- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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After Timothy Bradley Jr. unified junior welterweight belts by beating Devon Alexander last month, he said he was willing to face titlist Amir Khan next if that was the fight presented to him. England's Khan said, in no uncertain terms, that he wanted to fight Bradley.
"My next goal is to unify the division and beat Bradley," Khan told ESPN.com recently. "I'm happy to fight him in America. … Definitely, in the summertime, he's the guy I want."
The sides have now taken a major step toward that 140-pound summit meeting to crown the no-doubt-about-it No. 1 fighter in the weight class -- as long as Khan (24-1, 17 KOs) takes care of his business in England against Paul McCloskey in an April 16 (HBO) title defense.
Gary Shaw, Bradley's promoter, and Golden Boy's Richard Schaefer, Khan's promoter, met recently at Schaefer's office in Los Angeles and hammered out a basic framework for a deal for the fight to take place July 23 on HBO. (The date was originally going to be July 30, but moved up a week so as not interfere with Khan's plans to observe Ramadan.)
"I had a good meeting with Gary and had conversations with the Khans," Schaefer told ESPN.com. "Amir has a fight ahead of him. We don't want to look ahead. Too often you do and something happens. I don't want to jinx it. But my belief is that based on the conversations I had with Gary and the Khans, we are going to strike a deal."
Schaefer said he was already looking for a venue and that he had Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas on hold as one possibility.
"Mandalay Bay is on hold and interested in the fight, so we will see," Schaefer said.
Schaefer needs to work things out with Khan on at least a one-fight contract extension since his promotional deal is up after the McCloskey fight, but Schaefer said all indications are that he will be able to get that done.
Shaw, meanwhile, was also pleased with his meeting with Schaefer and subsequent discussions with Cameron Dunkin, who co-manages Bradley (27-0, 11 KOs).
"Richard and I came to an agreement," Shaw said. "He said he had to go back to the Khan family and I said I had to go back to Cameron, and that's how we left it. That day I took a plane with [co-promoter] Alex Camponova [of Thompson Boxing] to Vegas to meet with Cameron. He said he would speak to Bradley. Two days later he said they are on board."
It is no secret that Bradley's contract with Shaw is set to expire before July 23 and that there has been friction between Shaw and Dunkin. However, both say they have put that aside to get a deal done for the Khan fight.
"We are in agreement, and I didn't discuss a contract extension," Shaw said. "I said, 'I think I have some great news; this is the deal.' Cameron listened, liked the deal and went back to Bradley. We're done on our side. We need to work out the specifics with HBO, but I know HBO is behind Amir Khan and Timothy Bradley. That I know 1,000 percent."
"We agreed in principle, but nothing is signed yet," Dunkin said of Bradley's deal for the fight with Shaw. "We're willing and Timmy wants to do the fight. Timmy is willing to wait and let Gary do the fight. His contract is over in early June, but he is willing to take this fight. He's not extending anything, but he is not going anywhere and Gary has the chance to talk to him and re-sign him. Right now it's better for Timmy to get along and let's get this fight. It's a fight Timmy wants. It's not about me or Gary. It's about Timmy and Amir Khan. What a great fight.
"We have a rough idea what the money is but we don't know exactly. But now we are moving forward and making the fight. I told Gary to bring us some numbers, but we're doing this fight."
Arum goes after HBO
During Thursday's final news conference promoting the Fernando Montiel-Nonito Donaire bantamweight title fight Saturday night (HBO, 9:45 ET/PT) at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Top Rank's Bob Arum also made remarks about the televised co-feature during which he attacked HBO and welterweight titlist Andre Berto.
Philadelphia welterweight Mike Jones (23-0, 18 KOs) fights Jesus Soto-Karass (24-5-3, 16 KOs) of Mexico in a rematch of Jones' majority decision win in their November barnburner on the Manny Pacquiao-Antonio Margarito HBO PPV undercard.
Arum is irate because HBO is working to finalize an April 16 fight between Berto and junior welterweight Victor Ortiz, who is moving up in weight after fighting to a draw with Lamont Peterson on HBO in December in lackluster performance. For the past few years, HBO has been widely criticized for paying big bucks to Berto for a series of fights against lesser opposition.
With HBO senior vice president Kery Davis sitting only a few feet from Arum on the stage, Arum went off.
