Inoue honored by Japan commission

January, 24, 2015
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The Japan Boxing Commission handed out its 2014 awards at its annual ceremony in Tokyo on Friday and the winner of the big prize was 21-year-old prodigy Naoya Inoue.

Inoue (8-0, 7 KOs) won Japanese fighter of the year honors after a tremendous year in which he won a junior flyweight world title in his sixth fight in June by knocking out respected titlist Adrian Hernandez in the sixth round, defended it in September with an 11th-round knockout of Samartlek Kokietgym, and then moved up two weight classes to win a junior bantamweight title by destroying long-reigning titleholder Omar Narvaez in the second round on Dec. 30.

In receiving the award, Inoue was also presented with his newest world title belt.

“I’m very excited to have my new belt around my waist now,” Inoue said in translated remarks. “I wish to defend this belt as long as possible to break the national record of Mr. Yoko Gushiken’s 13 straight defenses. I’d like to fight [flyweight champion] Roman Gonzalez in the near future should there be an opportunity -- hopefully, in the end of this year.”

Inoue’s knockout of Narvaez also won Japanese fight of the year honors and knockout of year honors.
A few notes from around the boxing world:

• Top Rank’s Bob Arum, who hopes to match featherweight titleholder Vasyl Lomachenko and Nicholas Walters in a unification fight later this year, after each has one more fight, told ESPN.com he has talked to HBO about the possibility of Lomachenko making a defense on the undercard of fellow Ukrainian and heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko’s defense against Bryant Jennings on April 25 at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Arum said Walters could land on the HBO undercard of lightweight champion Terence Crawford’s next fight, which likely will be in April or May (and will probably mark Crawford’s move up to junior welterweight).

• Although Top Rank controls featherweight titleholder Lomachenko, Walters and Evgeny Gradovich, adviser Al Haymon handles former titlist Abner Mares and contender Gary Russell, who lost to Lomachenko a decision for a vacant belt last year. Mares is slated to fight an opponent to be determined March 7 on the Keith Thurman-Robert Guerrero undercard at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Haymon is also trying to put together a fight in which Russell would challenge titlist Jhonny Gonzalez on March 28 on his new “Premier Boxing Champions” series with the idea that Mares, should he win March 7, would face the winner of the proposed Gonzalez-Russell fight in June.

• The reason you didn’t see Brian Kenny hosting Showtime’s Deontay Wilder-Bermane Stiverne card two weeks ago is his contract with the network expired at the end of 2014. According to Showtime, Kenny was offered a new contract but is “weighing his options.” Kenny, according to broadcast industry sources, might become involved in broadcasting Haymon’s “Premier Boxing Champions” series, which will air on NBC, NBC Sports Net and Spike TV beginning in March with other broadcast outlets also likely to be added. Industry sources said Haymon is planning similar time buys for the cards on CBS Sports Net and BET to put on fights involving his vast stable of more than 150 fighters.

• British promoter Frank Warren announced he will not renew his management and promotional contracts with British and Commonwealth welterweight champion Frankie Gavin (21-1, 13 KOs), the 29-year-old former world amateur champion. Warren signed Gavin, one of boxing’s top prospects when he entered the pro ranks, in 2008 and has promoted him throughout his career. No reason was given for the decision.

Alvarado puts distractions behind him

January, 23, 2015
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WESTMINSTER, Colo. -- Former junior welterweight titlist Mike Alvarado has had numerous run-ins with the police over the years and has been in and out of jail. Once again, he faces criminal charges, including a serious one of possessing a gun as a convicted felon.

Police allege that they found a handgun in his car during a Jan. 3 traffic stop around 4 a.m. in his hometown of Denver.

So despite the real prospect of going to jail yet again, Alvarado (34-3, 23 KOs) said his legal issues have not been a distraction as he prepares for his trilogy fight with rival Brandon Rios (32-2-1, 23 KOs), whom he meets in a 12-round welterweight bout Saturday night (HBO, 9:45 ET/PT) at the 1stBank Center in Broomfield, Colorado, a Denver suburb.

"I don't bring them with me into the ring, and it's not a distraction," Alvarado said. "I have learned to be positive through it and be strong, and it gives me more confidence to be a better person and a better fighter."

