Gamboa, Ponce De Leon pitted Sept. 10
The Top Rank-Golden Boy cold war, which has robbed boxing fans of several marquee matchups during the past two years, is effectively over now that boxing's leading promotional companies, long bitter rivals, have reached an agreement to match featherweights Yuriorkis Gamboa and Daniel Ponce De Leon on Sept. 10 in Atlantic City, N.J., in an HBO main event.
The fight pits the speedy and powerful Gamboa (Top Rank's fighter) against the slower but huge-punching Ponce De Leon, a former junior featherweight titlist, in one of the better matchups that can be made at 126 pounds.
Top Rank's Carl Moretti and Golden Boy's Eric Gomez negotiated the deal, and now the sides are exchanging paperwork.
"We sent them a provision of services agreement for Ponce De Leon," Moretti said, "and they will send it back with their comments, but I don't see any major changes."
But making the deal -- even discussing a deal for this fight or any other -- was not possible until the companies put to rest their nasty feud, which they did in late May.
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That is when, for the second time, mediator Daniel Weinstein, a retired federal judge, helped them settle many of their issues.
The key one was the settlement of the defamation lawsuit filed by Manny Pacquiao, Top Rank's biggest star, against Golden Boy's Richard Schaefer and Oscar De La Hoya in December 2009 regarding their alleged accusations that Pacquiao used performance-enhancing drugs.
Gamboa-Ponce De Leon will be the first fight the companies have done together since the Pacquiao-Ricky Hatton junior welterweight title fight in May 2009. After that, it was all downhill, culminating in Pacquiao's lawsuit and an inability for the companies to finalize a Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight.
When the parties met with Weinstein in late May to finalize the terms of the settlement, which included an apology to Pacquiao and the dropping of the lawsuit, Schaefer and Top Rank's Bob Arum agreed they would once again make fights together.
"Frankly, before the resolution and the apology, I had no interest in dealing with them because I thought it would be disrespectful to Manny Pacquiao, who I really admire," Arum told ESPN.com. "But once there was an apology and the settlement of the defamation suit, there was no longer an impediment. We shook hands and we will deal with them like we deal with any other promoter. If they need one of our fighters and the management of that fighter is willing, we are very happy to do it, and vice versa if we want to use one of their fighters and they are willing. Why not?"
Schaefer, who has exchanged brutal words with Arum through the media, took the same tone.
"I am looking forward to working with Top Rank on this promotion," Schaefer said. "Bob and I shook hands and made a commitment to work together again if the right fight presents itself. This is the case here. With Gamboa you have a young, emerging star with considerable talent, and with Ponce De Leon you have one of the hardest-hitting guys in the sport, who is always involved in exciting fights. Styles make fights, and I am sure that this will be an all-out slugfest. Can't wait!"
Even after the settlement, Moretti still wasn't sure if he could pursue a fight with Golden Boy, but he knew he had a date for Gamboa on HBO and wanted to make a strong matchup.
"Really, the only question was to ask Bob and [Top Rank president] Todd [duBoef] if they had any issues with me offering the fight to Ponce De Leon and Golden Boy," Moretti said. "They said, 'Not at all, just do it the same way we do any deal. If they agree, fine. If they don't, fine.' But it had nothing to do with them being Golden Boy and us being Top Rank. I got the green light and reached out to Eric, and I know Richard called Bob and said, 'It's great we're going to do this fight together.'"
Moretti said there are plenty of other fights the companies could do together. One he would like to make is between junior welterweights Mike Alvarado, who is with Top Rank, and Golden Boy's Lucas Matthysse.
"Hey, we're getting good money from HBO and we wanted to put on the best fight that is possible, and when we looked around, Ponce De Leon was preferable to almost anybody we could get," Arum said. "Orlando Salido and Juan Manuel Lopez are tied up. Mikey Garcia, I think, needs a couple of more fights before he fights Gamboa, so Ponce De Leon was the best guy around, and he happens to be with Golden Boy."
