Budler title defense added to GGG card

November, 28, 2014
Nov 28
A few notes from around the boxing world:

•  Representatives for strawweight titleholder Hekkie Budler (27-1, 9 KOs), of South Africa, and mandatory challenger Jesus Silvestre (30-5, 22 KOs), of Mexico, avoided a purse bid by making a deal. South African promoter Rodney Berman, who handles Budler, announced that the bout will take place Feb. 21 in Monte Carlo on the undercard of middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin's defense against Martin Murray. In another bout added to the card, England's Lee Haskins (29-3, 13 KOs) will face France's Omar Lamiri (13-1, 5 KOs) for the vacant European bantamweight title.

•  Interim junior lightweight titlist Bryan Vasquez (33-1, 17 KOs), of Costa Rica, will travel to Cancun, Mexico, to face Sergio Thompson (30-3, 26 KOs) on his home turf on Dec. 20 (Fox Deportes). Vazquez has won four fights in a row since he was stopped in the eighth round in December 2012, challenging titlist Takashi Uchiyama in Tokyo. Thompson has won three fights in a row since suffering a competitive decision loss in August 2013, challenging titleholder Takashi Miura, also in Cancun.

•  Former unified junior welterweight titlist Amir Khan has bounced back and forth between England's two major boxing networks, Sky Sports and BoxNation. He will be back on Sky Sports for his Dec. 13 welterweight fight with fellow former titleholder Devon Alexander, the network announced.
Lightweight titlist Terence Crawford is set to face Raymundo Beltran, the deserving mandatory challenger, on Saturday night (HBO, 10 ET/PT) at the CenturyLink Center in Crawford’s hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. It will probably be his final fight at 135 pounds.

Crawford, 27, has fought primarily as a lightweight for his entire seven-year career, although he has had a few fights at junior welterweight. The time for the full-time move up is seemingly at hand.

“My thought about that is I have been at this weight for a long time, and I feel like it’s best that I move up,” Crawford told ESPN.com. “Me and my team talked about it and said, ‘Let’s go for it.’ There are a lot of great fights at 140 and names to choose from. It’s a stacked weight class, all the way to 147, so it shouldn’t be a problem getting fights with bigger names at 140 and eventually at 147. I want to make a run toward that greatness and the pound-for-pound list.”

Crawford (24-0, 17 KOs) said that while he wants to move up after Saturday’s fight, it’s not set in stone.

“You never know,” he said. “It’s all about what my team wants for me, my managers, my coaches, my promoter. Everything goes good Saturday and they say, ‘Let’s move up,’ that’s the decision. As far as me wanting to move up, I do. But it’s not only my decision. It’s a team effort.”

Top Rank, Crawford’s promoter, envisions him as an eventual opponent for Manny Pacquiao, who defended his welterweight title last week against Chris Algieri at a catchweight of 144 pounds. Pacquiao and trainer Freddie Roach have said they are interested in Pacquiao moving back down to junior welterweight unless a fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. can be made next.

Crawford has heard his name mentioned in the Pacquiao sweepstakes but has tried to ignore it.

“It’s just talk right now, but I’m up for whatever,” Crawford said. “Give me a date and a time and we can make any fight happen. It’s just talk right now, so I don’t feed too much into it, and I got other things to worry about, like Beltran on Saturday. If they’re serious, though, we’ll go from there.”

Crawford said it is a great compliment to be mentioned for a fight with Pacquiao.

“It makes me feel good,” Crawford said. “I wasn’t talked about for a long time, and now that I’m getting some kind of recognition I think my hard work is paying off.”

Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti said it makes a lot of sense for Crawford to move up after the fight with Beltran (29-6-1, 17 KOs).

“You move up for two reasons,” Moretti said. “One, you can’t make the weight and, two, marketability. Crawford isn’t going to get a unification fight. Fights with Richar Abril and Mickey Bey are nonstarters for many reasons. And we’d get arrested if we put him in with [former titlist] Omar Figueroa.

“So you’d like to move him to 140 and eventually to 147. He wants big fights and bigger names, and they reside at 140 and 147. As for fighting Pacquiao down the road? Crawford is reaching his prime and won’t be intimidated. It’s an interesting fight.”

