A few notes from around the boxing world:

• Golden Boy Promotions will celebrate the 50th birthday of company partner and future Hall of Famer Bernard Hopkins with a card at the 2300 Arena in his hometown of Philadelphia on Jan. 20 (Fox Sports 1/Fox Deportes, 8 p.m. ET).

"I'm so excited that Golden Boy has decided to honor my birthday in this way," said Hopkins, the former middleweight and light heavyweight world champion, who turns 50 on Jan. 15. "The best present that they can give me is to bring a great night of fights to my hometown and give Philly boxing fans something to celebrate."

In the main event, Philadelphia’s Eric Hunter (19-3, 10 KOs) will face Nicaragua’s Rene Alvarado (21-3, 14 KOs) in a 10-round featherweight bout. In the 10-round junior welterweight co-feature, Newark, New Jersey’s Michael Perez (21-1, 10 KOs) will face an opponent to be determined. The televised opener will feature junior lightweight Lamont Roach Jr. (5-0, 2 KOs), of Washington, D.C., in a six-rounder against an opponent to be determined.

• Promoter Sampson Lewkowicz announced Wednesday that he and junior lightweight contender Javier Fortuna (26-0-1, 19 KOs), 25, of the Dominican Republic, have renewed their promotional agreement.

"This is my gift for this year, to continue working with a budding superstar like Javier," Lewkowicz said. "He is on the verge of stardom and, like all my fighters, he is also like a son to me. I admire all of their loyalty and I wish them all a very Merry Christmas and happy holidays."

• The Main Events-promoted Jan. 30 edition of ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights” at the Foxwoods resort in Mashantucket, Connecticut, will be headlined by lightweight prospect Karl Dargan (17-0, 9 KOs) taking on Tony Luis (18-2, 7 KOs) in a 10-round bout. The co-feature will pit junior middleweights Russell Lamour (11-0, 5 KOs) and Thomas Falowo (12-3, 8 KOs) in an eight-rounder.

• "The Hebrew Hammer” Cletus Seldin (15-0, 12 KOs) returns to “Friday Night Fights” on Feb. 27 at the Paramount in Huntington, New York. He will face Johnny Garcia (19-2-1, 11 KOs) in the junior welterweight main event of a Star Boxing card.

Chagaev mourns Sdunek's passing

December, 24, 2014
Dec 24
The death this week of acclaimed German trainer Fritz Sdunek, who worked with numerous world champions during his career, hit many of his fighters and former fighters hard, but perhaps none harder than Ruslan Chagaev.

"I just cannot believe it and cannot find words to express my grief,” said Chagaev, who claimed a secondary heavyweight title with Sdunek in his corner on July 6 in Russia. "We have been in the gym together just a few days ago. Fritz was not only the best boxing coach Germany has ever seen but also and foremost a great and unique human being, and a role model in all aspects of life.

“I am proud to have known him and to have worked with him. My thoughts and prayers are with his family. It is a very, very sad day for boxing."

Sdunek died on Monday at age 67 after suffering a heart attack.

Chagaev’s promoter Timur Dugazaev, also a fighter who was trained by Sdunek, expressed sadness over his passing.

"Fritz was part of our family. I admired and respected him and had lots of fun with him at the same time," said Dugazaev, adding that he and Sdunek had spoken two days before his death. "I spoke to him when he was in the hospital. He told me he was feeling well and that he was looking forward to being released within the next days. He was in a good mood. I still can't understand that he is not with us anymore."

Sdunek began training Chagaev earlier this year and was planning his training camp to get him ready for his first defense in early 2015 when he died.

"Of course, this is a major setback for our whole team. Fritz can never be replaced. Not as a trainer but even more important as the great man that he was,” Dugazaev said. "He was such a gentleman, truly one of a kind."

Sdunek also trained former heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko for his entire career, worked for many years with heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko and also trained fighters such as light heavyweight Dariusz Michalczewski, cruiserweight Juan Carlos Gomez, middleweight Felix Sturm, lightweight Artur Grigorian, light heavyweight Zsolt Erdei, cruiserweight Ralf Rocchigiani and featherweight Istvan “Koko” Kovacs.

