- Dan Rafael, Boxing
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Nationalism rules the Olympics, soccer and events such as the Ryder Cup in golf and Davis Cup in tennis. The folks at Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions hope to add a similar patriotic dimension to boxing.
Golden Boy is planning two cards on consecutive nights -- Oct. 28 and Oct. 29 -- that will pit top Mexican fighters against top boxers from Thailand in four world title bouts, plus other undercard bouts also matched along national lines. In addition to the titles at stake, the overall winning nation will take home a jewel-encrusted trophy.
"It's bringing a national approach to boxing like is done in other sports," said Golden Boy's Richard Schaefer. "Many people watch the Ryder Cup just because it's the U.S. against Europe, even if they are not big golf fans. Any sporting event where you bring in the nationalistic element can help increase the audience. We think that could the same with boxing, so we're trying out the concept, and we're excited about it."
Schaefer will use Golden Boy's Oct. 28 Telefutura date to highlight junior featherweight Daniel Ponce De Leon (26-1, 25 KOs) against Sod Looknongyangtoy (25-0, 10 KOs) for a vacant title.
The following night, HBO Latino will pick up the remainder of the title bouts:
• Bantamweight titlist Ratanachai Sor Vorapin (65-8, 42 KOs) vs. Jhonny Gonzalez (30-4, 26 KOs).
• Junior bantamweight titlist Fernando Montiel (31-1-1, 24 KOs) vs. Pramuansak Phosawan (28-0-1, 16 KOs).
• Junior flyweight Hugo Cazares (21-3-1, 15 KOs) vs. Kaichon Sor Vorapin (16-7, 5 KOs), Ratanachai's brother.
"They will fight for their individual titles but they will also be fighting for their country," Schaefer said.
Schaefer said he has a commitment from a sponsor, watchmaker IceLink, to produce a championship cup with gold, diamonds, rubies and emeralds that will be awarded to the winning team.
The idea came about in part because some of the bouts were mandatory fights, Schaefer said.
"We'd have to do them anyway, so why not put them together and have some fun with it," he said.
Initially, the plan was for the second night of bouts to be on HBO PPV but Schaefer and HBO realized it would be better to launch the cup-style event in front of a broader audience, especially with HBO already having a heavy pay-per-view schedule this fall.
"The original idea was to do a pay-per-view event but we thought everyone -- the fans, Golden Boy and HBO -- would be better served if this event was free on HBO Latino," said HBO's Kery Davis. "Maybe this kind of event can spur some other national rivalries. Maybe there will be a Mexico vs. Puerto Rico, for example, that fans can get excited about, or Mexico vs. the USA. Giving it more exposure on HBO Latino instead of on pay-per-view will raise the awareness of it. Richard was open to the idea and we came up with a deal that worked for both sides."
Schaefer said he is working on a site for the bouts -- either Los Angeles (home to nation's largest Thai population), Las Vegas or Tucson, Ariz.
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.
Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions is planning two cards on consecutive nights -- Oct. 28 and Oct. 29 -- that will pit top Mexican fighters against top boxers from Thailand in four world title bouts.