- Dan Rafael, Boxing
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AROUND THE RING
High expectations for Vazquez-Marquez
Universal agreement in the boxing world is almost unheard of. But every once in a while there is a an overwhelming feeling about a fight and you can't find any dissenters.
That is the case when it comes to the Israel Vazquez-Rafael Marquez junior featherweight world championship fight March 3 (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET/PT) at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
Quite simply, it is expected to be nothing less than a sensational action fight.
"I think this is going to be the fight of the year," said Gary Shaw, Marquez's promoter. "The over/under on who gets knocked down first is two rounds."
Even the boxers, both of whom are from Mexico City, agree it will be a fight filled with fireworks. In fact, they insist on it.
"This is going to be the fight of the year," said Vazquez, 29, the reigning champion.
Said Marquez (36-3, 32 KOs), the bantamweight champion who is moving up from 118 pounds to 122 to challenge Vazquez: "It's going to be a war. This is going to be a great fight for the city of Los Angeles, the people in Mexico and all over the boxing community. It's a fight that had to happen. I respect Vazquez because of what he has accomplished as a boxer, but once we get in the ring, I have to believe it is going to be an all-out war."
Vazquez (41-3, 31 KOs) knows something about action fights. He has been making them for years. In his last bout, Vazquez rallied to score a 10th-round TKO of Jhonny Gonzalez, another bantamweight titlist who moved up in weight and attempted to wrest the title, in a fight of the year candidate.
"Vazquez is the type of fighter that likes to throw a lot of punches," said Marquez, 31, who is 8-0 with six knockouts in world title bouts. "He is always in attack mode. My style is very similar. That is why I think boxing fans everywhere are so excited about this fight. It is going to be a brawl."
The one thing the fighters disagree on is how the move up in weight will affect Marquez, who usually had a significant size advantage over his bantamweight opponents. That won't be the case against Vazquez.
"He is going to have to deal with fighting me. I am a natural 122-pounder," Vazquez said. "He has never had to do that before. So I think that will be the biggest obstacle or problem facing him. He is going to have to fight a natural 122, and this is the weight I am really comfortable at and have been comfortable at my entire career. That's the biggest obstacle for him to negotiate."
Marquez said he is not worried: "I do not feel any disadvantages moving up to 122. I am strong and a great fighter, so why should I feel that way?"
Taylor, Mora agree to terms
Middleweight champion Jermain Taylor and Sergio Mora, the popular winner of "The Contender" first season, have been talking about fighting each other since June, just a couple of weeks after Taylor's draw with Winky Wright.
Now, they finally have agreed to terms for a fight that obviously should be dubbed "The Champion vs. The Contender."
Depending on the site -- likely Las Vegas or Miami -- Taylor and Mora will meet May 19 or June 2 on HBO, not on pay-per-view as had once been discussed.
"We're just playing with the date and the venue, but the deal is done. It's not signed, but the deal is made," Contender promoter Jeff Wald told ESPN.com. "It's going to be a terrific fight. Sergio wanted the fight, and so did Jermain. I think their styles will make for a great action fight."
Taylor was slated to make his next defense April 21, but promoter Lou DiBella, with HBO's blessing, moved off the date because of issues with site availability and because he didn't want to get in the way of the May 5 Oscar De La Hoya-Floyd Mayweather Jr. HBO PPV freight train.
"We're moving to after De La Hoya-Mayweather," DiBella said. "We'll have more time to promote it, and we won't be swallowed up by the huge fight."
Taylor (26-0-1, 17 KOs) is coming off a lopsided decision against Kassim Ouma in December. Mora (19-0, 4 KOs) hasn't fought since winning a 10-round decision against Eric Regan in August.
Taylor and Mora are familiar with each other. Taylor won 12-3 in the 156-pound division at the 2000 U.S. Olympic trials.
Chavez has knee surgery
Jesus Chavez is recovering from arthroscopic right knee surgery, manager Lou Mesorana told ESPN.com.
Chavez lost his lightweight title via third-round knockout to Julio Diaz on Feb. 3 in Kissimmee, Fla. Chavez's right knee buckled, and he collapsed without throwing a punch. He was unable to continue and was counted out.
Mesorana said Chavez had a torn ACL repaired in Austin, Texas, last week.
"He sounded in very good spirits when I talked to him," Mesorana said. "He's the only fighter I've known who has now had surgery on both shoulders and both knees."
Mesorana said Chavez, 34, intends to continue his career.
"We thought he would be out a whole year recuperating, but everyone is telling me he could be back in the gym doing light work in six weeks. Hopefully, he can fight in the fall."
Chavez had been idle for 16 months before facing Diaz because of serious injuries to his left shoulder and biceps, an appendectomy and the ongoing mental trauma stemming from the death of his last opponent, Leavander Johnson, who died a few days after their Sept. 17, 2005, title bout.
• Lightweight titleholders Acelino "Popo" Freitas and Juan Diaz are poised for a unification fight April 28 (HBO). Freitas promoter Artie Pelullo and Diaz promoter Don King are putting their agreement to paper, Pelullo told ESPN.com. He said Freitas (38-1, 32 KOs) has agreed to terms. Diaz (31-0, 15 KOs) came to terms with King this week, manager Willie Savannah told ESPN.com. "We've made our deal with Don. There are a few small things that need to be done with the contract language, but nothing that is a deal breaker," Savannah said. "There is excitement in seeing Juan getting a fight that he really wants. I think it's a tough fight for Juan, and I certainly don't think 'Popo' is washed up. They will both come with their A-plan. We know it's a dangerous fight." The site is not set, but the favorite to host the bout is the Foxwoods Resort in Connecticut, where Freitas, who is from Brazil, has fought his last three American fights. Freitas had hoped to face division king Joel Casamayor in a rematch, but HBO insisted on Diaz. HBO would approve a fight between the Freitas-Diaz winner and Casamayor next.
