Figueroa looking for revenge

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
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Omar Figueroa Jr.Ronald Martinez/Golden Boy/Getty ImagesOmar Figueroa, right, will have another crack at Jerry Belmontes -- this time as a pro.

Jerry Belmontes may have gotten the better of lightweight titlist Omar Figueroa when they amateurs, but it will be a different story as pros. At least that’s what Figueroa insisted.

Depending on who you believe, they either fought three times in the unpaid ranks or five times. What neither disputes is that Belmontes swept him.

But that was then and this is now.

While Belmontes has been a disappointment as a pro, even getting released by original promoter Top Rank, Figueroa has blossomed into one of boxing's most exciting fighters and claimed a lightweight belt.

Now Figueroa is set to make his first title defense and it will come against amateur nemesis Belmontes on Saturday night (Showtime, 9:30 ET/PT with preliminary bout on Showtime Extreme beginning at 7 ET/PT) in the opening bout of a tripleheader at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.

Keith Thurman (22-0, 20 KOs) defends his interim welterweight belt against Julio Diaz (40-9-1, 29 KOs) in the main event and junior welterweight contender Lucas "The Machine" Matthysse (34-3, 32 KOs) returns from his decision loss to 140-pound champion Danny Garcia in September to take on John Molina (27-3, 22 KOs) in the scheduled 10-round co-feature.

"One difference between when Belmontes and I used to fight and now is that I'm a full-grown man,” Figueroa said at Wednesday’s media workout. “Now, I have the size advantage. I've sparred with the likes of Amir Khan, Tim Bradley, the late Edwin Valero and Julio Diaz. Working with them has helped me cover all my bases and now I'm a world champion.

"Jerry's been talking forever about fighting me. But it hasn't just been a one-way street. I've been wanting to fight him too, since the amateurs. Believe me, it got to the point where I would have settled just to spar a few rounds with him. I'm very vengeful when it comes to boxing. On Saturday, I'm looking forward to shutting him up for good. To be able to do it on television and get paid for it, well, what's better than that? My goal in every fight is to punish my opponent and hurt them.”

Figueroa (22-0-1, 17 KOs), 24, of Weslaco, Texas, is returning from a nine-month layoff and hand injuries. He injured both his hands last July in an epic slugfest against Japan’s Nihito Arakawa in an interim title bout that was a strong fight of the year contender.

Figueroa, who beat Arakawa by decision, was due to return to defend the full title -- he was elevated after Adrien Broner, who had moved up to welterweight, was stripped of the title -- against Ricardo Alvarez on March 8. However, Figueroa dinged up his hand again in training and his first defense was postponed until Saturday.

“My hands feel great now and my preparation for this fight has been great,” Figueroa said.

Alvarez went ahead and faced a different opponent on March 8 and Belmontes (19-3, 5 KOs), 25, of Corpus Christi, Texas, is thrilled to be getting the shot at Figueroa.

"He says we fought three times in the amateurs but I say five and I beat him all five times,” Belmontes said. “As far as I can tell, he still fights the same way. He comes forward, possesses no defense and likes to get hit. He's always fought like that. Our fights were 12-13 years ago, but I remember beating him easily, basically by out-boxing and out-moving and out-working him. If he gets frustrated on Saturday, just like he always does, I know I'll have him again.

"I always wanted this fight. My confidence is way up. I'm faster, quicker, and love to fight in the pocket. I'm finally listening to my corner. They brought me in as an opponent for Will Tomlinson in my last fight, but I defeated him on a decision.”

Indeed, Belmontes landed this title opportunity by beating Australia’s Tomlinson on the same March 8 card Figueroa had been scheduled to fight on. Tomlinson had just signed with Golden Boy and was a heavy favorite against Belmontes, who had lost three of his previous four bouts (all by 10-round decision).

"I beat Omar five times in the amateurs but it was just that, the amateurs, we were young," Belmontes said. "We have taken different paths as professionals and finally they cross and we meet again. He'll be beaten -- for the 6th time.”

Figueroa has other expectations.

"I am especially excited about this fight because I have wanted to get payback against Belmontes for longer than a decade," he said. “I fought him in the amateurs and he always beat me because I was always shorter than him. Now I am taller, stronger and bigger than him and I am looking to beat him the way he beat me in the amateurs."

Delvin Rodriguez back on 'FNF'

April, 23, 2014
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A few notes from around the boxing world:

• Junior middleweight Delvin Rodriguez (28-7-3, 16 KOs), coming off a third-round knockout loss to Miguel Cotto in October, returns May 16 to ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights," where he has appeared numerous times and also serves as the analyst for the Spanish-language telecast of the series on ESPN Deportes. He will face faded former junior middleweight titlist Joachim Alcine (35-7-1, 21 KOs), most likely in Montreal.