"Why is Andre Berto fighting a 140-pound fighter who had a draw with another 140-pound fighter?"Arum asked, his comments clearly directed toward Davis. "There is one thing that I'm sure of -- that these two fighters, these two welterweights [Jones and Karass], if they fought Victor Ortiz they would destroy him. Why is Andre Berto fighting Victor Ortiz and not fighting the winner of this fight? That's a question that we all should be asking. What the hell is going on?"
The relationship between Arum and HBO is already at an all-time low after Arum took the May 7 Pacquiao-Shane Mosley pay-per-view fight from HBO to rival Showtime.
Alvarez, Hatton get shot at belt
Junior middleweight Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, the 2010 ESPN.com prospect of the year, and Matthew Hatton were already scheduled to face each other at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., in the March 5 "Boxing After Dark" main event on HBO.
But the stakes were raised Wednesday when the WBC approved the bout to be for its 154-pound title. Manny Pacquiao won the vacant belt against Antonio Margarito in November, but said he would not defend it and the WBC vacated the title.
The sanctioning organization belts may not carry the cachet they once did with fans because there are so many available, and Alvarez (35-0-1, 26 KOs) and Hatton (41-4-2, 16 KOs) may be dubious fighters to get the shot, but both were ecstatic about the news when they found out during a conference call this week promoting their fight.
After Golden Boy promoter Oscar De La Hoya informed the media that the WBC had not yet made a decision, Richard Schaefer, the CEO of the company, called his staff during the conference call to tell them it had been approved. It was then announced on the teleconference.
"This is a great opportunity and an honor," said Alvarez, of Mexico. "I said that I wanted to fight for a world title in 2011 and now the opportunity has arrived."
England's Hatton, the younger brother of former junior welterweight champ Ricky Hatton, was similarly excited.
"I have been waiting my entire career to fight for a world title, and I can't put into words how excited I am," Hatton said. "I was already really motivated for this fight, and this just adds to it. I am ready to bring the belt back with me to Manchester."
• Golden Boy has loaded its March 5 undercard at the Honda Center in Anaheim with several of its brightest prospects. While Alvarez meets Hatton for a vacant junior middleweight belt in the main event, junior lightweight prospect Adrien Broner facing former junior featherweight titlist Daniel Ponce De Leon in the televised co-feature, the untelevised part of the card is jammed with top young talent. On the card: middleweight James Kirkland in his first fight since being released after 18 months in prison; Seth Mitchell (America's top heavyweight prospect), middleweight Daniel Jacobs (the 2009 ESPN.com prospect of the year in his second fight since an upset loss last summer) and featherweight Gary Russell (a 2008 U.S. Olympian).
• Heavyweight Odlanier Solis, who will challenge titleholder Vitali Klitschko on March 19 (Epix) in Cologne, Germany, is training at high altitude in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Solis, a 2004 Olympic gold medalist and three-time world amateur champion from Cuba, is training at 8,000 feet above sea level to prepare for his first title shot. "On March 19, we will see the best Odlanier Solis since he turned pro in 2007," trainer Pedro Diaz said. "We have perfect conditions here in the mountains. I have been here a couple of times with different athletes. It's a perfect place to get in perfect shape." Solis will be there until the end of the month before heading for Germany.
• Lightweight Jose Pedraza -- a 22-year-old amateur standout and one of the most sought-after Puerto Rican amateurs in years -- is set to make his much-anticipated pro debut Friday night in Ponce, Puerto Rico. Pedraza was a 2008 Olympian and also was a silver medalist at the 2009 world championships. His signing bonus was undisclosed, but it was considerable, which is why it took a partnership of three promoters to sign him: Gary Shaw, Lou DiBella and Universal Promotions' Javier Bustillo, who promotes in Puerto Rico. They say the bonus Pedraza received was the largest for a Puerto Rican since Miguel Cotto signed with Top Rank out of the 2000 Olympics. Three other Puerto Rican prospects will also fight on Friday's card, which also features the return of former welterweight titlist Carlos Quintana: welterweight Thomas Dulorme (8-0, 7 KOs), junior middleweight Jonathan Gonzalez (11-0, 11 KOs) and junior lightweight Jorge Maysonet (1-0, 1 KO). Shaw, DiBella and Bustillo promote Dulorme; Gonzalez and Maysonet are with Shaw and Leon Margules. They are calling their alliance "Team Puerto Rico." "We have the connections and experience to take these kids from this nation so rich in talent and turn them into the next Tito Trinidad and the next Miguel Cotto," Shaw said of their partnership. "Puerto Rico is the hotbed of boxing's future, and our promotional alliance has been formed with the sole intention of taking these talented kids and developing them properly into a new generation of stars."