Top Canadian amateur signs with Michel

November, 28, 2014
Nov 28
Montreal promoter Groupe Yvon Michel announced Friday that it has signed Custio Clayton, 27, a six-time Canadian national champion and 2012 Olympian, to a promotional agreement.

Clayton, a junior middleweight, will make his pro debut Dec. 19 at the Pepsi Coliseum in Quebec City on the undercard of light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson’s defense vs. Dmitry Sukhotsky.

"Signing with GYM, led by Yvon Michel, is what I've always wanted,” Clayton said. “I am very proud he has given me this opportunity. I had six concrete offers, including two from the U.S., but I am convinced that my chances of success are best with GYM, one of the best and proven organizations in the world.”

Michel’s group was instrumental in the development of Montreal stars such as Jean Pascal and Stevenson, and the company hopes Clayton can follow in their footsteps.

“Since the inception of our organization, we made a point to sign the greatest Canadian boxers. Clayton is part of this group,” said Bernard Barré, Michel’s head of recruitment. “Custio Clayton developed into the star of the Canadian national team during his amateur career at a small gym with limited Nova Scotia resources. In this context, his amateur trainer, Gary Johnson, did miraculous works. We are convinced that, in his new framework, Clayton will develop his full potential and achieve great success.”

Perez-Maicelo to kick off 'FNF' season

November, 28, 2014
Nov 28
The Jan. 9 season debut of ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights” can’t come soon enough, and now there is a main event set for the first card of the year.

Interim lightweight titlist Darleys Perez is due to face Jonathan Maicelo at the Chumash resort in Santa Ynez, California, according to the network and Perez co-promoter Gary Shaw.

On Oct. 24, Perez (31-1, 20 KOs), 31, of Colombia, retained his interim belt for the first time by knocking out Jaider Parra in Colombia. After the fight, Perez said, “I’ll enjoy this win for a little bit, but after that, it’s back to work. I need to stay focused and ready for the next challenge.”

That challenge is right around the corner for Perez, whose only loss was by competitive decision in a June 2013 interim title bout to Yuriorkis Gamboa.

Maicelo (21-1, 12 KOs), 31, a native of Peru living in New Jersey, is 2-0 with a head-butt-induced no contest since suffering his lone defeat, an eighth-round knockout to Rustam Nugaev in April 2013.

“Very tough fight for both,” Shaw said. “Perez looked very good in his last fight and believes Maicelo is a fight that he has to be at his best to win. Maicelo said he is ready for anyone at 135 and he wants the opportunity. He is training hard and remembers his loss to Nugaev in Chumash and said that will not happen again. Perez is not looking past Maicelo but is looking for the big boys at 135.”

What do they do away from the gym?

November, 28, 2014
Nov 28
The six fighters who will box on HBO’s Dec. 6 (HBO, 10 p.m. ET/PT) tripleheader at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York -- middleweight David Lemieux versus Gabriel Rosado, middleweight Hugo Centeno Jr. against James De La Rosa and junior welterweight Thomas Dulorme against Hank Lundy -- have been too busy training to spend too much time enjoying Thanksgiving.

But they do have activities that they enjoy when they are away from the gym, and they told the PR team for the card what they liked to do most when they are not training.

•  Lemieux: "I enjoy spending time with my kids. I also enjoy traveling a lot. I always spend a lot of time at the gym, though, but my primary [activity] is my kids."

•  Rosado: "We head out to the track at 5 a.m. for some running. Then sprints. I like spin class, too, and that helps me with speed and stamina. Also helps me make weight. To unwind, I stretch a lot. I try to nap and get as much proper rest as I can. But I wasn't built for ice baths."

•  Centeno: "I enjoy going to the movies, I'm a movie buff. Also taking spontaneous adventures with my girlfriend. But I'm always in the gym. I'm a gym rat."

•  De La Rosa: "I enjoy cutting hair. That's what I do on my off time. I also like playing disc golf."

•  Dulorme: "I enjoy being with my family, playing with my daughter, going for long walks, and watching movies. I enjoy being relaxed."

•  Lundy: "I'm like the laid-back guy. I like spending time with my daughters and my fiancée. I'm too old [laughs]. I don't really do too much. I'm an old man [laughs]."

Tarver finds positive in injury

November, 28, 2014
Nov 28
Antonio TarverAP Photo/Rob GriffithAfter a hand injury, Antonio Tarver is back in good shape to face Johnathon Banks.

