Dan Rafael: Canelo

Some have compared the junior middleweight title unification fight between Saul "Canelo" Alvarez and Austin "No Doubt" Trout to the 1999 battle between then-titlist Fernando Vargas and Winky Wright, who would later become the undisputed 154-pound champion.

But as Alvarez and Trout fine tune themselves for their showdown on April 20 (Showtime, 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT) at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Golden Boy promoter Oscar De La Hoya compared it to one of his fights during Alvarez's media day on Thursday in Santa Monica, Calif.

"This reminds me of when I beat Ike Quartey," De La Hoya said of his memorable 1999 welterweight title defense. "Although I did have all the admirers and the fans, I needed that one win to solidify me as a great champion. This is [Alvarez's] one moment, but he has his work cut out for him. Austin Trout is the real deal. He's no joke, but if you want to beat the best you have to fight the best. I've said that throughout my whole career."

Indeed, De La Hoya fought the best opponents fight in and fight out and never ducked anyone before announcing his retirement in 2009 after winning 10 world titles in a then-record six weight classes.

"This is going to be a very physical fight," De La Hoya said. "Austin Trout is legitimate. He is undefeated. He is strong. I think that whoever wins this fight is going to shoot up like a star and go to the next level. It's a tough fight for both. I expect a really, really tough fight.

"What I see is the potential for whoever wins this fight to be a superstar. Not just a star or just a champion, but a superstar. Canelo is on the right path and April 20 is going to show us if he's able to make that jump. Canelo's destiny is in his own hands and it's up to him to win the fight."

The co-feature is a scheduled 10-round lightweight fight between prospects Omar Figueroa Jr. (20-0-1, 16 KOs) of Weslaco, Texas and Puerto Rico's Abner Cotto (16-0, 7 KOs), who is Miguel Cotto's cousin.

[+] EnlargeSaul
Hoganphotos/Golden Boy PromotionsJunior middleweight titlist Saul "Canelo" Alvarez is looking to avenge his older brother Rigoberto's 2011 defeat to Austin Trout.
Alvarez (41-0-1, 30 KOs), the 22-year-old Mexican star, has solid motivation to win -- besides just unifying titles -- and knows that Trout is a tricky customer that he will have to fight smartly.

"The more intelligent fighter is going to win on April 20," Alvarez said. "We've mapped out a game plan and we'll stick to it. I've looked back at some of my past fights and I'm critical of how I've performed. I've taken criticism, but all criticism is constructive and I'm taking it all in."

The additional motivation for Alvarez comes because Trout (26-0, 14 KOs), 27, of Las Cruces, N.M., won a vacant title in Mexico in 2011 by easily outpointing Rigoberto Alvarez, Canelo's older brother.

"Because he beat my brother and took his belt, this fight has more meaning," Alvarez said. "It's personal because he took something from us. After I win this fight, I'm going to get that belt and I'm going to give it to my brother."

Alvarez figures to be the huge crowd favorite in San Antonio, where a heavily Mexican crowd will be on hand. Golden Boy chief executive Richard Schaefer said that as of Tuesday 32,334 tickets had been sold with just 134 scattered tickets remaining.

"I'm really excited for the San Antonio fans, as well as all the Mexican fans who will be there supporting me," Alvarez said. "I'm hoping I can give them a great fight. The key for me is patience. I know he'll be ready for me at all times. It's going to be a complicated fight, but I'm prepared for it."

The fight will be the biggest in San Antonio since the notorious 1993 welterweight championship fight between Pernell Whitaker and Julio Cesar Chavez, which was ruled a draw despite Whitaker's apparent domination. That decision ranks with the most controversial in boxing history.

"I think San Antonio is a great fight town. The fans there have been asking for a great fight," De La Hoya said. "They haven't had a big fight there since Chavez-Whitaker. I fought there, but they haven't had a big, big world championship fight in some time."

Now they have one. Let's just hope if it goes to the judges, they get it right this time.

Mayweather deal drags on

January, 18, 2013
MayweatherAl Bello/Getty ImagesWhile Floyd Mayweather Jr. is expected to return on May 4, the exact details have yet to be finalized.
I can't look at my Twitter or Facebook pages without seeing a variation of one single question being asked dozens of times per day -- every day -- for about the last two months, back to when pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr., through adviser Leonard Ellerbe, announced he was going to fight May 4 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

The question goes something like this: What's up with the Mayweather fight?

Here is what's up: He still plans to fight on that date, there is no official opponent just yet (and when there is you can be sure it will be covered on ESPN.com) and there is no date set yet for the official announcement.

In other words, it's status quo and not an issue, Ellerbe told me when we spoke on Thursday evening.

"Any time you're talking about tens of millions of dollars it's always a process," Ellerbe said. "Floyd is the biggest thing in sports, so when he comes out, he's coming out with a bang. So we don't rush to do anything.

"But we are going on May 4 and it's going to be a spectacular event."

Clearly Mayweather, who holds titles at welterweight and junior middleweight (and remarkably has been allowed to keep both for many months, contrary to sanctioning body rules) will be fighting either interim welterweight titlist Robert Guerrero or junior middleweight titlist Saul "Canelo" Alvarez.

My money is on Guerrero getting the fight.

There's been a lot of discussion about Alvarez perhaps being on the May 4 undercard. My belief since all this began is that the only way Alvarez would agree to go on the undercard is if he had a done deal to face Mayweather in the fall (he also said he will fight in September), as long as they both win in May.

If that is the case, these are complicated deals to finalize. In essence, Golden Boy promoter Richard Schaefer, the point person putting everything together and the promoter of Guerrero and Alvarez, would be doing deals for multiple fights: Mayweather-Guerrero, terms of a rematch in the event Guerrero wins, Alvarez's undercard fight (and, no, I don't think it would be against titlist Austin Trout) and the fall Mayweather-Alvarez fight, not to mention terms for that rematch clause.

You can see why it might take a while to get this all nailed down, especially since Schaefer has been out of the country for most of the past two weeks.

It could also be a situation where Mayweather is negotiating deals with Guerrero and Alvarez simultaneously and using the leverage of both wanting to fight him to get the deal with his preferred opponent exactly how he wants it.

Ellerbe, poker player 'til the end, wasn't giving up anything.

"We don't have a timeline [for an announcement]," Ellerbe said. "Everybody is working hard at doing what we need to do be able to move forward on May 4 and it's a lot of work."

If history is any indication, you can count on an announcement by the Super Bowl, because the promotion will want to kick off with the fighters heading to the big game to angle for attention from the media throng.

Another aspect of the fight that has not been announced is which television company will handle the pay-per-view: HBO, Mayweather's career-long home, or Showtime, which is now closely aligned with Golden Boy and badly wants Mayweather. My money is on HBO retaining Mayweather's services but who knows? Mayweather's people could be playing them off each other to get the exact deal he wants.

Whatever is up with the business side of things, Ellerbe said Mayweather is not yet in serious training, but that he's been in the gym.

"Floyd has been around the gym," Ellerbe said. "He stays around the gym and keeps his body in great condition."

The fight will be Mayweather's first since May 5, 2012, when he outpointed Miguel Cotto in a terrific fight to win a junior middleweight belt.

Ten future pound-for-pounders

September, 28, 2012

Andre Ward's dominant knockout victory against Chad Dawson prompted major changes in the September pound-for-pound rankings.

I saw many comments -- good and bad -- from folks on Twitter and my Facebook page. Many asked why this guy or that guy wasn't in the top 20. The main reason certain fighters were excluded was quite simple -- they are talented but haven't yet had the kind of significant win to earn a spot, or haven't had any sort of longevity yet to make it.

It got me thinking about the future of the P4P list and who is on the cusp of breaking into the top 20. There are many fine fighters out there, but I came up with a list of 10 who, with the right fights and/or some more experience against better opponents, could soon find themselves ranked on the monthly list.

Here they are, listed in alphabetical order:

• Saul "Canelo" Alvarez (41-0-1, 30 KOs): Alvarez has massive star potential. The question is, can his résumé catch up to his current level of attraction? He has made five defenses of his junior middleweight belt, but they've all been against B- and C-level opponents, the shadow of Shane Mosley and the much-smaller Josesito Lopez. Alvarez has shined against them, but he needs to step up against a better grade of opponent to warrant inclusion.

• Adrien Broner (24-0, 20 KOs): He has a style similar to Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s, as well as similar potential. What he doesn't have are any wins against a significant opponent or any longevity with a title. He won a vacant junior lightweight belt against a nobody, made one defense (a one-sided blowout of decent opponent Eloy Perez) and then blew weight for a defense against Vicente Escobedo. He's moving up to lightweight and probably will face titlist Antonio DeMarco, whom I have ranked No. 1 at 135 pounds. If the fight happens and Broner beats DeMarco impressively, he's on his way.

• Daniel Geale (28-1, 15 KOs): He's coming off a big win -- albeit a very close one -- to Felix Sturm to unify a pair of alphabet middleweight belts. He won both of his belts by split decision in Germany (the first against Sebastian Sylvester), which had been unheard of until now. I'd say one more win against another titleholder or top-rated contender in the suddenly hot middleweight division ought to do the trick.

• Gennady Golovkin (24-0, 21 KOs): The middleweight titlist already seems likely to crack the list in the near future. He had a monster amateur career (Olympic silver winner to top it off) and has been ferocious as a pro. He has some solid B-level names on his record, such as Grzegorz Proksa and Kassim Ouma, although that's not enough to put him on the P4P list yet. But with a willingness to fight anyone and the skills to match, he should be there soon. Give him maybe three more fights against quality opponents.

• Roman Gonzalez (32-0, 27 KOs): He is already a two-division titlist and still only 25, but although the reigning junior flyweight titleholder has a stellar record and is one of the biggest punchers, pound for pound, he simply needs to fight a better grade of opponent. He has held a belt at either 105 or 108 pounds since 2008, but his competition hasn't matched his ability.

• Yoan Pablo Hernandez (27-1, 13 KOs): Hernandez was a tremendous amateur from the Cuban national team who defected and has won a cruiserweight title. He has all of the skills in the world, although he isn't always exciting to watch. That's got nothing to do with ability, though. With four solid victories in a row -- a Sept. 15 defense against talented Troy Ross, two against Steve Cunningham (although the first one was controversial) and a knockout of Steve Herelius -- Hernandez is right on the cusp of cracking the list.

• Erislandy Lara (17-1-1, 11 KOs): Lara, a former world amateur champion from the powerhouse Cuban national team, is on the verge of big things. His biggest fight was against Paul Williams, who had been a longtime pound-for-pound list stalwart. Lara got ripped off in a majority decision loss so horrible that New Jersey officials suspended the three judges assigned to the bout. Lara has fought twice since, crushing Ronald Hearns in one round and dominating Freddy Hernandez. He has another big test that will go a long way toward showing his pound-for-pound worth when he faces fellow top-10 154-pound contender Vanes Martirosyan Nov. 10 for the right to become Canelo Alvarez's mandatory challenger.

• Lucas Matthysse (32-2, 30 KOs): There are few offensive forces in boxing scarier than Matthysse, who usually blasts out his opponents. His two losses were controversial split decisions in the hometowns of quality opponents Devon Alexander and Zab Judah. Since the loss to Alexander in June 2011, Matthysse has looked superb against quality opponents, crushing Humberto Soto in five rounds in June and stopping Olusegun Ajose in the 10th round to win a vacant interim junior welterweight belt Sept. 8. A couple more showings like those against good opponents and Matthysse will crack the list.

• Guillermo Rigondeaux (11-0, 8 KOs): The former two-time Cuban Olympic gold medalist is already one of the most skilled fighters in the world, and he has good two-fisted power to go with it. He makes everything look so easy in the ring. He crushed Rico Ramos in six rounds to win a belt in January and rolled in two defenses, a fifth-round knockout of Teon Kennedy in June and a lopsided decision against Robert Marroquin on Sept. 15. He is definitely on his way to pound-for-pound status. He just needs a few more similarly solid wins.

• Leo Santa Cruz (21-0-1, 12 KOs): Santa Cruz might be a bit of a long shot, but he has a chance because of his overwhelmingly aggressive style. He won a vacant bantamweight belt in June by throwing well over 1,000 punches in a dominant performance against Vusi Malinga, whom I viewed as a legitimate opponent. On Sept. 15, he crushed veteran former flyweight titlist Eric Morel in five one-sided rounds. With regular activity and a significant win or two, he could be right there. Santa Cruz is likely headed for junior featherweight after a November defense. Golden Boy is obviously positioning him to fight the winner of the Abner Mares-Anselmo Moreno fight. If it happens and Santa Cruz were to win, he'd probably find a place in the top 20.

Berto back, DeMarco-Broner, more

September, 21, 2012
Andre BertoMark Ralston/AFP/Getty ImagesAndre Berto may return Nov. 24 to face Cornelius "K9" Bundrage at 154 pounds.

When I was on my recent 11-day road trip to Oakland to cover Andre Ward-Chad Dawson, followed by a week in Las Vegas covering the Sergio Martinez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Saul "Canelo" Alvarez-Josesito Lopez cards, I heard a lot of stuff from a lot of people in the boxing business. And now I'm getting around to writing the highlights of what I heard:

• HBO is working on a Nov. 24 card that would be headlined by former welterweight titlist Andre Berto, who, after a positive steroid test knocked him out of a June rematch on Showtime with Victor Ortiz, was recently licensed in California. Berto's probable opponent? Junior middleweight titlist Cornelius "K9" Bundrage. Berto told me when I saw him in Oakland that he would move up in weight for the fight. He was licking his chops to get back into the ring, calling himself a "caged animal."

• Promoter Gary Shaw told me that he had made a deal with HBO for lightweight titlist Antonio DeMarco to defend against former junior lightweight titlist Adrien Broner on a Nov. 17 card that likely would take place in Atlantic City, N.J. Shaw said he was waiting to hear if HBO can make a deal with the Golden Boy/Broner side, but that he and DeMarco -- who needed less than a minute to blow out John Molina on the Ward-Dawson undercard -- were ready to go. Assuming the card comes off, heavyweight Seth Mitchell would face Johnathon Banks in the opener, a fight rescheduled after Mitchell's hand injury forced him out of the fight originally scheduled for July 14.

