- Dan Rafael, Boxing
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From the minute they sat down maybe five feet from each other at the dais, lightweight titleholder Brandon Rios and challenger Urbano Antillon were already seething at each other, seemingly ready to fight right there.
And this was only the kickoff news conference on Tuesday in Los Angeles, still weeks away from their showdown on July 9 (Showtime) at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
They spent more time jawing at each other, with plenty of curse words and insults, than talking to the assembled media.
By the time the news conference was over and Antillon was leaving, the emotional Rios was shouting at him, "Get out of my life and get out of this hotel!"
Antillon (28-2, 20 KOs) had gotten a bit personal with Rios (27-0-1, 19 KOs) during the contentious and emotionally charged news conference, and Rios didn't like it at all.
"I'm a clown and I joke around a lot, but this guy really gets under my skin and it's not going to affect me in the ring," Rios said. "If anything, it's going to help me. He's opening his big [expletive] mouth and talking about my wife. You don't mention my family. I didn't talk about his family. He made it personal. He named my wife and brought my family into it. And now he's going to pay."
Promoter Bob Arum was bemused by the whole spectacle.
"They're wacky kids," Arum said. "I had to calm them down, not that I was very successful. I didn't even know there was any animosity between them. Apparently, this has been going on for a while. These guys talk their own language. They're so much younger than me, I don't even know what the hell they're talking about."
One thing Arum did know, however, is that it's best to save the fight for the ring.
"These guys are crazy," he said. "They really wanted to go at each other. They have a dislike for each other. We wanted to pose them for a picture and I had to remind them, 'If you get into a fight, you don't get paid. You don't get paid for a fight at the press conference. You get paid when you fight in the ring on July 9.' They said the most awful things to each other, but Rios is the one who started it."
Even before the fireworks at the news conference, Rios-Antillon already had the look of an explosive fight between two straight-ahead brawlers. On paper, many view it as a fight of the year candidate.
The Southern California rivals -- Rios is from Oxnard and Antillon from Maywood -- were supposed to meet 13 months ago, but Rios suffered an injury and the fight was called off.
On Feb. 26, Rios claimed a 135-pound title on Showtime, rallying for a dramatic 10th-round knockout of Miguel Acosta in an electrifying fight.
Antillon, who had lost a tight decision to Humberto Soto while challenging for a piece of the lightweight crown in December in the 2010 ESPN.com fight of the year, was supposed to face him in a rematch on May 7 on the Manny Pacquiao-Shane Mosley undercard. However, Soto pulled out of the fight because of contractual issues with Top Rank.
With that bout off and Rios and Antillon both in need of a dance partner, Top Rank matched them once again.
"I'm predicting the main event to be the fight of the year because Brandon and Urbano only know how to give crowd-pleasing fights and it should really be sensational," Arum said.
Rios started right in on Antillon, predicting a knockout.
"On July 9, I will knock him out and show the world why I am the best 135-pound fighter in the world. That's why I became the champion," Rios said. "That's why I beat Acosta and you didn't. I knocked him out and he knocked you out. On July 9, you're going to get more than knocked out. Your career is going to be done and you will never fight for a title again. I promise you that and I don't break my promises."
In July 2009, Acosta stopped Antillon in the ninth round in a highly competitive interim title bout.
"I just have to say that the third time's a charm, I guess," Antillon said. "I've fought for a world title twice before and I'm going to win it on my third try. We're two fighters who come forward, so I know it's going to be a good fight. We're both hard-headed and don't like to back down. On July 9, Maywood is going to be champion."
In the co-feature, former welterweight titlist Kermit Cintron (32-3-1, 28 KOs) will fight for the first time in 14 months since his oddball fourth-round technical decision loss to Paul Williams -- when Cintron fell out of the ring at the Home Depot Center and did not continue. Cintron will face Carlos Molina (18-4-2, 6 KOs) in a 10-round junior middleweight bout.
Marquez tuneup set
Lightweight champ Juan Manuel Marquez has a lot riding on his next fight. With his much-desired third showdown with pound-for-pound king and welterweight titleholder Manny Pacquiao on the books for Nov. 12 in Las Vegas and on pay-per-view, Marquez is taking a must-win tuneup fight ahead of the bout.
Marquez (52-5-1, 38 KOs) has not fought since November, when he knocked out Michael Katsidis in the ninth round to retain the title, and he did not want to go without fighting for a year before facing Pacquiao.