Bute returns home
Super middleweight titlist Lucian Bute (28-0, 23 KOs) is a star in his adopted hometown of Montreal, but he will return to action against mandatory challenger Jean-Paul Mendy (29-0-1, 16 KO) of France on Saturday in Bucharest, Romania -- his native country.
"This is my dream come true," Bute said. "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 goose bumps. I always felt their support from afar, but on [Saturday] they will be right there, in the arena, to encourage me."
Romanian officials have called it the biggest boxing event in the nation's history. Former lightweight titleholder Leonard Dorin, also a native of Romania based in Montreal, defended his title in Romania in 2002.
"It was important to Lucian to fight in Romania," InterBox promoter Jean Bedard, who promotes Bute, said. "We worked extremely hard, took the time necessary to close out a very fair deal with [Mendy's promoter] Joe DeGuardia of Star Boxing. This event will mark another milestone in Lucian's career and in the history of InterBox."
If Bute is successful in his eighth title defense, he likely will return to Montreal to defend against former middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik on Showtime in November. The fight with Mendy is outside of his deal with Showtime, although the network plans to show highlights of the fight during its telecast headlined by the Brandon Rios-Urbano Antillon lightweight title bout on Saturday night (10 ET/PT).
Super middleweight James DeGale (10-1, 8 KOs), the 2008 British Olympic gold medalist who suffered his first pro loss via majority decision to rival George Groves in May, will return to challenge Piotr Wilczewski (29-1, 10 KOs) of Poland for the European title in September, promoter Frank Warren announced. The date and location have yet to be determined.
Wilczewski -- whose only loss came via third-round knockout to American Curtis Stevens in 2009 on a Tomasz Adamek undercard in Newark, N.J. -- claimed the vacant European title in March when he knocked out Amin Asikainen in the 11th round on Asikainen's turf in Finland.
"Challenging for the European title is a fantastic opportunity to get myself back in the big picture in my first fight back," DeGale said. "I've been hard in training since my last fight and I'm ready to box tomorrow if I need to. Come September, I'll be in great shape.
"The fight with Groves is in the past. I still believe I beat him, but I'm a positive person and now I'm focused on the future, and a win will put me in a great position for a world title. My promoter, Frank Warren, has done a great job in getting me home advantage for this title shot and now I've got to go out there, do the business and win it in style. In fact, I'm about to sign a new three-year deal with Frank and I'm really happy that he will continue to build my career as he has done since I turned professional. He brought Amir Khan back from a devastating knockout loss to a world title in only three fights, so I know that he can do it for me."
Said Warren: "This is a make-or-break fight for James. He's got a big opportunity in front of him against Wilczewski and now has to go out there and deliver the goods and show the fans what he can do."
• Middleweight champ Sergio Martinez's third title defense, against England's Darren Barker (23-0, 14 KOs) on Oct. 1 (HBO), will take place at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., promoter Lou DiBella told ESPN.com. DiBella had been weighing an offer from a site in Houston, as well, but instead he made a deal with Caesars Atlantic City consultant Ken Condon for the fight. DiBella said it will take place in the main arena at Boardwalk Hall, which will be scaled for a crowd of about 6,500. DiBella said he expects more than 1,000 Barker fans to make the trip for the fight. "Sergio has really developed a relationship with Caesars, and Atlantic City is like his East Coast home," DiBella said. "He'd like to fight in California, because that's where [the native of Argentina] lives, but there was no availability. And Atlantic City is home to the biggest nights of his career." Martinez (47-2-2, 26 KOs), the 2010 fighter of the year, scored the two biggest wins of his career in the arena, a unanimous decision against Kelly Pavlik to win the title in April 2010 followed by his massive second-round knockout of Paul Williams seven months later to retain the title.