Distractions have always been part of Alvarado's life, and often when he is training for fights. So it came as little surprise when he said his latest legal issues will have no impact on the fight as his legal proceedings will take place after it's over.

"I am used to something always going wrong in camp," Alvarado said. "When it is going too good and perfect, I know something bad is going to happen because that's the way it has always been. I have been dealing with adversity my whole life. Adversity has been in my life the whole time, so there are not distractions for this fight."

Alvarado, a father to three daughters, even joked that he didn't miss any time in training camp due to his arrest because he just made up for the one day he spent in jail by training on his usual day off.

Lee-Quillin in the works

January, 22, 2015
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A deal for middleweight titleholder Andy Lee to face former titlist "Kid Chocolate" Peter Quillin is in the works and close to being completed.

[+] EnlargeAndy Lee, Matt Korobov
Chris Farina/Top RankAndy Lee could see the first defense of his middleweight title come against former titlist Peter Quillin in April.
It would be ironic if they fight. Quillin gave up the belt last fall -- because manager Al Haymon did not want him to face mandatory challenger Matt Korobov on a Roc Nation Sports card after Roc Nation won the purse bid for nearly $2 million -- and then on Dec. 6 in Las Vegas, Lee won the vacant belt by coming from behind to knock out Korobov in the sixth round.

"It's in discussions and a significant possibility and it will resolve itself very soon," said Lou DiBella, Lee's promoter.

Lee (34-2, 24 KOs) has a mandatory defense due against England's Billy Joe Saunders (21-0, 11 KOs), so there are discussions going on about whether Lee can get an exception or whether Saunders will step aside.

It remains to be seen what will happen, but if there is no deal with the sanctioning body or the Saunders camp, it is possible that Lee would vacate the belt and fight Quillin (31-0, 22 KOs) in a nontitle fight since there is likely a lot more money for him in that fight than against Saunders. Still, whether it's for a belt or not, Lee-Quillin is a very attractive fight.

If Lee-Quillin happens it likely would land as the co-feature on NBC on April 11 on the same card as the Danny Garcia-Lamont Peterson fight. The site is not set but the card likely will be at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, with Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey, also mentioned as a possibility. Certainly if the fight is at the Barclays Center, Lee-Quillin makes a lot of sense given that Lee is from Ireland -- and there is a strong Irish community in New York known for supporting Irish fighters -- and Quillin is a New Yorker.

Provodnikov eyes Pacquiao, Matthysse

January, 22, 2015
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Ruslan Provodnikov of Russia Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesFormer junior welterweight titlist Ruslan Provodnikov could be a back plan for Manny Pacquiao.
Former junior welterweight titlist Ruslan Provodnikov is weighing his options, according to manager Vadim Kornilov.

Russia’s Provodnikov (24-3, 17 KOs), who lost his belt by questionable split decision to Chris Algieri in June, rebounded to stop long-faded former lightweight titleholder Jose Luis Castillo in Moscow in November with an eye toward a bigger fight next.

Now the waiting game is on. There is a chance Provodnikov could face fellow big puncher Lucas Matthysse, of Argentina, in what would surely be an explosive fight. Matthysse promoter Oscar De La Hoya talked quite a bit about trying to make that match last week while in Las Vegas promoting the Deontay Wilder-Bermane Stiverne heavyweight title bout. It’s also a fight Provodnikov would be very interested in, Kornilov said.

Of course, there is also the chance that Provodnikov could land a fight with welterweight titlist Manny Pacquiao, who would need an opponent should the talks for a Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight fail again -- which most in the boxing industry suspect will.

Pacquiao and Provodnikov have trained together under the tutelage of Freddie Roach, making for an interesting storyline for a fight that would be another likely exciting match.

“Ruslan is planning to come in for training camp in about a week,” Kornilov told ESPN.com. “We are open to fighting Manny. There have been some discussions about that. Manny has mentioned that he is afraid that Mayweather will run from him. Well, Ruslan will definitely not run from anybody and that's why I think it will be a fan-friendly fight.

“If not, then we are glad that Matthysse actually is interested in fighting Ruslan. He is one of only a couple of guys that ever mentioned that they actually want to fight Ruslan, which is great. So I think that fight will have to happen in case the Manny situation doesn't come to a deal.”

