Eight-man tourney at 154

January, 28, 2015
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Tournaments in boxing can spice things up a bit. In more recent times, there was the high-profile Super Six World Boxing Classic, an ambitious round-robin backed by Showtime that resulted in the crowning of Andre Ward as "the man" at 168 pounds.

Last year, ESPN and Banner Promotions brought back the eight-man Boxcino tournaments in two classes, and this season it will have two more tournaments on “Friday Night Fights” in the heavyweight and junior middleweight divisions.

Now add another tournament to the roster as promoter Sampson Lewkowicz and WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman unveiled plans for an eight-man junior middleweight tournament in honor of Sulaiman’s late father, Jose Sulaiman, the longtime president of the WBC.

The tournament, called the Jose Sulaiman Cup, will be an eight-man single-elimination tournament involving fighters from eight countries.

In one bracket will be John Jackson (19-2, 15 KOs), of the U.S. Virgin Islands, facing the Philippines’ Dennis Laurente (49-5, 30 KOs) and Cuban defector Yudel Jhonson (16-1, 9 KOs) taking on Mexico's Jorge Cota (24-1, 22 KOs).

In the other bracket, Sergey Rabchenko (25-1, 18 KOs), of Belarus, will face Argentina's Luciano Cuello (35-3, 17 KOs), and Domonique Dolton (15-0, 8 KOs), of the United States, squaring off with Poland's Lukasz Maciec (22-2-1, 5 KOs).

The winners will meet in the semifinals with those winners meeting for the Jose Sulaiman Cup.

The dates and venues for the bouts have not yet been determined, but Lewkowicz said the first-round bouts will take place in April or May with the fights slated for 10 rounds. The semifinals will be held in September and scheduled for 12 rounds, with the 12-round final to take place in February 2016.

Opening-round tournament participants will receive $50,000 each. Making it to the semifinals means purses of $100,000, and a trip to the finals means a purse of $200,000 to each participant, meaning the fighters who make it to the final will earn $350,000.

"This is a project that is near and dear to my heart," Lewkowicz said. "It was first the idea of the great Jose Sulaiman and had to be postponed when his health began to fail. And so I am honored to be working with Mauricio and the WBC to bring his father's vision to life and honor him by doing so."

Gavin signs with Hearn, targets Brook

January, 27, 2015
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British and Commonwealth welterweight champion Frankie Gavin wasn’t a free agent for long.

Released last week by promoter and manager Frank Warren after they didn’t see eye to eye on coming to terms to various fight offers, Gavin on Tuesday signed with British rival Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing.

Gavin (21-1, 13 KOs), a 29-year-old southpaw and former world amateur champion, had been with Warren since turning pro in 2008.

For his first fight with Matchroom Boxing, Gavin has been added to the March 28 card at Motorpoint Arena in Sheffield, England, that is being headlined by welterweight world titleholder Kell Brook’s first defense, which will come against mandatory challenger Jo Jo Dan. Gavin’s opponent has not been determined.

If all goes well for Gavin, Hearn also announced that he will headline a May 9 card at the Barclaycard Arena in his hometown of Birmingham.

“I can't wait to get going with Matchroom,” said Gavin, who will be moving from being televised on BoxNation to Sky Sports, which has an exclusive deal with Matchroom Boxing. “I don't think many people have seen me fight recently but I am back in Birmingham and back on Sky Sports and the sky is the limit.

“The fight against Kell Brook is the aim for me. I am No. 5 in the IBF rankings and he is the champion. Hopefully, by the end of the year or the start of 2016 I can fight him for the title.”

Said Hearn: “Firstly to Frankie Gavin -- welcome to the team. Frankie has long been one of the most talented fighters in the country and now it's time to shine. I haven't seen him smile for a long time and now it's ‘Funtime,’ time to enjoy his career, the exposure and the big lights. I have lost count of the number of tweets and messages I have had asking us to come to Birmingham and now the waiting is over.”

Hearn also announced that former three-time middleweight world title challenger Matthew Macklin (31-6, 20 KOs), 32, also of Birmingham, will appear on the May 9 undercard. Macklin is coming off a brutal 10th-round knockout loss to Jorge Sebastian Heiland on Nov. 15 in a world title eliminator.

Frampton-Avalos to air on ITV in U.K.

January, 27, 2015
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Carl FramptonCharles McQuillan/Getty ImagesCarl Frampton's title defense against Chris Avalos will appear on network television in the U.K.
In the United States, it's a pretty big deal that big-time boxing is returning to primetime network television on March 7 with Keith Thurman against Robert Guerrero in the main event, thanks to adviser/manager Al Haymon's time-buy deal on NBC.

In the United Kingdom, there has also been a development that is great for boxing as terrestrial network ITV, once an outlet for many of Europe's biggest fights, is also back in the fight game, even if only temporarily.

The network and Barry McGuigan's CWM Cyclone Promotions announced on Tuesday that junior featherweight titlist Carl Frampton (19-0, 13 KOs) will make his mandatory defense against big-hitting American Chris Avalos (25-2, 19 KOs) live on ITV from the Odyssey Arena in Frampton's hometown of Belfast, Northern Ireland, on Feb. 28 (with undercard bouts to be screened on ITV4).

"This is a great day for Carl Frampton and CWM Cyclone Promotions but it is also a great day for the sport of boxing," McGuigan, the Hall of Fame former featherweight titleholder, said. "We are very excited to be partnering with ITV in bringing world championship boxing back to the mainstream public. ITV has for the past 30 years been at the forefront of big-time boxing on terrestrial television and it is excellent news that Carl Frampton will become the latest in a long line of world champions who have boxed on ITV. Frampton versus Avalos is going to be a cracking contest between two of the best [junior featherweights] in the world. The viewers on ITV are in for a fantastic evening of world class boxing."