So Marquez will fight in his native Mexico on July 16 against Likar Ramos (24-3, 18 KOs) of Colombia after negotiations with former lightweight titlist (and Pacquiao victim) David Diaz fell apart over money. Ramos briefly held an interim junior lightweight belt before losing it via seventh-round knockout to Jorge Solis in February 2010.
If Marquez loses or suffers an injury that would keep him out of action for an extended period, he can kiss the Pacquiao fight goodbye, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said.
Arum will be keeping a close eye on the fight even though he is only peripherally involved in Marquez-Ramos. Top Rank will handle the international television sales. Arum's longtime Mexican promotional partner, Fernando Beltran, will work on the show with Marquez's promotional company.
"We're going to sell the international television and it will definitely be on in America," Arum said. "It's valuable as a promotional tool for the fight with Manny. So it definitely will be on, but where, I'm not sure."
If Arum doesn't sell it to a network, he can put it on his "Top Rank Live" series, which airs regularly on Fox Deportes and Fox Sports Net.
Sean Gibbons, Beltran's matchmaker, said the weight for the fight would be "no lighter than 140."
Pacquiao-Marquez III is contracted at a maximum of 144 pounds.
Alvarez also on Sept. 17?
With Floyd Mayweather Jr. announcing his return from a 16-month layoff to face welterweight titlist Victor Ortiz on Sept. 17, what does that mean for junior middleweight titlist Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, who is penciled in by Golden Boy to fight on pay-per-view on the same date?
Alvarez, Mexico's most popular active fighter, makes his first title defense June 18 (HBO) against Ryan Rhodes. If he wins, Golden Boy promoter Richard Schaefer, who also promotes Ortiz, said Alvarez will still fight on that date, which comes during the weekend of Mexican Independence Day -- a traditional date for a major Mexican star to fight on.
"I don't want to talk about it too much because I have not discussed it with my people, and Canelo has a very tough fight with Rhodes," Schaefer said. "But once that is done, I think then we can have some conversations and see if something can be done where maybe we would have a split-site pay-per-view."
In other words, Mayweather would fight Ortiz -- almost certainly at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas -- while Alvarez would fight in Mexico, with his bout being part of the U.S. pay-per-view telecast.
"I think it would add another element to the telecast and event," Schaefer said. "I would love to find a way to have Canelo on the same night on the same pay-per-view on Mexican Independence Day weekend. It makes a lot of sense. Canelo keeps talking about wanting to fight Mayweather if Mayweather wins, so why not show them together on the same pay-per-view?"
Schaefer said whatever winds up on the Sept. 17 PPV, he promised it would be "the 'Fight Freak' card of all 'Fight Freak' cards. It's gonna be good. The stuff I'm working on, if I can pull it off, it will be the biggest card we've ever promoted. We're working on some stuff."
Middleweight James Kirkland (27-1, 24 KOs) of Austin, Texas, will try to pick up the pieces of his career when he fights in an eight-rounder against an opponent to be named on June 24 on Telefutura's "Solo Boxeo Tecate."
Kirkland will be fighting for the first time since April 9, when he suffered three knockdowns in a shocking first-round knockout loss to Nobuhiro Ishida on the Marcos Maidana-Erik Morales HBO PPV undercard in Las Vegas in the clear upset of the year so far.
The card will take place at Dr. Pepper Ballpark in Frisco, Texas. The stadium is home to the Frisco Rough Riders, the Double-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers.
Kirkland had been a leading junior middleweight contender and one of the hottest fighters in boxing before going to prison for 18 months. He faced Ishida in the third fight of his comeback after being idle for two years because of his sentence for gun possession by a convicted felon.
Had Kirkland defeated Ishida, he was looking at a likely fall title shot against middleweight champion Sergio Martinez.
In the co-feature, Fort Worth's Brian Vera (18-5, 11 KOs) meets San Antonio's Eloy Suarez (11-11-1, 5 KOs). Vera, a former participant on "The Contender" reality series, is coming off an upset decision against former junior middleweight titlist Sergio Mora in February.
If Vera wins, he could propel himself into an October fight on HBO in a rematch against contender Andy Lee on the undercard of Martinez's next defense. Vera handed Lee his only loss, stopping him in the seventh round on ESPN2 in 2008. A rematch has been discussed on and off since.
Viloria gets another title shot
Brian Viloria, a former two-time junior flyweight titlist and 2000 U.S. Olympian, will get a chance to win a third belt when he challenges flyweight titlist Julio Cesar Miranda of Mexico on July 16.
