Dan Rafael: Cristian Mijares

Gamboa's goal? To be No. 1 lightweight

November, 12, 2014
Terence Crawford vs. Yuriorkis GamboaChris Farina/Top Rank Yuriorkis Gamboa, left, suffered the first defeat of his career against Terence Crawford in June.

Former unified featherweight titlist Yuriorkis Gamboa suffered his first loss in June when Terence Crawford knocked Gamboa down four times and violently stopped him in the ninth round of a tremendous fight that is a candidate for fight of the year.

Gamboa, who is promoted by rap star Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, was outboxed that night by a bigger, better man. But Gamboa has not given up on his dream of becoming the No. 1 lightweight in the world.

Some believe that Gamboa (23-1, 16 KOs) is too small to compete effectively at 135 pounds. He had his best success at 126 pounds. Nonetheless, he is returning to action in a lightweight bout -- though it is supposed to be at a maximum weight of 132 pounds -- against Mexico’s Joel Montes de Oca (18-3, 10 KOs) on Saturday night (Fox Deportes, 10:30 ET) at the Plaza de Toros in Cancun, Mexico.

The 32-year-old Gamboa, a 2004 Olympic gold medalist and Cuban defector now living in Miami, owns wins against quality opponents such as Orlando Salido, Daniel Ponce De Leon, Michael Farenas, Jorge Solis, Jonathan Victor Barros and Darleys Perez. So although Gamboa is coming off a loss, he is not expected to have too many problems with de Oca, who has won 14 fights in a row, but against limited competition.

"I want my fans to know that I feel great," Gamboa said in translated remarks. “'I’ve been training very hard for this fight, which I'm taking very serious because I know the importance of ending the year on a positive note. I'm now fully focused on becoming king of the lightweight division, as well as hopefully being much more active in 2015, with my goal to fight three or four times next year. I am honored to fight in Mexico and I plan to fight there again in 2015."

In the featherweight main event, former unified junior bantamweight champion Cristian Mijares (52-8-2, 25 KOs) of Mexico will face Lester Medrano (14-2-1, 9 KOs) of Nicaragua in a scheduled 10-rounder.

Gamboa plots comeback in Mexico

October, 31, 2014
When last in the ring, former featherweight titlist Yuriorkis Gamboa was getting dropped four times and violently knocked out in the ninth round challenging lightweight titleholder Terence Crawford in a fight of the year candidate in June.

[+] EnlargeYuriorkis Gamboa
Chris Farina/Top RankYuriorkis Gamboa looks to bounce back from his first defeat when he meets Joel Montes de Oca in Mexico.
That was Gamboa's first career defeat and now he is getting ready for a comeback in a fight not nearly as high profile as many of his bouts.

Gamboa, a Cuban defector and 2004 Olympic gold medalist, is headed to Cancun, Mexico, to fight Nov. 15 on the undercard of a show promoted by Pepe Gomez, Gamboa adviser and attorney Tony Gonzalez told ESPN.com. Gamboa's promoter is rap star Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, but he doesn't have any upcoming cards, so Gomez agreed to put Gamboa (23-1, 16 KOs) on his card.

Gamboa will face Mexico's Joel Montes de Oca (18-3, 10 KOs), who has won 14 fights in a row but against woeful opposition. Gamboa intends to move back down to 130 pounds, where he once held an interim title. But the fight with Montes de Oca is contracted at 132, Gonzalez said.

"It's strictly a tune-up fight to get back in the ring with the hopes of a bigger fight in 2015," Gonzalez said.

The card is supposed to be headlined by featherweight (and former unified junior bantamweight champion) Cristian Mijares (50-8-2, 25 KOs) of Mexico against Lester Medrano (14-2-1, 9 KOs) of Nicaragua.

Alvarez to earn more than $1.25M

March, 7, 2014

LAS VEGAS -- Former junior middleweight titlist Canelo Alvarez, the star of Saturday night’s Showtime PPV card at the MGM Grand, will earn a minimum of $1.25 million for his main event against Alfredo Angulo, according to the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

Alvarez, however, likely will make much more. According to Golden Boy Promotions chief executive Richard Schaefer, Alvarez’s deal with the company has him on an 80-20 split of the profits from the event in his favor. Angulo will earn a career-high $750,000.

Junior featherweight titlist Leo Santa Cruz will earn $500,000 for his defense in the co-feature. He will face former junior bantamweight champion Cristian Mijares, who will make $92,000.

