Healthy and home, Kessler comes back
Former super middleweight titlist Mikkel Kessler is pumped to end a 14-month layoff caused by an eye injury.
"I have really missed the action in the ring," Kessler said. "I am in great shape and I am thrilled to be back."
Kessler (43-2, 32 KOs), who is fighting in a scheduled 10-rounder Saturday in his hometown of Copenhagen, Denmark, faces Mehdi Bouadla (23-3, 11 KOs).
Showtime (9 p.m. ET/PT) will carry same-day taped coverage of Kessler's comeback before its live coverage of the Super Six World Boxing Classic semifinal between super middleweight titlist Carl Froch and Glen Johnson in Atlantic City, N.J.
In his last bout, in April 2010, Kessler regained a 168-pound title via decision against Froch in an all-action fight that was part of the Super Six Classic. In August -- a month before his next tournament bout against Allan Green -- Kessler withdrew from the tournament because of the injury and the title was vacated. Froch won the vacant belt in his next Super Six bout against Arthur Abraham in November.
Kessler's lone defeats came against Andre Ward in the first round of the Super Six and to Joe Calzaghe in a 2007 unification bout. If he handles Bouadla, Kessler could land a Nov. 5 fight against titleholder Lucian Bute, who signed with Showtime late last year. It's a fight the network is pushing hard for.
"I have been working hard with [trainer] Jimmy [Montoya]. He has pushed me through a lot of demanding sparring sessions," Kessler said. "I'm ready for Bouadla. He is a tough guy who will be coming at me from the first bell, but I am well-prepared."
Bouadla said he plans to pull the upset.
"I am here to win," he said. "I know Kessler is a great champion and a great fighter, but he has been out of the ring for too long. His long break will be a problem for him. This is my chance to make my name known around the world. I will make the most of it. "This is my ticket to the big fights. There will be a lot of disappointed Danish fans on Saturday night."
Junior welterweight contenders Lamont Peterson (28-1-1, 14 KOs) and Victor Cayo (26-1, 18 KOs) will meet in a title eliminator July 23 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Golden Boy's Richard Schaefer told ESPN.com. The fight is on the undercard of the Amir Khan-Zab Judah junior welterweight unification bout, although it is not scheduled to be part of the HBO broadcast. Schaefer, however, said he was talking to HBO about potentially adding it to the telecast.
Cayo and Peterson were originally supposed to meet April 29 on ESPN2, but Cayo postponed it because of a shoulder injury.
Peterson was a promotional free agent and Golden Boy worked out a deal with his manager and trainer, Barry Hunter, Schaefer said. The company did the same thing with Sampson Lewkowicz and Leon Margules, Cayo's promoters. Schaefer said Golden Boy has options on both fighters, win or lose.
Schaefer said it made sense to showcase the fight on the Khan-Judah undercard because the winner will be a mandatory challenger for the main event winner. Golden Boy and Main Events are co-promoting the card, so they will each control undercard slots. One bout they are discussing would match fighters from their stables: rising middleweight contender Peter "Kid Chocolate" Quillin (24-0, 18 KOs), who is with Golden Boy, against Main Events-promoted Tarvis Simms (27-1-1, 11 KOs).
If Quillin were to win the proposed bout, he would be a potential fall opponent for middleweight champ Sergio Martinez. Golden Boy likes the idea of matching Quillin with Simms to give him experience against a southpaw, which Martinez also is.
Spinks making comeback
Former two-time junior middleweight titlist Cory Spinks (37-6, 11 KOs), also the former undisputed welterweight champion, lost his 154-pound belt by a one-sided fifth-round knockout to Cornelius "K9" Bundrage in August, and it looked like his career was over.
But Spinks, 33, is making a comeback against Shakir Ashanti (16-10, 4 KOs) in a 10-rounder June 25 on promoter Don King's card at the Family Arena in St. Charles, Mo., just outside St. Louis, the hometown of Spinks and former junior welterweight titlist Devon Alexander, who headlines on HBO against Lucas Matthysse.
Bundrage, coincidentally, has been out of action for as long as Spinks and makes his first defense in another undercard bout in a mandatory rematch with Sechew Powell.
"Cory has been training down here near Don King's Deerfield Beach [Fla.] headquarters," King spokesman Alan Hopper told ESPN.com. "I saw him about a week ago and he looked great. He's living down here now. He said he's enjoying it down here and that he's hungry to get back in the ring."
Another fighter added to the card in a four-rounder is hard-hitting junior middleweight prospect Omar Henry (10-0, 8 KOs), 24, who has not fought since June 2010. He recently parted ways with Top Rank and told ESPN.com that he signed with King about three weeks ago.
The HBO broadcast includes Alexander-Matthysse, light heavyweight titlist Tavoris Cloud in a mandatory defense against Yusaf Mack and a heavyweight bout between Bermane Stiverne and Ray Austin.
DiBella signing binge
Promoter Lou DiBella went on a Memorial Day weekend signing binge, inking six fighters.