• DiBella also told ESPN.com that he signed 29-year-old middleweight Brian Vera (19-5, 12 KOs) of Austin, Texas, to a promotional contract on Wednesday. The former "Contender" participant is an action fighter who has scored some notable upsets, including a seventh-round knockout of heralded prospect Andy Lee in 2008, a third-round knockout of Sebastien Demers on Demers' turf in Montreal in 2010, and a decision win against former junior middleweight titlist Sergio Mora in February. DiBella has designs to match Vera and Lee in a rematch that would open the Oct. 1 Martinez-Barker HBO telecast. However, DiBella said other possibilities could arise for Vera, including a possible shot at middleweight titlist Felix Sturm if there is no Sturm-Matthew Macklin rematch this fall. "Vera is one of the most exciting guys at 160 or 168 [pounds]. He's proved himself lately and he makes fun fights. A rematch with Andy [whom DiBella also promotes] is a meaningful fight. He will fit in some major situations. If he winds up fighting Andy again, the winner propels himself into a major fight. But I also signed Brian because he's my kind of fighter. He has balls and he makes fun fights."
• Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said middleweight titlist Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.'s Nov. 19 defense on HBO will likely be against Peter Manfredo (37-6, 20 KOs), the former "Contender" star and former super middleweight title challenger who is riding a six-fight winning streak. "We made a good offer to Lou [DiBella, Manfredo's promoter] for the fight," said Arum, who added that the fight likely would take place in Houston. The Manfredo side is interested. "Top Rank made it clear that Manfredo is the No. 1 choice for Chavez," DiBella said. "We're not going to blow the fight. I've never had a problem making a fight with Top Rank if they want to make a deal. If this is the fight they want, I'm sure we will make a deal."
• Junior welterweight Erik Morales, who has committed to fighting on the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Victor Ortiz HBO PPV undercard on Sept. 17 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, will face England's Anthony Crolla, Golden Boy's Erik Gomez told ESPN.com. Morales (51-7, 35 KOs), the former three-division champion, will be fighting for the first time since suffering a majority decision loss to Marcos Maidana in April in a fight of the year candidate. Crolla (20-2, 9 KOs), a former British junior lightweight and lightweight champion, will be taking a huge step up in competition.
• Representatives for junior middleweight contenders Vanes Martirosyan and Deandre Latimore are negotiating an eliminator that would make the winner the mandatory challenger for titlist Cornelius "K9" Bundrage. Martirosyan is already in position to become the mandatory challenger for titlist Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, but that fight isn't due for about a year. Carl Moretti of Top Rank, Martirosyan's promoter, and Latimore's co-promoters Steve Smith and Lou DiBella accepted the IBF's invitation for the box-off. They need to make a deal by July 21 or a purse bid will be ordered. "Both sides said they would take the fight and we're trying to make the fight," Moretti said. "Making it is not hard. Placing it [on TV] is hard because there aren't dates." Martirosyan has also expressed interest in possibly challenging titlist Sergiy Dzinziruk rather than facing Latimore.
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• Mexico's Humberto Soto vacated his lightweight title this week and is moving up to junior welterweight. Soto (56-7-2, 32 KOs), also a former junior lightweight titlist and interim titleholder at featherweight, claimed a vacant 135-pound title by outpointing former titleholder David Diaz on the Manny Pacquiao-Joshua Clottey undercard at Cowboys Stadium in March 2010. The 31-year-old made four defenses, including a lopsided 11-round technical decision against Japan's Motoki Sasaki on June 25. But between his trouble making weight and the lure of big names and bigger money at 140 pounds, he decided to move up. "Now it's time to take another step in my career and aim for new goals," Soto told Notimex. "My team will study all the options and we will see what is the most convenient option for me." Soto suffered a minor knee injury when he slipped on the wet canvas in the 11th round of his fight with Sasaki, causing the fight to be ruled a technical decision. But Antonio Lozada, Soto's manager, said he was OK after massaging and icing the leg. The leading contenders who could vie for the vacant WBC belt are Antonio DeMarco (Soto's cousin) and Jorge Linares.