Notes: Salido-Martinez in works

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

• Junior lightweight titlist Orlando Salido, coming off his epic fight of the year candidate with Terdsak Kokietgym in September -- they combined for seven knockdowns in Salido’s 11th-round knockout victory -- could be headed for Puerto Rico to make his first defense against former titlist Rocky Martinez (28-2-2, 17 KOs).

Salido, of Mexico, and manager Sean Gibbons were in Puerto Rico at Martinez’s second-round knockout victory against Herbert Quartey on Saturday night as Martinez ended a 13-month layoff since losing his belt to Mikey Garcia by eighth-round knockout. Gibbons also met with Martinez promoter Peter Rivera to talk about the fight and told ESPN.com that the target date is March 21. Gibbons said the bout would take place in Puerto Rico, where Salido (42-12-2, 29 KOs) is well-known thanks to his two knockout wins there against Juan Manuel Lopez in featherweight world title bouts in 2011 and 2012.

• With controversy lingering from former super middleweight titlist Anthony Mundine (47-6, 27 KOs) getting a split decision win against Belarus’ Sergey Rabchenko (25-1, 18 KOs) in their junior middleweight bout Nov. 12 in Mundine’s native Australia, the WBC, which sanctioned the bout for one of its minor titles, has ordered an immediate rematch, according to Rabchenko promoter and trainer Ricky Hatton. Negotiations for the rematch will begin in the coming weeks, Hatton said.

"I'm delighted to hear that the WBC have ordered a rematch," Hatton said. “I've said before that it wasn't the worst decision ever, but Sergey definitely won the fight, and he wasn't helped by the fact that two of the judges, not affiliated to the WBC, were from Melbourne. It was a phenomenal performance from Mundine, and I take my hat off to him, but Sergey outworked him for most of the fight and should have been given much more of the rounds.”

• Boxing writer Tim Smith and ESPN boxing analyst Teddy Atlas will host a radio show along with Nabate Isles dedicated to boxing discussion on SiriusXM. The show, called “Going the Distance,” will debut Jan. 6 and run from 6 p.m. ET to 8 p.m. ET on SiriusXM Sports Zone, channel 92. It will air weekly. The hosts will take calls from fight fans and discuss the latest boxing news, preview upcoming fights and interview boxing figures. Atlas, a renowned trainer, is also the longtime ringside analyst for “Friday Night Fights.” Smith has covered boxing for decades, including for the New York Daily News and New York Times.
Kovalev ,  Pascal Getty ImagesSergey Kovaelv and former 175-pound champion Jean Pascal will meet on March 14 in Montreal.
Respect abounded on Monday as unified light heavyweight titleholder Sergey Kovalev and former champion Jean Pascal met head-to-head at a news conference to formally announce their fight on March 14 (HBO) at the Bell Centre in Montreal.

"He's the best possible opponent I could face in the weight division," said Kovalev, who is coming off his stunning shutout decision against Bernard Hopkins to unify three belts on Nov. 8.

Pascal, who has a draw and decision loss in two world title fights with Hopkins, said, "I respect Sergey Kovalev because he is the king of the light heavyweight division. This will be the greatest challenge ever faced by a Quebec-based boxer, but with discipline and hard work, as well as the support of local boxing fans, nothing is impossible.

"If you're a boxing fan, this is the perfect Christmas gift to give to someone you love, because it will be one of the greatest fights ever -- and the greatest ever held in Canada."

Kovalev (26-0-1, 23 KO) and Pascal (29-2-1, 17 KO) both would have liked to face Montreal's Adonis Stevenson, the lineal light heavyweight world champion, but he declined both fights for easier opponents. So now Kovalev and Pascal are facing each other in a much-anticipated fight.

Promoters Main Events and InterBox picked Montreal to host the fight because it is where they can generate the most money; Pascal is a major star there.

As far as traveling to his opponent's home turf, Kovalev said he has no problem.

"The ring is the same everywhere," Kovalev said. "I plan to show who I am to Canadian boxing fans, and I aim to do the things they like to see in a ring."

Kovalev has made one previous title defense in Canada, knocking out Ismayl Sillakh in the second round in November 2013 on a Stevenson undercard as they were building toward the showdown with each other that did not come off.

"What a great way to end 2014 with this announcement of a such a great fight for the New Year," said Jean Bedard of InterBox, Pascal's promoter. "Sergey Kovalev is the holder of three world titles, but he is first and foremost the boxer that no one wants to face. But it is with great enthusiasm that Jean Pascal has accepted this challenge."

Ievgen Khytrov switches promoters

December, 22, 2014
Dec 22
Levgen KhytrovCourtesy Iron Mike ProductionsPromoter Lou DiBella bought out a stake in middleweight prospect Ievgen Khytrov's contract.
Highly touted middleweight prospect Ievgen Khytrov has signed a co-promotional deal with Lou DiBella, who will guide his career along with original promoter Fight Promotions Inc., DiBella told ESPN.com.

Khytrov (7-0, 7 KOs), 26, a native of Ukraine living in Brooklyn, New York, was being co-promoted by Iron Mike Productions. But with the implosion of IMP, DiBella said he made a deal to buy out IMP's stake in his contract. Khytrov, a gold medalist at the 2011 amateur world championships and 2012 Olympian, has looked superb as a professional.

"I think he's an animal," DiBella said. "I think in two years down the road a fight between him and [Gennady] Golovkin is warfare. He's not ready yet, but that's a fight that I think will happen someday."

DiBella said Khytrov's first bout of the new deal will be on the "ShoBox" card he is promoting on Jan. 9 (Showtime) at the Morongo resort in Cabazon, California. The card is slated to be headlined by lightweight prospect Ivan Redkach (17-0, 13 KOs).

Stevenson due back in April

December, 22, 2014
Dec 22
Light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson’s fourth title defense against Dmitry Sukhotsky on Friday night in Quebec City proved little other than to reinforce what we already know -- Stevenson, a southpaw, has awesome power in his left hand.

He used it to score four knockdowns in a one-sided fifth-round blowout to finish his forgettable year, which consisted of wins against big underdog Andrzej Fonfara, against whom he got dropped and struggled mightily to a decision win, and the destruction of no-hoper Sukhotsky.

It wasn’t exactly what Stevenson’s breakout 2013 campaign was like, when he was a big-time fighter of the year contender thanks to four knockout victories as he avenged his only loss against Darnell Boone, scored a 76-second demolition of Chad Dawson to win the world title and notched impressive stoppages of former titlist Tavoris Cloud and mandatory challenger Tony Bellew in his first two defenses.

In 2014, Stevenson (25-1, 21 KOs) was a disappointment, mainly because of the opposition he faced, especially when significant fights were on the table: unification bouts with Sergey Kovalev and Bernard Hopkins and an all-Montreal showdown with former champ Jean Pascal.

It does not look to get much better, at least out of the gate for 2015. Although the WBC made the unusual move of appointing the March 14 Kovalev-Pascal winner (who will have three belts) as Stevenson’s mandatory challenger -- organizations do not rank titleholders from other alphabet bodies -- I wouldn’t take the match to the bank no matter how much Stevenson claims to want to fight the winner. Of course, he had ample opportunity to face either guy in 2014 and for a lot of money.

Even if the fight was to get made, it would not be until the second half of the year because the Kovalev-Pascal winner is obligated to make a mandatory against Nadjib Mohammedi (36-3, 22 KOs) next.

So with that in mind, Stevenson promoter Yvon Michel (perhaps with input from Stevenson adviser Al Haymon) is planning for Stevenson’s next fight to take place on April 4.

Just don’t expect a big name. One possibility is a rematch with Fonfara (26-3, 15 KOs), who signed with Haymon after Stevenson beat him in May.

“Fonfara is a very tough fighter. [He] would be a very good opponent,” Michel told ESPN.com.

Leon Margules, Fonfara’s promoter, said there have been no discussions about it, but it’s a fight he would like to make.

“My fighter’s goal is to get the rematch. He would love a rematch,” Margules said. “I think he would win. He’s a better fighter now. He learned from the fight in May. It was a great experience for him. I don’t think he’s gonna be worse. It’s a very compelling fight. He’s been the only one who has handled Stevenson’s power since he knocked out Dawson. Nobody else has come close to handling Stevenson. We just ran out of rounds.”

Michel said another fighter he would like to match Stevenson with is Nadjib Mohammedi.

“If I had my way, we would be fighting Nadjib Mohammedi for the next fight if he was game enough,” Michel said. “He qualified himself for a world title against Kovalev, so he would be granted one, and that way it would clear the path for the winner between Kovalev versus Pascal to fight the winner of Stevenson versus Mohammedi without unnecessary delays. This is me. I have not spoken to Adonis, Al or the people controlling the Frenchman [Main Events], but I will bring that up. This is my wish and my proposal.”
Top Rank will kick off its 2015 with a UniMas-televised card from the Texas Station Gambling Hall and Casino in Las Vegas on Jan. 10.

Las Vegas junior featherweight prospect Jessie Magdaleno (19-0, 15 KOs), the 23-year-old younger brother of lightweight contender Diego Magdaleno, will headline the card in an eight-round bout against Oxnard, California’s Erik Ruiz (13-1, 6 KOs), also 23.

Magdaleno is trained by Joel Diaz in Palm Springs, California, so he has been in camp with Diaz’s other fighters, including former welterweight titleholders Timothy Bradley Jr. and Victor Ortiz, both of whom fought last weekend.

Magdaleno, a former standout amateur, is one of Top Rank’s blue-chip prospects and could move toward a title fight in 2015. That is certainly Diaz’s hope.

"Jessie Magdaleno is among the best worldwide in his division,” Diaz said. “He's explosive, has power in both hands and has great defense. He is getting close to fighting for a world title."

In the co-feature, Riverside, California, junior lightweight prospect Saul Rodriguez (15-0-1, 12 KOs), 21, will face an opponent to be named in an eight-rounder. East Los Angeles featherweight prospect Vic Pasillas (8-0, 3 KOs), 22, will also be on the card in a six-rounder.
Vasyl Lomachenko and Gary Russell Jr.Tom Hogan/Hoganphotos/Golden BoyGary Russell Jr. would love a victory on Saturday but won't forget loss to Vasyl Lomachenko.

For the first 24 fights of his professional career, 2008 U.S. Olympian and 2011 ESPN.com prospect of the year Gary Russell Jr. was undermatched against a series of soft opponents with virtually no serious chance to beat him.

So when he got a mandatory shot at a vacant title in June against heralded two-time Ukrainian Olympic gold medalist Vasyl Lomachenko, a very serious opponent, who was only in his third pro fight but had faced legitimate opposition in his previous two, Russell was in trouble.

Lomachenko took him to school in a decision win and claimed the belt.

Now Russell is set for his first fight since that defeat, but said he has not put the loss to Lomachenko behind him and does not plan to.

“I will never get over the loss to Lomachenko,” Russell said. “Even if we fight again and I beat him, I will never forget that first loss.”

So with that in mind, Russell (24-1, 14 KOs) will meet Christopher Martin (28-4-3, 9 KOs) in a 10-round featherweight bout on Saturday night (Showtime Extreme, 10 ET/PT) at the Little Creek Casino Resort in Shelton, Washington.

The fight is part of a quadrupleheader dominated by Al Haymon-managed fighters and headlined by interim featherweight titlist Jesus Cuellar (25-1, 19 KOs), of Argentina, defending against Mexico’s Ruben Tamayo (25-4-4, 17 KOs).

Russell, 26, of Capitol Heights, Maryland, figures to have the overwhelming speed, power and technical advantages over Martin, 28, of Chula Vista, California, who has lost two of his past three fights.

“This is not an easy fight for either of us, but it is my chance to defeat one of the best featherweights in the world so, of course, I am excited about the opportunity,” Martin said. “I am more than ready. Training camp went great. I’m confident and excited about fighting on Saturday.”

Russell said he is anxious to fight again in what will be his third bout of the year after having only two fights apiece in 2012 and 2011, in part because of hand and foot injuries.

“I’ve been training for about two months. My hands are fine and I’m roaring to get in the ring,” Russell said. “I’m fighting a tough guy who is definitely confident that he can upset me, which is exactly the kind of fighter I want to fight.”

Russell, a southpaw, hopes a victory will propel him into another title fight and rematch with Lomachenko.

“I expect 2015 will be a very big year for me,” Russell said. “I want to fight for another world title, win it, and then immediately challenge Lomachenko to a unification fight. I believe if we fight again I will win. In fact I feel if we fought 100 times, I would beat him in 99 of them.”