Miranda has agreed to fight Viloria (28-3, 16 KOs) in his hometown of Honolulu, Gary Gittelsohn, Viloria's manager, told ESPN.com. Miranda-Viloria was a tough fight to make, with various dates being set and then called off. But now, Gittelsohn said, it's on for real.
"This was the toughest fight I've ever been involved in making," the veteran manager said. "Every time we thought we had a deal to do the fight, first in Manila, and then later in other places, what I thought was a firm understanding, then time would go by and I would hear through intermediaries that it wasn't going to happen. Now it's really done. We signed our papers and I am of the understanding that Miranda has signed his."
Viloria, the mandatory challenger, has won two bouts in a row since losing his 108-pound title to Carlos Tamara via 12th-round knockout in an upset in January 2010.
"I think it's a very exciting fight," Gittelsohn said. "I'm very nervous about the fight. Miranda is a capable talent and has gotten better and better in recent vintage. I think Brian has his hands full and the best Brian has to show up to win the title."
Mexico's Miranda (35-5-1, 28 KOs) will be making his fourth defense.
• Top Rank's Bob Arum said the new working date for a rematch between junior middleweight titlist Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito is Dec. 3, in a pay-per-view fight. Margarito stopped Cotto in the 11th round of a 2008 welterweight title bout that hangs under a cloud of suspicion because many believe Margarito fought using loaded gloves. (He was caught trying to fight Shane Mosley with loaded hand wraps in his next fight.) Arum said Margarito, who had recent cataract surgery because of eye injuries sustained against Manny Pacquiao in November, would be ready to fight by December. Top Rank had originally hoped to put on Cotto-Margarito II in July, but then pushed it back to September before moving it again because of Margarito's medical situation. Arum said he hopes to stage the proposed rematch at New York's Madison Square Garden, where Cotto has fought regularly and is a big draw among the Puerto Rican community. Cotto's March 12 fight against Ricardo Mayorga was produced and distributed by Showtime PPV even though Cotto's major fights had regularly been on HBO PPV previously. Arum said Showtime had the right of a first negotiation for Cotto's next fight but that he is free to also shop the bout to HBO.
• Former three-division champ Shane Mosley is a promotional free agent after parting ways with Top Rank not long after his lopsided loss to pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao in their May 7 welterweight title bout. Arum told ESPN.com that he had declined to exercise the contractual option he held on Mosley's next fight and notified Mosley in a letter to his manager's attorney. "We are not exercising our option, and we have told that to Shane's people," Arum said. "We like Shane, but we told him the reason was that we didn't want to leave him hanging around waiting, because right now we have nothing for him, so it would be wrong to keep the option and then just do nothing with him. We said if something comes up and he was still available, then I would hope we would be able to make a deal, but right now I don't see anything on the horizon." The 39-year-old Mosley (46-7-1, 39 KOs) dropped to 0-2-1 in his past three fights with the loss to Pacquiao.
• Former bantamweight titlist Fernando Montiel (43-3-2, 33 KOs) is set to make his ring return. Montiel, who was relieved of his two 118-pound belts when Nonito Donaire brutally knocked him out in the second round of their high-profile fight Feb. 19 in Las Vegas, will face Nehomar Cermeño (20-3, 12 KOs) on June 25 in Culiacan, Mexico, Zanfer promotions announced. "Rest assured that I'll be at 100 percent," said Montiel, 32, who is moving up one division to junior featherweight for the bout. Montiel, a former three-division titleholder, said he is still motivated to win a title in a fourth weight class, "but I am focused on Cermeño, a Venezuelan boxer who is very experienced. He beat Cristian Mijares twice and he's hungry, like me, and wants to climb back to the top." Cermeño beat Mijares in interim bantamweight title bouts. He also lost twice by split decision to Anselmo Moreno in 2010 bantamweight title fights.
• When super middleweight titlist Carl Froch outpointed Glen Johnson in a crowd-pleasing fight last Saturday to advance to the finals of the Super Six World Boxing Classic, fellow titlist Andre Ward was ringside to scout the fight and work as part of Showtime's broadcast team. Ward was excited about meeting Froch in the final and had a strong opinion about where he would like the fall fight to take place. "My hope is Las Vegas," Ward said. "It's where there are big fights and it would be fitting for the finals." To the consternation of many, Ward fought all of his tournament bouts in his home state of California, including two in his hometown of Oakland. He was the only participant in the tournament who did not have to travel to enemy turf. "I don't want the fight in California," he said. "I want the fight on neutral ground. That's what Froch deserves and what I deserve." Dan Goossen, Ward's promoter, has mentioned Las Vegas and New York among possible sites for the fight that will crown the top 168-pounder in the world.