One of Kornilov’s other clients is junior welterweight contender Viktor Postol, who is the mandatory challenger for champion Danny Garcia. However, they cut a financial deal to allow Garcia to avoid the mandatory fight for the time being. Garcia will face titleholder Lamont Peterson on April 11 in a nontitle bout at 143 pounds and is not likely to defend his 140-pound crown again, meaning Postol would be in line to fight for one of his vacant belts.

However, when they made the step-aside deal, part of it included the promise that Postol (26-0, 11 KOs), of Ukraine, would get a fight on Garcia’s next undercard. Kornilov said Postol “most likely” will appear on the April 11 card.

“We are working on that already,” Kornilov said.

Ramirez: 'I want to be a superstar'

January, 22, 2015
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Gilberto  Chris Farina./Top RankGilberto Ramirez is an up-and-coming fighter waiting for a title opportunity in 2015.
The next Mexican boxing superstar very well could be super middleweight Gilberto Ramirez, a charismatic 23-year-old puncher who has looked very good in recent fights.

Ramirez (30-0, 24 KOs) has scored four impressive knockouts in a row against solid opponents: Don Mouton (KO1, a journeyman who had never been stopped), former title challenger Giovanni Lorenzo (TKO5), Junior Talipeau (TKO1) and former title challenger Fulgencio Zuniga (TKO8) in November.

Ramirez, a 6-foot-2 southpaw, will look for his fifth knockout in a row when he squares off with Russia’s Maxim Vlasov (30-1, 15 KOs) on Saturday night (HBO, 9:45 ET/PT) at the 1stBank Center in Broomfield, Colorado, in the co-feature of the much-anticipated third fight between welterweight rivals Mike Alvarado (34-3, 23 KOs) and Brandon Rios (32-2-1, 23 KOs).

Ramirez, excited about making his HBO debut, said he has one goal in boxing.

“I want to be a superstar. I want to be better and bigger than Canelo Alvarez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.,” he said through trainer and translator Hector Zapari, referring to Mexico’s most popular active fighters.

Ramirez said he trained in two camps with Alvarez, when he was preparing to fight Paul Williams (a fight that was ultimately canceled after Williams’ career-ending motorcycle accident) and Kermit Cintron. Ramirez said he sparred about 60 rounds total with Alvarez and hopes to someday achieve his stardom.

“My popularity is growing in Mexico. I want the big fights, the good fights,” he said. “My first HBO fight is a dream for me. It’s a big arena, big TV network. I’m really happy and very confident in my preparation that I will give a good fight. I’m a young fighter but I prefer this kind of tough fight. I feel ready for it.”

If he emerges with a victory, Ramirez said he wants to fight a more famous opponent.

“After this fight, I am ready for a world title fight or a top contender. I will demonstrate that on Saturday,” said Ramirez, whose parents introduced him to baseball, but he didn’t like it and turned to boxing at age 12. “I’m not going to say I will win by a knockout, but I am ready to win this fight. A knockout would be great, but I just want to win convincingly and give my fans an exciting fight.”

Vlasov, 28, has won 11 fights in a row since dropping a 10-round decision to contender Isaac Chilemba in February 2011.

Zapari believes Ramirez is ready for a fighter of Vlasov's experience and eventually a title fight.

“He’s getting better all the time,” Zapari said. “The good thing about this kid is he has discipline and he’s humble. That’s a very good thing for a fighter. We want him to be the first Mexican champion at 168 pounds. I think this fight will be a good fight for him. [Vlasov] has good height [6-3], a good record and experience. He has only lost once. He’ll give us a good fight. That’s what we want.”

Notes: New opponent for Mora

January, 21, 2015
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A few notes from around the boxing world:

• The deal is not done yet but former junior middleweight titlist Sergio Mora (27-3-2, 9 KOs) likely will face Abie Han (23-1, 14 KOs) in a middleweight fight that will headline ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights” on Feb. 6 at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi. Mora was supposed to challenge world titleholder Jermain Taylor, but the fight was canceled after Taylor suffered a broken rib late last week and was subsequently arrested on a litany of charges stemming from an incident on Monday in which he allegedly discharged a gun and pointed it at people during a Martin Luther King Day parade in his native Little Rock, Arkansas. Han has won four fights in a row since his only defeat, an eighth-round knockout to Glen Tapia in a terrific fight in July 2013.

• Middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin (31-0, 28 KOs) and challenger Martin Murray (29-1-1, 12 KOs) both were inside the acceptable limit for their 30-day weigh-in on Wednesday. Golovkin weighed 172 pounds at his training camp in Big Bear Lake, California, and Murray was 169 at his camp in Johannesburg, South Africa. They need to get down to 160 for their fight on Feb. 21 (HBO) in Monte Carlo. They had to be no heavier than 176 pounds at the weight check.

• British heavyweight David Price (18-2, 15 KOs), a 2008 Olympic bronze medalist and 2012 ESPN.com prospect of the year, will face Brazil’s Irineu Beato Costa Junior (16-2, 14 KOs) on Feb. 21 at the O2 World arena in Berlin on the undercard of the rematch between super middleweight titlist Arthur Abraham (41-4, 28 KOs) and Paul Smith (35-4, 20 KOs). Price, 31, has been out since June after suffering a small tear in his left biceps, which forced him out of a Dec. 6 fight.

“I can’t wait to get back in the ring and remind everybody what I’m all about,” said Price, who has won three fights in a row being stopped by American Tony Thompson in back-to-back upset losses in 2013. “Costa Junior is exactly the type of opponent I wanted. He’s got a decent record, similar to my own. Last year, he went 12 rounds with Christian Hammer, so we know he’s no mug. It will be another step up, but I think he will bring out the best in me. I’m confident I will get the win.’’

• Cruiserweight titlist Denis Lebedev (26-2, 20 KOs), 35, of Russia, and interim titlist Youri Kalenga (21-1, 14 KOs), 26, a native of Congo based in France, have been ordered to meet in their mandatory fight. They have 30 days to negotiate a deal. If there is no agreement by Feb. 20, the WBA will call for a purse bid.

Wilder-Stiverne draws strong audience

January, 21, 2015
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The Showtime boxing year got off to a rousing start on Saturday night with Deontay Wilder’s entertaining decision win against Bermane Stiverne to win a heavyweight world title at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Not only did Wilder become the first American to claim a heavyweight title since 2006, but he also showed that he has a chance to become a star based on the viewership for the fight.

According to Nielsen Media Research, the bout drew an average audience of 1.24 million viewers (with a peak of 1.34 million) to Showtime for its first major card of the year.

That blew away Showtime’s most-viewed fight in 2014, which was junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia’s controversial decision win against Mauricio Herrera, which averaged 972,000 viewers.

Wilder-Stiverne was not far off of last year’s most-viewed fight in the United States, which was the Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.-Bryan Vera rematch. That fight averaged 1.39 million viewers on HBO, which is in around 7 million more homes than Showtime.

According to Showtime, the Wilder-Stiverne three-fight telecast was the highest-rated card on Showtime in more than two years. It drew the network’s second largest boxing audience since 2004 (when Nielsen began to separately measure the audiences on premium network multiplex channels), behind the Miguel Cotto-Austin Trout event from December 2012.

Last Saturday’s co-feature, junior featherweight titlist Leo Santa Cruz’s eighth-round knockout of Jesus Ruiz, averaged 912,000 viewers. The opener, junior welterweight prospect Amir Imam’s fifth-round knockout of Fidel Maldonado Jr., averaged 811,000 viewers.

Barrera to face former titlist Lacy

January, 21, 2015
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Cuban light heavyweight Sullivan Barrera (14-0, 9 KOs) will take on faded former super middleweight titlist Jeff Lacy (27-5, 18 KOs) in an eight-rounder on Jan. 30 at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut. Barrera, 32, will be fighting for the third time under the tutelage of trainer Abel Sanchez, best known as Gennady Golovkin’s trainer.

"Facing an ex-world champion in Jeff Lacy is going to be a tough test,” Barrera said. “I know he cannot be underestimated, but I'm ready to go out there and give the fans what they want to see. It will be another victory and another step toward a world championship.”

The 37-year-old Lacy, a 2000 U.S. Olympian, is 2-3 in his last five fights dating to his 2009 loss to Roy Jones Jr. Lacy retired at the end of 2010 but returned in 2013 and is 2-1 since coming back.

