Chris Farina/Top Rank
Better late than neverLAS VEGAS -- When Juan Manuel Marquez and Manny Pacquiao met for the featherweight championship in May 2004, it was a tremendous action fight that left fans begging for a rematch. There was drama. There was blood. There was Marquez's stunning rally from three first-round knockdowns. And there was serious division of opinion as to who won after the judges ruled it a split draw. It had all the ingredients for an immediate sequel, which was discussed minutes after the fight at the press conference. But only now, four years later, will they finally meet again at Mandalay Bay on Saturday night (HBO PPV, 9 ET), this time for the world junior lightweight championship. So what the heck took so long?
|TV Lineup for Saturday's HBO PPV card (9 p.m. ET) from the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas: • Junior lightweights: Juan Manuel Marquez (48-3-1, 35 KOs) vs. Manny Pacquiao (45-3-2, 34 KOs), rematch, 12 rounds, for Marquez's title/vacant Ring magazine title • Featherweights: Steven Luevano (34-1, 15 KOs) vs. Terdsak Jandaeng (29-2, 19 KOs), 12 rounds, for Luevano's title • Bantamweights: Abner Mares (15-0, 9 KOs) vs. Diosdado Gabi (30-3-1, 22 KOs), 12 rounds • Junior welterweights: David Diaz (33-1-1, 17 KOs) vs. Ramon Montano (15-4-2, 1 KO), 10 rounds -- Dan Rafael|
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• It's settled. Kelly Pavlik's first middleweight title defense against mandatory challenger Gary Lockett of Wales will take place June 7 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., Arum told ESPN.com. There had been a question about whether it would be on June 7 or June 14 and if it would be in New York or Atlantic City. A press conference is scheduled for March 26 in New York.
• Vernon Forrest's junior middleweight title defense against "Contender" Season 1 winner Sergio Mora is moving from May 10 to June 7. Showtime will pair it with the rematch between welterweight titlist Carlos Quintana and Paul Williams, multiple sources involved in the event told ESPN.com. Quintana dominated Williams to win the decision in a major upset Feb. 9. Williams had a rematch clause and exercised it.
• While junior welterweight champ Ricky Hatton has announced his next fight will be May 24 against Juan Lazcano at the City of Manchester Stadium in his native England, paperwork is being finalized to add titleholder Paulie Malignaggi to the undercard in a contractually obligated rematch with Lovemore N'Dou, from whom Malignaggi easily took the title via lopsided decision last summer. It will be Hatton's first fight since being knocked out by Floyd Mayweather in a welterweight title fight in December. If Hatton and Malignaggi both win, and they're significant favorites, they'll meet each other in the fall in the United States on HBO. Richard Schaefer of Golden Boy Promotions, which signed Hatton last week, said he's working on plans for the May card to be televised in the U.S., but wouldn't go into detail other than to say that it won't be on HBO or Showtime.
• Promoter Lou DiBella, who handles ex-middleweight champ Jermain Taylor, was in Cancun, Mexico, last weekend meeting with Don King about a possible Taylor fight against Roy Jones at 170 pounds. If the fight happens, it would be in the fall on HBO PPV. But because Taylor wants a fight before then, DiBella said he and King talked about making Taylor-Ricardo Mayorga in July and moving ahead with Jones-Taylor if Taylor wins. "Jones wants to fight Jermain and Jermain is interested in the fight, too," DiBella said. "But there are no good pay-per-view dates through July, so we would look to go maybe in October and fight Mayorga first." DiBella said a fight with Mayorga could come at 162 pounds, the same weight Mayorga was when he beat Fernando Vargas last fall. Taylor was 164 in his last fight, a close decision loss to Kelly Pavlik in their February rematch. Jones is also exploring other options. He's supposed to be ringside in Munich, Germany, on Saturday to watch ex-super middleweight titlist Markus Beyer, whose promoter, Arena, wants to make Jones-Beyer.
• England's Carl Froch was looking forward to facing Germany's Denis Inkin in a March 29 super middleweight eliminator in Nottingham, England (Froch's hometown), which would make the winner one of Joe Calzaghe's mandatory challengers. It was also to have been the American TV debut for Froch and Inkin because Showtime bought it for "ShoBox." However, Inkin withdrew this week because of an undisclosed infection, according to Showtime's Gordon Hall. Promoter Mick Hennessy has been searching for a suitable replacement. Hall said European champion (and ex-world titlist) Cristian Sanavia turned down the fight. Froch-Inkin likely will be delayed until May.