Although heavyweight Antonio Tarver suffered a broken thumb while training for a Sept. 29 fight with Johnathon Banks, forcing the bout to be postponed, Tarver said he looked on the bright side. The injury, he said, gave him more time to train and get into shape, even if he could only use one hand.

"What was important is I trained through it, never leaving the gym, even though I was training one-handed," said Tarver, the former light heavyweight champion, who turned 46 on Nov. 21. “I focused on my mind and body. We were locked into the original date, but sometimes there's a silver lining when something like that happens. We made it into a positive by training right through. Hopefully, everybody will see the energy, power and conditioning in the fight when I am victorious over Banks.”

The fight was rescheduled and will take place Dec. 11 (ESPN2, 10 p.m. ET) on a tripleheader at the Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, California, that also will feature former junior middleweight titlist Austin Trout (27-2, 14 KOs) in the main event against Luis Grajeda (17-3-2, 13 KOs) and Oscar Escandon (23-1, 16 KOs) taking on Tyson Cave (22-2, 6 KOs) in a junior featherweight elimination bout.

Tarver (30-6, 21 KOs), of Tampa, Florida, who will be coming off a 13-month layoff, is a southpaw and injured his left thumb near his wrist. He was in a cast for five weeks, then spent two more weeks in a brace.

"I've had long layoffs the last five years with only five fights. It's been frustrating,” Tarver said. “I'm hoping to get busy after this fight, as I get closer to the opportunity to end my career on the highest note, when I'm crowned heavyweight champion of the world."

One of the reasons for a 17-month layoff that caused him to be idle for parts of 2012 and 2013 was the fact that he tested positive for a banned steroid after a draw with Lateef Kayode in a cruiserweight bout. (It was changed to a no decision.)

Banks (29-2-1, 19 KOs), 32, of Detroit, who also serves as the head trainer for heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, will be coming off an 18-month layoff after a decision loss to Seth Mitchell in their June 2013 rematch.

Banks trained Klitschko for his Nov. 15 knockout victory against Kubrat Pulev while training for his own fight. Tarver said that probably was helpful to Banks.

"Any time you're training Klitschko has to help Banks," Tarver said. "He has the best of both worlds training the heavyweight champion of the world. I'm sure Klitschko shared strategy with him. I'm expecting to fight the best Johnathon Banks. Klitschko wants him to be successful, so I'm sure he let Banks share his training camp and his on-site trainers for conditioning. Training Klitschko can only help Banks."

Bute on ice dealing with back injury

November, 27, 2014
Nov 27
Injured former super middleweight titlist Lucian Bute arrived back in Montreal on Tuesday and met the media on Wednesday to discuss the back injury that knocked him out of a Dec. 6 light heavyweight match with Roberto Bolonti at the Bell Centre.

Although the card (Integrated Sports PPV) will go on with former light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal moving into the main event to face Bolonti, Bute is on ice with the injury.

Bute was in his first training camp with new trainer Freddie Roach and had been with him in Manny Pacquiao’s camp in the Philippines. Bute injured himself in the seventh round of a sparring session in Macau, where Pacquiao beat Chris Algieri with ease Saturday. Bute traveled to Macau to be with Roach.

Bute said he finished the 12-round sparring session but could not do any more and withdrew from the fight. He said he was still waiting for an official diagnosis from his doctor in Montreal.

One of the reasons for the news conference was to shoot down rumors that swirled that he was going to retire and make another trainer change.

“I heard a lot of rumors in the last couple of days, but I can assure you that I’m not retiring and Freddie Roach is still my coach,” said Bute, adding that he loved training with Roach and Pacquiao.

Now, he said it’s all about getting his back right before he fights again next year.

“I’m not a doctor, but it hurts really bad,” Bute said. “I don’t know what it really is at this point. But it still hurts. I can walk, I can enter my car, but I’m not healthy enough to fight. I won’t jeopardize my health. I’m really sad, but I have nothing to hide.”

The 34-year-old Bute (31-2, 24 KOs) was looking to rebound from a lopsided loss to Pascal in January in what was the biggest all-Montreal fight in history.

Bute has fought only twice since Carl Froch blitzed him in five rounds to take his super middleweight belt in May 2012 in Froch’s hometown of Nottingham, England.

Bute returned in November 2012 and struggled to a 12-round decision against Denis Grachev and then didn’t fight again until this past January against Pascal, a fight delayed because of Bute’s hand injury and subsequent surgery.

Campillo, Martinez to return in Spain

November, 27, 2014
Nov 27
Light heavyweight contender Gabriel Campillo and former junior featherweight titlist Kiko Martinez will both appear in scheduled eight-round fights on Dec. 12 in Barcelona, Spain, their home country, on a card being put on by Maravilla Box Promotions, former middleweight champion Sergio Martinez’s company.

Oscar Zardain of Maravilla Box Promotions told ESPN.com that Campillo (24-6-1, 11 KOs) will face Czech Republic’s Tomas Adamek (21-10-2, 8 KOs), who should not be confused with Poland’s Tomasz Adamek, the former light heavyweight and cruiserweight titleholder and longtime heavyweight contender.

Campillo, a former light heavyweight titleholder, put himself back in the title picture with a fifth-round upset knockout of rising contender Thomas Williams Jr. on Aug. 1 on ESPN2.

Kiko Martinez (31-5, 23 KOs) will face France’s Amor Belahdj Ali (13-3-1, 2 KOs). Martinez is moving down to bantamweight for the fight, where he and trainer Gaby Sarmiento believe he will be a force.

Martinez is looking to rebound from a decision loss to Carl Frampton that cost him his world title on Sept. 6 in Frampton’s hometown of Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Also on the card will be an anticipated all-Spanish showdown between junior middleweights Roberto Santos (21-7-3, 12 KOs) and Javier Garcia Roche (15-2-1, 10 KOs).
Evgeny Gradovich-Jayson VelezChris Farina/Top RankEvgeny Gradovich makes the fourth defense of his featherweight title against Jayson Velez.
While a potential featherweight title unification between Vasyl Lomachenko and Nicholas Walters is all the rage, and a fight that promoter Top Rank plans on putting together, the promotional company has another 126-pound titleholder, Evgeny Gradovich, who has also been rolling along.

Gradovich (19-0, 9 KOs), 28, known as "The Mexican Russian" for his aggressive Mexican fighting style, is also every bit as confident as Lomachenko and Walters are when it comes to beating opponents.

It's no different for his fourth defense, which will come against Puerto Rico's Jayson Velez on Saturday (HBO, 10 p.m. ET/PT) on the undercard of lightweight titlist Terence Crawford's hometown defense against mandatory challenger Raymundo Beltran at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Nebraska. The broadcast will open with a replay of Manny Pacquiao's six-knockdown demolition of Chris Algieri to retain his welterweight title last Saturday in Macau.

"I always train hard. I never take a day off and I take all of my fights seriously," said Gradovich, who trained with Robert Garcia in Oxnard, California. "I am the 'Mexican Russian' and know all about Velez and the power he brings to a fight.

"I have to deal with that on Saturday. It won't be that difficult actually."

Gradovich, by the way, grew up with unified light heavyweight titleholder Sergey Kovalev. They share the same manager, Egis Klimas, and are good friends. All of Gradovich's previous three title defenses have taken place on undercards in Macau.

Velez, who is regarded as the top fighter in middleweight champion Miguel Cotto's promotional stable besides, of course, Cotto himself, is pumped for his first shot at a world title.

Velez (22-0, 16 KOs), 26, trained for two months in Big Bear Lake, California, with trainer Abel Sanchez, who is most known for his recent work with middleweight machine Gennady Golovkin.

"This is a big fight so I went to Big Bear in the mountains to train for the last two months," Velez said. "We had some cold weather but I was able to totally focus on this fight. We had a great camp and Abel put together a game plan to beat Gradovich."

Kovalev-Pascal under discussion

November, 26, 2014
Nov 26
Bernard Hopkins, Sergey KovalevEd Diller for ESPNLight heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev, right, could be back in the ring in March.

Following his one-sided thrashing of the great Bernard Hopkins in a three-belt light heavyweight unification fight on Nov. 8, Sergey Kovalev returned to his home in Los Angeles to meet his newborn son, Aleksandr.

Kovalev was deep in training camp for the fight when his wife, Natalia, gave birth. He didn’t want to break camp and waited until after the fight to meet the baby. Kovalev returned home with two more title belts to add to his collection and jumped into fatherhood, changing diapers and all.

