Hernandez ordered to face Afolabi

August, 20, 2014
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Cruiserweight titlist Yoan Pablo Hernandez (29-1, 14 KOs) won a split decision against former titlist Firat Arslan (34-8-2, 21 KOs) to retain his title for the fourth time on Saturday in Germany and the next day was ordered by the IBF to begin negotiations for his mandatory defense against Ola Afolabi (21-3-4, 10 KOs).

According to the organization, the fight must take place Dec 31.

Afolabi, who is from England and living in Los Angeles, was supposed to face Pawel Kolodziej of Poland in a title eliminator to earn the shot. But when Kolodziej pulled out of their July 26 fight that was scheduled for the Gennady Golovkin-Daniel Geale undercard in New York, Afolabi instead smashed substitute Anthony Caputo Smith in the third round. That fight was not an eliminator but Afolabi is getting the shot because Hernandez’s mandatory defense is due and Afolabi is the IBF’s leading available contender.

“I’m thrilled to be challenging for the IBF world title,” Afolabi said. “(K2 Promotions managing director) Tom (Loeffler) and K2 have done a great job promoting me and putting me in this position and I will take the title from Hernandez.”

Said Loeffler, “We’re excited that Ola is now the mandatory challenger. Ola has proven to be one of the best cruiserweights in the world and we strongly believe that he will bring home the IBF world title in this fight.”

The fight will be Afolabi’s fourth shot at a world title. He is 0-2-1 against Marco Huck fighting for another organization’s belt.
Welterweight titlist Manny Pacquiao, junior welterweight titlist Chris Algieri and their teams are about to embark on a trip that makes me ill to even think about.

In an effort to promote Pacquiao’s defense against Algieri on Nov. 22 (HBO PPV) at the Venetian Macao’s Cotai Arena in Macau, China, the fighters, Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach, Algieri trainer Tim Lane, Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank, Algieri co-promoters Joe DeGuardia and Artie Pelullo, Ed Tracy (president and CEO of Sands China Ltd., which owns the Venetian Macao), publicists Fred Sternburg and Lee “Harv” Samuels and support staff will travel 27,273 miles over 12 days to six cities in two countries on a media tour.

The promotional tour kicks off with a news conference at the Venetian Macao on Monday. Then they will fly to Shanghai for another news conference on Tuesday as well as an appearance at a card Top Rank is promoting at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai that night. It is headlined Randy Petalcorin against Walter Tello for a vacant interim junior flyweight title.

Then everyone heads to the United States for a series of events at AT&T Park in San Francisco on Aug. 29, including a news conference, a photo opp with the San Francisco Giants, a Q&A with fans and a pregame ceremony.

On Aug. 30, they will be at the Venetian in Las Vegas for a private event the casino is putting on. Then it’s off to Los Angeles. Pacquiao will throw out the first pitch for the baseball game between the Dodgers and Washington Nationals on Sept. 1. On Sept. 3, there will be a Los Angeles news conference.

Then it’s cross country to New York for a news conference on Sept. 4, as well as other media appearances. They will close the tour by ringing the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange on Sept. 4.

Then it’s off to training camp.

Golovkin-Rubio up next?

August, 15, 2014
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A few notes from around the boxing world:

• The leading candidate to land an Oct. 18 HBO fight against middleweight titleholder Gennady Golovkin is interim titlist Marco Antonio Rubio of Mexico, who would have to vacate the interim belt he holds from a competing organization. Rubio has said he signed for the fight, but Golovkin promoter Tom Loeffler of K2 Promotions told ESPN.com that the Golovkin side has not even sent them any paperwork yet, although they have been negotiating. More likely, Rubio signed an agreement with his own promoter, Oswaldo Kuckle. Golovkin’s next fight is ticketed for the Los Angeles area.

“Rubio is a strong option for Gennady to fight,” Loeffler said.

Another possible opponent is Bryan Vera, who fought Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. twice at middleweight, as long as Vera comes through his Big Knockout Boxing fight against Gabriel Rosado on Saturday night.