DiBella began by signing junior welterweight Ajose Olusegun (29-0, 14 KOs), 31, a native of Nigeria who has fought mostly in the United Kingdom since turning pro in 2001. Now based in New York, Olusegun is slated to face Ali Chebah (35-1, 28 KOs) of France in a title eliminator before the end of the year.
"If you haven't seen Ajose Olusegun fight yet, fire up YouTube and prepare to be entertained," DiBella said. "He has one of the most crowd-pleasing styles in boxing and fights in a division filled with big names. Ajose will prove that he belongs in with those big names."
DiBella also signed Detroit middleweight J'Leon Love (6-0, 5 KOs), 23; New York junior middleweight Delen Parsley Jr. (5-0, 2 KOs), 23; and 20-year-old featherweight Luis Rosa (6-0, 5 KOs) of Hartford, Conn.
"All three fighters have already fought on [DiBella Entertainment] shows and, without a doubt, there is world title potential in each one of them," DiBella said. "These aren't some young kids with inflated records who haven't fought live opposition."
DiBella entered into a co-promotional agreement with South African promoter Rodney Berman on South African super middleweights Thomas Oosthuizen (14-0-1, 11 KOs), 22, and Issac Chilemba (17-1-1, 8 KOs), 24, who fought to a 12-round draw against each other in November 2010.
• Lightweight contender Robert Guerrero (29-1-1, 18 KOs) is slated to headline HBO's "Boxing After Dark" on Aug. 6, so Golden Boy and the network are discussing potential opponents. At the top of the list is Marcos Maidana (30-2, 27 KOs), the hard-punching interim junior welterweight titlist who pushed Amir Khan to the brink in December. "We're working on it. There's a good possibility of a Maidana fight," Golden Boy matchmaker Eric Gomez told ESPN.com. "I love the fight and I'm working hard trying to get it done. Robert wants to fight the best fights out there, the biggest names. We're in negotiations." Guerrero, who would move up in weight, is coming off a dominant decision win against Michael Katsidis on April 9. Maidana rebounded from the loss to Khan to take a majority decision against Erik Morales in an all-action slugfest that headlined that April 9 HBO PPV card.
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• Middleweight champ Sergio Martinez's next fight is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 1 on HBO, promoter Lou DiBella told ESPN.com. It could also move to Oct. 8, he said. Martinez (47-2-2, 26 KOs) does not yet have an opponent, but he could face Sebastian Zbik if Zbik defeats Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in the HBO main event Saturday night, DiBella said. As for a televised undercard bout on Martinez's next card, DiBella said he is hoping to make a rematch between middleweight Andy Lee (26-1, 19 KOs) and Brian Vera (18-5, 11 KOs). Lee, who stopped Craig McEwan in the 10th round of a barnburner on Martinez's March 12 undercard, suffered his only loss via seventh-round knockout to Vera in a 2008 upset. Vera has pulled off multiple upsets, including taking a decision against former junior middleweight titlist Sergio Mora in February. "It would mean a lot to me to avenge my only loss and show the fans who really is the better fighter between us," Lee said. "I would like my chance to get my revenge and redemption. Let's get the fight on now."
• When heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko and titleholder David Haye came to New York to meet the media several weeks ago in advance of their much-anticipated showdown July 2 in Hamburg, Germany, they spent part of a day filming "Face-Off with Max Kellerman" for HBO. The intense 13-minute, face-to-face confrontation between the fighters, with Kellerman sitting between them and moderating, premiers June 16 (HBO, 9:45 p.m. ET/PT). There will be multiple replays on HBO and HBO2 during the two weeks leading up to the bout.
• ESPN aired a 3-D boxing telecast in the United States in February and has added five more 3-D fight cards to the schedule. The "Friday Night Fights" cards on June 24, July 1, July 8, July 22 and Aug. 12 will air as usual on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes, but will also be offered on ESPN 3D. Viewers need access to ESPN 3D, an exclusive 3-D network that debuted last year and is available in approximately 62.5 million households. It has televised events such as college football and basketball, the State Farm Home Run Derby, the Masters, the Harlem Globetrotters and NBA games.
• Blue-chip prospect Fernando Guerrero (21-0, 16 KOs), who had been climbing the middleweight ranks, will drop down to junior middleweight for his next fight against former "Contender" reality series winner Grady Brewer (27-12, 15 KOs). They'll meet June 17 in a scheduled 10-rounder on ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights" at the University of Texas' Frank Erwin Center in Austin. Guerrero is following in the footsteps of stablemate Shawn Porter, a top prospect who recently dropped from junior middleweight to welterweight. In the co-feature, welterweight prospect Karim Mayfield (13-0-1, 8 KOs) will face Steve Forbes (35-9, 11 KOs), who lost a split decision to Brewer in the 2006 "Contender" final. Guerrero was originally lined up to face David Medina, but he dropped out a couple of weeks ago because of an eye injury.
