Dan Rafael: Guillermo Rigondeaux

Caribe wins Rigondeaux-Avalos purse bid

September, 19, 2014
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Caribe Promotions, the lone promoter of unified junior featherweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux since the expiration of his deal with Top Rank in July, won a purse bid on Friday for his mandatory defense against Chris Avalos.

Caribe was the only bidder at the WBO headquarters in Puerto Rico, offering $317,777.77. Avalos promoter Top Rank did not bid.

As champion, Rigondeaux is entitled to 75 percent of the money ($238,333.32) and Avalos would receive the remaining 25 percent ($79,444.45). The minimum bid was $100,000.

In its winning offer, Caribe said the target date for the bout is Nov. 22 in Miami or the Dominican Republic. However, it remains to be seen if Avalos and Top Rank will accept the fight because they have been in talks with Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn of England about working together on an Avalos fight in the United Kingdom. Avalos is also the mandatory challenger for titleholder Carl Frampton and that is a much bigger commercial fight than one against Rigondeaux. It is also a more winnable fight for Avalos.

Rigondeaux (14-0, 9 KOs), the two-time Cuban Olympic gold medalist, is coming off a first-round knockout of Sod Kokietgym in Macau on July 19 in his fifth title defense.

Avalos (24-2, 18 KOs), 24, of Lancaster, California, also fought his most recent fight in Macau, stopping Yasutaka Ishimoto in the eighth round in May in an eliminator to put him in position to be Frampton's mandatory.

Notes: Rigondeaux, Dirrell, more

September, 3, 2014
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Rigondeaux v AgbekoChris Farina/Top RankJunior featherweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux continues his search for a primary promoter.
A few notes from around the boxing world:

• With music mogul Jay Z's Roc Nation Sports new on the boxing promotion scene and looking to sign fighters, it made an offer to unified junior featherweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux (14-0, 9 KOs), whose contract with Top Rank recently expired (although he is still with co-promoter Caribe Promotions). The offer, however, was withdrawn last week because of difficulties dealing with Caribe, which is basically a promoter in name only. According to the Rigondeaux camp, British promoter Frank Warren has also made an offer. Rigondeaux has a mandatory defense due next against Chris Avalos (24-2, 18 KO).

• Light heavyweight Andre Dirrell (22-1, 15 KOs) returned from an 18-month layoff on Aug. 1 to knock out Vladine Biosse in the fifth round on ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights" in just Dirrell's second fight since 2011. But the 2004 Olympic bronze medalist and former super middleweight world title challenger likely will be back in action quickly. He is expected to appear Oct. 8 (ESPN2) in the co-feature of the card headlined by middleweight titlist Sam Soliman's defense against former undisputed champion Jermain Taylor in Biloxi, Mississippi.

• The all-Polish heavyweight showdown between 25-year-old Artur Szpilka (16-1, 12 KOs) and fading 37-year-old Tomasz Adamek (49-3, 29 KOs), which has been in the works since mid-July, is just about set and expected to be formally announced early next week. The scheduled 10-rounder, which is being bankrolled by Polish network Polsat, is slated to take place Nov. 8 in Krakow, Poland. It's a fight that shapes up as an all-action affair. Adamek is coming off a decision loss on March 15 to Vyacheslav "Czar" Glazkov, who dished out a lot of punishment. Szpilka got knocked out in the 10th round by unbeaten Bryant Jennings in his last fight in January.

• Interim cruiserweight titlist Youri Kalenga (20-1, 13 KOs), who is from Congo but lives in France, will make his first defense against Denton Daley (12-0, 6 KOs) on Nov. 15 at the Hersey Centre in Mississauga, Ontario. United Boxing Promotions is billing the bout as the first world title fight (albeit interim) to be held in Mississauga, as well the first in Ontario for more than four years, since former junior featherweight titlist Steve Molitor's heyday.

"Daley is a good technical fighter with some decent skills," said Kalenga, who claimed the vacant belt by outpointing Mateusz Masternak on June 21 in Monte Carlo. "He has never faced any opponent like me and once he feels my big punch power he will lose touch of all his skills."

Daley is from Ontario and he's excited to get the opportunity in front of his crowd.

"I'm very excited that Kalenga [agreed] to take the fight in my hometown as it means a lot to me and, more importantly, my fans," Daley said. "Ontario has been waiting for something like this to happen for a while now and I'm the perfect person to deliver because I don't shy away from hard work. Getting this victory will be huge for me and the people of Ontario."
Guillermo Rigondeaux and Sod KokietgymChris Farina/Top RankJunior featherweight Guillermo Rigondeaux is calling out Leo Santa Cruz.