• Pat Lynch, manager for former junior welterweight titlist Arturo Gatti, told ESPN.com that Gatti (40-8, 31 KOs) probably will go to work with trainer Pernell Whitaker for his next fight, on July 14. Gatti is searching for a replacement after a falling out with Buddy McGirt. Gatti's opponent for the HBO bout is not set, but it won't be Paulie Malignaggi, who had been mentioned as a possibility. Gatti and Whitaker have known each other for years, going back to the mid-1990s when Whitaker was welterweight champion and a young Gatti was on his way up. Gatti spent a lot of time in Whitaker's training camps -- even sparring with him -- because they were both promoted by Main Events.
• Top Rank officially announced its April 14 Manny Pacquiao-Jorge Solis pay-per-view card at the Alamodome in San Antonio this week. It also made official the undercard: Junior bantamweight titlist Cristian Mijares will face Jorge Arce in a mandatory defense; former titlist Brian Viloria will tangle with Edgar Sosa for a vacant junior flyweight belt; and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. will face an opponent to be selected in a 10-round welterweight fight. The Alamodome will bring back good memories for Pacquiao. Last time he was there, he knocked out Marco Antonio Barrera in 2003. The card is dubbed "Republica Enemy No. 1," a tip of the cap to Pacquiao, who has torn through many top Mexican fighters -- including Barrera, Erik Morales and Oscar Larios -- in recent years. Solis figures to be the next one.
• Viloria began working this week with trainer Joe Goossen in preparation for the fight with Sosa. They'll meet for the 108-pound belt stripped recently from Omar Nino for a positive drug test after his draw with Viloria in November. Viloria had been trained by Freddie Roach but made the switch to Goossen because Roach is unavailable while training Oscar De La Hoya for his May 5 fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr.
• Junior welterweight contenders Mike Arnaoutis (17-1-2, 9 KOs) and Kendall Holt (21-1, 12 KOs) have a date. Their title elimination fight -- with the winner earning a crack at titlist Ricardo Torres -- will take place April 20 at Bally's in Atlantic City, N.J., on a special edition of Showtime's "ShoBox: The New Generation." Both fighters should have plenty of fans on hand. Holt is from New Jersey, and Arnaoutis -- who is originally from Greece -- lives near Atlantic City. Showtime beefed up its normal "ShoBox" budget to afford the fight. Holt and Arnaoutis are "ShoBox" success stories. They were prospects who worked their way up the ladder on the show. Arnaoutis is hoping to rebound from his first defeat, a controversial decision to Torres in a title fight in November.
• Joel "Love Child" Julio, the 2005 ESPN.com prospect of the year, has won two in a row since his upset loss to Carlos Quintana last summer. Now, Julio (29-1, 27 KOs) will try to make it three straight when he faces Thomas Davis (11-3-2, 7 KOs) in a 10-round junior middleweight bout March 30 in Detroit on "Friday Night Fights" (ESPN2). Although Davis has a pedestrian record, he owns a first-round knockout of Holt in 2004.
• Heavyweight Calvin Brock, who was knocked out in his last fight, in November, challenging titlist Wladimir Klitschko, returns on the undercard of the March 17 Evander Holyfield-Vinny Maddalone fight at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, Texas. Brock (29-1, 22 KOs) gets a soft touch in Ralph West (17-10-1, 14 KOs) in the 10-rounder that doesn't figure to last long. West has lost three of his last four, with each loss coming via knockout inside three rounds. Main Events hopes to wrap up a television deal for the card in the next few days.
• Former heavyweight titlist Chris Byrd, idle since being knocked out in the seventh round and losing his belt to Wladimir Klitschko last April, returns April 18 to headline ESPN2's "Wednesday Night Fights." Byrd was interested in moving down to cruiserweight to challenge champion O'Neil Bell, but the fight lost steam when no TV network showed serious interest. So Byrd will stay at heavyweight and fight a 10-rounder against an opponent to be named in Nassau, Bahamas.
• Former junior middleweight titlist Roman Karmazin has been ordered to face Terrance Cauthen, a 1996 U.S. Olympian, in an elimination bout with the winner becoming the mandatory challenger for titlist Cory Spinks. If Karmazin promoter Don King and Cauthen promoter Joe DeGuardia don't make a deal by March 2, a purse bid will be ordered. Karmazin lost his title to Spinks on a close decision in July.
• The May 5 De La Hoya-Mayweather megafight already is sold-out to the tune of a North American record live gate of more than $19 million, but there will be more than 20,000 closed-circuit viewing seats available in Las Vegas. MGM Mirage, parent company of host casino the MGM Grand, will offer $50 closed-circuit seats at its properties throughout Las Vegas: Mandalay Bay, The Mirage, Treasure Island, Luxor, Monte Carlo and Circus Circus.
• Still reeling from Dan Rafael's Quick Hits? Check out his hard-hitting blog that keeps boxing Insiders informed about the latest happenings in boxing.
"Something smells in Oklahoma, and it's not the livestock. DBE fighters won't be returning to Oklahoma anytime soon. There's bad mojo there."
-- Promoter Lou DiBella of DiBella Entertainment, reacting to the controversial decision loss suffered by one of his fighters, junior featherweight prospect Gary Stark Jr., to Mike Oliver on Showtime last week in Miami, Okla.
The Israel Vazquez-Rafael Marquez junior featherweight title fight March 3 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., is expected to be nothing less than sensational, Dan Rafael writes.