Roc Nation Sports announces undercard

December, 19, 2014
Dec 19
Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports, which entered the boxing business in August, is putting on the first card of its “throne boxing” series on Jan. 9 (Fox Sports 1, 10 p.m. ET) at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York. It announced the undercard this week for the show headlined by welterweight prospect Dusty Hernandez-Harrison (24-0, 13 KOs) against Tommy Rainone (22-5-1, 4 KOs).

In the co-feature, Tureano Johnson (16-1, 11 KOs) will face Alex Theran (17-1, 10 KOs) in a 10-round middleweight bout. In another 10-rounder, Cecil McCalla (20-1, 7 KOs) faces Chris Van Heerden (21-1-1, 11 KOs) in a welterweight bout.

Among the other bouts, super middleweight prospect Jerry Odom (12-0, 11 KOs) will face Andrew Hernandez (7-0-1, 1 KO) in a six-rounder; 2012 Dominican Olympian Wellington Romero (4-0-1, 2 KOs) faces Leo Kreischer (3-6-1, 2 KOs) in a four-round junior welterweight bout; and 2008 Chinese Olympic silver medalist Zhang Zhilei (1-0, 1 KO) -- whose pro debut ended in a first-round knockout with a punch to his opponent’s shoulder -- takes on Kaleb Slaughter (0-0) in a four-round heavyweight bout.

Notes: Redkach headlines 'ShoBox' card

December, 19, 2014
Dec 19
A few notes from around the boxing world:

• The new season of Showtime’s “ShoBox: The New Generation” will kick off Jan. 9 at the Morongo resort in Cabazon, California, where promoter Lou DiBella will put on a card headlined by up-and-coming lightweight Ivan Redkach (17-0, 13 KOs), who will face an opponent to be determined in the main event.

• Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn announced an April 4 card at the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle, England, on Friday. Junior welterweight Bradley Saunders (11-0, 8 KOs) will challenge Commonwealth champion Dave Ryan (16-8, 3 KOs) in the main event. Also on the card will be heavyweight prospect Anthony Joshua, the 2012 British Olympic gold medalist, against an opponent to be determined, assuming all goes well for Joshua (10-0, 10 KOs) when he faces American Kevin Johnson, the former title challenger, on Jan. 31 in London.

• Junior featherweights Andres Gutierrez (31-0-1, 22 KOs) and Hugo Ruiz (35-2, 31 KOs) will meet March 14 in Ruiz's hometown of Los Mochis, Mexico, in a title eliminator to become the mandatory challenger for world titleholder Leo Santa Cruz (28-0-1, 16 KOs), who has a defense scheduled against an opponent to be determined on Jan. 17 (Showtime) on the undercard of the Bermane Stiverne-Deontay Wilder heavyweight title fight.

• Junior welterweights Cletus "The Hebrew Hammer" Seldin (14-0, 11 KOs) and Bayan "The Mongolian Mongoose" Jargal (17-5-3, 11 KOs) meet in a rematch on Saturday night at the Paramount in Huntington, New York. They fought to a third-round no contest in July on ESPN2. The fight was stopped because Jargal suffered a bad cut from an accidental head-butt. The fight headlines Star Boxing promoter Joe DeGuardia’s card and although there is no live television coverage, the show will be taped and air on MSG Network on Jan. 11 (9 p.m. ET).

• The rivalry between Mike Alvarado and Brandon Rios has produced two epic junior welterweight battles. They split a pair of fight of the year candidates and meet in the welterweight rubber match on Jan. 24 in Broomfield, Colorado, just outside of Alvarado’s hometown of Denver. In anticipation of the third fight, HBO will air “Road to Alvarado-Rios 3” (Jan. 10, midnight ET/PT) to preview the expected action-packed fight.
Carl Froch and Andre DirrellJohn Gichigi/Getty ImagesAndre Dirrell, right, would love to get a chance to avenge his loss to Carl Froch.

From the time super middleweight Andre Dirrell dropped out of the Super Six World Boxing Classic after suffering a head injury in a disqualification win against Arthur Abraham in March 2010 until this past August, he had only two fights.

But since Dirrell reunited with adviser Al Haymon and returned in August, he has been on the fast track.