Unified junior featherweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux was ordered to begin negotiations with mandatory challenger Chris Avalos on Friday.

The sides have 30 days to make a deal, otherwise a purse bid will be ordered. Either camp can also decline to negotiate and ask for an immediate purse bid. The minimum offer is $100,000.

Rigondeaux (14-0, 9 KOs), a two-time Cuban Olympic gold medalist, is coming off a first-round knockout of Sod Kokietgym in Macau on July 19 in his fifth title defense, which was embarrassingly relegated to UniMas’ weekly boxing show because HBO, which aired fights from the card on HBO2, declined to show Rigondeaux because of how boring his fights usually are.

The fight was the last on Rigondeaux’s promotional contract with Top Rank, although his deal with co-promoter Caribe Promotions is ongoing. Top Rank has said it has no intention of re-signing Rigondeaux to a contract with the same high-minimum purses as the one he just completed. But Avalos (24-2, 18 KOs) is with Top Rank, so Rigondeaux possibly could do another fight with the company, although it's unlikely that HBO would pick it up.

But rather than face Avalos, Rigondeaux would prefer a higher-profile unification fight with Leo Santa Cruz, the brawler who throws 100-plus punches a round and has been a staple on Showtime.

“I'm Super Champion WBA/WBO/The Ring 122lb and challenge u @leosantacruz2 to see who's the King,” Rigondeaux tweeted a few days ago.

That tweet may have been in response to Santa Cruz (27-0-1, 15 KOs), who a few days earlier tweeted at Rigondeaux about his interest in a unification fight.

“We train 100 percent in the gym to give the fans great fights,” Santa Cruz tweeted. “We are ready to fight @RigoElChacal305 any time any place. We aren’t afraid to fight anybody. I love all my fans. Thank you for the support.”
Flyweight prospect Zou Shiming, the two-time Chinese Olympic gold medalist on the verge of fighting for a world title, is in the main event. Junior featherweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux, one of boxing’s most skillful fighters, is on the undercard in a title defense.

But the most intriguing fighter on Top Rank’s card on Saturday (HBO2, 5 p.m. ET/PT) from the Venetian Macao’s Cotai Arena in Macau, China, just might be Mexican super middleweight prospect Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez (28-0, 22 KOs), a 23-year-old southpaw with good looks and a big punch.

Ramirez opens the HBO2 telecast against Junior Talipeau (20-2-1, 7 KOs), a New Zealand native living in Australia, in a scheduled 10-round fight in which he can make a big impression and put himself in position for some big business in the 168-pound division.

Based on his past two fights, Ramirez is ready to make a jump up in class. In February, he became the first man to stop durable journeyman Don Mouton, knocking him out in the first round. In April, Ramirez made his ESPN2 debut and blew out former world title challenger Giovanni Lorenzo in a five-round domination.

Ramirez is aiming to continue his undefeated run.

“I am very excited to be making my HBO debut on this card and I want to make a good impression so I can continue fighting on HBO. This is the Zurdo Ramirez era and I want to shine,” he said through a translator. “I am prepared for Junior Talipeau and I am prepared to give a good show on Saturday. I want to prove -- in the most emphatic terms -- that I am ready to challenge for a world title.”

He also said he was stoked about fighting in Macau, Asia’s new boxing mecca.

“This is my first time in Macau and I love it,” he said. “The Venetian Macao is fabulous and the fans here are great. The climate in Macau is similar to [my hometown of] Mazatlan and I had no problem adjusting to the time-zone change. My punches land just as hard here as they do in the Western Hemisphere.”

Talipeau, 30, hasn’t lost since a split-decision defeat in 2011, having won three in a row since, although he hasn’t faced top names. Still, he aims to end Ramirez’s undefeated streak.

“I am impressed with Ramirez’s accomplishments but I am not intimidated by them,” he said. “I intend to attack him early and bang his body and head and stop him late in the fight.

“It’s a great incentive to be the first one to blemish his perfect record and derail his world title shot plans. I did not travel to Macau to be another number in Ramirez’s victory column. I came here to win. I came here to hurt.”

Arum sidelined by knee surgery

June, 16, 2014
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Injured fighters having surgery? That’s nothing new. But what about promoters?

On Tuesday in Phoenix, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum will have surgery on his bum right knee -- “It’s been bone on bone and it’s killin’ me,” he said -- when he undergoes a right knee replacement.