• Welterweight Joel "Love Child" Julio will still fight on the Amir Khan-Zab Judah undercard on July 23 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, but not against rising prospect Shawn Porter as had been proposed. Main Events, Julio's promoter, was discussing the match with Porter promoter Prize Fight and Porter's father and trainer, Kenny Porter, but the Porter side decided to go in another direction. Brian Young of Prize Fight told ESPN.com that the promoter has designs on trying to get a fall fight against unbeaten contender Mike Jones rather than taking an untelevised bout against Julio. Main Events, meanwhile, is focusing on trying to put a fight together for Julio against Antwone Smith. The fighters had been scheduled to headline "Friday Night Fights" on ESPN2/ESPN3 on May 11, but Smith dropped out because of an injury and Julio went on to easily outpoint replacement Anges Adjaho.
• Lightweight titlist Miguel Vazquez (28-3, 12 KOs), who retained his title for the second time via unanimous decision against Lenny Zappavigna on March 12 on the Miguel Cotto-Ricardo Mayorga Showtime PPV undercard, returns for a nontitle bout on "Top Rank Live" on June 18 (Fox Deportes) in Toluca, Mexico. Vazquez, of Mexico, faces Marlon Aguilar (25-10-1, 18 KOs) of Nicaragua. Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said he would like to eventually match Vazquez with Mercito Gesta (21-0-1, 11 KOs), the San Diego-based Filipino who recently signed with Top Rank. Gesta's first fight of his new deal will take place on the undercard of Rios-Antillon on July 9. "If Gesta looks good, we may put him in with Miguel Vazquez," Arum said. "What we will do is try to make the fight, and if we can get it on a premium network, that's what we will do. If we can't, we'll do it on our own on one of our other shows." Gesta will serve as one of Amir Khan's sparring partners as the junior welterweight titleholder prepares to face Judah in a July 23 unification bout.
• Cruiserweight titlist Marco Huck (32-1, 23 KOs) of Germany will make his seventh title defense against former light heavyweight beltholder Hugo Hernan Garay (34-5, 18 KOs) of Argentina on July 16, Huck promoter Sauerland Event announced. The fight will take place in Munich on the same card as the heavyweight clash between rising contender Robert Herelius and former titleholder Sergei Liakhovich.
• Junior bantamweight titlist Hugo Cazares (34-6-2, 24 KOs) makes his fourth defense against Mexican countryman Arturo Badillo on July 9 in Mazatlan, Mexico. Cazares hopes a victory leads to a major fight. "He wants to be a champion and I want the big fights," Cazares said, "so I have to beat this guy and then try to get into the big leagues against more important opponents, and then unify all [junior bantamweight] world titles."
• Former cruiserweight titlist Firat Arslan, 40, of Germany will try to avenge one of his defeats when he faces Lubos Suda (23-5-1, 15 KOs) of the Czech Republic on July 15 at Göppingen, Germany, Arlan's home base. Suda outpointed Arslan (30-5-1, 19 KOs) in Prague in 2003. "I know very well that Suda is a strong opponent and that I have to be at my best to beat him," Arslan said. "I think it's only fair that he is coming to my backyard now. I have fought him in Prague, now he is coming to Germany. I want to prove that I am better than him and that I've still got what it takes to become world champion again." Suda is coming off a fifth-round knockout loss to top-10 contender Ola Afolabi on March 19.
• Junior lightweight titlist Takashi Uchiyama found an interesting way to keep busy between fights, something you don't usually see fighters do: He was a guest professor at Takushoku University, his alma mater, on June 1. He gave a lecture titled "To Seize a Chance," speaking before some 300 students for an hour. He said he would like to become a professor after he retires from boxing. "It's good for mental training to speak in front of a big audience," he said. "That may do me good in the ring."
"That's a joke man. Haye shouldn't last more than two rounds. I like David Haye, but I think [Wladimir Klitschko] is too superior and too strong. I respect Haye as a human being, but he hasn't earned this fight. Let him go fight and beat all those guys Klitschko did to earn the shot. Klitschko should wipe him out. Klitschko's a great champion and I think Klitschko's gonna beat him. I just don't think Haye can keep him off him. I could be wrong, but Wladimir should beat him." -- Former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, on his expectations for the July 2 (HBO) heavyweight championship fight between Klitschko and Haye
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.
Almost as soon as lightweight titlist Brandon Rios and Urbano Antillon sat down for Tuesday's first media conference to promote their July 9 fight, the matchup threatened to escalate into more than just a war of words.