Junior middleweight titlist Carlos Molina is due to make $275,000, but he might not fight, as he remains in jail on an immigration hold in Las Vegas. His opponent, Jermall Charlo, will make $100,000 if the fight happens.

Former two-division titlist Jorge Linares and Nihito Arakawa will make $50,000 apiece for their lightweight bout.

Lightweight Ricardo Alvarez, Canelo’s older brother, will make $100,000 for his fight with Sergio Thompson, whose purse is $50,000. Alvarez-Thompson is not scheduled to be on the pay-per-view broadcast but will move onto the PPV if Molina-Charlo is called off.

Alvarez was initially supposed to challenge lightweight titlist Omar Figueroa on the PPV, but when Figueroa dropped out because of a hand injury, Alvarez got a new opponent but was downgraded to the untelevised card.

Fighters talk Valentine's Day

February, 13, 2014
AlvarezAlexis Cuarezma/Getty ImagesCanelo Alvarez and others competing on his March 8 card shared their thoughts on Valentine's Day.
Friday is Valentine's Day so even some rough and tough fighters are showing their softer side.

The PR folks working on the Canelo Alvarez-Alfredo Angulo Showtime PPV card, which takes place March 8 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, talked to the eight fighters who will be on the pay-per-view broadcast -- Alvarez, Angulo, Leo Santa Cruz, Cristian Mijares, Omar Figueroa, Ricardo Alvarez (Canelo's brother), Carlos Molina and Jermall Charlo -- to get their thoughts on the year's most romantic day.

The fighters were asked a few questions and here are their answers:

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Valentine's Day?

C. Alvarez: I think of joy.

Angulo: I just think about training.

Cruz: Love, friendship and family.

Mijares: I think of the love I have with my wife and children.

Figueroa: The colors red and pink.

R. Alvarez: Love.

Molina: Relationships.

Charlo: Hearts, flowers, mushy feelings and growing up.

What is the best Valentine's Day gift you've ever given or received?

C. Alvarez: The best gift I received is love.

Angulo: My favorite cologne that I can't find anywhere anymore.

Cruz: The best Valentine's gift I ever gave was a pink heart ring.

Mijares: Only my wife could tell you what the best gift that I've given her is. The best gift I've received is the love of my family.

Figueroa: The jewelry I've given to my mom or my sister. The best gift I have ever been given is the birth of my daughter. She is the best Valentine's Day gift from now until the day I die.

R. Alvarez: My best gift was a big teddy bear and a romantic dinner.

Molina: A picture my girl gave me of us back in the day.

Charlo: I have never received a Valentine's Day gift. I have always given. The best gift I ever gave was to my mom. It was a vacation to the Grand Canyon.

What is your favorite romantic movie or love song?

C. Alvarez: My favorite romantic movie is "Diario de una Pasion" ("The Notebook").

Angulo: My favorite romantic movie is "Titanic."

Cruz: My favorite romantic movie is "The Notebook."

Mijares: I really like the song "She's The One" by Robbie Williams. As for romantic movies I like "City of Angels."

Figueroa: I don't really watch those types of movies, but I liked the last one that I saw. It was "P.S. I Love You."

R. Alvarez: "Diario de una Pasion" ("The Notebook")

Molina: "Forrest Gump."

Charlo: "Pretty Woman."

Even though you're in training camp this Valentine's Day, will you be sending anything to anyone?

C. Alvarez: I don't look at Valentine's Day as the only day I make that person feel special.

Alfredo Angulo: No I will not.

Santa Cruz: I will be sending a very special gift to my love this Valentine's Day even though I'm in training camp.

Mijares: No, my mind is on my next fight so I haven't even thought about it.

Figueroa: Yes, I'm going to send an Edible Arrangement to my (16-month-old) daughter.

R. Alvarez: Yes, I will send a bouquet of roses to my wife.

Molina: Well, I will be going out for a light dinner in Chicago.

Charlo: Yes, I will be sending a Valentine's Day gift to someone special in my life.

Describe your perfect Valentine's Day date.

C. Alvarez: If I'm with the person I love, any place is perfect.

Angulo: A romantic dinner.

Cruz: My perfect Valentine's Day date is a romantic dinner followed by a bonfire on the beach.

Mijares: A perfect day would be one where I'm surrounded by my family.

