- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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Andriy Kotelnik turned down the fight. So did Kaizer Mabuza. But junior welterweight contender Lamont Peterson, the third (and perhaps most dangerous) choice, jumped at the chance to fight Victor Ortiz when Golden Boy made the offer.
Although the sides have not finalized all of the terms (including the purse), Barry Hunter -- Peterson's manager, trainer and father figure -- said they have verbally committed to taking the fight.
The bout is slated to be the co-feature on the Dec. 11 HBO "World Championship Boxing" card headlined by junior welterweight titlist Amir Khan defending against interim titlist Marcos Maidana, giving the network a doubleheader in one of the deepest and most exciting weight classes in boxing.
"We agreed to take the fight," Peterson said. "Do we want the fight? Yes, we do. Do we want it on HBO for that date? Yes we do. If we can agree on the purse and everything else, then it's a go. But this is a fight we want and a fight we're very confident about.
"It should be very, very entertaining. I've known Victor since he was a [junior Olympian]. I had forgotten he was a southpaw, but we have lots of southpaws to work with in the gym, like [middleweight prospect] Fernando Guerrero."
Kotelnik, a former titleholder who gave titlist Devon Alexander a rough night in a close fight in August, was HBO's first choice. However, promoter Don King and Golden Boy couldn't make a deal. According to Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer, the reason was over money as well as Kotelnik's desire to move up in weight. Schaefer said South African promoter Branco Milenkovic, who promotes Mabuza, turned it down because Mabuza looms as a mandatory title challenger and he has designs on putting his title bout in South Africa.
But even as a third choice, Peterson (28-1, 14 KOs), 26, is a quality contender. His only loss was a decision to Timothy Bradley Jr. in a title challenge last December. Peterson rebounded to knock out Damian Fuller in April.
"I think it's a very evenly matched fight, a very dangerous fight for both guys," Schaefer said. "This is the kind of fight the fight fans and networks want to see. I think HBO is holding Golden Boy to higher standards than other promoters by basically making us make this match for an undercard. I would have never gotten away with [Celestino] Caballero versus Jason Litzau."
Caballero-Litzau, a junior lightweight match, is scheduled for HBO's Nov. 27 WCB undercard.
"If I ask to do a fight like that, they would say no, but that's life," Schaefer said. "Ortiz and Peterson is a great matchup. It's an evenly matched fight. It's another test for Victor and it's a chance for Peterson as well. A win by Peterson puts him right back in the mix. A win for Victor solidifies the fact that he is considered with Khan, Maidana, Alexander and Bradley, in whatever order you want to put them, among the top 140-pounders."
The 23-year-old Ortiz (28-2-1, 22 KOs) has won four fights in a row since a TKO loss to Maidana in June 2009. In his last fight, he pummeled former titlist Vivian Harris into a third-round knockout.
• Former three-division champ Erik Morales' next fight is slated for Dec. 18 at a soccer stadium in his hometown of Tijuana, Mexico, against former junior lightweight titlist Jorge Barrios (50-4-1, 35 KOs) of Argentina, according to Golden Boy (which promotes Barrios and is close to Morales). Barrios would represent Morales' most significant opponent since he ended a 2½-year retirement in March. During his comeback, Morales (50-6, 35 KOs) outpointed Jose Alfaro in a March welterweight fight and knocked out Willie Limond in the sixth round at 143 pounds on Sept. 11. The fight with Barrios would be contracted at 138 pounds as Morales makes his way down to lightweight, where he could eventually challenge champion Juan Manuel Marquez (if Marquez defeats Michael Katsidis on Nov. 27). Barrios returned from an 11-month layoff to easily outpoint Wilson Alcorro over 10 rounds on Oct. 1 in a lightweight fight.
• Lightweight John Molina, who has been ill with flu-like symptoms since last week, has withdrawn from a fight with Raymundo Beltran that was scheduled to headline on ESPN2's Veterans Day "Salute to America's Heroes" special Nov. 8 from the military base in Jacksonville, N.C. "He's been out of commission for four or five days," promoter Dan Goossen told ESPN.com. "The last thing he wanted to do was not take this fight. It was a good showcase for him coming off such a big win against Hank Lundy [an 11th-round knockout in July], so it's a disappointment." The new main event will match junior featherweight prospect Rico Ramos (17-0, 9 KOs) in his toughest test yet against experienced veteran Heriberto Ruiz (44-9-2, 26 KOs). "It's a very, very tough fight," Goossen said. "Rico is going to have to dig down deep, and with a victory, he catapults himself to the top of the line under the champions." Super middleweight Shawn Estrada (9-0, 9 KOs), a 2008 U.S. Olympian, opens the show against Tony Hirsch (12-3-1, 6 KOs).
• HBO's four-part "24/7 Pacquiao/Margarito," which will cover the buildup to the Manny Pacquiao-Antonio Margarito fight on Nov. 13 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, premieres Saturday night at 10:30 ET. In the opening episode, Pacquiao (51-3-2, 38 KOs), the newly elected congressman from the Philippines, opens camp in Baguio City, Philippines, following the media tour. Meantime, Antonio Margarito (38-6, 27 KOs) opens camp in Oxnard, Calif., after receiving a license in Texas following a denial in California because of his involvement in a hand-wrap scandal. The second episode debuts Oct. 30 at 10:30 p.m. ET, the third premieres Nov. 6 (10:45 p.m. ET) and the final episode airs Nov. 12 (9:30 p.m. ET). All four episodes are scheduled for multiple replays and will be available on HBO On Demand.
• Junior lightweight prospect Luis Franco, a 2004 Cuban Olympian, signed with promoter Gary Shaw. Franco (7-0, 5 KOs) had more than 400 amateur bouts and owns two amateur wins against Cuban national teammate Yuriorkis Gamboa, a featherweight titlist and 2004 Olympic gold medalist. Franco, 28, defected to the United States in June 2009 and made his pro debut the following month. "Luis has an outstanding amateur pedigree and he is incredibly talented," Shaw said. "I think he has the potential to be a force at 126, 130 and 135 pounds, and I'm looking forward to helping him prove it." Franco is managed by Henry Foster, who is best known for managing former light heavyweight champion Glen Johnson. Franco's trainer is Orlando Cuellar, who also trains Johnson. "We're pleased to be with Gary's team. He has the ability to promote Luis on a variety of television platforms, which will get him the national exposure needed to become a major attraction," Foster said. "Luis has terrific hand speed and ring generalship, which will make him a sure contender for a world title in 2011."
• Paul Spadafora (44-0-1, 18 KOs), who held a lightweight belt from 1999 to 2003 before giving it up to move up in weight, returns Nov. 20 at the Mohegan Sun resort in Uncasville, Conn., promoter Mike Acri announced. Spadafora, 35, will face an opponent to be determined in a scheduled 10-round junior welterweight bout. In March, Spadafora stopped Ivan Fiorletta in the eighth round in his third fight in 10 months as he continued his comeback following a layoff of more than two years, much of which was spent in prison.
"He jumped twice. One time he signed to fight Wladimir and came up with some injury, and we never received the medical proof of this injury. The second time, he says he wants to fight against me, we agree and he refused to sign the exact same contract he had to fight Wladimir, and he jumped to fight [Nikolai] Valuev. My personal opinion is that he is smart enough to know that if he fights a Klitschko, he loses the fight and his title, and maybe his life -- and he doesn't want to do that. He's world champion only by talking." -- heavyweight titlist Vitali Klitschko, on titleholder David Haye, who has talked trash about fighting one of the Klitschko brothers for years, but won't sign a contract.
4hBy Dan Graziano