Joseph Agbeko collapses
Bantamweight titlist Joseph Agbeko was knocked out of his defense against Abner Mares due to a case of sciatica that caused him to collapse on Monday night.
Agbeko was scheduled to face Mares in the finals of Showtime's four-man bantamweight tournament at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles on Saturday night, but he was ruled medically ineligible to fight on Wednesday, causing the fight to be called off.
Organizers were unsure Wednesday evening if the card would still go on. Former titlist Yonnhy Perez (20-1-1, 14 KOs), who lost his belt to Agbeko in the December semifinals, is due to face former junior bantamweight champ Vic Darchinyan (35-3-1, 27 KOs), who was outpointed by Mares (21-0-1, 13 KOs) on the same semifinal card, in the third-place fight.
Showtime boxing chief Ken Hershman was on a family vacation in Italy and had not yet made a decision on what would happen with Saturday's card.
"Ken is aware of the situation and will come to a decision soon," Showtime spokesman Chris DeBlasio told ESPN.com.
Agbeko, a native of Ghana living in New York, ran several miles during a Monday training session before going to the airport for the trip to Los Angles. His flight was delayed three times and then the five-plus-hour trip followed, according to Alan Hopper, spokesman for Agebko promoter Don King.
When Agbeko (28-2, 22 KOs) arrived in Los Angeles on Monday night, he collapsed, Hopper told ESPN.com.
"I was picking him up at baggage claim and we walked outside to the car and he literally collapsed in the roadway right next to the car," Hopper said. "He could barely move. He literally was face down on the pavement until the police and ambulance arrived."
Hopper said Agbeko was taken to the emergency room and, after an MRI exam, was diagnosed with sciatica, a painful condition that results in weakness or numbness in the legs. It is caused by a compression of the sciatic nerve, which could certainly happen after long periods of sitting -- like on an airplane for many hours.
Hopper said Agbeko was examined by Dr. Richard Gluckman, who is a well-known around the California boxing scene. Hopper said Gluckman issued a letter saying after examining Agbeko and his MRI that he cannot fight on Saturday. Hopper said Agbeko spent Tuesday resting, hoping he would feel better, but eventually had to withdraw on Wednesday.
"He's very disappointed. Despondent would be the word," Hopper said. "He said when he was laying on the pavement and when I was checking on him, all he was saying was, 'This can't be happening, I have to fight on Saturday night. This can't be happening.' This is the biggest fight of his life and he is very, very upset and disappointed. He has worked really hard for this fight."
Gary Shaw, who promotes Perez and Darchinyan, said he was hopeful Showtime would still go through with the card by bumping the consolation fight up to the main event. Both fighters have been on Showtime several times and usually have produced action-packed fights.
"Here is my guess -- the fact that Showtime has everything in place and has their crew here, I think they will go through with it," Shaw said.
He pointed to June 2006, when the third fight between Jose Luis Castillo and Diego Corrales was canceled the day before the fight because Castillo was overweight. In that promotion, Darchinyan's co-featured bout was moved up to the main event and the card went on with Showtime televising it.
Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer, who promotes Mares, also said he hoped the card would go on. Schaefer said although he had not yet heard from Hershman, he had his matchmakers looking for a substitute opponent for Mares to fight.
"Gary feels, and I agree with him, that the show should go on and we are currently trying to secure a replacement for Agbeko, but I don't know how Showtime is going to react to that," Schaefer said. "I think it's unfair to the other fights to call of the show just because Agbeko is out. We'll see."
Schaefer said his matchmakers contacted bantamweight contender Eric Morel, a former flyweight titlist Golden Boy promotes, about talking the fight. However, Morel, who scored an easy fourth-round knockout of Luis Maldonado on April 1, said he could not be ready on such short notice.
Another opponent Schaefer said they were looking at was Japan's Tomoki Kameda (18-0, 12 KOs), the younger brother of former flyweight titlist Daiki Kameda and reigning bantamweight titlist Koki Kameda.
Tomoki Kameda, who fights regularly in Mexico, is promoted by Canelo Promotions, the company of junior middleweight titlist Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, who is promoted by Golden Boy. Because of the relationship, that is probably an easy for them to make.
"Supposedly, he is willing and able to take the fight. He had been training for another fight," Schaefer said. "We'll have to see."
Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter.