Dan Rafael: Al Haymon

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 last 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.”
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.”

BWAA awards: And the nominees are...

December, 15, 2014
Dec 15
Terence Crawford AP Photo/Nati HarnikTerence Crawford is one of the candidates to become the 2014 WBAA Fighter of the Year.

As if last week wasn’t busy enough in Las Vegas, where I shuttled between the Cosmopolitan and MGM Grand on Thursday, Friday and Saturday for coverage of both big shows – I hit both press conferences and weigh-ins and watched the early MGM bouts before going to the Cosmo – there was also a Boxing Writers Association of America meeting on Saturday morning at the MGM.

A few weeks ago in Atlantic City there was also a BWAA meeting for those folks in the organization on the East Coast. At that meeting we did the preliminary ballot for the 2014 awards, which will be handed out at the annual banquet in the spring a night or two before a major fight.

On Saturday we finalized the ballot and here is what the full members will be voting on in the coming weeks. The nominees are:

Sugar Ray Robinson Fighter of the Year: Terence Crawford, Sergey Kovalev, Manny Pacquiao, Miguel Cotto, Gennady Golovkin.

Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier Fight of the Year: Francisco Rodriguez Jr.-Katsunari Takayama (incredible action-packed strawweight unification), Orlando Salido-Terdsak Kokietgym (interim junior lightweight title bout featuring blazing action and seven combined knockdowns), Lucas Matthysse-John Molina (a back and forth junior welterweight battle featuring five combined knockdowns), Tommy Coyle-Daniel Brizuela (dramatic lightweight slugfest that featured eight combined knockdowns); Terence Crawford-Yuriorkis Gamboa (lightweight title fight that was dramatic and exciting in front of a wild Crawford crowd).

Eddie Futch Trainer of the Year: Abel Sanchez, Freddie Roach, John David Jackson, Naazim Richardson, Floyd Mayweather Sr.

Cus D’Amato Manager of the Year: Egis Klimas, Vadim Kornilov, Al Haymon, Pat Lynch, No award

Sam Taub broadcast award: Marc Payton (retired longtime director of HBO’s boxing broadcasts), Lou DiBella (promoter who spent many years buying the fights for HBO and the creator of “Boxing After Dark”), Seth Abraham (former longtime president of HBO Sports who teamed with DiBella to make HBO into a powerhouse boxing network), Brian Kweder (boxing programmer for ESPN), No award

Bill Crawford award for courage in overcoming adversity: Magomed Abdusalamov, Steve and Livvy Cunningham, Vitali Klitschko, Anthony Dirrell, Kathy Duva

Barney Nagler Long and Meritorious Service award: Michael Buffer (legendary ring announcer), Bob Canobbio (CompuBox founder), Lou DiBella (promoter, former HBO executive), Dr. Margaret Goodman (head of the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association and former Nevada ringside physician), Jack Hirsch (outgoing longtime BWAA president)

Marvin Kohn Good Guy award: Dan Goossen (promoter, posthumous), Andrey Ryabinsky (Russian promoter who paid for most of Magomed Abdusalamov’s medical expenses), Ken Condon (longtime casino executive in Atlantic City), Don Turner (trainer), Tami Cotel (HBO boxing production coordinator).

Notes: Marcus Browne gets new foe

December, 8, 2014
Dec 8
A few notes from around the boxing world:

• Light heavyweight prospect Marcus Browne (12-0, 9 KOs), 24, of Staten Island, New York, who will fight on the Thursday night ESPN2 boxing special (10 ET) at the Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, California, got a last-minute opponent for his televised bout. He will face former world title challenger George Blades (23-6, 16 KOs), 40, of Indianapolis. Browne was originally scheduled to face Henry “Sugar Poo” Buchanan (21-4, 14 KOs) but, according to Tom Brown of Goossen Promotions, which is putting on the show in conjunction with the network as a tribute to the late promoter Dan Goossen, Buchanan suffered injuries to his right hand and nose training last week.

• Heavyweight Charles Martin was supposed to face Raphael Zumbano Love in the 10-round main event of the first live CBS Sports Net card on Saturday night at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York. However, the card has been canceled – and it comes as no surprise. Promoter Sal Musumeci, who was buying the time on the network with partner Gallery Studio Group, never put tickets on sale and never even formally announced the venue or the lineup of bouts, which was to also have included undefeated light heavyweight Mike Lee in the co-feature.

• According to multiple sources, the first card of the Al Haymon-spearheaded boxing series of time-buy fights on NBC Sports Net and NBC is supposed to take place on Feb. 7, although it is unclear where it will be or who will be on the card.

• Nehomar Cermeno has not fought since August 2013, when he claimed a vacant interim junior featherweight belt by split decision against Oscar Escandon, and has been stripped of that belt for inactivity. He had no fight in the works either. Escandon and Tyson Cave, who fight on Thursday on the ESPN2 boxing special, were supposed to fight a title eliminator. With Cermeno stripped, they will instead meet for the vacant interim belt.
Interim featherweight titlist Jesus Cuellar (25-1, 19 KOs) facing Ruben Tamayo (25-4-4, 17 KOs) on Dec. 20 on a Goossen Promotions card at Little Creek Casino Resort in Shelton, Washington, will top a four-fight telecast that will air on Showtime Extreme (9 p.m. ET/PT).

The specific bout lineup for the quadrupleheader, featuring Al Haymon-advised fighters in each fight, was also announced.

In the co-feature, Anthony Peterson (34-1, 22 KOs), the younger brother of junior welterweight titlist Lamont Peterson, will take on Yakubu Amidu (21-5-2, 19 KOs) in the 10-round junior welterweight match.

Junior middleweight prospect Julian Williams (17-0-1, 10 KOs) will face Edgar Ortega (15-2, 10 KOs) in a 10-round bout, and in the 10-round opener, super middleweight Julius Jackson (18-0, 14 KOs) will fight Jonathan Nelson (19-1, 9 KOs).

Among the notable boxers who will appear on the non-televised part of the card, featherweight Gary Russell Jr. (24-1, 14 KOs) will fight for the first time since he was easily beaten by Vasyl Lomachenko in a vacant featherweight world title bout on June 21. Russell will face Christopher Martin (28-4-3, 9 KOs), who has lost two of his past three fights, in a 10-rounder.

Manny Pacquiao is a heavy favorite to retain his welterweight title against Chris Algieri when they meet Saturday night (HBO PPV, 9 ET) in Macau, China (where it will be Sunday morning).

So if things go as many expect, and the PacMan comes through, then what? Of course, many hold out hope that his next fight will be the one we’ve all wanted for years against fellow welterweight champion Floyd Mayweather Jr.

But we’ve all heard the talk for years and even though Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, who represents Pacquiao, said there are serious talks for the fight, let’s take it with a grain of salt for the time being until presented with more evidence than just Arum’s word.

So who’s next for Pacquiao if not Mayweather?

“There are a lot of opponents,” Arum said. “Let’s see how Jessie Vargas looks on the card.”

Vargas is defending his secondary junior welterweight title against former lightweight titlist Antonio DeMarco on the Pacquiao-Algieri undercard.

“What happens if Diego Chaves upsets Tim Bradley?” Arum said of the main event of his Dec. 13 HBO card.

Another possible opponent, and one more intriguing than either Vargas or Chaves, is unified junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia.

Garcia is promoted by Golden Boy, but there are no issues between the companies in making fights any longer. But Garcia is also managed by Al Haymon and that is a huge problem because HBO has essentially banned his fighters from the network. Garcia is also a regular these days on Showtime, although he has fought some of his most significant fights on HBO.

“What happens if Oscar [De La Hoya of Golden Boy] is right and he can free up Danny Garcia to fight Pacquiao? There are a lot of what-ifs,” Arum said. “We’re concerned about Algieri. He’s a top opponent. After that we’ll look around.”

Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s trainer, wants Mayweather but said Garcia would be a good second option.

“Garcia is a tough guy and one thing about Garcia is he will throw,” Roach said. “He is a heavy puncher. He knocked out Amir Kahn. I think he is a very good opponent for Manny Pacquiao. I think Manny would box a little more and not exchange as much.