• The Manny Pacquiao-Shane Mosley dud that took place May 7 in Las Vegas was preceded by Showtime's weekly four-episode reality series "Fight Camp 360°: Pacquiao vs. Mosley," which followed both fighters through their training camps. Showtime has produced a fifth episode, a 15-minute epilogue to the fight, which premieres Saturday night (8:45 ET/PT) before the Carl Froch-Glen Johnson Super Six telecast begins at 9 ET/PT. Viewers will get a behind-the-scenes look at Pacquiao and Mosley just before the fight, the reactions of their trainers and family during the fight, as well as the aftermath of the bout. In the brief clip Showtime made available to the media, Mosley was shown sitting on the stool in his corner between the 10th and 11th rounds telling trainer Naazim Richardson he wanted him to stop the fight. Richardson talked him out of it, and the bout -- which Mosley lost by a lopsided decision -- continued.
• Epix made it official this week that it will air live Felix Sturm's middleweight title defense against Matthew Macklin on June 25 from Cologne, Germany, on the network as well as on EpixHD.com. The network's third boxing broadcast since getting involved in the sport with Vitali Klitschko's heavyweight title defense against Odlanier Solis in March will also be simulcast on a JumboTron in New York City's Times Square. "The middleweight division is one of boxing's most storied and exciting divisions, and Epix looks forward to exclusively broadcasting the Sturm-Macklin middleweight title fight to the U.S. It should be a very exciting matchup," said Epix president and CEO Mark Greenberg. Sturm (35-2-1, 15 KOs) will be making the 10th title defense of his third reign. Macklin (28-2, 19 KOs) is riding a four-year, 11-bout winning streak.
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• Despite his well-chronicled legal issues and drug problems, former three-division champion Johnny Tapia (58-5-2, 30 KO), 44, is still fighting. He steps back into the ring Saturday night (GoFightLive.TV, 9 ET, $9.99) in his hometown of Albuquerque, N.M., to face long-faded former junior flyweight titlist Mauricio Pastrana (35-15-2, 23 KOs), 38, in a scheduled 10-round lightweight bout. Pastrana, who has lost five fights in a row and eight of his past nine, is a late replacement for Frankie Archuleta, who had a medical issue. Tapia and Archuleta were supposed to meet in a rubber match of their hometown rivalry.
• Former unified junior featherweight titlist Celestino Caballero, 34, of Panama says he will retire if he does not defeat featherweight titlist Jonathan Barros when they meet June 18 in Barros' native Argentina. "If I lose against Barros, I will retire from boxing," Caballero told Critica, a newspaper in Panama. "It is a decision that has been taken after talking to my wife. She supports me on this. I don't want to be a steppingstone for no one. I don't want to put my family through this suffering." Caballero (34-3, 23 KOs), who is coming off a big upset decision loss to Jason Litzau in a November junior lightweight bout, said if he wins, he would like to face either Orlando Salido or Jhonny Gonzalez in a unification bout. Caballero added that he would also give a title shot to Juan Manuel Lopez, who recently lost his featherweight title to Salido. When Caballero and Lopez held titles at junior featherweight, there was a lot of discussion about them fighting. Caballero called him out repeatedly, but Lopez did not accept his challenge before moving up in weight. "This is a fight we both wanted for a long time," Caballero said. "I have always been willing to fight him, even in Puerto Rico."
• Almost six years after Leavander Johnson died from injuries suffered in the ring, a statue in his honor will be unveiled at 11 a.m. Saturday at Center City Park in his hometown of Atlantic City, N.J. Expected to attend the public ceremony are Bill Johnson (Leavander's father and trainer), Craig Johnson (the fighter's brother and manager), Floyd Williams (CEO of the Leavander Johnson Foundation), Atlantic City mayor Lorenzo Langford, councilman Marty Small and sculptor Brian Hanlon. Johnson (34-5-2, 26 KOs) was born and raised in Atlantic City and began boxing as a child in the city's Police Athletic League. In his fourth attempt at a world title, Johnson claimed a lightweight belt in June 2005 with a seventh-round knockout of Stefano Zoff in Italy. Three months later, Johnson made his first defense against Jesus Chavez in Las Vegas on an HBO PPV undercard. Johnson was stopped in the 11th round and died five days later as a result of the brain injury he suffered in the bout. He was 35.
• Junior middleweight contender Pawel Wolak (29-1, 19 KOs), who scored a career-best win in an upset sixth-round knockout of former titleholder Yuri Foreman on March 12, will return to face Delvin Rodriguez (25-5-2, 14 KOs) in the main event of ESPN2 "Friday Night Fights" on July 15 in New York. Rodriguez, who has been in numerous exciting "FNF" bouts, is moving up in weight for the fight.
"I believe the expression 'wannabe' speaks to Haye clearly and perfectly." -- Heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, on titlist David Haye, whom he meets July 2 (HBO) in Hamburg, Germany
"This is my dream come true. The Romanian people have followed my career very closely since the very beginning, and to share this joy of defending my title in front of them gives me goosebumps. I always felt their support from afar, but on July 9 they will be right there, in the arena, to encourage me." -- Super middleweight titlist Lucian Bute, who lives in Montreal, on returning to his native Romania to fight for the first time against mandatory challenger Jean-Paul Mendy.
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.
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