• Jantony Ortiz, the 2012 Puerto Rican Olympic light flyweight who had more than 250 amateur fights and won medals in multiple international tournaments, has signed with Cotto Promotions. He will make his professional debut June 7 at New York’s Madison Square Garden on the undercard of Cotto’s challenge of middleweight world champion Sergio Martinez. Ortiz, 19, was only 16 when he became the youngest fighter to win a Puerto Rican amateur national championship.

• The rematch between featherweight titlist Jhonny Gonzalez and Abner Mares, scheduled for Feb. 15 but called off when Mares injured his rib in training, won’t be rescheduled as their next bouts. Instead, Gonzalez (55-8, 47 KOs), who knocked out Mares in the first round in August in a big upset to win the belt, will defend against Clive Atwell (12-0-1, 7 KOs) of Guyana on May 24 in Acapulco, Mexico. Atwell is unbeaten but has faced extremely poor opposition. Mares has nothing scheduled, but Golden Boy promoter Richard Schaefer said he is likely to fight in June or July.
Bryant ''By-By'' JenningsCal Sport Media/AP ImagesBryant Jennings is looking to take another step toward the heavyweight title.
The May 24 HBO doubleheader featuring heavyweight Bryant Jennings against Mike Perez in a title eliminator and the middleweight showdown between former titlist Daniel Geale and former three-time title challenger Matthew Macklin will take place at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, Texas, promoters Gary Shaw and K2 Promotions have announced.

Both fights look like good, competitive bouts on paper. The Jennings-Perez winner will become the mandatory challenger for the fighter who emerges from the winner of the Bermane Stiverne-Chris Arreola vacant title bout after taking on first mandatory Deontay Wilder.

“The world has been desperately seeking a heavyweight to take over the division, and I believe that person is me,” Jennings said. “By defeating Mike Perez, I will position myself as the mandatory in the WBC.

Said Perez: “My dream has always been to fight for the heavyweight championship. This has been my dream since I first started boxing, and I have sacrificed a lot to get this opportunity. Jennings and I have been on a crash course for a while, and now with so much at risk I’m sure it will bring out the best in both of us. However, as good as Jennings is, I will be victorious.”

The Geale-Macklin winner figures to be in a great spot to land another title shot.

“I'm keen to prove I am still one of the best middleweights in the world,” Geale said. "Macklin is a very tough opponent who likes to go to war, as do I. Our clash of styles could make a fight that steals the show. I will confirm my status as one of the top fighters in the division with a victory. When I win, I still want to fight [Gennady] Golovkin or the winner of [Felix] Sturm vs. [Sam] Solomon.”

Said Macklin: “I'm really excited about the fight with Daniel Geale. He's a good fighter, a former world champion, and he throws a lot of punches like me, so I'm expecting it to be a tough, action-packed fight. After the Golovkin fight [a knockout loss], the win over [Lamar] Russ got me back on track and a much-needed 10 rounds of work. Winning on May 24 against Geale will throw me back into the world title mix, so in many ways this is almost a world title eliminator. It's a great fight between two of the best and most exciting middleweights in the world.”

There were plans to include a third televised fight, light heavyweight Edwin Rodriguez against Marcus Johnson, but the bout was scrapped when Johnson pulled out of the fight, according to Rodriguez promoter Lou DiBella.

You might be asking why HBO would bring Rodriguez back in his next fight after missing weight for a super middleweight title challenge against Andre Ward in November, when he fought poorly and lost a one-sided decision. The reason is because HBO gave Rodriguez a six-figure comeback fight in his contract in the event of a loss. It’s a terrible way to do business and something I have argued with HBO Sports president Ken Hershman about, but he said sometimes that is an onerous part of getting a fight deal done. It shouldn’t be.

Smith: 'I can't blame Lara'

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
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Carlos Molina and Ishe SmithAl Bello/Getty ImagesIshe Smith, left, will have to wait a little longer for another title opportunity.

Most fighters would be angry about losing out on a world title opportunity, but former junior middleweight titlist Ishe Smith has an entirely refreshing attitude about what happened to him.

Smith was scheduled to challenge 154-pound titleholder Erislandy Lara on May 2 (Fox Sports 1) at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. But when Mexican star and former unified titleholder Canelo Alvarez decided he wanted to fight Lara on July 12 in the main event of a Showtime PPV card, Lara pulled out of the fight with Smith and went for the much bigger fight against Alvarez.

Smith said he would have done the same thing and doesn’t hold it again him.

"It sucks that I’m not fighting for the title but I can’t fault the man for going to get more money," Smith told ESPN.com on Tuesday from Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s gym in Las Vegas. "It’s a bigger fight for Lara. This is for our families, making the most money possible. I cannot honestly say with a straight face that if the shoe was on the other foot I wouldn’t do the same thing. He will be in a tough fight for six figures against me, or he can take a tough fight for seven figures against Canelo. It's about math. I can’t blame him for that."

Lara's withdrawal left the 35-year-old Smith (25-6, 11 KOs), the first native of Las Vegas to win a world title, to instead fight in a much lower profile 10-rounder against less-than-impressive late replacement Ryan Davis (24-13-3, 9 KOs), pending Davis' approval as the opponent by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

“I’m still happy to be fighting and I’m still the main event," Smith said. "I’m excited about it. I’m not gonna badmouth the guy and say Lara’s scared of me. I’m not gonna say that. That’s stupid. I understand the business. He’s gonna make a lot of money fighting Canelo. I can’t blame him at all.”

Smith won a world title in February 2013 by decision in Cornelius "K9" Bundrage’s hometown of Detroit but lost the belt in his first defense via split decision to Carlos Molina in September on the Mayweather-Alvarez undercard.

Smith said he could have come back in a soft fight, but really wanted to fight for a title and was very appreciative of his Mayweather Promotions team of Mayweather and Leonard Ellerbe for getting him the Lara fight, even if it didn’t ultimately work out.

"Floyd and Leonard asked me if I wanted a tuneup type fight but I said I wanted the best and I said I wanted Lara, and they made it happen," Smith said. "So it hurts a little bit what happened. But it took me 13 years to fight for my first world title. If I have to wait a couple of more fights I’m not gonna complain. I have a good team behind me with my best interest at heart. They kept me on the card and I’m still making decent money. I heard there was a chance Lara might pull out to fight Canelo, so I knew it was a matter of time. But I didn’t stop my training or my diet."

Smith said he is confident that that Mayweather and Ellerbe will do their part to get him another title opportunity.

"The great thing about Floyd and Leonard is if I take care of business on my end, they will take care of things on their end," Smith said.

While some fighters would suffer an emotional letdown going from a world title fight to one against a journeyman opponent, Smith said that is not going to happen to him.

"I can’t have a trap fight. I know I have to put on a great performance," he said. "I know that my window of opportunity is closing. I’m 35. I’ll be 36 in July. I understand I have to deliver. It’s not like I’m a young guy and I need to be built up. I can’t afford a lackluster performance. I have to put on a spectacular performance no matter who it is to get back to winning my second world title. That’s what motivates me."

Postol-Aydin made TV

April, 23, 2014
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When Top Rank and HBO initially made a deal for the network to televise the welterweight title elimination bout between Juan Manuel Marquez and Mike Alvarado on May 17 from the refurbished Forum in Inglewood, Calif., it was planned as a one-fight telecast. The winner will be the mandatory challenger for Manny Pacquiao and his likely autumn opponent.

However, the network has changed its mind, for whatever reason, and will also televise an opening bout, the 12-round junior welterweight title eliminator between Ukraine’s Viktor Postol (25-0, 10 KOs), 30, and Selcuk Aydin of Turkey. The winner will become the mandatory challenger for 140-pound champion Danny Garcia.

Although Top Rank does not promote either fighter, Vadim Kornilov, who works with Postol, has a good relationship with Top Rank, including managing one of its top prospects, light heavyweight Egor Mekhontsev, a 2012 Olympic gold medalist from Russia.

“We were asked if we would put the fight on our show and we said fine,” Top Rank promoter Bob Arum told ESPN.com. “We told HBO, ‘Hey, it’s on the show anyway, why wouldn’t you televise it?’ And they agreed. HBO was only going to show the one fight and then this fell in our lap and they agreed to show it. Why they didn’t make a fight with us for the card at the start, I have no idea.”

HBO confirmed to ESPN.com that it would televise the bout but did not offer a reason for its sudden change of heart about adding a second fight to the broadcast.

Postol's most notable victory came in March 2013, a unanimous decision against contender Hank Lundy. Aydin (26-2, 19 KOs), 30, has had previous American television exposure, losing twice in a row on Showtime via decision in welterweight fights against Robert Guerrero (for an interim title in July 2012) and Jesus Soto Karass (in January 2013). Aydin has won three fights in a row since.

The May 17 undercard, although not part of the HBO broadcast, is also scheduled to include junior lightweight contender Diego Magdaleno (25-1, 10 KOs) against Oscar Bravo (21-3, 9 KOs).