“It's a fight I would like to see and a fight the fans would love to see, and that's what we want to give the people -- good fights.”
The Goossen Promotions fight card on Dec. 11 on ESPN2 -- in honor of company founder Dan Goossen, who died at age 64 on Sept. 29 -- will include several name fighters.

I wrote about Austin Trout (27-2-0, 14 KOs) meeting Luis Grajeda (17-3-2, 13 KOs) in a junior middleweight main event the other day, along with the fact heavyweight contender Chris Arreola (35-4, 31 KOs), whose opponent is not set yet but could be Joe Hanks (21-2, 14 KOs), would also be on the card, as will be former light heavyweight champ Antonio Tarver in a heavyweight bout.

Tarver (30-6, 21 KOs) probably will face Johnathon Banks (29-2-1, 19 KOs), but the final details are still being ironed out, according to Goossen Promotions’ Tom Brown. Tarver and Banks were due to meet Sept. 29 but the fight was postponed after Tarver fractured his thumb training.

But on Friday more fighters -- all in the vast stable of manager Al Haymon but not signed to Goossen Promotions -- were announced for the card, which will take place at the Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, California.

Colombia’s Oscar Escandon (23-1, 16 KOs) will face Haiti’s Tyson Cave (22-2, 6 KOs) for a vacant interim junior featherweight title.

Also appearing against opponents to be announced will be former junior middleweight titlist Sergio Mora (26-3-2, 9 KOs) in a middleweight bout; light heavyweight Edwin Rodriguez (25-1, 16 KOs), who is making a quick return from an Oct. 18 victory that came after a year off; former junior featherweight titlist Rico Ramos (23-4, 12 KOs); light heavyweight prospect Marcus Browne (12-0, 9 KOs), a 2012 U.S. Olympian; and light heavyweight prospect Ahmed Elbiali (7-0, 7 KOs).

ESPN2 will televise three hours' worth of fights from the card beginning at 10 p.m. ET. Some of the non-televised fights likely will stream live on ESPN3 before the telecast.

Garcia, Postol reach an 'agreement'

October, 13, 2014
Oct 13
Danny Garcia and Lamont PetersonGetty ImagesThe agreement with Viktor Postol could open a door for a 2014 Danny Garcia-Lamont Peterson fight.

When the WBC announced on Saturday that the purse bid for the mandatory fight between junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia and Viktor Postol, the organization’s No. 1 contender, had been canceled the initial thought was that the camps had made a deal for a pretty interesting fight.

Usually, a purse bid is delayed when the camps tell the organization they are close to a deal, so perhaps it was true all along that the reps for Garcia (Golden Boy and adviser Al Haymon, although it is Haymon who calls the shots) and Postol (co-promoters Elite Boxing and Top Rank and manager Vadim Kornilov) were getting closer to making the fight.

And when a purse bid is canceled it usually means a deal has been struck. In the case of Garcia-Postol a deal was struck -- but not for the fight.

Instead, the WBC announced that “both parties have reached an agreement, the specific details of which will be announced in the near future.”

WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman went so far as to say, “I am extremely satisfied with the good faith agreement reached by the parties involved which will generate very good opportunities for the fighters, which is the top priority for all of us involved in this great sport."

What Sulaiman and nobody else will say is that there is almost no chance that Garcia and Postol ever share the ring and that is a shame. Sulaiman using the phrase “good faith” made me laugh because, in my opinion, there is nothing about this deal that is in “good faith.”

The deal they made was for Haymon to pay Postol a substantial fee to step aside and not force the mandatory fight, with both fighters permitted to take optional bouts within the next four months, after which Postol will still be the mandatory challenger (assuming he wins his interim bout).

All that this means, in my view, is that Garcia has no intention of ever facing Postol (26-0, 11 KOs). Or, rather, that Haymon has no intention of allowing the fight to happen since he has no control over Postol, who looked excellent knocking out Selcuk Aydin in the 11th round of the title eliminator in May on HBO on the Juan Manuel Marquez-Mike Alvarado undercard and who would give Garcia a very hard night.