• The junior middleweight non-title fight between former titlist Canelo Alvarez and reigning titleholder Erislandy Lara on July 12 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas generated about 300,000 buys on Showtime PPV, according to industry sources. Showtime and Golden Boy Promotions have declined to release the total, but at 300,000 buys -- perhaps slightly more -- the fight grossed around $17 million in U.S. television revenue (although roughly half of that figure goes to the cable and satellite providers). Alvarez won a split decision.

• Former unified lightweight titlist Juan Diaz (39-4, 19 KOs), who headlines a “Solo Boxeo” card on Sept. 6 (UniMas) at the Laredo Energy Center in Laredo, Texas, will face Carlos Cardenas (21-8-1, 14 KOs) of Venezuela, Top Rank announced. The fight will be Diaz’s fifth since ending a three-year retirement in April 2013. Welterweight Brad Solomon (22-0, 8 KOs) is also on the card in a 10-rounder against former title challenger Freddy Hernandez (30-7, 20 KOs).

• Light heavyweight contender Andrzej Fonfara (25-3, 15 KOs), who is from Poland and based in Chicago, has signed with adviser Al Haymon. Warriors Boxing promoter Leon Margules, who promotes Fonfara, told ESPN.com that the Polish fighter signed on Thursday. Fonfara, due back on a Nov. 1 card in Chicago, is coming off a decision loss challenging world champion Adonis Stevenson -- who is also with Haymon -- on May 24. Fonfara survived two knockdowns in the first half of the fight to mount a huge rally and drop Stevenson in the ninth round of a brutal fight that almost resulted in an upset.

Stevenson left with no big fight

August, 15, 2014
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Adonis StevensonAP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jacques BoissinotAdonis Stevenson has a light heavyweight belt, but can't find a top opponent to defend it against.

Light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson could've faced titleholder Sergey Kovalev in a much-anticipated unification fight on HBO in the fall. But Stevenson ran for cover to Showtime, where he struggled to a decision win against Andrzej Fonfara on May 24 in a fight that was instead supposed to set up a fall unification fight with Bernard Hopkins.

However, Hopkins could not wait for the Stevenson camp, which was dragging its feet, to close the deal. So Hopkins took his belts and went back to HBO and made a deal to unify his titles with Kovalev, which is a big-time fight.

Stevenson was due to return to headline a Showtime card Sept. 27, but with Kovalev and Hopkins out of the picture for the fall -- and a fight with former champion Jean Pascal also now off the table -- his date has been postponed until October or November, according to French Canadian sports website RDS.

Once Hopkins paired off with Kovalev, the obvious opponent for Stevenson was Pascal, a fellow Montreal fighter. But Yvon Michel, Stevenson’s promoter, told the website that Stevenson-Pascal would not happen this year.

Pascal, a bigger name and bigger draw than Stevenson is in Quebec, was seeking a 50-50 deal, which seemed appropriate. However, the Stevenson camp turned that down, leaving Stevenson with no fight.

So instead of an A-level match with Kovalev or Hopkins, or even a B+ match with Pascal, Stevenson is down to discussion of second-rate opponents for his next fight: former titlist Gabriel Campillo (24-6-1, 11 KOs), who upset Thomas Williams Jr. in a fifth-round knockout win on Aug. 1, and Humberto Savigne (13-1, 10 KOs), who polished off the remnants of former super middleweight titlist Jeff Lacy in two rounds on July 10.
Most boxing fans have never heard of lightweight Daniel Estrada, who challenges Omar Figueroa Jr. for his world title on Saturday night as part of a Showtime tripleheader (9 p.m. ET) at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.

But Estrada (32-2-1, 24 KOs), 29, of Mexico, might be the easiest guy to root for considering what he has been through as he fights for a world title for the first time.

Estrada, the mandatory challenger, comes to the fight against Figueroa (23-0-1, 17 KOs), 24, of Weslaco, Texas, with a heavy heart.

Estrada will be fighting less than three weeks after a car accident took the life of his younger sister, Janyn, and his niece, Emery.

"I'm dedicating this fight to my family and the memory of my younger sister, Janyn, and her 5-year-old daughter, Emery,” Estrada said through a translator on Thursday. “It's been a very difficult, emotional time for all of us. My sister, who was 27, has always been my biggest supporter in boxing. She always told me that if I continued to work hard I would make it to the top and become a world champion.”

Few would have blamed Estrada had he pulled out of the fight to deal with such an enormous family tragedy, but it took him a decade as a pro to reach a world title fight, and he said his sister never would have wanted him to withdraw.

"I'm using what she always said to me as motivation for this fight,” said Estrada, who took only a few days off from training after their deaths. “As bad as we all feel, there was never really a time when I thought I would abandon this opportunity. I know she would want me to take the fight.

"I've been waiting a year to fight for the title, and on Saturday I'm going to take advantage of my shot. I recognize Figueroa as a great champion for what he brings to the sport, but I'm a Mexican warrior. I'll show you all that on Saturday."

Several members of Estrada’s family were riding in the car when they were involved in the crash as they returned to their hometown of Mexico City from a family vacation.
Omar Figueroa and Daniel EstradaCarlos Delgado/Hoganphotos/Golden Boy PromotionsOmar Figueroa, right, defends his lightweight title against Daniel Estrada on Saturday.

Lightweight titlist Omar Figueroa Jr. is one of boxing’s most exciting performers. He loves to rumble, rarely takes a backward step and throws tons of hard punches.

But one thing that has hampered him is hand problems, something that often takes its toll on powerful punchers.

Although Figueroa says his hands are fine as he heads into his second title defense when he faces mandatory challenger Daniel Estrada (32-2-1, 24 KOs), 29, of Mexico, on the undercard of the Shawn Porter-Kell Brook welterweight title bout Saturday night (Showtime, 9 ET with preliminary bouts on Showtime Extreme beginning at 7 ET/PT) at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, he knows that anything can happen at any moment with his fragile hands.

"My hands will always be an issue,” Figueroa said. “We will find out how long they last me on Saturday. I hope they last me long enough to get rid of my opponent. If not, then I will have to suck it up.”

Figueroa (23-0-1, 17 KOs), 24, of Weslaco, Texas, has sucked it up before, one of the things that makes him such a fan favorite.

When he battled Japan’s Nihito Arakawa in an interim title fight in 13 months ago, Figueroa won a decision in one of the most savage fights of the year. Making Figueroa’s victory even more impressive was the fact that he injured both his hands in the bout.

The injury kept him out of the ring for nine months before he returned April 26 to make his first defense, a split decision against Jerry Belmontes, his amateur rival.

Golden Boy Promotions president Oscar De La Hoya, Figueroa’s promoter, knows what it’s like to have hand injuries. He had his share during his Hall of Fame career.

De La Hoya was fortunate that his hand problems never became severe enough to seriously hamper his career and he is hoping the same thing for Figueroa.

“He’s a terrific fighter and he loves throwing punches, but when you go in the ring with an AK-47 but with no bullets, it’s a big problem. He can continue to fight but the next step is to get him with the right doctors.

“Many fighters have had problems with their hands but when you get them with the right doctors it can help the situation. It’s a matter of making sure he does the right therapy and is going to the right doctor. Maybe he hasn’t done the therapy on his hands the right way. It could be a problem with the wrapping of his hands. We have to sit down with him after the fight and figure out the problem, but he has a bright future if his hands hold up.”

To train for the fight with Estrada -- who will have close adviser and future Hall of Famer Juan Manuel Marquez working in his corner -- Figueroa did not train in California with Joel Diaz, as he had been.

"The reason why I moved back home and started training with my dad [Omar Sr.] was mainly because I wanted to be close to my daughter. I missed her terribly when I wasn't home,” Figueroa said. “I wasn't able to take advantage of the things that were presented to me by training with Joel Diaz because of my [sore] hands, so I decided to just stay home. If I wasn't able to get the world-class sparring and training, then what was I doing being away from my family? Leaving Joel Diaz had nothing to do with him, I love him. It was solely a personal decision.

"My dad grinds my gears. It can be a bit rocky. But with the knowledge I brought over from training with Joel Diaz it can make me grow as a boxer and my dad will grow as a trainer.”

De La Hoya eyes Garcia-Peterson

August, 15, 2014
Aug 15
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Like most boxing fans, Golden Boy Promotions president Oscar De La Hoya would have preferred to see junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia facing titleholder Lamont Peterson in the main event of last Saturday’s Showtime card at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

For whatever reason, the fight was not made. De La Hoya and Showtime both said it was the fight they preferred but that the match could not be made for that date -- even though both boxers said they were willing to fight each other. That leaves only their adviser, Al Haymon, who did not want to make the fight. And when he doesn't want to make a fight involving the fighters he works with, it doesn't happen.

Instead, Garcia smoked no-hoper Rod Salka in two lopsided rounds in a nontitle bout at 142 pounds, dropping him three times, including for a devastating knockout on the third knockdown.

Peterson retained his title in his own mismatch, battering helpless Edgar Santana for 10 one-sided rounds before the abuse was finally called off.

If De La Hoya has his way we won't see that kind of card again. He told ESPN.com on Thursday that he was going to press Haymon to make the fight for the end of the year.

"I’m sitting down with Al [on Friday] and we're going to discuss it," De La Hoya said. "That's the fight I'm going to push for. That's the fight that must be made.

"Al knows it and understands. We're on the same page. We must make the best fights happen because the fans are speaking, the media is speaking and the fighters want these fights. It's a matter of me sitting down with Al and talking it over. Al understands that."

Hernandez, Arslan in title fight

August, 14, 2014
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Cruiserweight titlist Yoan Pablo Hernandez returns to action after a nine-month layoff to defend his title for the fourth time when he faces former titleholder Firat Arslan on Saturday in Erfurt, Germany.

Hernandez (28-1, 14 KOs), the slick 29-year-old southpaw from Cuba who defected to Germany, was supposed to defend against Pawel Kolodziej on March 8 before the fight was postponed until March 29 and then canceled altogether because Hernandez was suffering from gastritis (a stomach lining infection) and unable to train.

Hernandez also has had other physical problems, including needing surgery to repair a broken hand that caused him to be out of action for 14 months, including most of 2013, when he fought just once.

Now Hernandez is back and said he feels good and is happy to have the issues behind him.

"I have trained careful with my focus being completely on the task ahead this Saturday night. I did not have this kind of focus for my last fights, as I had to battle many problems outside of the ring," Hernandez said at this week's final news conference. "I almost give up but my wife and my coach motivated me not to let myself go. Now, I am stronger than ever. [Saturday] will be my proving point."

Germany's Arslan (34-7-2, 21 KOs) is looking to regain a piece of the title at age 43. He gave titleholder Marco Huck a very tough fight in a highly competitive and action-packed November 2012 points loss but then was knocked out in the sixth round by Huck in their January rematch.

After rebounding with an eight-round decision win against a low-level opponent in June, Arslan landed the shot against Hernandez -- an easy fight to make because they are both promoted by Sauerland Event.

"I want to become the oldest cruiserweight champion of all time. I know that this is my last chance to glory and I did everything in preparation to make my dream come true," Arslan said. "Coach Fritz Sdunek is going to be my key factor against Hernandez. When I fought Huck for the second time, I made many mistakes, which are not going to happen again. You will see my best performance ever on Saturday."

Ruiz to face faded Liakhovich

August, 14, 2014
Aug 14
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A few notes from the boxing world:

" Heavyweight prospect Andy Ruiz Jr. (22-0, 16 KOs), 24, will headline a card on Sept. 20 (UniMas) in Phoenix against former world titleholder Sergei Liakhovich (26-6, 16 KOs), who lives in Arizona. Although Liakhovich is the first name opponent of Ruiz’s career, he is badly diminished. The 38-year-old, who is originally from Belarus, has lost three of his last four fights with each defeat coming by knockout, although he won his most recent fight by eight-round decision against the unknown Chad Davis, who was 5-11. When Liakhovich faced Deontay Wilder last August, Wilder knocked him out so severely in the first round that Liakhovich was on the canvas convulsing.

" Although there is no opponent set yet, the HBO target date for middleweight titleholder Gennady Golovkin’s next fight is Oct. 18. Golovkin (30-0, 27 KOs) retained his title for the 11th time on July 26, destroying former titlist Daniel Geale by third-round knockout.

" HBO announced that “The Fight Game With Jim Lampley,” a 30-minute boxing studio show that covers the top fights and issues in the sport, will return for a four-show run beginning Sept. 16 with additional episodes on Oct. 28, Nov. 18 and Dec. 23.

“I am excited to hit the ground running in September and deliver four more shows during what promises to be a robust time in the boxing season,” said Lampley, HBO’s blow-by-blow commentator. “We will continue to explore hot-button issues, sprinkle in some entertaining elements, and deliver comprehensive unfiltered discussion and analysis of the sport on this platform.”

" One week after claiming a vacant secondary middleweight title on Showtime, Daniel Jacobs, who knocked out Jarrod Fletcher in the fifth round at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, will be ringside to serve as a guest analyst for the network’s tripleheader topped by the mandatory fight between welterweight titlist Shawn Porter and Kell Brook from the StubHub Center in Carson, California, on Saturday night (9 ET/PT).

“How cool is that? Fighting one week on one coast on Showtime and then announcing the fights the very next week on Showtime from the other coast,” said Jacobs, who will sit in for regular analyst Paulie Malignaggi, who will miss the card for family reasons. “I love this. I think announcing fits me. To be able to do something like this, to be in this position, is very important to me. Other fighters have done it as well, of course, but for me to be able to follow in their footsteps is an honor. It shows that we can not only announce fights, but we can be good at it."

Mares recovering from accident

August, 13, 2014
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Abner MaresJed Jacobsohn/Golden Boy/Golden Boy/Getty ImagesAbner Mares was rear-ended on the way to the airport on Wednesday in Los Angeles.
Former three-division titleholder Abner Mares is OK after being involved in a car accident in Los Angeles on Wednesday morning, but he was banged up enough to cancel his trip to Bristol, Connecticut, where he was scheduled to be the in-studio co-host for this week's "Noche de Combates," the Spanish-language version of "Friday Night Fights" on ESPN Deportes.

Mares was on his way to the airport at about 7 a.m. for his trip to Bristol when the car he was riding in was rear-ended when traffic slowed on the freeway. Mares said he and his driver were OK, as was the driver of the other car, but Mares added that he regretted that he was not wearing his seat belt.

"I'm good. Some little bumps and bruises here and there, but I'm OK," Mares said. "I took a nap and woke up a little sore. I'll go get checked out, but thank God it's not serious."

He estimated that the car was going about 70 mph when it stopped because of traffic and then was rammed from behind.

Mares' appearance likely will be rescheduled for next week.

Mares (27-1-1, 14 KOs) has won world titles at bantamweight, junior featherweight and featherweight. Last August, he was upset via first-round knockout by Jhonny Gonzalez, losing his featherweight title. Mares returned on July 12 in Las Vegas to outpoint Jonathan Oquendo and is on track for another title opportunity.
Gonzalez & Arce Getty Images, AP Photo Featherweight titlist Jhonny Gonzalez, left, and Jorge Arce have 120 wins between them.
Featherweight titlist Jhonny Gonzalez and former three-division titleholder Jorge Arce, both of Mexico, are close to finalizing a deal for a Sept. 27 bout in Arce’s hometown of Los Mochis, Mexico, according to Arce promoter Zanfer Promotions.

Arce (64-7-2, 49 KOs), 35, retired after being knocked out in the third round challenging then-junior featherweight titlist Nonito Donaire in December 2012, but it lasted only 11 months. He returned in November and has won three fights in a row by knockout on the comeback trail with his goal to get a shot at a featherweight title after having won belts at junior flyweight, junior bantamweight and junior featherweight (and an interim belt at flyweight).

Gonzalez (56-8, 47 KOs), 32, a former bantamweight titlist in his second featherweight title reign, regained his belt in upset fashion by knocking out Abner Mares in the first round last August. He has made one defense, a shaky performance against unheralded Clive Atwell in May.

The fight would be a big deal in Mexico as Gonzalez and Arce are well-known fighters there with a long track record of exciting fights.

A major part of getting the deal done is how to work out the Mexican television issues since Gonzalez fights on Televisa and Arce on TV Azteca, both major over-the-air networks. If the deal is completed, both networks could wind up televising the fight in Mexico in what would be a historic agreement.
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Lightweight Rustam Nugaev is riding a six-fight winning streak, including his last five by knockout, to put him on the brink of a mandatory world title shot.

