casino in Tucson, Ariz.

QUICK HITS

Mikkel Kessler
Kessler

• American boxing fans anxious to finally see Mikkel Kessler (38-0, 29 KOs) in action will get their wish. The Danish star and unified super middleweight champion was seen on HBO in brief highlights knocking out Markus Beyer in their October unification bout. Now, Kessler will star in his own edition of "Boxing After Dark" (same-day tape) by making his fourth defense against dangerous mandatory challenger Librado Andrade (24-0, 18 KOs) on March 24 in Copenhagen. Although Danish promoter Palm Promotions -- a rival of Kessler promoter Mogens Palle -- won the purse bid in a surprise last week, Andrade promoter Golden Boy cut a deal for the bout to air on its HBO date. The fight appears to signal HBO finally delivering on its promise to improve the quality of matches on "BAD," which has been a critical disaster since the show was revamped last spring. Kessler-Andrade is a return to "BAD" cards of yesteryear -- a potentially action-packed scrap between top fighters hungry for exposure. It also makes sense for HBO because the network is heavily involved in the division, given its relationship with recognized champion Joe Calzaghe and the impending move up in weight by a pair of HBO's franchise middleweights: champion Jermain Taylor and top contender Winky Wright.

Jameel McCline
McCline

• Heavyweight Jameel McCline (38-7-3, 23 KOs) underwent successful left knee surgery Tuesday to repair the damaged tendon he suffered when his knee gave out during his competitive heavyweight title challenge against Nikolai Valuev Saturday in Switzerland. Valuev was awarded a third-round knockout when McCline collapsed after his kneecap popped out of place after throwing a punch. McCline, 36, was unable to continue after the freak injury. He flew back to the U.S. to have his own surgeon, Dr. Steven Stoller, perform the arthroscopic surgery, rather than have it done in Europe. McCline, who has lost in three title opportunities, is expected to resume light running and swimming in about six weeks, but probably won't be able to box for at least six months.

• Main Events, which lost vice president and matchmaker Carl Moretti to friendly rival promoter Lou DiBella this month in a surprise move, has hired Hall of Fame promoter and matchmaker J Russell Peltz as a consultant/matchmaker to help fill the void. "Main Events has worked with Russell since its inception in 1979," CEO Kathy Duva said. "We have tremendous respect for his abilities as a matchmaker and boxing sage, and we are delighted that he is in our corner once again." Peltz, who will continue to run his Philadelphia promotional company and work as a matchmaker for Banner Promotions, said, "I'm excited about working with Main Events again. The have a lot of good, young prospects and they have a lot of irons in the fire that people aren't aware of. I'd like to help them move their fighters and, hopefully, they can help me move mine. This should be a good marriage."

• As impressive as Showtime's top series "Showtime Championship Boxing" has been in recent months with a slew of intriguing, pick 'em fights, the network's prospect series, "ShoBox: The New Generation," also continues to crank out strong matches. The latest comes Feb. 16, when promoter Lou DiBella matches undefeated junior featherweight prospects Gary Stark (18-0, 8 KOs) of New York and southpaw Mike Oliver (17-0, 7 KOs) of Hartford, Conn., in a 12-rounder that represents the most difficult assignment of each man's career. Stark, 26, and Oliver, 27, will square off in Miami, Okla., because DiBella said neither fighter wanted to go to the other guy's turf. Heavyweight prospect Chazz Witherspoon -- a cousin of former heavyweight champ Tim Witherspoon -- will be featured in the eight-round undercard match.

Hasim Rahman
Rahman

• On, off, on, now off. Former two-time heavyweight champ Hasim Rahman's comeback fight against Ray Mercer, scheduled for Feb. 22 on Versus, is off. Rahman is not injured, but he withdrew from the fight for what manager Steve Nelson termed "family issues." Top Rank is trying to make a new main event, although heavyweight Joe Mesi is still supposed to box on the card.

• Can't get enough Quick Hits? Check out Dan Rafael's Short Hooks Insider blog for more of what's happening in boxing.

QUOTABLE
"If you want to watch two guys knock the heck out of each other this is your kind of fight -- great fighters in a great fight."
-- Junior welterweight champion Ricky Hatton, speaking about his impending June showdown with Jose Luis Castillo, after they both won bouts on the same card on Jan. 20 to set up their super fight.