• Although Miguel Cotto's Dec. 1 fight at Madison Square Garden against junior middleweight titlist Austin Trout will take place on Showtime -- HBO also made a strong bid -- Top Rank's Bob Arum said he offered Cotto a guaranteed $13 million to take the rematch with Manny Pacquiao. When the Cotto side rejected that, Juan Manuel Marquez became Pacquiao's opponent for the Dec. 8 HBO PPV card at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Arum also said that Pacquiao had agreed to fight Cotto at as heavy as 150 pounds. Cotto will make far less than $13 million against Trout, but there is still a good possibility of a megafight with Alvarez if Cotto beats Trout. HBO didn't want to buy Trout-Cotto as a one-off. It wanted a commitment from Cotto for a second fight -- meaning Alvarez, who just went over to Showtime for the Lopez fight. No way was HBO going to pay in the $3.5 million range for Trout-Cotto if there was a possibility that the big fight between Cotto and Alvarez would go to Showtime.

• Arum also said that he has two new television deals in place for next year. Top Rank has long been heavily involved in promoting Hispanic fighters, especially Mexicans, but hasn't had a regular outlet since the end of its deal with Fox Deportes. But next year, Arum said, Top Rank will put 12 shows on Telemundo (which will increase its boxing presence from 12 annual cards to 24) and 24 more on Telefutura's "Solo Boxeo Tecate," where Top Rank once ruled the roost before Golden Boy took over as the main provider.

• Arum also said he was working with HBO to finalize a fight for welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley Jr., who was passed over for a rematch by Pacquiao. Arum and HBO both said the date for Bradley's return is Dec. 15. Arum said several names had been discussed, including junior welterweight Ruslan Provodnikov and a possible rematch with junior welterweight titlist Lamont Peterson (whom Bradley schooled in their first fight). Arum said he was also open to making a deal with Golden Boy for Bradley to face interim titlist Robert Guerrero. (That's a good fight, but don't hold your breath.) Another fighter Arum said he was open to matching Bradley with is British contender Kell Brook.

• HBO's contract with former junior welterweight titlist Amir Khan has ended, but the network is still interested in putting on his next fight. However, it doesn't want the kind that was offered by Golden Boy. One HBO executive said the network was offered a Khan fight for December against Humberto Soto. But HBO isn't interested in two guys who were drilled in their most recent fights -- especially Soto, an older guy fighting well above his best weight.

• According to the California State Athletic Commission, the Ward-Dawson super middleweight championship fight in Oakland -- Ward's hometown -- on Sept. 8 sold 7,611 tickets for a gate of $706,469. There were 1,038 complimentary tickets. Those are solid numbers that show Ward has a fan base, one that should only grow as he gains more recognition as one of the best fighters in the world.

Competing cards thrive at gate

September, 18, 2012
When Top Rank and Golden Boy (and their "strategic partners," HBO and Showtime, respectively) decided to go head-to-head with their big Mexican Independence Day weekend cards a mile apart in Las Vegas on Saturday night, few fans or media were happy about it.

But now the official gate numbers have been released by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, and neither show appeared to suffer. In fact, they both seemed to thrive.

Top Rank’s HBO PPV card at the Thomas & Mack Center, headlined by the Sergio Martinez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. middleweight championship fight -- which produced one of the most dramatic endings in boxing history -- produced a gate of $3,052,475 from a sellout crowd of 16,939. There were 751 complimentary tickets given away.

For the record, here's the reason for the discrepancy between the 16,939 official tickets sold and the arena-record sellout figure of 19,186 announced early during fight week by Top Rank and the Thomas & Mack Center: The 19,186 figure includes even those credentialed to be in the building without a ticket -- media members, television production folks, commission officials, hot dog vendors, etc. -- according to Top Rank's Todd duBoef and the commission.

Down the street at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, where Saul "Canelo" Alvarez retained his junior middleweight belt against Josesito Lopez in the main event of the Showtime card, the figures were also strong despite doubts that the sellout was legitimate. Why the doubts? Because even hours after Golden Boy announced it, blocks of seats in most price levels could still be purchased on Ticketmaster's website.

Funny business or not, the crowd looked good on television and the official figures were also strong. The commission reported that the MGM Grand card generated a gate of $1,618,150 from 12,860 tickets sold (a sellout), with 1,659 freebies.

That means that on the same night in two arenas that are walking distance from each other, there were about 30,000 people watching two big-time boxing cards.

Dying sport, right?

The downside to this success, of course, is that it probably emboldens Top Rank and Golden Boy, locked in a petty war for years, to go head-to-head again.

Will anyone be surprised to see a similar situation arise on May 4, 2013, Cinco de Mayo weekend?

Weekend pits Chavez vs. Canelo

September, 13, 2012
Saul  AlvarezMark Ralston/AFP/Getty ImagesSaul Alvarez insists he and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. are not rivals despite competing at the box office.
LAS VEGAS -- As we all know, there are two big cards a mile apart on Saturday night. The two stars of night -– middleweight titlist Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and junior middleweight titleholder Saul "Canelo" Alvarez -– are in the separate main events.