Nugaev squares off with Denis Shafikov in an all-Russian showdown at the Chumash Resort Casino in Santa Ynez, California, on this week’s edition of “Friday Night Fights” (ESPN2/ESPN Deportes, 9 ET) with the winner becoming the mandatory challenger for 135-pound titleholder Miguel Vazquez (34-3, 13 KOs) of Mexico.

During his winning streak, Nugaev (27-6-1, 17 KOs), who generally makes for crowd-pleasing fights, has stopped undefeated Jonathan Maicelo and slick Marvin Quintero, both solid victories.

"I feel I've earned my way to this position by beating top contenders,” Nugaev said. “Against Maicelo, who was undefeated and rated very high, I was able to knock him out. No one has been able to go the distance with me in my last five fights. This is my chance to get one step closer to fight for a world title and I'm not going to let it slip away.

"Training camp has been very hard this time around. We always train hard but in this camp we stepped it up a bit. I've been sparring with top-level opposition and I'm in great shape. I feel my punches are landing with a lot of force. There are no corners being cut in this camp and I'll be ready to fight to the death against Shafikov."

In his last fight, Shafikov (33-1-1, 18 KOs), a southpaw, lost a unanimous decision challenging Vazquez in February in Macau. Yet, he is right back in a title eliminator and probably will pose some problems for the rugged Nugaev.

"That is his only loss so I know he can fight,” Nugaev said. “He does a lot of things well in the ring and I'm going to have to be smart when we fight. I feel I have the power to slow him down and get him out of there before the final bell rings. This will be an all-out war and the fans will please with my performance.”

On paper, the fight looks like it could be highly entertaining, which is just what promoter Gary Shaw said he is expecting.

"This is going to be one hell of a fight for the fans," he said. "Nugaev is a tremendous puncher with a great chin and he loves to bring the fight to his opponent. Shafikov is similar as he also likes to come forward and throw big shots. Both fighters have a lot to gain with a victory. With the winner becoming the mandatory to fight for the IBF title, I see nothing but fireworks in this fight, and I feel Nugaev will come out on top."

In the opener, junior lightweight Jose "Sniper" Pedraza (17-0, 11 KOs), a former amateur standout and one of Puerto Rico’s top prospects, faces Juan Carlos Martinez (20-14-1, 7 KOs) in a scheduled 10-rounder.

Martinez’s record is pedestrian but he pulled a major upset in his last fight in March, outpointing Alejandro Perez and killing his shot at featherweight titlist Nicholas Walters. That fight had already been set for May 31 but Perez lost his tune-up fight and the title shot.

"Martinez is coming off an impressive win against Perez who is a good fighter," Pedraza said. "I know he's going to be coming with all he's got to try to knock me off, but I'll be ready for anything he brings. A world title fight is right around the corner and I just want to keep getting better with each fight. I'm excited to put on a good show for the fans."

Welterweight titlist Shawn Porter has a tough assignment in mandatory challenger Kell Brook (32-0, 22 KOs) of England on Saturday night at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.

But if Porter (24-0-1, 15 KOs) prevails, one of the best fights that could be made in the division would be to match him vs. interim titleholder Keith “One Time” Thurman.

Thurman (23-0, 21 KOs) is sidelined at the moment nursing a shoulder injury, but he is expected back in action in October, not against Porter.

But if Porter wins Saturday (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET with preliminary bouts on Showtime Extreme beginning at 7 p.m. ET/PT) and Thurman comes through his October fight, a Porter-Thurman showdown in early 2015 would be something to get excited about.

Both are in the vast stable of adviser Al Haymon, so the fight could be made easily. And you can bank on this: Showtime would be an interested buyer.

So what about it? Porter was enthusiastic about the possibility of facing Thurman.

“I'll fight ‘One Time’ two times,” Porter said. “I don't look past what's in front of me. Again, we've seen it all over the internet, all over the media wavelengths -- everybody wants that fight. I think it'd be an exciting fight, and it's a fight that I wouldn't turn down.”

Dan Birmingham, Thurman’s trainer, recently told ESPN.com that he thinks the fight will eventually happen. Like everyone else, he thinks it would be a good one.

