- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. is one step away from challenging for a middleweight belt, but must first defeat former title challenger Billy Lyell of Youngstown, Ohio, on Saturday night's edition of "Top Rank Live" (Fox Deportes, 10 ET).
Chavez (41-0-1, 30 KOs) will be at home in Culiacan, Mexico, to face Lyell (22-8, 4 KOs). The fight will be Chavez's first fight at home since December 2006, and he is looking forward to being in front of his hometown crowd.
"I remember that night very well," Chavez said of his last bout in Culiacan. "I had a lot of support from the fans and it was a very special night. It was my first main event in a big fight at home and I was very excited. I hope that it will be like it was back in 2006. I know that the fans will support me like they did back then and I want give them a fight they will remember for a long, long time."
Said Lyell, "I know that we are fighting in his hometown and everyone will be rooting for him, but inside the ring it will only be the two of us, and I come to win and will do everything I can to get the victory."
Chavez, who is going into his second fight with trainer Freddie Roach, has not fought since his unanimous decision victory against John Duddy in June. Chavez was supposed to headline a Dec. 4 Top Rank pay-per-view card in Anaheim, Calif., but he came down with the flu and withdrew a week before the fight.
If Chavez defeats Lyell, he will likely face titlist Sebastian Zbik in May in Mexico. Zbik, who had held an interim title, was handed a full title when the WBC stripped Sergio Martinez earlier this month.
"I want to show everyone that I am ready to fight for a world championship and to do that, I need to look great against Billy Lyell, a tough guy who has fought for a world title and was the first man to defeat John Duddy," Chavez said.
Roach and strength coach Alex Ariza have been with Chavez training in Mexico. Although Chavez's work ethic has been questioned by many, even his own team, he said he is working hard with them.
"Freddie and Alex are great. They are making me into a world-class athlete and have learned so much from them," Chavez said. "I know I will be better than when I fought John Duddy and will prove that I am ready to fight for the world championship next."
Mormeck-Rahman title eliminator
Former cruiserweight champion Jean-Marc Mormeck and former heavyweight champ Hasim Rahman have agreed to meet in a title eliminator May 12 in France, Mormeck promoter Joe DeGuardia and Rahman promoter Greg Cohen told ESPN.com.
The winner would become the mandatory challenger for titlist David Haye of England. Haye has a mandatory due against Ruslan Chagaev, but it is unclear if that fight will ever happen because of Chagaev's problems with hepatitis B, which make it unlikely he would be medically cleared to fight in England. He has been cleared to fight in Germany, but Haye would have no reason to go there to fight him.
So Mormeck (36-4, 22 KOs) and Rahman (49-7-2, 40 KOs) would meet for the shot to become the next mandatory.
"We've done the contracts. Rahman is not leaving it up to the judges," Cohen said. "Rahman is very motivated and excited. He's not getting a lot of money for this fight. He's doing it for the opportunity. This is it. Either win and go on and fight for a title, or retire."
Rahman, 38, who reigned as heavyweight champ for seven months in 2001 after knocking out Lennox Lewis (before being knocked out in the rematch), has won four fights in a row against low-level competition since heavyweight champ Wladimir Klitschko crushed him in seven lopsided rounds in December 2008.
Mormeck (36-4, 22 KOs), 38, retired for two years after Haye knocked him out in the seventh round to take the cruiserweight title in 2007. Mormeck followed Haye up in weight when he came of retirement in December 2009. Mormeck has fought three times at heavyweight, going the eight-round distance with journeyman Vinny Maddalone, getting a highly questionable 10-round decision against Fres Oquendo and winning a split decision against Timur Ibragimov in a struggle.
There has been some speculation in the French and British media that Haye and Mormeck will meet in May, but DeGuardia said there have been no discussions between the camps and that Mormeck intends to face Rahman.
"They called but there haven't been any kinds of conversations about the fight," DeGuardia said. "It's a fight that could potentially happen in the future."
Klitschkos looking ahead?
When heavyweight champions Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko finalized a deal this week for one of them to face top contender Tomasz Adamek in September at a soccer stadium in Adamek's native Poland it was contingent on the Klitschkos and Adamek winning interim fights. If both Klitschkos defend their titles, they will then decide which one of them will face Adamek.