Chavez faces lineal middleweight champion Sergio Martinez on the HBO PPV/Top Rank card at the Thomas & Mack Center. Alvarez defends against upset-minded Josesito Lopez on the Showtime/Golden Boy show at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

In essence, Chavez and Alvarez are competing with each other on Mexican Independence Day weekend, even if they won't be swapping punches. And because both are major stars in Mexico, and beginning to make an impression with the American audience as well, there has long been talk from fans and media about an eventual fight between them.

It would be enormous on pay-per-view and could probably fill a giant soccer stadium in Mexico. It would certainly sell out the major arenas in Las Vegas.

But it's a long way off, if ever, from happening.

They are separated by one weight class and Chavez is likely headed for super middleweight in the next fight or two. Alvarez contends that he will remain at junior middleweight for "a long time."

Top Rank and Golden Boy spoke about the fight about a year ago, but they are bitter rivals, and it gets worse all the time. There's almost zero chance of Chavez and Alvarez fighting each other any time soon.

But Chavez is clearly in the bigger fight this weekend. Some weekend maybe Alvarez will be, just not this weekend.

Alvarez said he wasn't concerned that Chavez's fight, which was sold out earlier this week and expected to do at least 400,000 pay-per-view buys, might overshadow his.

"For everyone, the sun is out for all of us," Alvarez said. "I wish him the best. He has his fans, I have my fans and I wish him the best of success."

While fans and media view them as rivals, Alvarez said he does not look at it that way.

"I've never considered him a rival," Alvarez said. "We are in the same sport. Maybe down the road we could get it together and then we will be rivals. We are both fighting this weekend so let's just make it a bigger and better Sept. 15. [Chavez's fight] doesn't affect me, it's no threat to me. I keep going my way, he keeps going his. And if down the road we meet, that's fine."

Lopez can thank Holt for title shot

September, 12, 2012
Josesito LopezTom Casino/ShowtimeJosesito Lopez has hard work and luck to thank for the series of events that landed him a Sept. 15 title shot against Saul Alvarez, not to mention Kendall Holt for pulling out of their June 22 bout.
LAS VEGAS -- When Josesito Lopez steps into the ring to challenge junior middleweight titlist Saul "Canelo" Alvarez on Saturday night (Showtime, 9 ET) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, he has many people to thank for the opportunity.

There are co-promoters Dan Goossen and Thompson Boxing, manager Henry Ramirez, adviser Al Haymon, Alvarez and his promoter, Golden Boy, and Showtime.

But nobody deserves a bigger thank you than former junior welterweight titlist Kendall Holt.

Without Holt's decision to pull out of their June 22 main event on ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights", Lopez would never have gotten the opportunity for his huge upset of Victor Ortiz on June 23. Without that fight, there is no title shot or career payday against Alvarez (40-0-1, 29 KOs).

Lopez (30-4, 18 KOs) had already been in training for five weeks when Holt pulled out of the fight.

According his promoter Gary Shaw, Holt decided not to go through with the fight because he did not want to fight outdoors in the desert heat at the Soboba Casino in San Jacinto, Calif. The venue had been finalized after Holt accepted the fight.

When Holt pulled out on Lopez, and Ortiz's fight with Andre Berto fell apart after Berto tested positive for steroids, Lopez was free to accept the bout with Ortiz, whom he went on to stop at the end of the ninth round
because he broke Ortiz's jaw in two places.

Ortiz was supposed to have faced Alvarez after what was supposed to be a tune-up fight against Lopez.

I suggested that maybe Lopez should send Holt a Christmas card as a thank you.

"Come Christmas time, maybe I should," Lopez laughed. "I was really mad at him for pulling out but then we got the news basically the following day [about the Ortiz fight]. I guess now I got to thank him.

"Without him punking out, I would never have gotten the opportunity to be here today."

Las Vegas fight purses announced

September, 12, 2012
LAS VEGAS -- The Nevada State Athletic Commission will be awfully busy on Saturday night handing out checks to fighters from two major cards taking place about a mile from each other –- the Sergio Martinez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Top Rank/HBO PPV card at the Thomas & Mack Center and the Golden Boy/Showtime card at the MGM Grand Garden Arena featuring Saul "Canelo" Alvarez-Josesito Lopez.

Here are the official contract purses for the televised bouts from each show, according to commission executive director Keith Kizer, plus other pertinent notes:

Thomas & Mack Center card: Chavez Jr. $3 million (plus pay-per-view upside); Martinez $1.4 million (plus pay-per-view upside); Roman Martinez $50,000; Miguel Beltran $25,000; Guillermo Rigondeaux $150,000; Robert Marroquin $50,000; Matthew Macklin $85,000; Joachim Alcine $61,000; Mike Lee $50,000; Paul Harness $2,000.