Estrada excited about homecoming

April, 22, 2014
Apr 22
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Viloria-Estrada Dale de la Rey/AFP/Getty ImagesJuan Francisco Estrada, right, returns to Mexico to defend his title against Richie Mepranum.
Unified flyweight titleholder Juan Francisco Estrada, one of the most underrated fighters in boxing, returns to action Saturday night in his hometown of Puerto Penasco, Mexico.

Estrada will be making his second title defense when he faces Richie Mepranum (27-3-1, 6 KOs), 26, of the Philippines.

The 24-year-old Estrada is excited to have his first world title bout in his hometown after being on the road for his first three title fights.

"I am very motivated and excited," Estrada said. "I cannot believe what I dreamed many times is slowly becoming a reality and now I defend my titles in front of my people. It's incredibly exciting. Thank God for all that has been given to me. We will make a great defense and we will have a big party."

Estrada (25-2, 18 KOs) lost a decision to Roman Gonzalez in a 2012 junior flyweight title fight in Los Angeles that was a fight of the year contender. Then Estrada moved up in weight to upset unified titlist Brian Viloria in Macau last April in an excellent performance. Estrada returned to Macau to make his first defense, a wide decision win against mandatory challenger Milan Melindo, who tasted the canvas in the 11th round.

If Estrada beats Mepranum, he likely will move on to a much bigger fight against former junior flyweight champ Giovani Segura (32-3-1, 28 KOs) in a fight so interesting it warrants American premium cable consideration. (You listening, HBO and Showtime?)

The fight will be Mepranum's second world title shot. He lost by fifth-round knockout to then-titleholder Julio Cesar Miranda in 2010.

In the fight before that, Mepranum outpointed former flyweight titlist Hernan "Tyson" Marquez (36-4, 26 KOs), 25, of Mexico, who faces John Mark Apolinario (17-3-3, 4 KOs), 24, of the Philippines, on Saturday’s undercard. In his last fight, Apolinario lost a decision in a bantamweight world title fight to Koki Kameda in Tokyo last July.

Quillin caught up in cold war

April, 22, 2014
Apr 22
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Peter QuillinGeoff Burke/USA TODAY SportsWithout impressing fight fans, Peter Quillin, right, won an unanimous decision against Lukas Konecky.
WASHINGTON -- Since “Kid Chocolate” Peter Quillin won his middleweight world title in October 2012, dropping Hassan N’Dam six times and winning a decision in an exciting fight, his opponents in three defenses have not exactly inspired much excitement.

Quillin has won the fights easily, by knockout against Fernando Guerrero and Gabriel Rosado and a near-shutout decision against outclassed Lukas Konecny in a tedious fight that drew heavy booing from the crowd Saturday night at the DC Armory.

If there is any fighter who is a clear victim of the frigid political landscape in boxing with HBO having banished Golden Boy Promotions and Al Haymon fighters from the network, it’s Quillin, who is on Showtime, which has almost nobody of significance for him to fight barring Floyd Mayweather Jr. or Canelo Alvarez perhaps looking to move up to middleweight to challenge for his title.

Meanwhile, HBO has contracts with middleweight champion Sergio Martinez and fellow titleholder Gennady Golovkin, the two best fighters in the division.

Those two are clearly the most interesting potential opponents for Quillin, but when sitting down with reporters at ringside after the card Saturday night, he said he would not let the lack of those fights get to him.

“Golden Boy will try to get whatever opponent they can for me," Quillin said. "I’m an American champion. A lot of those other guys, they come to our country to fight over here to fight in our homeland, and I’ve always said I was hoping to fight Sergio Martinez, Gennady Golovkin, all these different guys, but it’s not really my fault, the political thing going on. All I have to do is keeping doing me.

“We over here on this network [Showtime] looking for guys for me. I got 31 professional fights. At this point, I can’t worry about who I am gonna fight. I only worry about staying ready and being in shape. I’m gonna take one week off, and then I’ll be back in the gym.”

Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer said he is open to making a fight with any of the top guys, even if it means having Quillin on HBO, where he appeared before the network kicked Golden Boy to the curb.

“If Golovkin wants to have a fight with Peter, then what they should do is that they should make us an offer,” Schaefer said. “That would be a start.”

With Martinez scheduled to fight Miguel Cotto on June 7 and Golovkin seemingly headed for a July showdown with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. at super middleweight (as long as Chavez can iron out his deal with Top Rank, which has been difficult), that leaves Quillin (31-0, 22 KOs) with few choices.

The most probable opponent is Golden Boy and Haymon stablemate Daniel Jacobs, 27, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., as does the 30-year-old Quillin.