The deal has upset Arena Box promoter Ahmet Öner because he feels like Vitali Klitschko is disrespecting his fighter, Odlanier Solis, 2004 Cuban Olympic gold medalist and the mandatory challenger Vitali will defend against on March 19 in Cologne, Germany.
"This is just another example of the Klitschkos' arrogance," Öner said. "Both Klitschkos have world title fights coming up and it's a long, long time until September. How can they make a deal that assumes that they are still world champions at that time? At best, this is extremely disrespectful and bad style.
"I wonder what [Wladimir's April 30 opponent] Dereck Chisora thinks about his opponent making deals to defend his titles against Adamek when he's the challenger. How do they want to explain to anybody that Wladimir is taking Chisora serious? Why should anybody watch that fight? It's ridiculous. Honestly, I think Adamek will fight Solis in September in Poland -- or at least they will have to negotiate with us about it. Because after Solis' knocks out Vitali and ends his career, we all can imagine what will happen: Little brother Wladimir will try to take revenge for his brother, and then Solis will beat Wladimir as well. So as far as I am concerned Adamek can either fight any of the Klitschkos in September or fight for a world title. But we will certainly not start negotiations with him because we don't count our chickens before they hatch."
•Junior middleweight titlist Sergei Dzinziruk (37-0, 23 KOs), who is moving up to middleweight to challenge champion Sergio Martinez on March 12 (HBO) at Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Mashantucket, Conn., will be trained by Buddy McGirt for the fight, although longtime trainer Alexander Palishuk will remain in the corner as an assistant. "Buddy's going to come in and see what we can add to the picture," Harry Kazandjian, Dzinziruk's manager, told ESPN.com. McGirt, a former welterweight champ who has trained numerous top fighters, has been watching Dzinziruk do strength work and will begin full training camp with him next week in Los Angeles. "Sergei's very good, very technical, but he needs a little more than that to beat Martinez because Martinez is tricky," McGirt said. "I'm not going to change anything, just make some little adjustments."
•Junior welterweight titlist Amir Khan continues to hunt for an April 16 opponent after Lamont Peterson and Paul McCloskey rejected offers in the low six figures for a fight that will generate millions between the British pay-per-view and HBO license fee in the United States. However, Khan still is unwilling to fight Breidis Prescott in a rematch even though Prescott scored a 54-second knockout of Khan (24-1, 17 KOs) in September 2008. But Prescott (23-2, 19 KOs) is continuing his verbal assault to get Khan to look his way again. "Is he really so unconcerned about his legacy and reputation that he'll continue this sad campaign to shame unknown fighters into the ring with him for chump change? Does he read what the boxing world is saying about what he's doing," Prescott said. "I've been saying I'll be reasonable about money from the start. None of the other opponents he's been chasing after will make for a fight half as intriguing and lucrative as our rematch would be." Then Prescott turned his comments directly to Khan: "Amir, you still don't have an opponent. Stop these games and act like a champion. If you're having so much trouble making fights that no one cares about, call me and you'll have an easy time making a fight the entire world wants to see."
•Junior welterweight contender Marcos Maidana (29-2, 27 KOs), who is coming off a decision loss to titleholder Amir Khan on Dec. 11 in Las Vegas in a fight voted 2010 fight of the year by the Boxing Writers Association of America, may return to the ring in his native Argentina in the spring before returning to the United States, Golden Boy promoter Richard Schaefer said. "I think he might do a fight in Argentina and then idea is for him to fight the loser of Saturday's [Devon Alexander-Timothy Bradley Jr. unification] fight. HBO is very excited to have Maidana back. He can be a threat against anyone in the weight class." The Alexander-Bradley winner is likely going to face Khan in July in the United States.
•Golden Boy and German promoter Universum recently came to an agreement for Golden Boy to co-promote its fighters like it previously had done with junior welterweight contender Marcos Maidana. Two of the fighters Golden Boy will be co-promoting -- Denis Boytsov (28-0, 23 KOs), a 24-year-old Russian heavyweight contender, and cruiserweight Rakhim Chakhkiev (8-0, 6 KOs), 27, a 2008 Olympian gold medalist -- are both headed to the United States for their next fights, Schaefer said. Boytsov is in position for a possible fight with titleholder David Haye, but Schaefer said if he does not land that fight, which is unlikely, Boytsov will fight on either Golden Boy's April 9 pay-per-view undercard in Las Vegas or on the undercard of the April 16 fight in the works between welterweight titlist Andre Berto and Victor Ortiz. Schaefer said Chakhkiev will make his American debut March 5 in Anaheim, Calif., on the untelevised portion of the HBO card headlined by the Saul Alvarez-Matthew Hatton junior middleweight fight.