Sounds familiar, right? This Garcia-Postol fight avoidance is the same thing Haymon did by having middleweight titlist Peter Quillin vacate his belt in August in order to avoid facing dangerous mandatory challenger Matt Korobov (for a career-high purse of more than $1.4 million) since Haymon did not control Korobov. That happened after the purse-bid deadline was extended time and again on Quillin’s behalf until the WBO finally gave a hard deadline. A half hour before that hard deadline, Quillin vacated.

[+] EnlargeViktor Postol
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesViktor Postol defeated Selcuk Aydin by stoppage last May.
“There is a step-aside agreement that we have finalized with Al and Golden Boy,” Kornilov told ESPN.com, although he declined to reveal the dollar figure. “Postol and Garcia will both [have] an option to take other fights in the next four months and then Postol will again be in the mandatory position.”

Kornilov said the agreement calls for the interim bouts to take place by the end of February with the Garcia-Postol fight due within 90 days after that, assuming they both win the interim bouts.

“This option worked out well for all of us at this time and we decided to let Garcia fight a big fight that they are planning before defending [against] Postol,” Kornilov said.

Kornilov holds out hope that Garcia will ultimately face Postol, but more likely what is at work here is that Haymon bought enough time to finally match Garcia with another of his fighters, fellow titlist Lamont Peterson, in the unification bout that should have happened in August but instead resulted in each fighting separate bouts on the worst card of the year as they each blitzed pathetic opponents for premium cable money in pure mismatches.

So perhaps Philadelphia’s Garcia (29-0, 17 KOs) and Peterson will meet, or maybe Garcia will fight somebody less threatening than Postol. And then my prediction is that Garcia will vacate his WBC belt. He could hang on to the other alphabet belt he has or, more likely, move up to welterweight, which Garcia talked about doing in the wake of his poor performance in a controversial majority decision win against Mauricio Herrera in March. Garcia said he had trouble making weight for the fight.

For Ukraine’s Postol, accepting the step-aside deal was a no-brainer. He’s receiving a six-figure payout to wait no more than seven months to either fight Garcia for a big purse (as unlikely as that is of actually happening) or to get a shot at the vacant belt while also being able to take an interim bout against a handpicked opponent.

“[That’s] exactly why we decided to do this, and the bonus was significant,” Kornilov said. “We want to have Viktor fight by the end of the year, but we have an agreement that he fights on Garcia's undercard as an option if we want to.”

If Postol indeed fights on Garcia’s next undercard that is probably about as close as they will ever get to sharing the ring, because this so-called agreement is nothing more than a means for Garcia -- really Haymon -- to avoid the fight.

Adonis Stevenson all talk in 2014

October, 8, 2014
Oct 8
Adonis StevensonAP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jacques BoissinotLight heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson wants the winner of Bernard Hopkins-Sergey Kovalev.
Light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson could be getting ready to fight titleholder Sergey Kovalev next month. That was the fight we all wanted to see as the year began.

But when Stevenson bailed on the bout and went from HBO to Showtime, he did it -- so he says -- to facilitate a fall fight with unified titleholder Bernard Hopkins, who was fighting on Showtime at the time.

While most would have preferred Stevenson-Kovalev, it was at least understandable why Stevenson would prefer a Hopkins fight. Hopkins is not a puncher like Kovalev, he has a much bigger name than Kovalev, and Stevenson likely would have made the same or more money against Hopkins.

But then Stevenson, who struggled severely to hang on to his title against unheralded Andrzej Fonfara in May in what was supposed to be a tuneup for whichever big fall fight he was going to have, also blew off the fight with Hopkins.

So what happened? Hopkins and Kovalev, having both been snubbed by Stevenson, got together and made a fight for Nov. 8 as Hopkins makes his return to HBO. It’s one of the biggest fights of the year.

And what of Stevenson? Not only did he skip out on fights with Hopkins and Kovalev, but he also turned down a fight with fellow Montreal star Jean Pascal, the former champion, leaving Stevenson with nothing this fall. Sure, he might fight again before the end of the year, but the three most significant and interesting matchups are all off the table.