The fight is not scheduled to be part of the “Friday Night Fights” telecast, but it could make the air if other bouts end in knockouts. In the 10-round lightweight main event, Karl Dargan (17-0, 9 KOs) will face Tony Luis (18-2, 7 KOs) with an eight-round middleweight fight set for the co-feature between Thomas Falowo (12-3, 8 KOs) and Russell Lamour (11-0, 5 KOs).

Crolla anxious to get back to ring

January, 21, 2015
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England’s Anthony Crolla had finally gotten the opportunity he had wanted for his entire career: a shot at a world title, and on home turf in Manchester, no less.

The 28-year-old Crolla (29-4-2, 11 KOs), a pro since 2006, was due to challenge lightweight world titleholder Richar Abril on Jan. 23 but then suddenly the fight was off after Crolla suffered a fractured skull and broken ankle when he chased two burglars who had broken into a neighbor’s house.

Crolla spent time in the hospital and is now home resting and hoping still to fight again in the first half of the year.

“At first we were aiming for July, then we cut it back to June -- I honestly think I can be ready for May, late May,” Crolla said. “We'll see. I really believe that. Because I've gone through this and suffered this bit of heartache, I'll be even more focused than before.”

Crolla isn’t training yet but that did not stop him from paying a visit to trainer Joe Gallagher’s gym. Being around other boxers training got him excited about his return.

“The gym is like a family and we're all there for each other,” Crolla said. “The boys rallied around me when they heard and that support is massive. Without doubt I will be back in the ring and I will be gunning for another world title shot and looking to win it for all the people that have helped me since the attack.”

Said stablemate Stephen Smith: “It takes a special person to do what he did. A lot of people would have hid behind the curtains and called the police, but that’s not the kind of guy Anthony is. I want to see him boxing again and having him back in the gym was a great sight for all the boys.”

Crolla is unbeaten since 2012 and riding an eight-fight unbeaten streak (8-0-2), including a decision win against former junior welterweight titlist Gavin Rees and a 10th-round knockout of John Murray. One of the draws Crolla had was a three-round technical draw against former world titleholder Gamaliel Diaz.

Walters receives honor in Jamaica

January, 20, 2015
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Featherweight titlist Nicholas Walters received a big honor when he was recently named Jamaican Sportsman of the Year at the 54th RJR Sports Foundation National Awards.

Walters (25-0, 21 KOs), 29, of Jamaica, fashioned a big 2014 in which he knocked out former titleholder Vic Darchinyan in the fifth round in May and then scored a big knockout of Nonito Donaire in their October showdown.

"Getting sportsman of the year is like getting sportsman of the world," Walters told reporters at a gala held in his honor.

"We are very proud to be part of Team Walters,” said Warriors Boxing promoter Leon Margules, who co-promotes Walters with Top Rank. "He is a superstar fighter who had his breakout year last year."

Walters’ next fight is not scheduled yet but the plan that has been discussed if for him to defend his title in the first half of the year and then meet Vasyl Lomachenko in a unification fight later in 2015.

Wilder, Fury interested in showdown

January, 20, 2015
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What newly crowed heavyweight titleholder Deontay Wilder will do next remains to be seen but he has a perfect plan in mind. He’d like to defend his title against British big man Tyson Fury and then face Wladimir Klitschko, the recognized champion, to unify the belts.

“In my perfect world I would want that to happen,” Wilder said after he rolled to a dominant decision win to claim a belt from Bermane Stiverne on Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Of course, we all know this is not a perfect world, so while Wilder’s plan sounds terrific, it has an unlikely chance of happening right away.

Fury, 26, is scheduled to fight Christian Hammer on Feb. 28 at the O2 Arena in London in what is supposed to be a tuneup for a mandatory fight with Klitschko later in the year, but he also has expressed interest in challenging Wilder, who is 29.

“It was big man versus little man and the big man boxed tall, just as I did against Dereck Chisora,” Fury said in breaking down Wilder’s victory against Stiverne. “He outboxed the smaller man with ease. Wilder did a good job on Stiverne and he's now got the WBC title. That puts him in line for big fights against people like me, Wladimir Klitschko and whoever else. America has a new heavyweight champion of the world and the big boys are back in the division. The division has been set on fire again.