“I already lost track of how many diapers,” Kovalev said. “Beating Hopkins is a little bit more dangerous than changing diapers, but he peed on my hand when I changed him. It is most important to be here with my family.”

While Kovalev will enjoy the next couple of months relaxing with his family, Main Events promoter Kathy Duva is already at work with HBO working on his next fight, which is supposed to take place in March.

The question is whom will he fight? He has a mandatory defense due -- which he inherited from Hopkins -- against France’s Nadjib Mohammedi (36-3, 22 KOs), who is also signed with Main Events and won on the Kovalev-Hopkins undercard. It is not, however, the kind of big fight Kovalev, HBO or boxing fans are looking for.

It is possible that the IBF could grant Kovalev (26-0-1, 23 KOs) an exception if he asks for one. It is also possible he could give up that belt, although that seems unlikely.

Whatever happens, Duva and InterBox promoter Jean Bedard are engaged in conversations about a fight between Kovalev and former champion Jean Pascal.

InterBox is pushing hard to have Kovalev come to Montreal, where Pascal is a big draw, to defend against him. Hopkins twice went to Quebec to face Pascal, drawing with him the first time and outpointing him the second.

“There have been some discussions,” Duva told ESPN.com regarding a possible Kovalev-Pascal fight. “But of course we have an IBF mandatory to consider as well.”

Pascal (29-2-1, 17 KOs) also has his own fight to deal with on Dec. 6 (Integrated Sports PPV) at the Bell Centre in Montreal, where he will face Argentina’s Roberto Bolonti (35-3, 24 KOs).

Pascal is the mandatory challenger for lineal champion Adonis Stevenson’s alphabet belt, so he has options. Talks for a Stevenson-Pascal bout have been very, very difficult, which is one reason Pascal is facing Bolonti, and Stevenson (24-1, 20 KOs), also of Montreal, is fighting Dmitry Sukhotsky (22-2, 16 KOs) on Dec. 19 in Quebec City. The sides are way far apart on the money, although if they can’t make a deal, it would go to a purse bid.

The matchup many want to see is Kovalev against Stevenson, which was the fight that was supposed to happen this month but fell apart earlier in the year when Stevenson walked away from the deal and went from HBO to Showtime.

Kovalev would still like to face Stevenson but wants whatever big fight can be delivered to him.

“I am ready for everyone if it is the right fight,” Kovalev said. “[Stevenson] is interesting fight for everyone. This is the job for my promoter and my manager [Egis Klimas]. I don't think about next fight. Right now I want to spend time with my family. I am going to fly to [my native] Russia for a couple weeks to be with my parents.”

Saunders, Eubank talk until the end

November, 26, 2014
Nov 26
British middleweights Billy Joe Saunders and Chris Eubank Jr. have verbally attacked each other throughout the promotion for their fight and talked of their dislike for each other. Take that and add in what is at stake and the fight has the makings of something memorable.

Saunders, 25, a 2008 British Olympian, and Eubank, 25, son of former middleweight and super middleweight titleholder Chris Eubank Sr., meet Saturday (ESPN3.com, 3:40 p.m. ET) at the ExCel Arena in London in the co-feature on the card headlined by the heavyweight world title elimination fight (and rematch) between Tyson Fury and Dereck Chisora.

Saunders (21-0, 11 KOs) and Eubank (18-0, 13 KOs) will square off for Saunders’ European, Commonwealth and British titles; this is also an eliminator for the right to be the mandatory challenger for a world title against the winner of the vacant title bout between Matt Korobov and Andy Lee on Dec. 13 in Las Vegas.

Saunders was offended that Eubank skipped out on three news conference appearances before finally showing up at one this week.

“Fair play to Eubank, he’s come here alone without his dad holding his hand,” Saunders said. “He says he deal with me in six or seven rounds, so we’ll see on Saturday night if he’s talking his usual bull. He’s faced nobody in his career. When you read down his record is there a name that you can pronounce? I’m the first name that you can say. I’m not some unknown from Latvia.

“I've not had a silver spoon in my mouth like ol’ Chrissy boy. I’ll keep saying it -- if he beats me on Saturday night I’ll retire full stop. I refuse to lose to Eubank Jr.”

Eubank gave it right back to Saunders.

“I’m here, I came alone, I don’t need anybody to deal with the likes of an average Joe like Billy Joe Saunders,” he said. “I told my dad to stay at home, put his feet up and let me come down here for an hour and listen to what average Joe has to say. Now that my training is done and I’ve got some time to wind down, I’ll see what he has to say.

“Let’s remember -- he’s the champion holding the belts, yet he’s the one calling me out. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? He’s just holding those belts for me, keeping them warm until Saturday night when I take them off him. All I’ll say to him is he’s swimming with a shark, and if he’s doing that he’d better be able to swim very fast.”
Former junior middleweight champion and International Boxing Hall of Famer Terry Norris is looking to raise money for his foundation, the “Final Fight Foundation,” and has consigned a number of pieces of memorabilia for auction from his 1986 to 1998 career.

SCP Auctions has 14 Norris pieces in its current auction, which began Nov. 19 and concludes Dec. 6. All of the Norris items can be seen at scpauctions.com

Among the items on the auction block are his fight-worn, custom-made shoes from his Feb. 9, 1991, victory over Sugar Ray Leonard; his 10K gold 2005 Hall of Fame induction ring; autographed WBC and IBF j.unior middleweight world title belts; an autographed WBC lifetime achievement award belt; the gloves he wore in his 1990 knockout of the year win against John “The Beast” Mugabi to win claim the WBC junior middleweight title; fight-worn gloves from his 1988 win against Steve Little as well as gloves from various title defenses.

Norris (47-9, 31 KOs), 47, and his wife, Tanya, started a foundation whose “mission is to serve as a catalyst for the under-served athletes in health and retirement assistance, during and after their careers.” Norris suffers from the chronic brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, caused by the blows he took during his career. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of his memorabilia will go toward the foundation.

Groves was shaky and he knows it

November, 25, 2014
Nov 25
Super middleweight contender George Groves admitted he did not look good in struggling to a seventh-round knockout of Denis Douglin on Saturday in Liverpool, England, on the Nathan Cleverly-Tony Bellew II undercard.

Groves got bruised and cut on the bridge of his nose, and had his hands full until dropping Douglin with two powerful right hands to force the stoppage. In fact, after the fight, Groves (21-2, 16 KOs) gave himself a 5 on a scale of 1-10 in what was a stay-busy fight.

Groves is the mandatory challenger for world titleholder Anthony Dirrell, but that fight is several months away at the earliest, so Groves decided to remain active. He said he was troubled by Douglin’s southpaw style.

“Fighting a southpaw was different and was what I needed,” Groves said. “He was a good fighter, he was good inside and I didn't want to scrap with him inside. Good to get another stoppage and it’s on to the big one now. I want to take the quickest route to a world title and that's the Dirrell fight. I want to be a world champion and bring a world title belt to Britain. I'll be a world champion next year.”

Groves had had two opportunities already, both against British countryman and unified titleholder Carl Froch. In their first fight in November 2013, Froch scored a highly controversial ninth-round knockout in a fight he was losing. In the May rematch, Froch scored a clean eight-round knockout.

Groves has won two fights since, but Froch, who was ringside Saturday working on the Sky Sports pay-per-view, was not impressed by his rival and dogged him about his performance.

“I think he's been Cobra'd. It’s the same with Lucian Bute,” said Froch, who is nicknamed the “Cobra” and also knocked out Bute, who has not been the same since. “(Groves) was in there struggling with a light middleweight. He was getting caught by shots that at world level would knock him out.”

Groves would love a third shot at Froch (33-2, 24 KOs). James DeGale (20-1, 14 KOs), another British contender, who lost a majority decision to Groves in 2011 and also won on Saturday’s card, is one of Froch’s mandatory challengers.

“Let DeGale and Groves fight each other and maybe I will fight the winner, but it's a mismatch,” Froch said. “DeGale beats Groves every day of the week.”

DeGale pressures Froch to fight him

November, 24, 2014
Nov 24

DeGaleAP Photo/Peter ByrneJames DeGale, right, defeated former title challenger Marco Antonio Periban by third-round TKO.
Super middleweight contender James DeGale, the 2008 British Olympic gold medalist, is sitting in a mandatory position for the next shot at one of unified titleholder Carl Froch's belts.

DeGale wants the fight badly, and the fight between countrymen would be a big event in England, but Froch is in no hurry to sign up for the bout.