MGM Grand card: Alvarez $2 million; Lopez $212,500 (plus an undisclosed amount from adviser Al Haymon); Jhonny Gonzalez $40,000 (plus Mexican television money); Daniel Ponce De Leon $100,000; Marcos Maidana $250,000; Jesus Soto Karass $80,000; Leo Santa Cruz $85,000; Eric Morel $35,000.

Golden Boy offers knockout bonus

September, 12, 2012
LAS VEGAS -- Fight Freaks love knockouts and fighters love to get them and make money. So, with that in mind, Golden Boy Promotions is offering a $100,000 bonus for the best knockout on its quadrupleheader Saturday night (Showtime, 9 ET) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

It's a great idea to help spice up a show that Golden Boy titled "Knockout Kings" (and one that, at long last, Showtime will show live on both coasts, instead of its years-long tradition of fights being tape-delayed on the West Coast).

Knockouts seem likely in at least some of the fights -– Saul "Canelo" Alvarez-Josesito Lopez in a junior middleweight title bout, Jhonny Gonzalez-Daniel Ponce De Leon in a featherweight title bout, Marcos Maidana-Jesus Soto Karass in a welterweight fight and Leo Santa Cruz-Eric Morel in a bantamweight title bout -– considering that the eight featured fighters have combined for 206 stoppages.

"Leo Santa Cruz going up against Eric Morel, the styles fit very well to a win by knockout," Golden Boy president Oscar De La Hoya said. "You have Soto Karass and Maidana, who are both strong punchers. Canelo has devastating power. Josesito Lopez is coming out of a spectacular win against Victor Ortiz where he broke his jaw. Ponce De Leon and Jhonny Gonzalez, what can you say about them? They're both knockout artists. So we're, obviously, hoping for the best and the fans will decide who the winner is.

"I am hoping to see four knockouts so that the decision is that much tougher and the winner is that much more deserving of the prize."

Here's the way you can vote on the best KO:

Following the conclusion of the main event, fans in the arena and at home will have five minutes to vote for the "Knockout of the Night" by texting 74669 from their mobile devices. If there are no knockouts, there will be no winner. If there is one knockout, that fighter is the automatic winner of the $100,000 bonus. If there are multiple knockouts, the votes will be tallied in those five allotted minutes to vote and the $100,000 winner will be announced in the ring prior to the conclusion of Showtime's broadcast.

[+] EnlargeMarcos Maidana
Hoganphotos/Golden Boy PromotionsSlugger Marcos Maidana, with 28 knockouts in 31 career victories, is one of eight fighters eligible for Golden Boy Promotions' $100,000 bonus for Saturday's best knockout.
"Ponce De Leon, a former junior featherweight titleholder, would love the extra money, but winning a second world title is more important to him.

"The $100,000 bonus, yes, that's definitely a motivation and I really would like that, but right now my main focus is to win the world title," he said. "I want to be a world champion."

The bonus is a nice carrot, Soto Karass said, but he won't let it alter his game plan.

"The $100,000 definitely spices it up and is really good, but I'm focused right now on winning the fight and if the knockout comes, great, because $100,000 extra is more than welcomed," he said. "The temptation of the $100,000 is very, very good, but right now I'm focusing and mentally preparing to win the fight and by winning the fight the bigger money comes later."

Maidana, a tremendous puncher, is on the same page.

"With regard to the $100,000, although it is a temptation to win that money, I need to win the fight first and then the money will come," he said.
It’s hard not to feel bad for Ulises "Archie" Solis, who has been one of the best little guys in the business for several years.

The two-time junior flyweight titleholder from Mexico won his first title in 2006 and made eight defenses before losing it to Brian Viloria in 2009. Solis regained his belt in April 2011 with a split decision victory against Luis Lazarte on Lazarte's turf in Argentina and then cruised through a first defense, a lopsided decision against Jether Oliva last August. It looked like the 30-year-old might be on the way to another lengthy reign.

But Solis hasn't fought since the Oliva bout because of injuries sustained in a street fight last October, where he was allegedly attacked by fellow Guadalajara fighter Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, the star junior middleweight titlist who would have outweighed him by roughly 50 pounds.

[+] EnlargeUlises Solis
Zanfer PromotionsTwo-time junior flyweight titleholder Ulises "Archie" Solis displays injuries sustained during a street fight last October. Solis was stripped of his 108-pound title by the IBF and is expected to miss another three to four months.
Now, because Solis' injuries have not fully healed and he will be out of the ring even longer than expected, the IBF has stripped him of his 108-pound belt and elevated interim titleholder Johnriel Casimero.

The IBF rarely uses interim titles (thankfully) but appropriately used one in this instance because Solis was legitimately injured and going to be sidelined for quite some time. Injuries are the only reason the IBF uses an interim title and has done so extremely sparingly over the years. But even the IBF has its limits, so as much grief as I give the sanctioning bodes, I can’t really fault the IBF here for stripping Solis. It’s just an unfortunate situation.

