- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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Promoter Lou DiBella met with HBO brass Thursday to discuss the future of middleweight champion Sergio Martinez, who is coming off that massive second-round knockout of Paul Williams in their rematch two weeks ago. While the plan is for Martinez to return in March or April, his opponent remains up in the air.
There are several possibilities, but DiBella is hoping to entice junior middleweight titlist Miguel Cotto into what would be a high-profile fight. To that end, DiBella and Top Rank promoter Bob Arum had some discussion about the fight this week.
"We had an honest-to-goodness conversation about the fight," DiBella said. "Bob knows we can easily make the fight. He will be meeting with Cotto's people this week and presenting them with various options. Cotto has already proven his mettle time and again, but to do a fight like this, he will get nothing but props from people."
The chances of Martinez-Cotto probably improved this week when Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. dropped out of Saturday's fight with Pawel Wolak. Had Chavez fought and won, there was a good chance that he would have faced Cotto next in April, Arum said.
But Chavez won't go into a big fight against Cotto without at least one more fight under his belt. Trainer Freddie Roach has made that clear, and Arum agreed. That means Chavez won't be Cotto's next opponent.
Martinez is willing to drop down to 155 pounds and put his middleweight championship at stake against Cotto (35-2, 28 KOs), who won a junior middleweight belt in June by stopping Yuri Foreman in the ninth round at Yankee Stadium -- one fight after Manny Pacquiao knocked Cotto out in the 12th round to take his welterweight belt.
"Cotto is an elite fighter, and this is a very good fight for boxing," said Martinez, who is already back in the gym doing some light training after the win over Williams. "It's a big Latino fight. I will fight him at 155. I would love to fight Cotto. I have a lot of respect for him."
Said DiBella: "Cotto wouldn't be risking his 154-pound belt and would be getting a shot at the middleweight title. If Cotto loses, he goes back and defends his title in other big fights, like against Antonio Margarito [in a rematch] or Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. If Cotto beats Martinez, it's a huge accomplishment. If he didn't win, he's still 154-[pound] champion and the Chavez and Margarito bouts are still there for him. It's like the Martinez fight is a free pass. Like he gets two bites at the apple."
DiBella said he and Martinez (46-2-2, 25 KOs) respect Cotto as "a true warrior, so if Martinez has to struggle a little bit to make 155, so be it. It might be a little bit uncomfortable, but he's not that far removed from fighting at junior middleweight. You know it would be a big fight."
Arum said he isn't going to rush into a deal until he sits down with Cotto and his team.
"I told Lou that Cotto is coming this weekend [to Top Rank's pay-per-view card on Saturday in Anaheim, Calif.] and I'm going to talk to him about his future plans," Arum said. "We'll talk about fights, including Martinez, and if that's a fight they want to pursue, I will pursue it."
Arum said he's more interested in matching Cotto with Margarito in a rematch of their 2008 slugfest, which Margarito won on an 11th-round TKO, although the victory is clouded by suspicions that he fought with loaded hand wraps, as he was caught trying to do in his next fight against Shane Mosley.
"I think the Martinez fight would interest us, but I think Miguel can make more money fighting the rematch with Margarito," Arum said. "My opinion is he should wait for Margarito because that's such a big fight and it will be as big as the first fight, and maybe bigger."
Cotto, however, has said repeatedly that he didn't want to fight Margarito again because he believed he cheated in their first fight. Also, a rematch with Margarito likely wouldn't take place until at least June, while Margarito recovers from the beating Pacquiao laid on him Nov. 13, and Cotto has said he is interested in fighting in the spring.
So if Cotto fights in the spring, and there's no Margarito rematch and no Chavez fight, that would seem to leave Martinez as his biggest viable option.
Harrison fights on
British heavyweight Audley Harrison (27-5, 20 KOs), the 2000 Olympic gold medalist, announced this week that he would continue his career despite a horrific performance in a third-round knockout loss to heavyweight titlist David Haye on Nov. 13.
Harrison, who literally did not throw a meaningful punch in the fight, has had part of his purse held by British authorities while his nonperformance is investigated. Nonetheless, the 39-year-old said he will fight on.
"After spending some time away reflecting on the fight and outcome, I have made the decision to continue my journey in boxing and carry on my career as a professional. I didn't get the result I wanted, and the critics have once again tried to bury me under the rubble and hope I disappear. All I can say is I had a game plan and went into the ring to win. The way the fight ended was frustrating to me, as I didn't get going and was just settling into my rhythm," Harrison said in a statement.
He complained in his statement that the stoppage was premature, even though he had been knocked down and was getting hammered with unanswered shots when the fight was stopped.
"I give David credit as I never expected him to hurt me as he did, but anyone could see it was a premature stoppage and I should have been allowed to carry on and ride out the rough patch, even if that meant I would have got KO'd," he said. " Let the haters and negative comments continue -- I don't really care. I know me, and I can sleep at night as I'm happy with who I am."