With no fight set and all the momentum from his huge 2013 down the toilet, Stevenson apparently has a lot of time on his hands. So he took to his Facebook page and announced, “I will be ringside on November 8 for the fight of Bernard Hopkins vs. Sergey Kovalev. I will fight the winner for the unification.”

Ummmm, yeah. OK.

Didn’t he already have the chance to fight both of them in a unification fight?

If he really intends to fight the winner -- and I’ll believe it when I see it -- why didn’t Stevenson sign the deal that had been agreed to for the Kovalev fight? You know, the one that led to Stevenson, Al Haymon (Stevenson’s adviser), Showtime and others getting sued by Kovalev promoter Main Events? That lawsuit was dropped when Hopkins-Kovalev was made.

If Stevenson really wanted to fight Hopkins, why not finalize the fight when it was sitting in his lap? There was plenty of time to get it done. It was the entire reason, supposedly, that Haymon steered Stevenson to Showtime in the first place and blew off the Kovalev deal.

Stevenson has been awfully good at talking this year but not very good at fighting. I hope he enjoys Hopkins-Kovalev. His ringside seat will probably the closest he will get to either of them for the foreseeable future.
You know that quadrupleheader on Showtime on Saturday night at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut? Well, now it’s down to a tripleheader.

Middleweight prospect Dominic Wade (16-0, 11 KOs) of Largo, Maryland, who was due to open the card programmed by adviser Al Haymon against KeAndre Leatherwood (14-2-1, 10 KOs) of Birmingham, Alabama, injured his back. That bout has been canceled.

There are still three other fights: junior lightweight titleholder Rances Barthelemy (20-0, 12 KOs) against Fernando Saucedo (52-5-3, 8 KOs) in the main event; a junior middleweight bout between Vanes Martirosyan (34-1-1, 21 KOs) and Willie Nelson (23-1-1, 13 KOs) -- that has potential to be a decent fight -- and former light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson (32-3, 18 KOs) in a blatant mismatch against club fighter Tommy Karpency (23-4-1, 14 KOs).

Middleweight Wade added to Oct. 4 card

September, 26, 2014
Sep 26
The final televised fight of the Al Haymon-engineered Oct. 4 Showtime quadrupleheader was announced on Thursday and it should come as no surprise that the slot goes to another fighter in the massive stable of the powerful adviser.

It goes to middleweight prospect Dominic Wade (16-0, 11 KOs) of Largo, Maryland, who is not signed to any promoter. He will square off with KeAndre Leatherwood (14-2-1, 10 KOs) of Birmingham, Alabama, in a 10-rounder that will open the card, which is being co-promoted by Haymon operatives Lou DiBella and Leon Margules, at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut.

Also on the card are the previously announced main event of junior lightweight titleholder Rances Barthelemy (20-0, 12 KOs) against Fernando Saucedo (52-5-3, 8 KOs); a junior middleweight bout between contenders Vanes Martirosyan (34-1-1, 21 KOs) and Willie Nelson (23-1-1, 13 KOs); and former light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson (32-3, 18 KOs) in an overt mismatch against club fighter Tommy Karpency (23-4-1, 14 KOs).

Barthelemy, Martirosyan, Dawson and Wade are all with Haymon.

'Mayhem' media center fertile for news

September, 13, 2014
Sep 13
LAS VEGAS -- Here are a few pieces of news I picked up this week while roaming the "Mayhem" media center while covering Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Marcos Maidana II at the MGM Grand:

• I ran into interim welterweight titlist Keith Thurman (23-0, 21 KOs), who is here for the fight, and he told me that his planned October return has been pushed back until November to give his injured shoulder more time to heal. Thurman said his shoulder is OK and he has been rehabbing it but the change was "just to be on the safe side. There's no reason to hurry."

• I also caught up with former three-division titlist Abner Mares (27-1-1, 14 KOs) in the media center and he said that promoter Golden Boy and adviser Al Haymon are planning his return for November or December. He said he heard that interim featherweight titlist Jesus Cuellar called him out after knocking out Juan Manuel Lopez in the second round on Thursday night in Las Vegas and that he would be interested in the fight. Mares lost his featherweight belt by first-round knockout to Jhonny Gonzalez in a major upset 13 months ago and returned in July to outpoint Jonathan Oquendo.