"We always hate to vacate a title, especially from a guy like Ulises Solis, who has done everything we asked him to do," said Lindsey Tucker, the organization's championships chairman. "Solis even won the [IBF's] Jersey Joe Walcott award [for] fighter of the year a few years ago. Plus, he received a championship ring for three or more title defenses. However, we just got the doctor's report and even though we gave him a nine-month medical exception, he still would not be able to defend the title by the deadline [for the next mandatory.] We appointed interim champion Johnriel Casimero as the new IBF junior flyweight champion."

Solis has accused Alvarez of sucker-punching him and breaking his jaw in multiple places last year. According to a recent medical report received by the IBF, Solis had surgery on his injured jaw (a bone fragment transplant) on May 29 and will be out for at least another three or four months. At that point, Solis will be re-examined by his doctor. The point is, it will be well beyond a year since he defended the title.

Whatever happened to Solis (34-2-3, 21 KOs), be it a sucker punch from the bigger Alvarez or not, the bottom line is he is out of action and the title can’t be held up indefinitely.

When Solis is able to return, Tucker said he would have to win a fight before being returned to the organization’s rankings.

Canelo closing in on Sept. 15 foe

June, 25, 2012
With the Saul "Canelo" Alvarez-Victor Ortiz fight down the drain in the aftermath of Ortiz's ninth-round TKO loss to Josesito Lopez on Saturday, the pressing question in boxing is whom will Alvarez fight Sept. 15?

Golden Boy is seeking its fourth opponent for Alvarez after Ortiz's upset defeat, which came after previous opponents James Kirkland and Paul Williams dropped out.

In the aftermath of the Alvarez-Ortiz fight cratering, Golden Boy and Showtime both said Alvarez would still fight Sept. 15 -- on Mexican Independence Day weekend -- at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. They also said it wouldn't necessarily be on Showtime PPV, leaving the door open for the fight to air on regular Showtime and floating the idea of it being on CBS, Showtime's sister network.

With rivals Top Rank and HBO PPV going with Sergio Martinez against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in a much-anticipated middleweight championship fight on the same night from the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, it's clear that positioning an Alvarez fight opposite Martinez-Chavez on pay-per-view is suicidal. Besides, I've heard from multiple sources that pay-per-view industry executives have already given Top Rank the all-important primary pay-per-view channel, which would have relegated Alvarez's fight to the secondary PPV channel, which isn't available on all systems and would mean far less marketing and promotion from cable systems.

The only way I can see that changing is if an A-level opponent could be lined up to face Alvarez. There are only two names that fall into that category: Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Miguel Cotto.

Mayweather is locked up in county jail in Las Vegas for at least another month. The prospect of Mayweather exiting jail and fighting about a month later is zero. I don't consider Mayweather-Alvarez a possibility for this year. Next year? Certainly.

As for Cotto, he is coming off a spirited loss against Mayweather in a terrific fight on May 5. He made a boatload of money and isn't looking to rush back to the ring, especially as the B-side of a promotion as the Puerto Rican fighter matched against a Mexican on the Sept. 15 holiday.

I decided to check with Gaby Peņagaricano, Cotto's attorney and adviser, to see if Cotto might be lured into a September fight. From the sound of things, Alvarez-Cotto isn't in the cards for the September date.

"I have not even discussed the matter with Miguel, as this unexpected event [Ortiz losing] just occurred over the weekend," Peņagaricano said. "We will meet today, but our plan is to fight at the end of the year."

With Cotto almost certainly off the drawing board for Alvarez, I've been told by multiple sources that Alvarez will fight on live Showtime (not pay-per-view). I never thought CBS would seriously pull the trigger and do the fight anyway.

Alvarez's fight on Showtime probably will come against fellow titleholder Austin Trout, who fought on Showtime on June 2 and easily retained his belt against Delvin Rodriguez in a deathly boring fight. Still, at least there is a mild storyline to an Alvarez-Trout fight. Trout easily outpointed Rigoberto Alvarez -- Canelo's brother -- to win a vacant belt in February 2011 in Mexico. I'm told the two camps are far down the road from finalizing the match, though.

Canelo, Chavez duel over date

June, 12, 2012
With Golden Boy's announcement on Tuesday that junior middleweight titlist Saul "Canelo" Alvarez will face former welterweight titleholder Victor Ortiz on Sept. 15 on Showtime PPV at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas -- assuming Ortiz beats or draws with Josesito Lopez on Showtime on June 23 -- came the inevitable question about potential competing pay-per-view cards.

Alvarez will face Ortiz on Showtime PPV, while middleweight titlist Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Mexico's other major boxing star, is also being penciled in to fight Sept. 15 on HBO PPV.

Who's going to blink? These things have a way of working themselves out, but who knows what will happen? It's always interesting to see how it unfolds.