Figueroa: The perfect Valentine's Day would be to spend time with the women in my life that I love the most: my mom, my sister and my daughter. I would take them out to dinner and pamper them.

R. Alvarez: My perfect date is in a restaurant with a romantic dinner.

Molina: Dinner and drinks on a warm day.

Charlo: A comedy show and relaxing.

On the card, Canelo Alvarez fights Angulo in the junior middleweight main event, Santa Cruz defends his junior featherweight title against Mijares, Figueroa defends his lightweight belt against Ricardo Alvarez and Molina defends his junior middleweight title against Charlo.

Santa Cruz, Mijares show respect

January, 22, 2014
Leo Santa Cruz and Cristian MijaresGene Blevins - Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions There's nothing but respect between Leo Santa Cruz and Cristian Mijares.

There was plenty of respect on display between junior featherweight titlist Leo Santa Cruz and former two-time junior bantamweight titleholder and Mexican countryman Cristian Mijares on Tuesday at the news conference in Los Angeles to formally announce the March 8 card they will be fighting on at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

The Showtime PPV card is headlined by the junior middleweight fight between former titlist Canelo Alvarez and Mexican countryman Alfredo Angulo, but the always-entertaining Santa Cruz (26-0-1, 15 KOs) and Mijares (49-7-2, 24 KOs), the mandatory challenger, meet in the interesting co-feature.

"I'm very happy and I'm very prepared for this fight. Mijares is a great fighter," said Santa Cruz, who will be making his second title defense. "When I was in the beginning of my career, I used to see him fight. I once sparred against Jose Navarro to help him [prepare to] fight against Mijares. I watched that fight and I know that he's a great fighter that will give me a tough fight.

"We come 100 percent ready and we're trying to the fans a great fight. Hopefully, it's one of the best fights of the night."

Mijares has won two fights in a row since losing a debatable split decision to Victor Terrazas for the vacant title last April. Santa Cruz knocked out Terrazas in the third round of Terrazas’ first defense to win the title in August. Now Mijares is getting another shot.

"I'm very happy to be on such a big card like this, in the co-main event of the big fight between Canelo and Angulo," Mijares said. "I'm motivated because I'm coming back. I know it's going to be a very good fight against Leo Santa Cruz because he's a very good fighter.

"I'm motivated. I'm coming here to win, I'm coming here to be a world champion. I'm not going to give away anything. I'm expecting to win. It's going to be a war. That's all I've got to say."

Rafael Marquez eyes another title

September, 5, 2013
Marquez and EsquiviasGene Blevins - Hoganphotos/Golden Boy PromotionsRafael Marquez will bring his exciting boxing style when he faces Efrain Esquivias on Saturday.

Rafael Marquez, the former bantamweight and junior featherweight champion, is one of the era’s greatest warriors. His four-fight series with Israel Vazquez -- they’re 2-2 -- between 2007 and 2010 is the stuff of legend.

Someday, Marquez likely will earn entrance into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. But since evening the series by knocking out a badly faded Vazquez in the third round of fight No. 4 in May 2010, Marquez is just 2-3. The wins came against low-level opponents (Eric Aiken and Eduardo Becerril) while the losses were to the good ones (Juan Manuel Lopez in a featherweight title fight, Toshiaki Nishioka in a junior featherweight title fight and former junior bantamweight champion Cristian Mijares by ninth-round knockout in his last fight in October).

The rough stretch was not enough to convince Mexico’s Marquez (41-8, 37 KOs) to walk away. He is making a comeback at age 38 and hopes it results in another junior featherweight title.

He recently signed with Golden Boy Promotions, reunited with Hall of Fame trainer Nacho Beristain and fights 30-year-old Efrain Esquivias (16-2-1, 9 KOs) of Gardena, Calif., in a scheduled 10-round bout in the co-feature of the Seth Mitchell-Chris Arreola heavyweight fight Saturday night (Showtime, 10:30 ET/PT) at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, Calif.

"I hope he comes forward because that's exciting for the fans,” Marquez said. “Everyone knows that's my style, and I want to make the most exciting fight for my fans.”

Marquez wanted to be clear that he did not consider retirement after the loss to Mijares. He just took a break for nearly a year.

"Being retired never entered my mind,” said Marquez, the younger brother of Juan Manuel Marquez. “I took some time off and came back with Nacho because I feel like I still have something to prove to the fans. I've signed [with Golden Boy] for four fights, but my mind is on this fight right now.

