- Dan Rafael, Boxing
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Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer gave his staff two weeks off for Christmas and New Year's to let everyone recharge after a grueling fall filled with fight cards. But now Schaefer and the crew are back at work and at full speed planning fights for 2011.
Schaefer outlined for ESPN.com some of the major fights they are working on.
HBO has locked in March 5 for welterweight Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, the 2010 ESPN.com prospect of the year, to headline a "Boxing After Dark," which will take place at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. However, Schaefer said he won't face welterweight titlist Vyacheslav Senchenko of Ukraine, who had been on top of the wish list. Schaefer said Golden Boy and Senchenko were far apart on money.
He said two names under discussion are titleholder Jan Zaveck of Slovenia and European champion Matthew Hatton (Ricky's younger brother) of England. Schaefer said he is working on a televised undercard bout that could feature Robert Guerrero against Michael Katsidis.
"But I still need to talk to HBO about the license fees for these fights. These are not cheap fights," he said.
On April 9, Golden Boy is planning a pay-per-view card from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas to be headlined by lightweight champ Juan Manuel Marquez against Mexican countryman Erik Morales. Although Morales is past his prime, Marquez-Morales is the only match that hasn't happened among the star foursome of the era that also included Manny Pacquiao and Marco Antonio Barrera.
"We will see if we can put that fight together," said Schaefer, who is talking to HBO about getting involved in the card. "I know Morales is interested and Juan is interested now that there's no third fight with Pacquiao for him. I think there are a lot of Mexican fans who would love to see these guys fight. They've never fought before and they both bring a lot of excitement to the ring."
One of the matches Schaefer said that could be on the undercard is a junior lightweight bout between Daniel Ponce De Leon, who would move up from featherweight, and Jason Litzau, who is coming off a major upset of Celestino Caballero in November.
Schaefer said Golden Boy matchmaker Eric Gomez had been discussing the fight with Square Ring CEO John Wirt, Litzau's promoter.
"They're interested and so are we," Schaefer said.
Golden Boy will head to England for an HBO card April 16, when junior welterweight titlist Amir Khan returns to action following his epic battle with Marcos Maidana last month. Khan's opponent hasn't been set, but he could face Lamont Peterson, who battled Victor Ortiz to a draw on the Khan-Maidana undercard. Golden Boy owns an option on Peterson's next fight.
"I spoke to Eric and basically, it's just talk right now," Barry Hunter, Peterson's manager and trainer, told ESPN.com. "I'm not comfortable with the deal going to the U.K. There hasn't been any solid talk, but Lamont is interested. I understand Khan is the draw and it's his hometown so, of course, the odds are against us. I don't like the hometown cooking, but if the money is right then you gotta take a stab at that."
A Khan victory would set up a possible July showdown against the winner of the Jan. 29 140-pound unification match between Devon Alexander and Timothy Bradley Jr.
For the Khan undercard, Schaefer said he's looking at a fight for Ortiz or lightweight contender Jorge Linares, a former featherweight and junior lightweight titlist, who could face England's John Murray.
"HBO likes Victor and Linares, so it's something we are discussing," Schaefer said.
Besides the bigger shows, Golden Boy also kicks off the new season of the weekly "Solo Boxeo Tecate" on Friday night (Telefutura, 11:30 ET/PT) with a card in Fairfield, Calif. In the eight-round main event, Sacramento middleweight prospect Brandon Gonzales (13-0, 10 KOs) faces San Diego's Lester Gonzalez (11-1-1, 6 KOs), who is originally from Cuba.
"Fight Night Club," Golden Boy's monthly club show on Fox Sports Net from Club Nokia in downtown Los Angeles, begins Feb. 24. Golden Boy also has its first three dates set for the start of its new deal for monthly cards on Televisa, the dominant Mexican network: Jan. 29, Feb. 19 and March 26. Those cards will take place in Mexico as part of a multiyear deal. Schaefer said he is talking to multiple American networks about simulcasting the Televisa shows in the U.S.
Besides all the cards, Schaefer is also in the process of finalizing a deal that will see Golden Boy get involved as the co-promoter for most of German promoter Universum's fighters.