“Danny would like the fight, the Barclays Center would like the fight, and Peter is the kind of guy who fights anyone as long he gets properly compensated and it’s a challenge,” Schaefer said. “That’s definitely a possibility. But if [K2 Promotions and HBO] want to do a fight with Golovkin, let’s do it.”

Jacobs (27-1, 24 KOs) was ringside for Quillin’s fight Saturday. He called it while filling in for regular Showtime analyst Paulie Malignaggi, who was on the card getting knocked out by welterweight titlist Shawn Porter.

“If it's Danny Jacobs and they want to make a fight right there in Brooklyn, well, I live right up the street from the Barclays Center,” Quillin said. “It won't take me long to get there. I'll drive my Corvette and drop the top on it when I go.

“I think Danny is special. Danny had his shot to glory when he fought for the same belt [I have] against Dmitry Pirog [in 2010], and Danny had his time to shine. Now it’s my time to shine. The spotlight is on me. My job is not worry about the guy who is trying to get that spotlight.”

Jacobs was a big favorite against Pirog but got knocked out in the fifth round in their bout for the vacant belt that Quillin eventually won against N’Dam.

Quillin suggested that Jacobs doesn’t deserve the shot at him and should fight Curtis Stevens, another Brooklyn middleweight contender, for the right to get the title shot.

Either way, Quillin’s dance card looks to be a bit barren for the time being.

Thompson headed back to Europe

April, 22, 2014
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Heavyweight contender Tony Thompson has always gone by the nickname “The Tiger,” but he might to try “Road Warrior” on for size.

The 42-year-old two-time world title challenger from Washington, D.C., is once again headed to Europe for a fight when he takes on France’s Carlos Takam on June 6 in Paris.

The way Thompson (39-4, 26 KOs) sees the matchup, with a win he will be a step closer to his ultimate goal: a third shot at heavyweight champ Wladimir Klitschko, who owns two knockout victories against him.

“I step closer to the main title, then back to Wlad,” Thompson told ESPN.com.

The fight will be Thompson’s sixth in a row in Europe, where he has had mixed results.

In 2012, he suffered a sixth-round knockout loss to Klitschko in their rematch in Switzerland. Then Thompson scored back-to-back upset knockout victories against British heavyweight David Price, both bouts coming in Price’s hometown of Liverpool last year, followed by a decision loss in Germany in a title eliminator to Kubrat Pulev.

Then on March 22, Thompson, a southpaw, went to Turkey and looked good in a split-decision win -- he deserved the unanimous nod -- against house fighter Odlanier Solis, the former Cuban Olympic gold medalist.

Next up is Takam (29-1-1, 23 KOs), 33, whom American fight fans might be familiar with because his last fight was televised on HBO, a 10-round draw with Mike Perez in Montreal on the Jean Pascal-Lucian Bute undercard.

Porter ordered to face Brook

April, 21, 2014
Apr 21
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Barely 24 hours after welterweight titlist Shawn Porter destroyed former titleholder Paulie Malignaggi in the fourth round of a brutal, efficient and impressive performance to retain his belt for the first time on Saturday night at the DC Armory in Washington, D.C., he was put on notice about his mandatory defense.

[+] EnlargeShawn Porter
Elsa/Golden Boy/Golden Boy/Getty ImagesShawn Porter has 90 days to defend his IBF title against fellow unbeaten Kell Brook.
The IBF, which sanctions the belt Porter holds, sent a letter on Monday to Porter (24-0-1, 15 KOs) and Golden Boy Promotions, ordering his mandatory against England's Kell Brook (32-0, 22 KOs).

"Congratulations on your win over Paulie Malignaggi last Saturday, April 19, 2014 at the DC Armory in Washington, DC in an optional defense of the IBF welterweight championship," IBF championship chairman Lindsey Tucker wrote. "We wish you all the best for a long and illustrious career as the IBF welterweight champion.

"The IBF granted Golden Boy Promotions an exception to regulations for the Porter vs. Malignaggi fight. One of the conditions of the exception is that the winner must fight the leading available contender within 90 days. The leading available contender is No. 1 Kell Brook. ... Negotiations should commence immediately and be concluded by May 21, 2014. In the event that you are unable to come to an amiable agreement with Brook, the IBF will call for a purse bid."

The IBF furthe r ordered that neither Porter nor Brook can take another fight until the mandatory is completed. If Porter did, he would be stripped of the title. If Brook did, he would lose his mandatory status.

Golden Boy chief executive Richard Schaefer said he plans to discuss the Porter fight, among other topics, with Porter adviser Al Haymon when they are both in Las Vegas next week for the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Marcos Maidana fight.