Dirrell fought twice in three months, a fifth-round knockout of Vladine Biosse in August and a fourth-round knockout of Nick Brinson in October. Now Dirrell (23-1, 16 KOs), a 2004 U.S. Olympic bronze medalist, is set for his third fight in short order when he faces Las Vegas’ Derek Edwards (27-3-1, 14 KOs) in a title elimination fight Friday night (Showtime, 9 ET/PT) on the undercard of light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson’s defense against Dmitry Sukhotsky at the Pepsi Coliseum in Quebec City.

The Dirrell-Edwards winner will earn a No. 2 ranking in a sanctioning body and be a step closer to a mandatory fight with unified titleholder Carl Froch, which is music to Dirrell’s ears.

Dirrell, the heavy favorite against the 35-year-old Edwards, lost a debatable split decision to Froch in a world title fight in Froch’s hometown of Nottingham, England, in the Super Six in October 2009 in the fight before the DQ win against Abraham.

Although Froch owes a mandatory defense to British countryman James DeGale, he is undecided about what he wants to do. Froch could retire, he might fight DeGale or he could dump the belt (he still has another) and go for some other major fight. Dirrell is hoping Froch eventually fights him again -- although it seems like a long shot.

“I want that rematch with Carl Froch. He’s the IBF champion and a win will bring me closer to fighting him again and proving that I beat him the first time,” Dirrell said. “I’m excited to be here. It’s cold but it’s beautiful in Canada. I just can't wait for the action to start.”

Dirrell, 31, of Flint, Michigan, said he is happy to have his career back on track after such a long stretch of inactivity.

“It’s good to be back. This is my third fight in six months, and before that I fought three times in the past four years,” said Dirrell, whose younger brother, Anthony Dirrell, holds a super middleweight world title. “I’m on a very busy schedule right now and it feels good. I’m just looking forward to the fight. It will put me in a high ranking in the IBF and bring me this much closer to challenging for that title pretty soon.”

WBC sets mandatories, pushes Floyd-Pac

December, 18, 2014
Dec 18
The 52nd annual WBC convention is going on this week at the Mirage in Las Vegas, and while I have little use for the sanctioning organization -- one which regularly breaks its own rules -- one element of the convention is significant because it has a direct impact on fights that fans will see.

It comes when spending a day dealing with mandatory defenses in each division.

So here is a division-by-division rundown of what to look for in each weight class as it relates to the WBC’s title. Keep in mind, this is what the WBC has ruled but does not mean the fighters and their handlers won’t go in another direction.

• Heavyweight: Titleholder Bermane Stiverne must make two mandatory defenses as he won a vacant title in May. He meets Deontay Wilder on Jan. 17 and then the winner must face Bryant Jennings. Because Jennings is likely going to challenge champion Wladimir Klitschko for his other alphabet belts on April 25, a final eliminator between Alexander Povetkin and Mike Perez was ordered to determine the second mandatory.

• Cruiserweight: Thabiso Mchunu and Ilungu Makubu were ordered to meet in a final eliminator to determine the mandatory challenger for titleholder Grigory Drozd.

• Light heavyweight: Champion Adonis Stevenson has an optional defense against Dmitry Sukhotsky on Friday night and the winner can take one more optional defense. But, in a highly unusual move, the WBC accepted a proposal made by Main Events promoter Kathy Duva that the winner of the March 14 fight between three-belt titlist Sergey Kovalev and former champion Jean Pascal become the WBC mandatory challenger. Organizations typically do not rank titleholders from other organizations, but the WBC made an exception -- and a welcome one -- in an effort to force Stevenson into fighting the Kovalev-Pascal winner. If the sides do not make a deal and it goes to a purse bid the split will be 50-50, another highly unusual move because usually a WBC titleholder is entitled to no less than 60 percent in a purse bid.

• Super middleweight: Titleholder Anthony Dirrell is expected to make an optional defense in February with the winner obligated to make a mandatory defense against George Groves in the next fight.

• Middleweight: Champion Miguel Cotto is allowed an optional defense, likely against Canelo Alvarez on May 2. Titleholder Gennady Golovkin, who is also the WBC’s interim titleholder, faces Martin Murray on Feb. 21. The Golovkin-Murray winner will be the mandatory challenger for the winner of Cotto’s next fight, be it against Alvarez or somebody else.

