Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. gets challenger
No Miguel Cotto, no problem.
Middleweight Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., hoping for a showdown with the junior middleweight star, instead will face Alfonso Gomez in the main event of a Top Rank pay-per-view card that features several of the company's top fighters on Dec. 4 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., Top Rank's Bob Arum told ESPN.com Wednesday.
Although the card has been in the works for the past few weeks, the matches for the "In Harm's Way" show came together after 154-pound titlist Cotto, who was being lined up to face Chavez (41-0-1, 30 KOs), said last week he would take the rest of the year off and come back in March.
With Cotto out, Gomez (22-4-2, 11 KOs), the former welterweight title challenger and star of the first season of "The Contender" reality series, got the call for the fight he signed with Top Rank a couple of years ago. Although Gomez has fought most of his career in the 147-pound welterweight division, he will meet Chavez in the scheduled 12-rounder at a contract weight of 157 pounds, Arum said.
Top Rank had been considering several bouts for the televised undercard in recent days, but Arum outlined what he and his staff settled on:
• Former flyweight titlist Nonito Donaire (24-1, 16 KOs), a top-10 pound-for-pound fighter, will move up from junior bantamweight to face former bantamweight titlist Wladimir Sidorenko (22-2-2, 7 KOs) for a vacant interim belt.
• Lightweight titlist Humberto Soto (53-7-2, 32 KOs) will make his third defense against Urbano Antillon (28-1, 20 KOs) in a bout that had been slated to take place in May but was called off when Soto elected to take a different fight.
• Lightweight contender Brandon Rios (25-0-1, 18 KOs), coming off a breakout performance in which stormed past favored Anthony Peterson for a dominant seventh-round disqualification win on Sept. 11 in his HBO debut, will face an opponent to be determined.
"I think it's a nice card. I like that card. It should be a fun show." Arum said, adding that the Honda Center will be configured for a crowd of about 10,000. "We have priced the tickets very reasonably -- $200, $100, $50 and $30 -- so we're expecting a good crowd."
Top Rank has a news conference scheduled for Monday in Los Angeles to formally announce the card, Arum said.
If Donaire beats Sidorenko, and unified bantamweight titlist Fernando Montiel wins a fight planned for Oct. 30, Arum said he will match them in February or March. It's one of the biggest fights that can be made in the smaller weight divisions and HBO has interest in the match, although Showtime, which is doing a four-man tournament in the 118-pound division, could also be a buyer.
Donaire is pumped to get back in action against Sidorenko, although Montiel is in the back of his mind.
"I'm excited to fight someone who has a good resume like Sidorenko, who's been champion," Donaire said. "I'm excited to fight somebody at this level rather than the guys I've been fighting. It's good to be challenged and it makes me better. I'm facing a guy who knows how to win and is experienced. The challenge is there for me. Sidorenko is not a joke."
As for the possible Montiel fight, Donaire said: "That's what we want. That's what Bob promised me for December and it didn't happen. Hopefully, after this fight, it will happen. We'll see."
If Soto and Rios each win their bouts, Arum said he plans to match them in the first quarter of next year.
"That's the idea, and maybe we could do Rios and Antillon, too, if Antillon wins," Arum said. "We'll try to make the fight for HBO or Showtime."
Originally, Arum intended to match Soto early next year with former three-division champ Marco Antonio Barrera, who recently launched a comeback with Top Rank and co-promoter Fernando Beltran. However, their interest in the fight has cooled and Arum said he wants to match Soto with Rios.
"Rios is a lovely kid and now he's a hard-working guy," Arum said. "I think he's going to go far and I'd love to give him a chance to fight for a world title on one of the premium networks."
Chavez, the 24-year-old son of all-time Mexican great Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., is coming off his biggest win, a lopsided 12-round decision against John Duddy in June. Arum said Chavez will attend Monday's news conference and then later in the week fly to Baguio City in the Philippines to join trainer Freddie Roach in Manny Pacquiao's training camp.
That's a change in plans because originally Chavez was not planning to join Roach overseas.
"Chavez is taking the fight seriously," Arum said. "He's going to spar with Manny and it's perfect. Chavez is bigger than Manny, but Chavez is getting ready for a smaller guy [Gomez] and Manny is getting ready for a bigger guy [Antonio Margarito on Nov. 13]. Chavez being in the Philippines sparring with Manny will help sell both fights."
One of the fighters who did not make the cut for the pay-per-view, junior middleweight contender Vanes Martirosyan, will still get a televised opportunity. Arum said he plans to have Martirosyan fight in his hometown of Glendale, Calif., in the headline fight on a Fox Sports "Top Rank Live" card Dec. 18, possibly against Pawel Wolak -- who had been in the running to face Chavez.
"We'll save people from having to watch Bernard Hopkins' fight that same night," Arum cracked, taking a dig at Hopkins' light heavyweight title challenge to Jean Pascal, which is scheduled the same day on Showtime PPV.
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com; follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.