• Former Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer has been at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas all week for Mayweather-Maidana II, but he is keeping a very low profile. He quit Golden Boy in June after a falling out with president Oscar De La Hoya, who filed a $50 million arbitration case against him. The case is ongoing. So while Schaefer is at the venue where his old company will co-promote the fight, he is on site because he is close to Mayweather and because one of his sons is working for Mayweather Promotions on the event.

• Junior featherweight Jorge Lara (25-0-1, 17 KOs), a 23-year-old southpaw from Mexico, has signed with adviser Al Haymon, according to Sampson Lewkowicz, Lara's promoter. Haymon now handles around 120 fighters.

GGG taking SoCal by storm

September, 13, 2014
Sep 13
A few notes from around the boxing world:

• Middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin’s West Coast debut is already a hit. Due to overwhelming ticket demand, K2 Promotions is putting $27 standing room only tickets on sale for Golovkin’s defense Oct. 8 (HBO) at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.

“In the first two weeks, we've sold over 75 percent of the available tickets to [the card dubbed] ‘Mexican Style,’ which truly validates the popularity of Gennady on the West Coast,” Tom Loeffler of K2 Promotions said. “This speaks to Gennady’s growing global brand, as he is willing to fight in locations around the world unlike many champions who only fight in one city or one state. We’re happy to announce the unprecedented addition of standing room only tickets in order to meet the demand from boxing fans for this event.”

• Former junior middleweight titlist Sergio Mora announced on his Twitter page that he has signed with adviser Al Haymon. Mora (26-3-2, 9 KOs), 33, of East Los Angeles, has won three fights in a row, including his past two by knockout. His signing with Haymon harkens back to Haymon’s start in boxing. His first client was the late Vernon Forrest, whom Mora outpointed to win a junior middleweight belt in 2008. Three months later, Forrest outpointed Mora in the rematch to reclaim the title in what was Forrest's final fight, as 10 months later, he was murdered. Mora and Haymon were on opposite sides then, and now they are together. Mora will continue to be promoted by Lou DiBella, who has a longstanding business relationship with Haymon.

• Bantamweight titlist Shinsuke Yamanaka (21-0-2, 16 KOs) of Japan will face mandatory challenger (and former junior bantamweight titlist) Suriyan Sor Rungvisai (37-5-1, 16 KOs) of Thailand on Oct. 22 in Tokyo. Yamanaka, a southpaw, will be making his seventh defense. A lightweight undercard bout will pit former featherweight and junior lightweight titlist Takahiro Ao (26-3-1, 12 KOs) of Japan, and former junior lightweight titlist Juan Carlos Salgado (26-3-1, 16 KOs) of Mexico.

Santa Cruz, fans deserve bigger fight

September, 10, 2014
Sep 10
Leo Santa CruzEsther Lin/ShowtimeAll-action boxer Leo Santa Cruz defends his junior featherweight title Saturday against Manuel Roman.
LAS VEGAS -- Junior featherweight titlist Leo Santa Cruz is one of the most fan-friendly fighters in boxing. He throws tons of punches and usually has a smile on his face inside an
d outside the ring.

The former bantamweight titleholder -- he vacated to move up in weight -- will make the third defense of his featherweight title Saturday night (Showtime PPV, 8 ET) in one of the most coveted spots a fighter could ask for: the co-feature of Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s rematch with Marcos Maidana at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

But instead of fighting a big name or a unification bout, which Santa Cruz has called for, or even a top contender, he is fighting Manuel Roman (17-2-3, 6 KOs), his former sparring partner. This is not a fight worthy of such a massive platform.

It sure is a far cry from other recent Mayweather co-features, such as Danny Garcia-Lucas Matthysse or Amir Khan-Luis Collazo.

While Roman is a hard worker and a nice guy, he hasn't done a single thing of note to get this title shot -- much less in the co-feature of a major pay-per-view. He has never fought a scheduled 12-round fight, has had only two 10-rounders, and has been fighting mainly six- and eight-round fights.