“I think that fight is inevitable,” Birmingham said. “We know those guys, Shawn and his dad [Kenny Porter]. We have had Shawn in our camp before and we’re friends with them, but this is also business. We all know they might have to fight. When they do, it’ll be a great fight.”
Deotay WilderJoel Colon/PR Best Boxing PromotionsHeavyweight contender Deontay Wilder is not taking Jason Gavern lightly.

Deontay Wilder is in the mandatory position to challenge newly crowned heavyweight titleholder Bermane Stiverne before the end of the year in a fight that has been ordered, but with Stiverne nursing a sore hand it is unclear when the fight will take place. So Wilder is going to keep busy in order to stay sharp for when the title fight does happen.

To that end, the 28-year-old Wilder, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, will step into the ring to fight on Saturday (Showtime Extreme, 7 p.m. ET/PT) on the Kell Brook-Shawn Porter undercard at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.

A loss would kill his shot at Stiverne and, sure, anything can happen in the ring, but Wilder is understandably not taking much of a risk against journeyman opponent Jason Gavern (25-16-4, 11 KOs), who has been knocked out seven times and lost whenever he has stepped up.

Wilder (31-0, 31 KOs), the 2008 U.S. Olympic super heavyweight bronze medalist, has yet to face a serious opponent in his career, although Gavern is probably better than most of the guys he has faced.

Wilder has 18 first-round knockouts and has never been past the fourth round. Still, as remote as the possibility is that he would lose to Gavern, you never know for sure what will happen when that bell rings.

That is why Wilder rightly said he is not taking Gavern lightly.

"This is boxing, and this is the heavyweight division. So you can't take anyone lightly,” said Wilder, who is coming off a first-round knockout of Malik Scott in March. “I'm not treating this like a warm-up. My main focus is fighting for a title, but I'm not looking past my opponent on [Saturday].

“I'm good to go. I'm always in shape. I'm always in the gym. I treat boxing like my nine to five. Others may not take it seriously, but this is a sport where you can get hurt if you don't protect yourself and take it seriously. So I'm always tuned up and ready to go for my fans."

Wilder said that his focus is not so much on Gavern but on making sure he gets to Stiverne.

"My motivation is fighting for a world title,” Wilder said. “I need to go into the ring and take care of my opponent. I have to fight to win and succeed in order to provide for my family.

"We're not looking past [Saturday], but we know to prepare for Stiverne. That's how confident I am in my ability and skills. I'm not worried about people picking the 'right guy' for me. I would be the laughing stock of the world if I had the title fight lined up and lost this fight on [Saturday]. So I just have to get the job done next week and we'll go from there."

The 37-year-old Gavern is experienced and has faced several name opponents, including Oleg Maskaev, Steve Cunningham, Mariusz Wach and Denis Boytsov, but he lost to them all.

His biggest win? A three-round decision against totally shot 45-year-old James Toney, who has not been a factor since about 2007, in the November semifinals of a “Prizefighter” tournament in England.
Heavyweight contender Deontay Wilder and lightweight contender Jorge Linares now have opponents for their fights on the Aug. 16 Shawn Porter-Kell Brook undercard at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.

Wilder (31-0, 31 KOs) is staying busy in anticipation of a mandatory heavyweight title shot against Bermane Stiverne and taking no gambles.

Wilder, a 2008 U.S. Olympic bronze medalist, who has faced extremely soft opposition throughout his career, will face gargantuan underdog Jason Gavern (25-16-4, 11 KOs), 37, who has won four of his last five fights following a seven-fight losing streak. He has been knocked out in seven of his losses. In his last fight, Gavern lost a three-round decision to Michael Sprott in a “Prizefighter” tournament final in England in November after winning a three-round decision against the totally shot James Toney in the semifinals earlier in the evening.

Linares (36-3, 23 KOs), a former featherweight and junior lightweight world titleholder, will face club fighter Ira Terry (26-11, 16 KOs), who is 2-9 with a no contest in his last 12 bouts. He has been knocked out in seven of his defeats. Linares is staying busy in anticipation of a possible shot against the winner of the fight between lightweight titlist Omar Figueroa and mandatory challenger Daniel Estrada, which is also on the card.

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