"I have a lot to prove. I want to be a world champion again."

Esquivias also has dreams of winning a world title.

“I'm coming in real strong and ready to show boxing fans that I'm capable of competing for a world title. I'm not an opponent. I'm here to win,” Esquivias said. “I don't back down, and neither does Marquez. Most people in the sport know about my father passing away from ALS. He's the one who gives me the strength to continue. His spirit lives within me, and he's the reason why I fight.

“I view myself as the favorite. That's no disrespect to Marquez; he's a future Hall of Famer. But I always feel like I'm the best boxer in the ring. It would mean the world to me to beat Rafael Marquez. Some people say he has lost a step, but I don't think so. Look at his brother, [40-year-old] Juan Manuel Marquez. These guys are built for longevity.”

Mares-Santa Cruz is inevitable

August, 21, 2013

Leo Santa Cruz emerged in 2012 as one of the most exciting fighters in boxing and there is no sign of that letting up, in whichever weight class he fights in.

Last year, Santa Cruz, who throws punches non-stop, won a vacant bantamweight title and defended it three times in a series of exciting fights. He fought five times overall.

But troubled by making the 118-pound weight limit, Santa Cruz vacated his title, moved up to junior featherweight and demolished former junior bantamweight titleholder Alexander Munoz in five rounds in May on the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Robert Guerrero undercard.

Now Santa Cruz (24-0-1, 14 KOs) is set to challenge for a title in that weight class when he faces Victor Terrazas (37-2-1, 21 KOs), who will be making his first defense after winning the vacant belt via split decision against former junior bantamweight champion Cristian Mijares in April.

The fight figures to be another barn-burner and takes place Saturday night (Showtime, 10:25 ET with preliminary bouts on Showtime Extreme beginning at 8 ET/PT) at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.

Should Santa Cruz win the belt, don’t expect him to have a long reign. That is because the featherweight division will likely beckon for a major showdown with titleholder Abner Mares, should Mares (26-0-1, 14 KOs) retain his belt against former two-division titlist Jhonny Gonzalez (54-8, 46 KOs) in the main event.

Besides putting on a pair of likely action-packed fights on Saturday, Golden Boy promoter Richard Schaefer sees a Mares-Santa Cruz fight in the not-too-distant future, so what better way to lay the groundwork than by having them on the same card as a prelude?

“If that’s the biggest fight, which the fans want, the network wants, and has an opportunity to make a substantial amount of money for both fighters, then let’s do it,” Schaefer said, knowing, of course, that it will be the biggest makeable fight for both guys. “And I know that Abner and Leo are the kind of fighters that never turn down anyone. They’re always up for a challenge. Both of them are just tremendous fighters and both of them are really super nice guys outside of the ring, as well.

“They respect each other and they are both a pleasure to promote. So we at Golden Boy believe in the best fighting the best and if it’s going to happen with both of those guys, who are considered the best in these weight classes, we certainly won’t be standing in the way.”

If they both win Saturday, Mares and Santa Cruz probably would have one or two fights before they fight each other, but count on Schaefer putting it together. As Schaefer says often, he doesn’t like to let fights “marinate.”

“Let’s see what happens [Saturday]. I think both fighters should have maybe a couple or so title defenses and then we’ll see, assuming everything goes well,” Schaefer said. “But let’s do first things first.”

Mares and Santa Cruz are friendly with each other outside the ring, but that would not stand in the way of a fight between them, especially since they would both earn considerable purses.

“If everything goes good I will win the title and hope to defend it. [But] if the fans want the fight, I would want that fight,” Santa Cruz said. "He’s my friend. We talk good and everything. I wouldn’t want to fight him, but if the fans want it we’d have to give it to them, because we have to give what the fans want and if they want that fight we will make it happen.”

Terrazas and Gonzalez, of course, stand in the way. Terrazas is riding an 11-fight winning streak since 2010. Gonzalez is a big puncher with tons of experience.

“I know that with Terrazas it’s going to be a great fight. He’s a warrior,” Santa Cruz said. “He’s a Mexican fighter, he comes forward with pressure in the ring. I’m going to do the same, because I want that title. I know he wants to defend the title. I know how we are, that when we win something we don’t want to lose it and I know he had struggled a lot for to win that title and that he’s going to come 100 percent prepared too. But I’m the same. I want that title.”