It remains to be seen whether Schaefer and Eddie Hearn, Brook's promoter, can make a deal.

Fortuna joins busy day on May 31

April, 21, 2014
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There will be boxing all over the various HBO networks on a busy May 31.

On the main network, the boxing day begins at 4 p.m. ET with same-day taped coverage of Nonito Donaire's challenge of Simpiwe Vetyeka for his featherweight belt at the Venetian Macao in Macau, China. Then, at approximately 4:45 p.m. ET, the scene will shift live to Wembley Stadium in London, where an expected crowd of 80,000 will be on hand for the rematch between super middleweight titlist Carl Froch and George Groves.

[+] EnlargeJavier Fortuna
Al Bello/Getty ImagesJavier Fortuna headlines an HBO2 card on May 31 against Juan Antonio Rodriguez on an already loaded day of great fights for the network.
Then there will be more boxing at midnight ET on HBO2 from the New Tropicana Las Vegas, where promoters Sampson Lewkowicz and Lou DiBella are putting on a show that was part of their deal for making the fight between middleweight champ Sergio Martinez and Miguel Cotto. The card includes a Spanish-language simulcast on HBO Latino, which is where the card was going to air exclusively until the HBO2 English-language telecast was recently added to the mix.

In the main event, speedy southpaw and junior lightweight contender Javier Fortuna (24-0-1, 18 KOs) of the Dominican Republic, who was stripped of his interim featherweight belt for missing weight in August, will meet Juan Antonio Rodriguez (26-4, 23 KOs) in a 10-rounder.

"I am very happy to be on HBO Latino and have a chance to redeem myself on national TV, especially in my second home of Las Vegas, where I will bring pride to my beloved Dominican Republic," Fortuna said.

Rodriguez's last fight was an eight-round decision against Yenifel Vicente and Fortuna said he plans to avenge the loss for his countryman. No chance, said Rodriguez.

"This is the type of opportunity I have been waiting for," Rodriguez said. "People in Mexico know how good I am, but after I beat Javier Fortuna on May 31 on HBO Latino, the entire world will see how good I am."

In the 10-round co-feature, junior featherweight Luis Rosa (16-0, 7 KOs) squares off against Luis "Orlandito" Del Valle (18-1, 13 KOs) in what should be an action fight.

"I couldn't be happier about this opportunity," Puerto Rico's Rosa said. "This is my chance to show that I am not only one of the best fighters in the 122-pound division but also for me to pick up my first [regional] title belt and to make a major jump up the world ratings. I respect Orlandito as a fighter, but this is my time to shine and there is no one who will stand in the way of that."

Del Valle's only loss was by decision to former titleholder Vic Darchinyan in 2012, but it knocked his stock down.

"A while back, it used to be all fun and hype for me, but not anymore," Del Valle said. "May 31 is just another date and another fight for me to prove to the world the type of fighter I am. I am all business now, and come May 31, Rosa is going to find that out very quickly."

In an untelevised middleweight bout, former junior middleweight titlist Sergio Mora (25-3-2, 8 KOs) will face Samuel Rogers (14-1, 8 KOs).

"Javier Fortuna has been flirting with stardom for a couple of years now, and an impressive showing on May 31 further cements that," DiBella said. "The co-feature is one of the absolute best matchups that you can possibly make at that weight. We are happy to be able to bring boxing back to The New Tropicana Las Vegas."

Jean Pascal has plan in place

April, 18, 2014
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Pascal/ButeEric Bolte/USA TODAY SportsJean Pascal could be headed for a rematch with fellow Montreal star Lucian Bute later this year.

Former light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal, who re-signed with promoter Yvon Michel and also brought on co-promoter InterBox in a deal announced Thursday, has a plan in place.

Michel and InterBox’s Jean Bedard will promote at least Pascal’s next two fights in conjunction with Pascal’s new company, Jean Pascal Promotions. Pascal, a major star in Montreal, will return in September to fight in Quebec in the first fight of the agreement.

Top Rank has been contacted to see if Seanie Monaghan is interested in facing Pascal, according to a source with knowledge of the discussion.

If all goes well for Pascal (29-2-1, 17 KOs) in September, the plan is for him to meet fellow Montreal star and former super middleweight titlist Lucian Bute in December in a rematch. In perhaps the most anticipated fight in Canadian history -- although one that took place too late because neither fighter was still at his best -- Pascal easily outpointed Bute on Jan. 18, after which Pascal’s contract with Michel expired, leading to his free agency and the new deal signed this week.