"We're about to sign a co-promotion deal," he said. "We have agreed on all terms. It's just a matter of getting it papered."
Golden Boy and Universum had previously worked out a deal for Golden Boy to co-promote Maidana. Under the new deal, two of the prime fighters Golden Boy would co-promote are Russians Denis Boytsov (28-0, 23 KOs), a 24-year-old heavyweight contender, and cruiserweight Rakhim Chakhkiev (8-0, 6 KOs), 27, a 2008 Olympian gold medalist and one of the top prospects in boxing.
Mabuza plans to come stateside
Although there has been speculation that South Africa's Kaizer Mabuza (23-6-3, 14 KOs) would decline to face two-time junior welterweight titlist Zab Judah (40-6, 27 KOs) in Newark, N.J., for a vacant belt March 5, Branco Milenkovic, Mabuza's promoter, told ESPN.com that his fighter will accept the fight.
Main Events promoter Kathy Duva, who promotes Judah, said she has cleared the date with the Prudential Center for the pay-per-view telecast and sent Mabuza a contract.
"I know the money is insignificant, but Mabuza will be going," Milenkovic said. "His best performances were outside the country. Mabuza will go. It will be difficult to fight in Judah's backyard, but it's a big opportunity. Fights like this you got to take. Sometimes there is money, sometimes there isn't. But if he beats Judah it puts him on the map for the bigger money fights."
Main Events won a purse bid last month, offering $50,000, meaning Mabuza is due only $25,000. Main Events will make a deal with Judah to pay him much more than his share of the purse bid, because it also will have revenue from the gate and pay-per-view. Milenkovic's bid of $104,000 was disqualified because it was not made in accordance with the IBF's rules, which say purse bids must be made in person or by a courier such as Federal Express, DHL or UPS. He submitted his bid via e-mail, but said it was only because his paper bid got hung up due to the huge snowstorm that hit New York and closed the regional airports for days.
"I could not get my envelope sent, the reason being the planes were not landing in New York," Milenkovic said.
Mabuza scored his two most notable wins outside South Africa: a sixth-round knockout of Kendall Holt in Atlantic City 11 months ago to earn the title shot and a decision against Serhiy Fedchenko in Ukraine in September 2009.
Ramos headlines 'ShoBox'
Los Angeles junior featherweight Rico Ramos (18-0, 10 KOs), one of the top prospects in boxing, meets former title challenger Alejandro Valdez (23-4-3, 17 KOs) of Mexico at Bally's in Atlantic City, N.J., on Feb. 11 in the "ShoBox" main event (Showtime, 11:00 p.m. ET/PT).
Ramos, 23, is coming off a spectacular second-round knockout of former title challenger Heriberto Ruiz on ESPN2 on Nov. 8, although knockouts are not his priority.
"I'm not looking for a knockout. I just want to win every round and look good at the same time," Ramos said. "I will box like I was taught to do and if the knockout comes I guess I make the fans a lot happier. I'm fighting Alejandro Valdez. I know he's very tough and experienced, but I'm sure I will come out with a victory. I'm too hungry for this and I want to be the best at what I do, so training camp will be harder than it has ever been, I'm sure."
Valdez, 27, has lost two title shots: a second-round knockout by then-bantamweight titlist Hozumi Hasegawa in 2008 and an 11th-round knockout loss to Nehomar Cermeño in a 2009 interim title bout. However, Valdez, a southpaw, has a technical draw against bantamweight titlist Fernando Montiel in a 2009 nontitle bout in which Valdez severely cut Montiel. However, the referee ruled it was caused by a head butt rather than a punch, which was clear on taped replays.
"I have seen Ramos fight a few times and he is very talented, but young," Valdez said. "I feel that my southpaw style and edge in experience against quality opponents will be more than he is ready to handle."
In the televised opener, super middleweight prospect Cornelius White (16-0, 15 KOs) of Houston meets Chicago's Donovan George (20-1-1, 17 KOs).