It's not because Froch is afraid to fight DeGale. That's silly talk. Froch has fought everyone and never backed away from a challenge. But he is nearing the end of his career and his greatest motivation is to have a major fight in Las Vegas, where he has never fought but has wanted to, to follow in the footsteps of other U.K. greats who have played Las Vegas, including Naseem Hamed, Lennox Lewis, Joe Calzaghe and Ricky Hatton.

DeGale put his mandatory status on the line Saturday by staying active against Marco Antonio Periban, a battle-tested former title challenger known for being in tough fights, on the Nathan Cleverly-Toney Bellew II undercard in Liverpool, England.

DeGale (20-1, 14 KOs) looked very good as he surprisingly dusted Periban by third-round knockout. Then he called for the fight with Froch, who was there working on the Sky Sports pay-per-view broadcast.

"I am the mandatory for the IBF title. I want to make history," DeGale said. "I like Carl but it feels like he doesn't want to fight me. I respect him, but I think he's being a bit of a coward not fighting me. Fight me or vacate the title."

Froch heard DeGale's postfight remarks and said he will take his time deciding what he will do next, be it to fight DeGale, find a big Las Vegas fight or perhaps something else. His ideal fight would be to face Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in Las Vegas, but promoter Eddie Hearn and Chavez promoter Top Rank have been unable to finalize it because of the issues between Top Rank and Chavez, who claims he is a free agent. Top Rank is suing Chavez to compel him to honor what it claims is one more fight on the contract.

"It was a great performance by James," Froch said. "He was landing a lot of big shots and switching, and he did the job with what was in front of him. Boxing is a business. I have a promoter [Matchroom Boxing's Eddie Hearn] and if the fight [with DeGale] makes financial sense, it will happen. I want to fight in Las Vegas, and if anyone has the right to pick and choose where they fight, it's me."

Hearn said Froch would probably decide what he wants to do by the end of the year but added: "He has got to make a decision. The Froch fight is a great fight [for DeGale], the [George] Groves fight is a great fight [for DeGale], but James will fight for a world title in his next fight whomever there is."

Full speed ahead for Joshua in 2015

November, 24, 2014
Nov 24
Anthony Joshua Scott Heavey/Getty ImagesHeavyweight Anthony Joshua remained unbeaten with a first-round KO of veteran Michael Sprott.
The ascent of heavyweight super prospect Anthony Joshua, the 2012 British Olympic super heavyweight gold medalist, figures to move into full gear in 2015.

The 25-year-old Joshua blew away faded countryman Michael Sprott in just 86 seconds Saturday at Echo Arena in Liverpool, England, on the Nathan Cleverly-Tony Bellew II undercard. He is already scheduled for his next fight, one that should at least get the 6-foot-6, 240-pound Joshua the rounds he desperately needs.

Joshua (10-0, 10 KOs) is due back on a card Jan. 31 at the O2 Arena in London and will face American Kevin Johnson (29-6-1, 14 KOs), 35, who went the distance with Vitali Klitschko in a lopsided world title challenge in 2009.

Johnson has lost three fights in a row and four of his past five, including to Tyson Fury, Dereck Chisora and Manuel Charr, but has never been knocked out.

Joshua, who fought seven times this year, has yet to see the fourth round and Johnson figures to bring him there for the first time.

"I'm glad to get the year out of the way, it has been a busy one," Joshua said. "Kevin Johnson is durable and he has got a lot of experience and quite a lot of mouth, so it should be a fun one."

Promoter Eddie Hearn said Joshua likely will fight for the British title next year on his way to bigger fights.

"We'll take on Kevin Johnson in January and he will be ready to face anyone in the country next summer," Hearn said of Joshua, who has only 17 rounds as a pro in 10 fights.

Unified super middleweight titlist Carl Froch, who worked on Saturday's Sky Sports pay-per-view telecast, was impressed by Joshua's performance and loves his potential -- as do many.

"I know Anthony very well. He'll go on to win world titles," Froch said. "Michael is nearing the end of his career, but when's the last time you saw such a specimen in the heavyweight division as Anthony? He unloads so impressively and tenaciously, it's perfect. Matching him up is a nightmare. Everyone loves him and rightly so. What a fine fighter and person he is. He's the full package."