According to CWM Cyclone Promotions, Frampton-Avalos will be the first world title fight in the U.K. to be televised live on terrestrial television since Carl Froch defeated Jean Pascal in a super middleweight title bout in 2008. In 2010, the Amir Khan-Paulie Malignaggi junior welterweight title bout, which took place in New York, was also televised on free TV in the U.K.

"I am delighted to be defending my world title live on ITV," said Frampton, who will be making the first defense of the title he won in September. "When I was a young lad, all of the big fights were on ITV, so to be defending my world title on the channel is a dream come true. Boxing needs mainstream exposure and I am thrilled to be part of its return to terrestrial television with ITV."

It has not been determined if this is a one-and-done for ITV, but hopefully it will lead to more.
Niall Sloane, head of sports at ITV, sounded excited.

"This fight presents an opportunity to showcase a young, exciting British boxer to our audience. We're looking forward to bringing viewers an evening of world class boxing," he said.
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The much-anticipated rubber match between welterweight rivals Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado on Saturday night in Broomfield, Colorado, was a complete dud in the ring as a well-prepared Rios blew out an ill-prepared Alvarado, who quit after the third round. But the fight performed well for HBO in terms of viewership.

The first HBO card of 2015 drew an average audience of 1.252 million viewers for the live, first-time airing, according to Nielsen Media Research. The fight peaked at 1.315 million viewers.

The fight was the most watched of the trilogy, whose first two installments, also on HBO, produced classic slugfests.

The first fight, which Rios won by seventh-round knockout in October 2012 on the Nonito Donaire-Toshiaki Nishioka undercard, averaged 816,000 viewers from Carson, California. The immediate rematch in Las Vegas in March 2013 averaged 1.182 million viewers.

Saturday night’s co-feature, Mexican super middleweight Gilberto Ramirez’s hard-fought 10-round decision win against Russia’s Maxim Vlasov, averaged 820,000 viewers, peaking at 946,000. Both boxers were making their HBO debuts.

Vargas headlines card on HBO Latino

January, 26, 2015
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Golden Boy Promotions and HBO are teaming for a rare Thursday night boxing card.

Golden Boy Promotions president Oscar De La Hoya announced Monday that on March 12 at the Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio, HBO Latino -- HBO’s Spanish-language channel -- will air a doubleheader (9:45 p.m. ET/PT) topped by Mexican junior lightweight Francisco Vargas (21-0-1, 15 KOs) taking on Australia’s Will Tomlinson (23-1-1, 13 KOs).

In July, Vargas scored his biggest win as he wiped out former two-division titleholder Juan Manuel Lopez in a third-round knockout victory.

“Vargas is one or two fights way from a world title fight,” De La Hoya said. “He looked sensational against ‘Juanma.’ He’s right there, knocking on the door of a world title fight and Tomlinson and him should be a very competitive fight.”

Vargas, who is managed by De La Hoya’s brother, Joel De La Hoya, said he knows how important the bout is to his career.

"I am preparing for the best Tomlinson can give me. This fight is very important for me. A win would only get me closer to a world title fight,” he said.

Said Tomlinson: "I am very excited to fight Francisco Vargas. He is a hungry, aggressive fighter. I think I have the speed, strength and movement to not only beat Francisco but also to give the fans one hell of a fight and introduce myself to the Latino fans.”

In the co-feature, all-action San Diego junior welterweight Antonio Orozco (21-0, 15 KOs) will take on Emanuel Taylor (18-3, 12 KOs), of Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland.

"I am ready to put up a good fight for the fans. I know Emanuel Taylor is a tough fighter but I am more than ready to showcase my talent,” Orozco said. “This is another step closer to becoming a world champion."

Taylor gave former three-division titlist Adrien Broner all he could handle in a decision loss in his last fight in September.

"I will be 100 percent ready and I know it will be a good fight with Orozco," Taylor said.

De La Hoya said that junior welterweight prospect Frankie Gomez (18-0, 13 KOs), the 22-year-old East Los Angeles product and former star amateur, could be added to the card. If he is, he would open the broadcast, which would become a tripleheader.

“We’re looking at a couple of guys for Frankie,” De La Hoya said. “In a couple of fights Frankie will be ready to take on any of the 140-pounders. We have high hopes for this kid.”

Golden Boy signs unbeaten Teixeira

January, 26, 2015
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Undefeated Brazilian junior middleweight Patrick Teixeira has signed a promotional contract with Golden Boy Promotions, the company announced on Monday.

"Today is a very special day for my professional career," Teixeira said. "My dream was to sign with Golden Boy Promotions and get to know [Golden Boy president] Oscar De La Hoya. I know that more opportunities will open up as a result of my signing on to the exclusive roster of fighters at Golden Boy Promotions and they will guide my career down the right path in order to give great performances for all my fans."

The 24-year-old Teixeira (24-0, 20 KOs), a pro since 2009 but largely untested, has fought primarily in Brazil with three of his fights taking place in the United States and four in Mexico.

"American fans unfamiliar with the hard-hitting power and one-punch knockout potential of Patrick Teixeira will soon know his name -- and so will his opponents," Golden Boy president Oscar De La Hoya said in announcing the signing. "We look forward to a long relationship with Patrick that ends with him reaching his full potential of winning a world championship belt."

De La Hoya described Teixeira as "very explosive" and having an "in-your-face style." He also compared him to Brazil's most famous fighter in recent years, former junior lightweight and lightweight titleholder Acelino "Popo" Freitas, who was known as a big hitter.

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).

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