• Former junior welterweight titlist Juan Urango and hot prospect Joe Greene will be featured on "Wednesday Night Fights" (ESPN2) April 23 at the Hard Rock resort in Hollywood, Fla., promoter Seminole Warriors Boxing announced. Urango (19-1-1, 15 KOs), winner of two in a row by knockout since his only loss, a decision to Hatton in a title bout, will face Carlos Wilfredo Vilches (52-7-2, 31 KOs) in an eliminator. Greene (18-0, 13 KOs), coming off a dominant 10th-round TKO of Francisco Mora on Feb. 23, doesn't have an opponent yet.
• Heavyweight Joe Mesi (36-0, 29 KOs) withdrew from an April 4 ESPN2 fight against Terry Smith because of a left shoulder tear. Mesi has been advised by his doctor to rest for three to four weeks. "Joe is terribly disappointed," said Jack Mesi, Joe's father and adviser. "This is just a temporary setback, that's all. Joe will continue training to stay in good shape and keep his weight down, but he can't do anything that involves using his shoulder. He's still running and exercising. In three weeks he'll be re-evaluated and once the doctor clears him, Joe wants to get back in the ring as soon as possible." The co-featured bout between heavyweights Lance Whitaker (32-4-1, 27 KOs) and 2004 U.S. Olympian Jason Estrada (11-1, 2 KOs) has been bumped up to main event status.
• ESPN Classic and promoters Main Events and Seminole Warriors Boxing have come to an agreement under which Classic will televise live from Katowice, Poland, the cruiserweight elimination fight between ex-undisputed champion O'Neill Bell and Tomasz Adamek on April 19.
• A lightweight title eliminator between Zahir Raheem and "Kid Diamond" Almazbek Raiymkulov tentatively scheduled for the April 18 edition of ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights" is off. The IBF, which was going to sanction it, gave Raiymkulov two weeks to clear an old medical suspension, but he never went to the doctor to get it lifted. Therefore, he missed the IBF's deadline to qualify for the fight. Now, the Raheem camp is talking to South Africa's Ali Funeka, the next in line, about the fight. If Raheem or Funeka drop out, Raiymkulov could get another chance if his suspension is lifted. The winner would become the mandatory challenger for new lightweight champ Nate Campbell, who owns a 10th-round upset knockout of Raiymkulov in his only defeat in 2005.
• Two prospects from the 2004 U.S. Olympic team, junior middleweight Vanes Martirosyan and lightweight Vicente Escobedo, are both out of upcoming fights because of hand injuries. Escobedo (16-1, 11 KOs) was scratched from Saturday's Marquez-Pacquiao undercard. Martirosyan (19-0, 13 KOs) will miss out on a March 28 Telefutura main event.
• Paul Spadafora (40-0-1, 16 KOs), the troubled former lightweight titleholder, is looking to get his career going again after another long layoff. Spadafora, 31, is scheduled for a welterweight bout against an opponent to be named April 6 in Erie, Pa. He hasn't fought since March 2007 and has had only two fights since July 2004. He's been inactive because of a jail term, a parole violation that was eventually rescinded and various nagging injuries. "It has been a rough year but I'm in tremendous shape and look forward to doing what I love most, and that's boxing," said Spadafora, who defended his 135-pound title eight times during a 1999-2003 reign.
• Did you miss Marquez-Pacquiao I on May 8, 2004? If so, HBO replays the dramatic featherweight title fight that ended in a draw in its entirety as part of its promotion of Saturday night's rematch. The first bout can be seen Saturday at 9:30 a.m. ET/PT on the HBO2 service as well as on HBO On Demand.
"He is hungry for a victory in this fight because he's the only Mexican left who has a chance to beat me." -- Manny Pacquiao, dubbed by some as the "Mexican Assassin" after defeating Mexican opponents in his last six bouts, on Juan Manuel Marquez, whom he faces Saturday night in a rematch.
"Pride and motivation will certainly outweigh pressure in this fight. I know that Manny Pacquiao is a great fighter and he defeated all the [Mexican] fighters that you mentioned. But yes, I'm pretty motivated. And it is a big responsibility for me taking this fight." -- Juan Manuel Marquez, aware that Pacquiao has beaten Mexicans in his past six fights, including Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales (twice), Oscar Larios, Hector Velazquez and Jorge Solis.