• Junior middleweight/welterweight: Floyd Mayweather Jr. holds both WBC belts. Promoter Sampson Lewkowicz proposed an eight-man tournament in each weight division to determine the mandatory challengers, which was approved by the WBC Board of Governors. Nice idea, but it has almost no chance of coming off as planned. Nonetheless, WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman commented on it as it relates to a Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight.

“The WBC has participated to allow and encourage in every way the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight to take place,” he said. “The WBC has not set any obstacles or conditions for the fight to take place. The WBC has approved to have a dual championship for the welterweight and (junior middleweight) divisions. Floyd Mayweather is confirmed to hold both titles, and there is no mandatory in either division until we can finalize if he is fighting Pacquiao. There are proposed tournaments to take place in both divisions to keep both divisions active, and to eventually determine the mandatory challengers."

• Junior welterweight: Champion Danny Garcia has a step-aside deal in place with mandatory challenger Viktor Postol. The winner of Garcia’s voluntary defense, which has no date or opponent yet, is required to fight Postol next.

• Lightweight: Jorge Linares and Javier Prieto fight for the vacant belt Dec. 30. Final eliminators were approved to determine the two mandatory challengers, one between Hank Lundy and Dejan Zlaticanin and one between Daniel Estrada and Kevin Mitchell, which is scheduled for Jan. 31.

• Junior lightweight: Titleholder Takashi Miura is in an optional stage and the WBC approved a fight between Stephen Smith and Javier Fortuna for the No. 1 ranking.

• Featherweight: Since there has been no mandatory defense for more than two years, two eliminators are on tap with the winners supposedly to face titleholder Jhonny Gonzalez. The winner of the Jan. 26 fight between Rocky Juarez and Robinson Castellanos will be one challenger. The next challenger is supposed to be the winner of a fight between Marvin Sonsona and Jayson Velez, which is not scheduled yet.

• Junior featherweight: Titleholder Leo Santa Cruz will have to make a mandatory defense against the winner of a March 14 fight between Andres Gutierrez and Hugo Ruiz of Mexico.

• Bantamweight: Titleholder Shinsuke Yamanaka is in his voluntary defense period and there is no mandatory yet.

• Junior bantamweight: A final eliminator between Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Jose Salgado was approved. The winner of the unscheduled bout will be mandatory for Carlos Cuadras.

• Flyweight: Nawaphon Sor Rungvisai and Edgar Sosa were approved to fight a final eliminator to become champion Roman Gonzalez’s mandatory.

• Junior flyweight: Pedro Guevara faces Akira Yaegashi for the vacant title on Dec. 30. A final eliminator to determine the mandatory challenger for the winner was also approved. It will be a fight between Jonathan Inguito Taconing and either Ganigan Lopez or Adrian Hernandez.

• Strawweight: Titleholder Wanheng Menayothin is in a voluntary stage until November. A final eliminator between Carlos Ortega and Denver Cuello was approved.
A few notes from around the boxing world:

•  British lightweight Anthony Crolla (29-4-2, 11 KOs) was hospitalized this week with a broken ankle and possible skull fracture after a confrontation with burglars, which has, obviously, caused his shot at world titleholder Richar Abril (19-3-1, 8 KOs) to be canceled. They were due to fight Jan. 23 at the Phones 4u Arena in Crolla’s hometown of Manchester, England. According to British media reports, Crolla was struck on the head by a brick when he confronted the burglars at a neighbor’s home.

•  At this week’s annual WBC convention, taking place in Las Vegas, the organization announced an agreement with the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association to perform random drug testing on boxers involved in its bouts. WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman said it would be “different testing from the regular after-the-fight test, which is used only for the fight. The VADA program with the WBC intends to test throughout the year in a random way. There is a universe of fighters who are within the top 15 and champions, who are eligible for this testing.” Dr. Margaret Goodman, the former Nevada chief ringside physician who now runs the VADA, is on board and also addressed the convention on the topic.

•  Promoter Lou DiBella has hired Eric Bentley as DiBella Entertainment’s director of boxing operations and matchmaking. Bentley, a native New Yorker, has tremendous experience, including spending the past five years as the director of boxing for the New York State Athletic Commission. He was also a finalist for the executive director position at the Nevada State Athletic Commission earlier this year. “I enjoyed my time at NYSAC and learned a tremendous amount from (executive director) David Berlin, but it was the right time to move on and there's no better place to go than DiBella Entertainment,” Bentley said. “There aren't many more genuine and passionate guys than Lou and he has surrounded himself with a phenomenal team, of which I'm excited to be a part."