•Golden Boy has also penciled in Brooklyn, N.Y., middleweight Daniel Jacobs (21-1, 18 KOs), the 2009 ESPN.com prospect of the year, for an appearance on the March 5 Alvarez-Hatton undercard, according to matchmaker Eric Gomez. Fighting for a vacant belt, Jacobs suffered his first loss in July, an upset fifth-round knockout to Dmitry Pirog. Jacobs made his return in December to stop Jessie Orta in the fifth round on the Jean Pascal-Bernard Hopkins undercard in Quebec City. The March 5 card could also feature the return of junior middleweight James Kirkland, now that he is out of prison, and heavyweight prospect Seth Mitchell.
•Former junior welterweight titlist Paulie Malignaggi (28-4, 6 KOs), who made the move up to welterweight in for a rare sixth-round knockout of Michael Lozada on the Pascal-Hopkins undercard on Dec. 18, will "most likely" fight on the undercard of the pay-per-view card Golden Boy is planning for April 9 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Gomez told ESPN.com. No opponent yet.
•Although the WBC simply handed interim titlist Sebastian Zbik (30-0, 10 KOs) its middleweight title when it stripped Sergio Martinez, Germany's Zbik is hopeful to land a significant fight. Martinez was stripped because HBO would not accept Zbik as an opponent for his March 12 date. "I've always said that I wanted to fight Martinez," Zbik said. "I've defended the interim title three times and haven't avoided anyone. … Now I'm looking forward to my first defense. I want move forward with the WBC, but I can also visualize a title unification. Two middleweight world champions live around the corner [in Germany] with Felix Sturm and Sebastian Sylvester, but both have avoided fighting me. But with this belt, I now have a good argument on my side. Felix Sturm has always claimed he's the best boxer in the division. So why didn't he box against me instead of no-names like [Giovanni] Lorenzo and [upcoming opponent Ronald] Hearns? These aren't world-class opponents. The reason can't be the distance. He knows the route to Hamburg very well."
•Junior middleweight Austin Trout (21-0, 13 KOs) is headed to Mexico to face Rigoberto Alvarez (26-2, 19 KOs) for a vacant title on Feb. 5, a week after it was originally scheduled to take place in Guanajuato. Now the fight will take place in Guadalajara. Either way, Trout, of Las Cruces, N.M., will be on enemy turf. Trout says he will be ready for Alvarez (26-2, 19 KOs), the older brother of Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, the 2010 ESPN.com prospect of the year and one of the most popular fighters in Mexico. "This is my first world title shot and I'm going to leave everything in the ring come fight night," Trout said. "My training camp has shifted to the high altitude mountains of Ruidoso, N.M., where the elevation approaches 7,000 feet. My timing is on and I'm happy with the way this camp has been going. I just want to get in the ring with Alvarez and show the world that I belong with the elite fighters in my division."
•Tickets for pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao's welterweight title defense against Shane Mosley at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on May 7 (Showtime PPV) go on sale Monday at 1 p.m. ET, promoter Top Rank announced. Tickets are priced at $1,000, $750, $500, $300 and $150 and can be purchased through Ticketmaster or the MGM Grand. Tickets are limited to 10 per person with the tickets in the $150 range limited to two per person.
"I am very happy. I would like to thank the Klitschko's for being very generous with the percentage offer. I am looking forward to this fight. It doesn't make a difference to me which Klitschko I fight. Right now they are both the biggest stars in the boxing world and I want to fight the biggest stars. I'm grateful for the opportunity." -- heavyweight contender Tomasz Adamek, on the creative deal he signed this week under which he will fight either heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko or his title-holding older brother, Vitali Klitschko, in September at a soccer stadium in Poland, depending on what happens in their interim bouts.
18hMike Fish and David Purdum