• Osvaldo Rivera's KO International won the purse bid this week for junior flyweight titlist Luis Lazarte's mandatory rematch with former titleholder Ulises Solis. Rivera won with a bid of $300,000, beating the offer of $226,000 from Top Rank, Solis' promoter. Under the rules, Lazarte, as titleholder, is due 75 percent of the bid ($225,000), while Solis is due the remaining 25 percent ($75,000). The fight likely will take place in Lazarte's native Argentina and must take place by mid-May. Lazarte and Solis, of Mexico, battled to a heavily disputed draw in Argentina on Dec. 18. Although Solis appeared to get the better of Lazarte, it was judged a draw, with two judges having it even and one scoring in favor of Solis. Solis protested and the IBF ordered a rematch due to repeated fouls -- blows behind the head, an attempted bite and low blows -- committed by Lazarte.
• Junior welterweight prospects Ivan Popoca (15-0-1, 10 KOs) and Ruslan Provodnikov (17-1, 11 KOs), who both like to brawl, meet at the Pechanga resort in Temecula, Calif., on April 15 in the headline fight of "Friday Night Fights" (ESPN2). Popoca, 28, a Chicago resident from Mexico, is best known for winning a slugfest against Jose Luis Soto Karass last May on "Top Rank Live." Provodnikov, 27, of Russia, is looking to bounce back from a 12-round decision loss to Mauricio Herrera in an upset on "Friday Night Fights" on Jan. 7.
• Unable to make the super middleweight limit, Edison Miranda dropped out of a scheduled March 19 bout against Quebec's Renan St-Juste (22-2-1, 15 KOs). So Miranda has been replaced by former four-time title challenger Fulgencio Zuniga (24-5-1, 21 KOs) of Colombia, who will face St-Juste on the undercard of super middleweight titlist Lucian Bute (27-0-0, 22 KO), Montreal's biggest boxing star, defending against Northern Ireland's Brian Magee (34-3-1, 24 KOs) at the Bell Centre. That fight will be televised by Showtime. Zuniga is coming off a hard-fought decision loss Dec. 17 to light heavyweight titlist Tavoris Cloud. "I was hungry and motivated to fight Edison Miranda. I still feel the same feelings. Now it will be Zuniga, who feels my power and witness my intelligence in the ring," St-Juste said. "I hope he realizes it is him who will pay for Miranda's backing out." Top Rank is in talks with card promoter InterBox about putting junior middleweight contender Vanes Martirosyan (28-0, 17 KOs) on the card. Originally, Top Rank was working with InterBox to place junior featherweight titlist Steve Molitor's mandatory defense against Takalani Ndlovu on the card, but Ndlovu's promoter won the purse bid and will put the fight in South Africa.
• Minnesota Vikings defensive end Ray Edwards -- who is 6-foot-5, 268 pounds -- said he is serious about starting a pro boxing career if it becomes apparent that the 2011 NFL season will be delayed by a labor impasse, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "Then I'll probably fight the beginning of April. I'll start my own promotional company," the paper quotes Edwards as saying. … The light heavyweight title eliminator between Otis Griffin (23-6-2, 9 KOs) and Yusaf Mack (28-3-2, 17 KOs), already postponed twice, has been rescheduled. It will take place March 4 in Woodland Hills, Calif., on an Art of Boxing Promotions card. The winner gets a mandatory shot against titleholder Tavoris Cloud.
"I'm buying the pay-per-view." -- President Obama, after telling Manny Pacquiao during an Oval Office visit Tuesday that he could not attend his May 7 Showtime PPV fight against Shane Mosley, even though the pound-for-pound king invited him.
"I feel that for me, the most important thing is to show a great fight. Of course I want to win, and that's the most important thing, but it is important for me to show the fans a great fight, a great experience -- give them something that they will want to see more of." – middleweight titlist Dmitry Pirog, on his March 26 defense against Javier Francisco Maciel in Russia.
"This is a dream come true. Ever since I was little I always told my dad, 'You know what? I'm going to fight for a world title. I'm going to be a world champion.' Now that I have this opportunity to fight for a title, I was so excited that the first thing I did was call my dad." -- lightweight contender Brandon Rios, who challenges titleholder Miguel Acosta on Feb. 26 (Showtime) at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.
17hMarc Stein and Ramona Shelburne