• When former heavyweight title challenger Cristobal Arreola (29-2, 25 KOs) fights Joey Abell (27-4, 26 KOs) in Temecula, Calif., on Jan. 28 (ESPN2), he'll have a new face in his corner: veteran trainer Ronnie Shields. Arreola is training with Shields at his Houston gym. Henry Ramirez, who has trained Arreola since he was an amateur, is with him in Houston and will remain in Arreola's corner as an assistant. "I spoke with [Arreola advisor] Al Haymon a couple of months ago about possibly working with Cris," Shields said. "They called me a few days ago and told me they were sending Cris down to Houston and we had the first workout this past Wednesday. Henry let me go ahead and train Cris the way I thought it should be done on the first day of training. Cris hit the mitts and shadowboxed. Then I discussed with Henry what I had seen. It was the first time I'd seen Cris shadowbox and I told him that there were some things he wasn't doing correctly that he was doing on the pads. Basically, it was that he was lunging with his right hand. And I told him that we need to work on trying to correct it and get rid of the bad habits. We ended up doing about 10 rounds that day." Also new to Arreola's team is conditioning coach Brian Caldwell, who works with many of Shields' fighters. He replaces Darryl Hudson.
• Featherweight titlist Yuriorkis Gamboa is supposed to meet fellow titleholder Chris John in a mandatory fight, but that isn't going to happen as neither side is trying to make the match. So HBO is talking to Top Rank about March 26 for Gamboa's next fight, Top Rank's Carl Moretti told ESPN.com. The promotional company and network are discussing possible opponents.
• The date for Showtime's bantamweight tournament final and consolation bout will be April 23 in Los Angeles, Showtime boxing chief Ken Hershman told ESPN.com. The likely site is the 7,000-seat Nokia Theatre downtown. Joseph Agbeko (28-2, 22 KOs), who reclaimed his old belt by outpointing Yonnhy Perez in the Dec. 11 semifinals, will defend against Abner Mares (21-0-1, 13 KOs) of Los Angeles in the final. Perez (20-1-1, 14 KOs) will fight Vic Darchinyan (35-3-1, 27 KOs), who lost to Mares, in the consolation match.
• Top Rank kicks off the new season of "Top Rank Live" (Fox Deports/Fox Sports Net) on Jan. 22 at the Texas Station Gambling Hall and Casino in Las Vegas. Headlining is Las Vegas junior lightweight prospect Diego Magdaleno (17-0, 5 KOs) against Marcos Leonardo Jimenez (18-2, 12 KOs) of the Dominican Republic. Top Rank also has some of its best prospects on the card, including featherweight Roberto Marroquin (17-0, 13 KOs), who opens the telecast against Leon Bobo (18-7-1, 2 KOs). Also on the undercard is junior welterweight Jose Benavidez (9-0, 9 KOs) and featherweight Jesse Magdaleno (1-0, 1 KO), who recently signed with Top Rank.
• Julio Cesar Chavez, who pulled out a Dec. 4 Top Rank pay-per-view main event claiming the flu, returns to headline "Top Rank Live" (Fox Deportes) on Jan. 29. Chavez (41-0-1, 30 KOs), who is coming off a June decision win against John Duddy, will fight in his hometown of Culiacan, Mexico in a 10-round middleweight bout. He faces former title challenger Billy Lyell (22-8, 4 KOs) of Youngstown, Ohio. Lyell got a middleweight title shot last January and was stopped in the 10th round by Sebastian Sylvester. On the Feb. 4 edition of "Top Rank Live," junior middleweight contender Vanes Martirosyan (28-0, 17 KOs) is penciled in for the main event against an opponent to be determined.
• Junior welterweight titlist Devon Alexander (21-0, 13 KOs) is dedicating his unification fight against Timothy Bradley Jr. (26-0, 11 KOs) on Jan. 29 (HBO) at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Mich., to Henrietta King, the late wife of his promoter, Don King. They were married for more than 50 years before her death in December at age 87. "Don King has promoted me since the beginning of my professional career in 2004," Alexander said. "Mrs. King was with Don for over 50 years. Don has always been there for me, and I want to dedicate my performance on Jan. 29 to Mrs. King for always being there for Don. Mrs. King was a great lady and I was honored to have met her. I will honor her with the best performance of my life at the Silverdome in Pontiac."