Bute had an option for a rematch after the first fight with Pascal. If Pascal wins the proposed rematch with Bute, the plan would be for another huge all-Montreal showdown in the first part of 2015 against reigning light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson.

Of course, a lot can happen between now and then. Pascal has to win his fights first, although he is not going to be in much harm’s way. Stevenson would also have to beat Andrzej Fonfara on May 24 in Montreal, a fight for which Stevenson is the heavy favorite. Then it could get trickier. He would probably have one more fight before a possible Pascal match.

If Stevenson wins on May 24 and Bernard Hopkins defeats Beibut Shumenov on Saturday to unify alphabet light heavyweight belts, the plan Stevenson, Hopkins and Showtime have talked about is for a fall showdown between Stevenson and Hopkins (who is already 1-0-1 against Pascal in championship fights).

If Stevenson beats Hopkins, he would probably be looking at a fight with Pascal next -- and not the fight most fans would rather see, a showdown with titleholder Sergey Kovalev. That was in the works for the fall before Stevenson jumped from HBO to Showtime last month.

Gatica looks to shine in Boxcino

April, 17, 2014
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The Boxcino middleweight tournament rolls on this week with the semifinals of the eight-man tournament on “Friday Night Fights” (ESPN2, 9 ET).

Vitalii Kopylenko (23-0, 13 KOs) of Ukraine takes on Willie Monroe Jr. (16-1, 6 KOs) of Rochester, N.Y., in one half of the bracket and Brandon Adams (13-0, 9 KOs) faces Raymond Gatica (14-2, 9 KOs) in the other half at Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, N.Y. Each fight is scheduled for eight rounds and the winners will meet in the final on May 23, also at Turning Stone, but in a 10-round fight.

Gatica, 29, of Austin, Texas, was largely unknown before the tournament started but he looked good knocking out previously undefeated Sena Agbeko in the fourth round in the Feb. 28 quarterfinals.

Gatica is hoping to carry the success over into the semifinals against Adams, 24, of Los Angeles, who advanced with his own fourth-round knockout of Daniel Edouard.

"I felt I was a little sloppy (against Agbeko) but it came down to who would throw the harder punches," Gatica said. “My training for this fight is going well and I am getting in shape. I will be in better condition and we are working on my technique. Brandon is a good fight for me. He is worthy with good skills. He is strong and in good shape. I am glad to be fighting him."

If you ask Gatica, he believes the semifinal match is worthy of being the final.

"It could be us in the finals but that's the way tournament shook out,” Gatica said. “I see myself winning the whole thing, but I am taking this one fight at a time. It is exciting and I believe I will be in the final. (Fans) have liked my fights and have got great feedback on the concept of Boxcino. It gets people to fight and not be protected.”

The Boxcino lightweight tournament final is also on the May 23 card and will match Petr Petrov (34-4-2, 15 KOs) against Fernando Carcamo (17-5, 13 KOs).

Pacquiao wins, doesn't sell

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
3:51
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Although Manny Pacquiao scored a resounding decision victory against Timothy Bradley Jr. to reclaim his welterweight belt Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, the PacMan wasn’t nearly as resounding in terms of his drawing power.

Pacquiao-Bradley II generated almost $1.1 million less in ticket sales than the first fight and represented Pacquiao’s worst gate performance in the past eight fights he has had in Las Vegas, dating to his star-making knockout victory against Oscar De La Hoya in 2008.

Pacquiao-Bradley II generated a live gate of $7,865,100 from 14,099 sold tickets, according to the Nevada State Athletic Commission. There were 894 unsold tickets and 926 complimentary tickets from the 15,919 available tickets.

When Bradley was given a hugely controversial split decision win against Pacquiao in their first fight in June 2012, also at the MGM Grand, the bout generated a live gate of $8,963,180 from 13,229 tickets sold, with 2,070 unsold tickets and 925 complimentary tickets.

Pacquiao’s fight with De La Hoya was his best gate performance, generating $14,380,300, fourth-best in Nevada history. But the Bradley rematch didn’t come close to his other Las Vegas fights.

Pacquiao’s third fight with Juan Manuel Marquez generated $11,648,300, Marquez IV was $10,888,900, Shane Mosley $8,882,600, Miguel Cotto $8,847,550 and Ricky Hatton $8,832.950.

The figure for Pacquiao-Bradley II was a bit surprising because many figured there would be pent-up demand to see Pacquiao again; he had not fought in the United States since the fourth fight with Marquez in December 2012. His only fight of 2013, a rout of Brandon Rios, took place in Macau.