It's not like one side will just walk away from the date, because the date is what is significant. Sept. 15 falls on Mexican Independence Day weekend, traditionally when a major Mexican fighter headlines a card.
Chavez has to first defend his belt against Andy Lee on Saturday night (HBO, 10 ET, along with a replay of last Saturday's controversial Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley Jr. fight) at the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas. But if Chavez wins and comes out of the fight OK, Top Rank has talked about Sept. 15 being his next fight date.

During a teleconference with boxing reporters on Tuesday, Golden Boy Promotions chief executive Richard Schaefer was asked about the potential fallout of Alvarez and Chavez -- who also fight on competing Mexican networks -- both trying to fight on the same date.

"We are not concerned with what other promoters do," Schaefer said. "We are concerned with our own events."

Paul Williams grateful for support

June, 5, 2012

Former two-time welterweight titlist Paul Williams remains in an Atlanta-area hospital after being involved in a motorcycle accident on May 27, which ended his career and left him paralyzed from the waist down.

On Monday, Williams made a statement through publicist Rachel Charles thanking the public for the overwhelming support he has received since the accident.

"I feel the love and support from everyone and it's overwhelming," Williams said. "I am very thankful to all of my fans and friends who have rallied around me in a time when I need them the most."

According to George Peterson, Williams' trainer, manager and father figure, doctors have told Williams, 30, that he is unlikely to walk again. On Friday, Williams had a 6½-hour operation to stablize the portion of spinal cord that was not severely damaged in the accident.

Just days before the incident, Williams had signed to challenge junior middleweight titlist Saul "Canelo" Alvarez on Sept. 15 in a pay-per-view headliner from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Junior middleweight titlist Saul "Canelo" Alvarez needs an opponent for his Sept. 15 pay-per-view date at the MGM Grand. That's because of Paul Williams' tragic motorcycle accident, which has left the fighter paralyzed from the waist down, and because James Kirkland's surgically repaired shoulder still aches -- but also because Kirkland doesn't think a purse of nearly $1 million is enough.

Golden Boy promoter Richard Schaefer said after Kirkland's withdrawal on Friday that the show would go on -- and insisted it would still be on pay-per-view, even though Kirkland was a huge reach as a pay-per-view opponent in the first place.

Schaefer mentioned several names that he thought could be potential opponents: the winner of Saturday night's bout between titleholder Austin Trout and Delvin Rodriguez; former welterweight titlist Carlos Quintana, who was impressive in knocking out Deandre Latimore on May 5 on the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Miguel Cotto pay-per-view undercard; top contender Erislandy Lara; and Vanes Martirosyan (who is promoted by Golden Boy rival Top Rank).

The one man Schaefer didn't mention was Carlos Molina -- the same Molina who was robbed in a draw against Lara last year and who utterly outclassed Kirkland on March 24, only to be astonishingly disqualified at the end of the 10th round by overzealous referee Jon Schorle in one of the worst referee calls I've ever seen.

Molina, a legitimate top-10 junior middleweight, has every bit the right to at least be mentioned along with those other fighters Schaefer cited.

Molina, of course, would love a crack at Alvarez.

"Hell yeah, I want that fight," Molina said. "Every time I fight somebody, it seems like they get to fight Canelo after that. Kirkland was the second time it was going to happen. First time was with Kermit Cintron, whom I beat [and whom Alvarez then knocked out two fights later in 2011]. Now they're talking about giving the fight to Erislandy Lara, [who] I had a controversial draw with. What can I do?"

As always, Molina is staying in shape in the hopes that his phone rings with an offer.

"I'm in the gym training. I'm ready for anyone -- Canelo, anybody," Molina said. "I want to fight anybody in the top 10. I want hard fights, the toughest guys out there. This is the best division in boxing, and that's where I want to be."

As for how he would fare against Alvarez if the unexpected call comes?

"I think he's a good, strong young kid, but I see lots of openings to exploit on him," Molina said. "He's good for a young guy, but how good? Let's find out."
Junior middleweight titlist Saul "Canelo" Alvarez was supposed to defend his belt against Paul Williams on Sept. 15 on pay-per-view at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. But that was before Williams was paralyzed from the waist down in a motorcycle accident on Sunday. Williams' career is over, and his doctors say won't walk again.

Alvarez will go on to fight somebody else on Sept. 15, but he said he has Williams in his thoughts and released a statement on Friday, the day Williams was scheduled to undergo spinal surgery.

"I am very upset about what happened to Paul," Alvarez said. "I know that an accident can happen to anyone, and right now the most important thing is for everyone to pray for his recovery. Paul Williams is a warrior who gives everything in the ring, but right now he is fighting the biggest fight of his life outside the ring. I extend my best wishes to him in his recovery and to his family as well.

"Paul will always be a champion, and I am going to dedicate my Sept. 15 fight to him and his family. God willing and health permitting, I want to invite him and his family to be ringside on Sept. 15 in Las Vegas."