Maciel replaces Foreman on June 7

When former junior middleweight titlist Yuri Foreman abruptly retired last week because he was upset over what he deemed to be an onerous contract with his manager, it left a hole on the HBO PPV undercard for the June 7 Sergio Martinez-Miguel Cotto middleweight championship fight at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Foreman was supposed to face hard-punching Jorge Melendez of Puerto Rico, one of the fighters Cotto promotes. After running through various names, it will be Argentina’s Javier Maciel who will face Melendez on short notice.

And you know what? It’s probably a better fight, since Foreman can make Guillermo Rigondeaux look exciting while Maciel likes to mix it up a bit more.

“Definitely a tougher fight,” said Gaby Penagaricano, Cotto’s adviser who is also deeply involved with Cotto Promotions. “Maciel is a very durable and credible fighter. Jorge needs to beat this type of opponent to get ready for a title shot against the big names.”

The 29-year-old Maciel (29-3, 20 KOs) lost a split decision to Brian Rose in October in a junior middleweight title elimination fight that made Rose the mandatory challenger for Demetrius Andrade. Maciel rebounded with a decision win in Argentina on April 19 over Cesar Sastre Silva.

After Foreman withdrew, Cotto Promotions wanted to match Melendez with Luciano Cuello (34-3, 17 KOs), another fighter from Argentina. Cuello had made a good impression in a competitive 10-round decision loss to Willie Nelson on HBO last June. His only other losses are to Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Canelo Alvarez.

However, Cuello fought Saturday night in Argentina. Although he won, it was a tough 12-rounder, making him unavailable for such a quick turnaround.

“We wanted Cuello, but after the fight Saturday, [it was] impossible,” Penagaricano said.

Melendez (28-3-1, 26 KOs), 25, has won two fights in a row since an upset unanimous decision loss to Nick Brinson last June.

In the HBO PPV opener, longtime middleweight contender Andy Lee (32-2, 22 KOs), who is moving down in weight, will face John Jackson (18-1, 15 KOs), son of former middleweight and junior middleweight Julian Jackson, in a 10-rounder at junior middleweight. Then comes Melendez-Maciel. In the scheduled 10-round co-feature, former junior featherweight titleholder Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. (23-3-1, 19 KOs) of Puerto Rico will face former junior bantamweight titlist Marvin Sonsona (18-1-1, 15 KOs) of the Philippines at featherweight. The fight is a rematch of Vazquez’s fourth-round knockout in 2010 to win a vacant junior featherweight belt.