“It was definitely the result I wanted. Stiverne, although a good champion, was a bit of an unknown. Nobody knew who he was and nobody cared. Now America has a new heavyweight champion. Also, Wilder's undefeated and a knockout artist. That means the division has been given a lift and we're all back in business.”

The 6-foot-9 Fury (23-0, 17 KOs) also began to do what he always does: talk trash about a future possible opponent.

“I don't like Deontay Wilder and he doesn't like me,” Fury said. “I think he's a big hype job. We once had a bit of a falling out in Sheffield at one of [promoter] Mick Hennessy's boxing shows and I told him one day I will get him in the ring and knock him out. That is still my plan.

“He's got a title now and I'm the mandatory challenger for Wladimir Klitschko. In an ideal world I'd like to fight Klitschko first, because he's got most of the belts and he's the No. 1 in the division, and then I'd like to unify all the titles against Deontay Wilder. Potentially, I'm three or four fights away from being the unified heavyweight champion of the world.”

Wilder (33-0, 32 KOs), of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, who also can talk smack very well, as he did against Stiverne, had nothing bad to say about Fury.

“I would love to fight Tyson Fury,” the 6-7 Wilder said. “I think he’s doing a good job of what he’s doing in boxing as far as entertaining. I think he’s handling his business in the U.K. of entertaining and I’m doing the same thing in America, and I think that’s gonna be a big clash down the road.

“There’s nothing like the big guys going at it. It’s like a freak show. So I can’t wait on that one. I can’t wait for it.”

Fury said he figures that should a fight between them ever be set, the war of words would be highly entertaining.

“It would be the biggest-selling fight with the greatest smack talk in heavyweight history,” he said. “No other fight could come close to it. It would be pure entertainment. Back in the [Muhammad] Ali days, there was only one man doing the talking. The others wouldn't talk. This is different, though. We can both talk, we both play the press and we are both natural-born entertainers.

“That's why it's the biggest fight out there as far as I'm concerned. It's not just the biggest fight in the heavyweight division, it's the biggest fight in world boxing.

“I'm a big puncher, he's a big puncher, and it's just a matter of who lands first. I wouldn't go out there to try and outbox somebody who is probably quicker than me. I'd go out there to switch his lights off. I'd look to demolish him early. There'd be a guaranteed knockout in the early rounds. Either way, it will be over very fast.”

Notes: Bute signs with Haymon

January, 19, 2015
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A few notes from around the boxing world:

• Former super middleweight titlist Lucian Bute (31-2, 24 KOs) has signed with Al Haymon, who adds Bute to his vast stable of more than 150 fighters. InterBox, Bute's promoter, announced that the "promotion of Lucian Bute's career will remain unchanged. It is a pleasure for InterBox to work jointly with Al Haymon and his team in the organization of future fights for Lucian. The first fight is planned for the end of this spring." There was some discussion that perhaps Bute would make his ring return on the Sergey Kovalev-Jean Pascal undercard on March 14 at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Bute's hometown. However, Bute won't be ready, InterBox promoter Jean Bedard said. Bute was scheduled to fight on Dec. 6 at the Bell Centre, but withdrew after suffering a back injury about two weeks before the fight and he is continuing to recover.

• All-action welterweight Sammy Vasquez (17-0, 13 KOs) will face Ghana native Emmanuel Lartey (16-2-1, 7 KOs) on Feb. 20 (Showtime) in a "ShoBox: The New Generation" at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Vasquez's home region. Lartey easily outpointed long-faded Steve Forbes in June to rebound from back-to-back eight-round decision losses to top prospects Felix Diaz (a 2008 Olympic gold medalist) and 2012 U.S. Olympian Errol Spence Jr.

• "Friday Night Fights" fan favorite Delvin Rodriguez will be back on the show on Feb. 27 when he will face Eliezer Gonzalez (14-1, 9 KOs) at the Paramount in Huntington, New York. Rodriguez (28-7-4, 16 KOs) will be fighting for the first time since a 10-round split draw with former world titlist Joachim Alcine on FNF last May. In his previous fight, Rodriguez got a big opportunity on HBO and got knocked out by Miguel Cotto in the third round in October 2013. Rodriguez-Gonzalez will open the card headlined by junior welterweight brawler Cletus Seldin (15-0, 12 KOs) against Johnny Garcia (19-2-1, 11 KOs).