Said DiBella: “DiBella Entertainment has strengthened itself greatly with the hiring of Eric Bentley. Eric was previously a quality matchmaker and then a highly respected executive with the New York State Athletic Commission. He will bolster my staff, which is already one of the finest in the boxing promotional business.”

•  The final edition of the year of “The Fight Game With Jim Lampley” debuts on Tuesday (HBO, 11 p.m. ET/PT). The episode will include a review of the top stories of the year in boxing, Michelle Beadle will interview trainer Freddie Roach and Lampley will reveal his boxing person of the year.
Rising super middleweight contender Gilberto Ramirez, who has been so impressive in recent fights, will make his HBO debut on Jan. 24.

Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti told ESPN.com that Ramirez will face Maxim Vlasov in a scheduled 10-round fight. The bout will be the co-feature on the card headlined by the rubber match between welterweights Mike Alvarado (34-3, 23 KOs) and Brandon Rios (32-2-1, 23 KOs) at the 1stBank Center in Broomfield, Colorado, a suburb of Denver, Alvarado’s hometown.

Ramirez (30-0, 24 KOs), a 23-year-old southpaw puncher from Mexico, has scored several impressive knockouts against solid opponents recently, including an eighth-round stoppage of veteran former title challenger Fulgencio Zuniga on Nov. 15.

Vlasov (30-1, 15 KOs), 28, of Russia has won 11 fights in a row since dropping a 10-round decision to Isaac Chilemba in February 2011.

“Vlasov presents a whole different problem for Gilberto Ramirez,” Moretti said. “His gaudy 30-1 record and no fear should present a pre-fireworks show leading up to Rios-Alvarado, which will truly shake the Rocky Mountains. This fight will go a long way in telling us where Gilberto Ramirez is as an elite fighter. I expect nothing but a good fight.”

Before HBO and Top Rank agreed to feature Ramirez in the Alvarado-Rios III co-feature talk centered on welterweight prospect Mikael Zewski (26-0, 20 KOs) being in that slot, perhaps against Sadam Ali, who looked good in a ninth-round knockout of Luis Carlos Abregu on Nov. 8 on HBO on the Sergey Kovalev-Bernard Hopkins undercard.

However, Zewski struggled to a 10-round majority decision win against Jeremy Bryan last Saturday on the Timothy Bradley Jr.-Diego Chaves undercard and HBO did not feel like he was ready yet for prime time.

Kovalev-Pascal site set: Montreal

December, 17, 2014
Dec 17
The site for the much-anticipated March 14 fight between light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev and former world champion Jean Pascal was announced on Wednesday: the Bell Centre in Montreal, Pascal's hometown.

It was between Montreal and Quebec City, but UFC, which had a hold on the date, gave it up, paving the way for the HBO-televised card to take place there.

"After a tough 2014, we are extremely proud to bring to our fans one of the very best fights that can be made at light heavyweight," said Jean Bedard of InterBox, Pascal's promoter. "We all intend to start off the New Year with a bang, and Kovalev versus Pascal will certainly deliver fireworks. Our fans deserve the very best fights, and those are the fights we will concentrate to make."

Kovalev (26-0-1, 23 KOs) will be defending his three alphabet belts in his first bout since taking two of them from Bernard Hopkins in a one-sided rout on Nov. 8. It will be his fifth title defense overall. Pascal (29-2-1, 17 KOs) is coming off a second-round no contest against Roberto Bolonti on Dec. 6, also at the Bell Centre.

Main Events, Kovalev's promoter, also announced that Najib Mohammedi, one of the mandatory challengers for the winner, will appear on the undercard. Mohammedi's shot was due but Kovalev was given an exception in order to face Pascal first, with the blessing of Mohammedi. The French contender wanted more time to work with Abel Sanchez, his new trainer. They have only had one fight together, a knockout victory on the Kovalev-Hopkins undercard.

A news conference to formally announce the card is scheduled for a time to be determined next week.

"I received a very warm welcome in Montreal when I attended Pascal's last fight at the Bell Centre. I'm excited to return with Sergey and to work with Jean Bedard and his staff at InterBox," Main Events CEO Kathy Duva said.