Santa Cruz (27-0-1, 15 KOs) would prefer a bigger fight, but he accepted Roman because that is who manager Al Haymon put in front of him.

"I don't like saying no to no fights. The first guy they offered to me was [Roman]," Santa Cruz said Tuesday. "So I was like, 'yeah.' I wanted to give him the opportunity. He was a good amateur growing up. So I wanted to give him the opportunity. Everybody deserves it, so I said yes.

"I wanted to fight a bigger name or a champion, but I didn't want to contradict the promoter [Golden Boy] or [Haymon]. I just said, 'yeah,' and they made the fight."

It puts Santa Cruz in a no-win situation. If he cruises to a win, that's what he was supposed to do. If he loses, it's a disaster.

"Fighters like Roman are dangerous," Santa Cruz said. "They come with everything and sometimes they surprise you. We don't underestimate anybody and we always come ready.

"I know he will come hungry, but I have trained hard and I won't let that happen."

Roman, of course, is aiming for the huge upset.

"We're here to try to disappoint Leo Santa Cruz," Roman said. "I've been working out very hard three times a day and also focusing on strength and conditioning. Nothing worries me. I know myself, I'm ready. He's just a great fighter who throws a lot of punches, but I'm a better boxer.

"I've known Leo for a while. We used to train together and that builds my confidence up. I'm a great counterpuncher and he's a slugger, and I think that works to my advantage."

Assuming Santa Cruz beats Roman, he does want a unification fight next.

"Hopefully, we get the victory and we can fight [unified champion Guillermo] Rigondeaux and make that happen. If not, hopefully [newly crowned titlist Carl] Frampton or [secondary titleholder] Scott Quigg."
Promoter Leon Margules of Warriors Boxing is working on a pair of quadrupleheaders -- Oct. 4 and Nov. 1 -- that will air on Showtime.

Although the cards are not finalized, some of the fights are. Margules told ESPN.com that the Oct. 4 card at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut, will be headlined by junior lightweight titlist Rances Barthelemy (20-0, 12 KOs), a Miami-based Cuban defector, in his first defense against Argentina’s Fernando Saucedo (52-5-3, 8 KOs). The fight was made three weeks ago.

Also on the card will be a junior middleweight bout between contenders Vanes Martirosyan (34-1-1, 21 KOs), whose lone loss was a decision to Demetrius Andrade for a vacant world title in November, and Willie Nelson (23-1-1, 13 KOs), who has won seven fights in a row.

A third bout will feature former light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson (32-3, 18 KOs), who scored a first-round knockout of journeyman George Blades on June 21 in Dawson’s first fight since losing the title by first-round knockout to Adonis Stevenson in June 2013. Dawson-Blades was contracted at 179 pounds, but an out-of-shape Dawson weighed in at 182¾ but promised to be better conditioned for his next bout.

The fourth fight on Oct. 4 has not yet been determined.

The Nov. 1 card, which will take place at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago, will be headlined by light heavyweight contender Andrzej Fonfara (25-3, 15 KOs), a popular Polish fighter who lives in Chicago and is one of adviser Al Haymon’s newest signees. Fonfara, whose opponent is not set, gave champion Adonis Stevenson a very tough fight on May 24 but lost a decision in a grueling fight in which Fonfara survived two knockdowns in the first half of the fight to mount a huge rally and drop Stevenson in the ninth.

Also on the Nov. 1 card, bantamweight titlist Tomoki Kameda (30-0, 19 KOs) of Japan will make his mandatory against Alejandro Hernandez (28-10-2, 15 KOs) of Mexico. Margules does not promote either boxer, but won an Aug. 8 purse bid for the right to promote the bout.

The two other fights will feature welterweight Roberto Garcia (36-3, 23 KOs) and middleweight Caleb Truax (24-1-2, 14 KOs) in separate bouts against opponents to be determined, according to Margules, who has both dates thanks to his close relationship with Haymon, with whom he has been working closely of late.

Barthelemy, Martirosyan, Dawson, Fonfara, Kameda, Garcia and Truax are all with Haymon, who has been on a signing binge this year and whose stable is now around 115 fighters, which is around the same number as promoters Top Rank and Golden Boy have combined.