The HBO PPV numbers have not been disclosed yet and are not expected until at least next week because Top Rank promoter Bob Arum and president Todd duBoef, Arum’s stepson, left the country on a family vacation the day after Pacquiao-Bradley II, and they have not yet discussed the figures with HBO. Pacquiao-Bradley II will be replayed Saturday on HBO beginning at 11 p.m. ET/PT.

Verdejo back in action in Orlando

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
12:58
AM ET
Felix Verdejo vs.  Petchsamuthr DuanaaymukdahanChris Farina/Top Rank Unbeaten Felix Verdejo returns to Orlando on Saturday's Orlando Cruz-Gamilier Rodriguez undercard.
Lightweight Felix Verdejo, a 2012 Puerto Rican Olympian and one of boxing's most exciting prospects, is back in action on Saturday night.

Verdejo's scheduled six-round fight against Ivan Zavala (6-5-1, 2 KOs) of Mexico at the Bahia Shrine Temple in Orlando, Fla., will open the UniMas-televised card (midnight ET, same-day tape).

The card is headlined by an all-Puerto Rican featherweight fight between Orlando Cruz (20-3-1, 10 KOs), who was stopped in the seventh round challenging Orlando Salido for a vacant world title on the Timothy Bradley Jr.-Juan Manuel Marquez undercard in October, and Gamilier Rodriguez (23-2-3, 16 KOs). Cruz, of course, made headlines around the world for coming out as boxing's first-ever openly gay, active fighter.

Top Rank is putting the Puerto Rican-heavy card on in Orlando because of the exceptional response it got there to the Miguel Cotto-Delvin Rodriguez show it promoted there in October. Cotto, Puerto Rico's biggest attraction, drew a raucous crowd to the Amway Center, where the NBA's Orlando Magic play.

Orlando has a significant Puerto Rican community and it turned out strong to support the card, on which the 20-year-old Verdejo (11-0, 8 KOs) also fought and drew huge cheers from the crowd. Besides fighting in places such as Puerto Rico and New York, Orlando could become a significant site for Verdejo fights in the future, especially if he develops into a top-notch fighter like so many expect him to.

"I am looking forward to going back to Orlando because we have a large community of Puerto Rican people there and they come out to support me," Verdejo said. "I also have many friends there who I have known since I was a kid.

"I have trained very hard and want to give the people a great fight. This is another important fight in my development as a fighter."

If all goes well for Verdejo, he is expected to fight June 7 at Madison Square Garden in New York on the undercard of Cotto's challenge of middleweight champion Sergio Martinez.

Expect 'very best' from Quigg

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
12:49
AM ET
Scott Quigg, Yoandris SalinasScott Heavey/Getty ImagesScott Quigg expects to be at his physical and mental peak in Saturday's fight with Tshifhiwa Munyai.
Whether junior featherweight titlist Scott Quigg was going to face interim titlist Nehomar Cermeno or late replacement Tshifhiwa Munyai, he said fight fans will see the very best from him.

"This is the best Scott Quigg there has ever been," Quigg said. "I have improved as a fighter skill-wise, I am physically more mature and mentally I am in a good place. Every box is ticked and this is the best Scott Quigg anybody will have ever seen."

Quigg was due to make his third title defense against Cermeno, but he dropped out last week because of a visa problem, according to promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Sport, and was replaced by South Africa's Munyai, who will challenge Quigg on Saturday (AWE, 3 p.m. ET) at the Phones 4u Arena in Manchester, England.

Quigg (27-0-2, 20 KOs), 25, of England, is coming an impressive second-round knockout of Diego Silva in a November defense, also at the Phones 4u Arena, on the Carl Froch-George Groves undercard.

"Being stood on that ramp before the fight against Silva and making my entrance in front of 20,000 people -- that is something I have always wanted," Quigg said. "When I looked around and the place was packed, there is no better feeling or adrenaline buzz that could ever match that, knowing that I had put in the work and trained so hard. To top it off with a cracking performance with a stoppage in the second round of a world title fight in Manchester was fantastic. That is what I have always worked for. That is why I have and still do sacrifice so much and dedicate myself to the sport."

Munyai (24-2-1, 12 KOs), 28, is 5-1 in England and has faced some of the better British fighters his division had to offer. Quigg, however, said the change of opponents won't be an issue.

"All the preparation was already done when the change of opponent happened," Quigg said. "It isn't ideal but you have to be able to adapt and deal with it. I am in the best place I can be and my best beats anybody else's best on the night. I remember watching Munyai when he came over and beat Martin Power and Lee Haskins in Commonwealth title fights. But I am not Martin Power or Lee Haskins. I am a different level to them ... I am 100 percent confident I will do a job, and do the job in style."

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