• Although HBO will only televise Alexander-Bradley on Jan. 29, co-promoter Gary Shaw has added a scheduled 10-round co-feature pitting junior welterweight prospects Tim Coleman (18-1, 5 KOs) of Baltimore and Vernon Paris (23-0, 14 KOs) of Detroit. Coleman is coming off a spectacular third-round knockout of Patrick Lopez on a "ShoBox" card in October that ranked as one of the top knockouts of the year. Also added to the card is former lightweight titlist Julio Diaz, former junior welterweight titlist Kendall Holt and welterweight prospect James De La Rosa in fight added by King, the co-promoter of the show.
• No date is set yet, but the Andre Ward-Arthur Abraham semifinal match in Showtime's Super Six World Boxing Classic is likely to take place in late May. However, Abraham may take an interim bout in February outside the confines of the tournament, Sauerland Event promoter Chris Meyer told ESPN.com. "This is what is being discussed here [in Germany]," Meyer said. Abraham, a former middleweight titlist, has lost his past two fights in lopsided fashion -- a drubbing by Carl Froch in a decision loss in Group Stage 3 and a disqualification to Andre Dirrell in Group Stage 2.
• When Jürgen Brähmer pulled out of Saturday's light heavyweight unification fight with Beibut Shumenov the ripple effect was felt all the way in Wales, where interim titlist Nathan Cleverly (21-0, 10 KOs) was awaiting a mandatory shot at the winner. He is Brähmer's mandatory already and was hoping to meet the winner in a matter of months. Now he will likely have to wait longer because it is unclear when Brähmer will next fight. "Having the interim title is a great, but I won't be happy until I've beaten Brähmer," Cleverly said. "I've been chasing for a fight with Brähmer for months and I'm getting fed up waiting for him. I hope he doesn't run around the ring this much if we get it on. First we were waiting to hear about his prison sentence and now he's pulled out with a stomach bug. All this is putting me behind my schedule. It looked like it might happen late last year, but instead he went for the unification fight with Shumenov. Mind you, I'd have probably done the same in his shoes because he's got more chance against Shumenov than he has against me."
• The WBA announced that Japan's Daiki Kameda (19-2, 11 KOs) has relinquish his flyweight belt after two defenses because he can no longer make 112 pounds. Kameda, who will move up in weight, survived to retain his belt on a controversial split decision against Romania's Silvio Olteanu on Dec. 26. Kameda, 21, claimed the title in 13 months ago by outpointing Denkaosan Kaowichit in a rematch of a majority decision loss in October 2009. Interim titlist Luis Concepcion is expected to be elevated to the organization's full titlist.
• Heavyweight contender Alexander Povetkin is resting a dinged-up hand for a few weeks after hurting it in a decision win against Nicolai Firtha on Dec. 18, according to Sauerland Event promoter Chris Meyer. Former lightweight titlist David Diaz (35-3-1, 17 KOs) will have the hometown fans on his side when he faces Robert Frankel (27-9-1, 4 KOs) in Chicago on Jan. 28. Diaz, who is from Chicago, has not fought since dropping a unanimous decision to Humberto Soto for a vacant lightweight belt in March on the Manny Pacquiao-Joshua Clottey undercard. Junior welterweight Danny Garcia, lightweight Adrien Broner and welterweight Keith Thurman -- all Golden Boy prospects who used to be managed by Shelly Finkel before he got out of managing last year -- have signed with powerful adviser Al Haymon.
"The fans will finally get to see what I believe is going to be one of the best fights in boxing, the two best 140-pounders going head to head. Tim Bradley is considered No. 1 at 140 and I'm considered No. 2, but anybody that knows me will say that I don't like being second best at anything. Come Jan. 29, the whole world will know I am the best 140-pounder in boxing." -- Devon Alexander, on his upcoming HBO-televised unification fight with Bradley at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Mich.
"Now the time has come to prove who the best junior welterweight in the world is and I hope that Devon is ready for the can of whoop-ass I'll be serving him on Jan. 29." -- Bradley, on the fight with Alexander
After a long vacation, it's back to work for Team Golden Boy.