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Rios, Kovalev returns in works

Brandon Rios, left, will be back in the ring Aug. 2 after a tough November loss to Manny Pacquiao. Nicky Loh/Getty Images

Former lightweight titlist Brandon Rios is penciled in for his ring return on Aug. 2 on HBO’s “Boxing After Dark.”

Rios, who will fight at welterweight, likely will face former interim titlist Diego Chaves of Argentina on a card that will take place in Las Vegas or in Fresno, California, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum told ESPN.com on Friday.

Rios (31-2-1, 23 KOs), 28, of Oxnard, California, will try to end a two-fight losing streak, having been outpointed by Mike Alvarado in their fight of the year contender/rematch in March 2013 followed by a one-sided decision loss to Manny Pacquiao in November in Macau. After the fight with Pacquiao, Rios failed a postfight drug test and was suspended for five months.

“If Rios wins this fight, he will have a major match in the fall, either against Tim Bradley or against Alvarado in a third fight,” Arum said.

Chaves (23-1, 19 KOs), 28, lost his interim belt by 10th-round knockout to Keith Thurman in July in San Antonio but rebounded for a third-round knockout of journeyman Juan Alberto Godoy in Argentina in February.

Jessie Vargas (24-0, 9 KOs), 25, of Las Vegas, is also likely to be on the telecast in his first junior welterweight title defense. He claimed a 140-pound belt April 12 on the Pacquiao-Bradley II undercard by winning a debatable unanimous decision against Khabib Allakhverdiev.

Arum said the leading candidate to face Vargas is another fighter he promotes, Anton Novikov (29-0, 10 KOs), a 26-year-old southpaw from Russia.

The telecast could be a split-site tripleheader. While Rios and Vargas have fights at one site, plans are in the works for light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev (24-0-1, 22 KOs), 31, of Russia, to make his third defense against an opponent to be determined in Atlantic City, N.J.

Kovalev is coming off a seventh-round knockout of Cedric Agnew on March 29 and had hoped to be moving on to a fall showdown with champion Adonis Stevenson, but that was before Stevenson bolted from HBO to go to Showtime.