• A representative for Fernando Vargas contacted ESPN pitching a comeback fight for the former two-time junior middleweight titlist in March on ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights." No opponent was offered, but Vargas would fight the proposed fight at 170 pounds. No word on whether ESPN is interested. Vargas (26-5, 22 KOs) has been in retirement since losing a decision to Ricardo Mayorga in a November 2007 super middleweight fight. Vargas has lost three in a row: the fight to Mayorga and two knockouts in a row to Shane Mosley.
• HBO Latino has been an underused platform for boxing since the demise of the monthly "Boxeo De Oro" series Golden Boy Promoted a few years ago, but HBO's Spanish-language network is back in the fight game Saturday (12:30 a.m. ET/9:30 p.m. PT). It will air rising welterweight star Saul Alvarez's fight against former junior welterweight titlist Lovemore N'Dou from Veracruz, Mexico (on a one-hour delayed basis). Alvarez (34-0-1, 26 KOs), just 20, is coming off a tremendous knockout of former welterweight champ Carlos Baldomir in September. N'Dou (48-11-2, 31 KOs), who has never been stopped in his 17-year professional career, is 2-0-1 in his three fights since a competitive decision loss to Kermit Cintron in November 2008.
• Irish middleweight contender Andy Lee (24-1) faces Daniel Urbanski (19-5-3, 5 KOs) on Dec. 11 in Mannheim, Germany, on the undercard of Wladimir Klitschko's heavyweight title defense against Dereck Chisora. A win could propel Lee into a proposed Feb. 4 rematch with Brian Vera (who handed Lee his only loss) on ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights." However, Lee is also in the running for a shot against middleweight champion Sergio Martinez, who is slated to make his second defense in March. If Lee gets the call, he could forgo the fight with Vera. Lee and Klitschko are both trained by Emanuel Steward, so they are often in training camp together and have sparred with each other. "Wladimir is a great role model for me," Lee said. "I learn so much from him, and I thoroughly enjoy the experience of being in camp with him and Emanuel."
• In September, Scotland's Ricky Burns (29-2, 7 KOs) was knocked down in the first round, got off the floor and went on to outpoint Roman Martinez to win a junior lightweight title in a clear fight of the year candidate. That fight came in Burns' home country, and he returns Saturday night to fight again in front his fans in his first title defense against Colombia-born, Norway-based Andreas Evensen (13-1, 5 KOs). It's been bitter cold and snowy in Scotland lately, and Burns has been doing road work in the snow. He said the brutal weather is not impacting his preparation for the fight. "We're used to a bit of cold up here, but I'm going to turn the heat up on Evensen on Saturday," Burns said. "He's going to find himself in a blizzard of punches, and there is no way he'll be able to dig himself out. My trainer, Billy Nelson, asked me if I wanted the heaters on at the gym the other day. But I told him I'll quite happily work up a head of steam all by myself. I've been running in the snow, real 'Rocky' stuff, but as the old saying goes, no pain, no gain." Evensen is more used to terrible weather living in Norway. "I was born in heat of Colombia, but I have been made into a man in the cold of Norway," he said. "When it's bad here I have to shovel through six feet of snow just to get my car off the [driveway] so I can go to the gym. That certainly gets your muscles working first thing in the morning. When I saw the snow in Scotland it was like an omen, as if the boxing gods were saying 'It's your time now.'"
• Mexico's Juan Carlos Burgos (25-1, 18 KOs) may have lost a unanimous decision -- 117-111 (twice) and 116-111 -- against Hozumi Hasegawa (29-3, 11 KOs) in an action-packed fight for a vacant featherweight belt in Japan last week, but he made no excuses upon his return home. "I told all the reporters in Japan that I had no excuses. I fought a rough Japanese opponent that did the same as me; he gave it his all," Burgos said. "I won't take that away from him. He had a better night, and his hand was raised at the end. But I disagree with a few things that happened during the fight. For one, I got a point deducted on the eighth round for a supposed unintentional head butt. Referee Roberto Ramirez Jr. saw it as a butt but it was a punch, a clean punch, that cut Hasegawa's eye. I watched the fight three times. I can't see the head butt in the eighth round. I knew I had to knock him out to get the win in Japan. I tried my hardest to do it, even after my eye was swollen shut from the ninth round on, but Hasegawa is one tough champion." The Japanese Boxing Commission abides by the WBC rules in which if there is an accidental butt and one fighter is cut, the uncut fighter loses a point. Hasegawa -- a longtime bantamweight titleholder until being stopped by Fernando Montiel in April -- moved up two divisions to face Burgos.
"My weight is not any matter. I am in shape. Look at me. I'm not even breathing hard. I'm comfortable at this weight. I'm not even thinking about weight, only my conditioning." -- heavyweight contender and 2004 Olympic gold medalist Odlanier Solis, who has weighed as much as 271 pounds (but said he expects to be closer to 250), at a media workout in advance of his Dec. 17 fight against Ray Austin in Miami with shot at titleholder Vitali Klitschko at stake
"This ain't amateur boxing; it's professional boxing. You score points in the amateurs with fast hands. Now Solis is in the big leagues. You've got to take it to a new level. I don't see anything about Solis that impresses me. I've seen the guys he has fought, and it looks like they came to lose. It's going to be different for him when he's got a man in front of him that's willing to do anything to win." -- Austin, on his title eliminator against Solis