• Former unified strawweight titlist Francisco Rodriguez Jr. (16-2-1, 11 KOs), who fought to a split draw with Jomar Fajardo in November in Fajardo's native Philippines, will meet him in a junior flyweight rematch on Jan. 31 (UniMas) in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Mexico. Rodriguez, 21, of Mexico, eyeing a junior flyweight title shot, outpointed Katsunari Takayama of Japan in August in the 2014 ESPN.com fight of the year. Rodriguez then gave up the belts he unified and moved up in weight and fought to the draw with Fajardo (14-5-2, 7 KOs), 22, in his next bout.

"I have this thorn in my side with Fajardo," Rodriguez said through a translator. "It was a bad night, a lot of things were happening which resulted in a draw. Jan. 31, things will be different and there's no question I will win that fight, I have trained for that."

Garcia-Peterson a nontitle bout

January, 19, 2015
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When NBC and Haymon Boxing announced the new “Premier Boxing Champions” series at a news conference last week in New York, the long-awaited fight between junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia and titleholder Lamont Peterson was made official for the second card of the new show: April 11 on NBC in prime time.

The assumption by most was that Garcia would be putting his two belts on the line as well as his status as the lineal 140-pound champion and that Peterson would have his belt also at stake.

But that will not be the case. As it turns out, the fight (which likely will be at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York) will be a nontitle bout at a maximum weight of 143 pounds.

Now I have never been one to care all that much about alphabet belts, but I do think it’s a little disappointing that they are not fighting for the lineal championship at 140, not to mention that if fighters have belts they should defend them when they face elite opponents as has been the case throughout the history of boxing.

We’ve waited for this fight for a while and suffered through their abysmal tuneup fights in August when they both blew out no-hopers in mismatches. The explanation for that card was that the unification fight -- and more important, the battle for 140-pound supremacy -- would be next.

“Yes, we're fighting at 143,” Peterson told ESPN.com. “I'm not sure why but it was brought to me at that weight so I agreed.”

When Peterson (33-2-1, 17 KOs) faced Lucas Matthysse and got knocked out in the third round in May 2013, it was also a nontitle fight because Matthysse didn’t want to risk his mandatory position for a fight with Garcia. So even though Peterson lost to Matthysse, he kept his belt.

Now, Peterson, who looked very good in his next fight last January in a mandatory defense against Dierry Jean, is in a similar situation of having a marquee fight knowing that win or lose he will keep his belt because Garcia (29-0, 17 KOs) prefers to fight him above 140 pounds.

“I'm slowly making my way up to welterweight,” Garcia told ESPN.com. “I feel a lot fresher and stronger. At the end of the day this is a fight the fans want to see no matter what weight.”

That point is well taken, and I agree. But then why not just give up the belts?

This will be Garcia’s second nontitle bout in a row. He has not defended since a questionable majority decision win against Mauricio Herrera last March, after which Garcia said he was having trouble making weight.

So while Garcia-Peterson is still a quality matchup -- and one I have been anxious to see -- it is a little disappointing that it won’t be for all the marbles at 140.

Thompson-Solis II delayed again

January, 19, 2015
Jan 19
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The heavyweight rematch between former world title challengers Tony Thompson and Odlanier Solis, initially slated to take place Oct. 18 in Düsseldorf, Germany, and then rescheduled for Jan. 24 at the same location, has been postponed yet again, Thompson adviser Mike Borao told ESPN.com.

The fight is now supposed to take place on Feb. 21 in Budapest, Hungary. Borao said that Solis said he needed a few more weeks to prepare because of a previous injury, adding that if the fight is delayed again Thompson will move on.

“If doesn't go off this time, Tony is done. He could have exercised termination rights already and kept all advances but he wants to fight,” Borao said. “But he’s not waiting anymore.”

Borao said he received an email from Solis promoter Ahmet Öner, who is putting on the fight, confirming the new date and location and that Thomson was sent more money for training expenses.

When Thompson (39-5, 26 KOs), 43, of Washington, D.C., and Miami, Florida-based Cuban defector and 2004 Olympic gold medalist Solis (20-2, 13 KOs), 34, met on March 22, also in Turkey, Thompson pulled an upset by winning a split decision.

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