• Venezuela's Jorge Linares (31-1, 20 KOs), a former featherweight and junior lightweight titlist, has relocated to Los Angeles to work with trainer Freddie Roach at his Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, Calif. Linares arrived this week to begin training with Roach and strength coach Alex Ariza. Roach and Ariza also work with Manny Pacquiao, Amir Khan and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Linares has won four fights in a row since losing his 130-pound belt via shocking first-round knockout to Juan Carlos Salgado in October 2009. Linares scored a seventh-round knockout of Adrian Verdugo in May, and Roach believes he'll be ready for his next fight in August. Golden Boy, Linares' promoter, does not have a fight set for him yet, but plans to put him on a card later this summer.
• Junior lightweights Argenis Mendez (18-1, 9 KOs), a Dominican Republic native living in New York, and former titlist Juan Carlos Salgado (23-1-1, 16 KOs) of Mexico are due to meet for a vacant belt Aug. 20 at a site to be determined in Mexico now that the sides have reached an agreement to avoid a purse bid, Mendez promoter Lou DiBella told ESPN.com. DiBella said he had secured an Aug. 12 date on Showtime's "ShoBox" for the bout, but then Salgado promoter Fernando Beltran of Zanfer Promotions came in with an offer for more money to bring the fight to Mexico. DiBella said he is still waiting for Mendez to sign the agreement and hasn't yet received notification of the exact venue, but he said he believed Mendez would accept the offer.
• Cruiserweight titleholder Marco Huck (32-1, 23 KOs) of Germany is expecting this to be a big month for him. First, he will make his seventh title defense, against former light heavyweight beltholder Hugo Hernan Garay (34-5, 18 KOs) of Argentina, on July 16 in Munich. Two weeks later, Huck is getting married. "The next weeks will be huge for me," Huck said. "Of course, I want to get married as world champion. That's why I have to take care of business against Garay." So which is making him more nervous, the fight or the wedding? "That's tough to tell," Huck said. "I must confess that both events make me a little nervous. In boxing, that's nothing new -- everybody is nervous ahead of a world title fight. But my experience will help me. Even though I am just 26, this will already be my seventh title defense. I am getting stronger every day. I have not reached my peak yet. The best is yet to come." Huck has let his family take care of most of the wedding preparations while he focuses on his training. "I let my family handle the organization. I only have to make sure I bring the belt," he said.
• Featherweight contender Juan Carlos Burgos of Mexico will return to action to face countryman Gilberto Sanchez Leon (29-10-2, 11 KOs) in a scheduled 10-rounder July 22 on a Thompson Boxing card in Ontario, Calif. Burgos (26-1, 19 KOs), 23, is seeking his second win in a row since losing a competitive decision to Hozumi Hasegawa for a vacant world title in a fierce slugfest in Japan in November. In his first fight back, Burgos blew out Frankie Archuleta for a second-round knockout on ESPN2/ESPN3 in February.
"He was very careful. At times, he was throwing powerful punches, but he wasn't landing and he was frustrated and cautious to not get hit. I wish I could have knocked him out impressively. He was scared to fight me. I was expecting more of a challenge in the ring, more aggression. He was super-defensive, like all of them." "
-- Heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, on his rolling to a near shutout of David Haye in their title unification bout Saturday
"I am happy that yet another great matchup has been set for me. Like I always say, I am willing to face the best out there. Robert Guerrero is a great champion and I am sure he will bring all of his skills to the ring on Aug. 27, but I will be ready for him. I know it will be a great fight." -- Interim junior welterweight titlist Marcos Maidana, on Thursday's formal announcement of his HBO fight against Guerrero
"Words can't describe how I feel knowing that I'll be fighting Marcos Maidana as the main event on HBO at the HP Pavilion in San Jose. Bringing a championship fight to the Bay Area is a dream come true, and it excites me most that Bay Area boxing fans will get to witness one of the most anticipated fights of the year."
-- Robert Guerrero, who is from Gilroy, Calif., and will be fighting in his hometown Aug. 27
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.
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