The surgery and ensuing rehabilitation means Arum will be off the road for the time being after a long stretch of travel that included fights in Macau and New York, where he hobbled around because of the bad knee.

Arum said he won’t be able to make it to Omaha, Nebraska, for lightweight titlist Terence Crawford’s hometown defense against Yuriorkis Gamboa on June 28. But he hopes to be able to resume his normal schedule in time to travel to Top Rank’s next show in Macau, which is scheduled for July 19 with flyweight Zou Shiming in the main event and junior featherweight titlist Guillermo Rigondeaux making a defense.

Arum said he will be in the hospital for about three days and then will begin his rehab in Phoenix before going to his second home in Los Angeles to continue with his physical therapy.

“I’ll do most of the rehab in L.A. and hopefully I will be well enough to travel to the Macau fight. How could I miss Rigondeaux?” Arum said with a laugh.
When former junior middleweight titlist Yuri Foreman abruptly retired last week because he was upset over what he deemed to be an onerous contract with his manager, it left a hole on the HBO PPV undercard for the June 7 Sergio Martinez-Miguel Cotto middleweight championship fight at Madison Square Garden in New York.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rigondeaux isn't about to change

December, 5, 2013
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Unified junior featherweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux isn't everyone's cup of tea, but there is no denying his incredible talent.

He won nearly 400 amateur bouts, two Olympic gold medals for Cuba, claimed an interim world title in his seventh pro fight and a full title in his ninth. In his 12th fight, in April, he scored his biggest victory, surviving a knockdown and outboxing 2012 fighter of the year Nonito Donaire to unify 122-pound titles.

But like some of Rigondeaux's previous bouts, the fight with Donaire left many disappointed by the utter lack of action, which was mainly Rigondeaux's fault. He is so skilled and so gifted that he rarely needs to take a chance, and he can spend significant parts of a fight backing up and not engaging, yet is still able to easily outbox opponents. That ability, as agonizing as it might be to watch for many, has won him a lot of fights, even if it hasn't made him a lot of fans.

In fact, even after Rigondeaux beat Donaire, HBO -- which had pleaded with Top Rank to make the fight -- was far more interested in Donaire's next fight, which it aired on Nov. 9, than it was in Rigondeaux's. Network executives, like many boxing fans, viewed the southpaw's style as too boring for prime time, the kind that would drive more people away than draw.

Even Top Rank's Bob Arum, Rigondeaux's own promoter, was critical of him after the Donaire fight, saying, "It was not a very engaging fight. If Rigondeaux would stand and fight, he has a lot of power and a lot of skills, but running the way he does really makes it not a watchable fight."

HBO agreed, and when Arum began the process of trying to sell Rigondeaux's next fight to the network, he was met with a "no," leading to an all-time-classic quote:

"Every time I mention him, they throw up," Arum said of HBO executives.

Eventually, HBO had a change of heart -- hey, the network pressed for the Donaire fight, so the least it could do is support the winner, right? -- and agreed to buy Rigo's next fight. That bout will take place Saturday at the Adrian Phillips Ballroom at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., where Rigondeaux (12-0, 8 KOs) will face former bantamweight titlist Joseph Agbeko (29-4, 22 KOs) of Ghana in the main event of a tripleheader.

As much criticism as Rigondeaux has received for his boxing style, he's not about to change -- for anyone. After all, it's what won him those two Olympic golds and two world titles.

"I have never felt any pressure to change my style, since I know true boxing fans who appreciate the sport understand my style," Rigondeaux said. "Boxing is a game of hit and don't get hit. Once I'm comfortable in the fight, it just becomes me and my opponent, where the more mistakes my opponent makes, the worse it's going to end for him."

Even if that style means some of the top fighters in and around his division won't show any interest in facing him, Rigondeaux still couldn't care less.

"Not only having such a great track record of championships and gold medals, but a fighter of my caliber who has impeccable defense, yet has the power to end a fight at any moment, is something other fighters are not willing to face, and I see the reason not many fighters want to step up to fight me," the 33-year-old Miami resident said. "I am willing to fight anyone at 122 division."

Agbeko is a bantamweight moving up in weight who is a relatively stationary target and who has had only one fight since back-to-back losses in world title bouts to Abner Mares in 2011.

Still, Rigondeaux was complimentary of his opponent.

"I don't see any weakness in his style," he said. "He is an aggressive fighter who brings the fight to you, [but] he who makes a mistake will pay. I will win the fight based on my style and defensive ability."

That's what some of us are afraid of.

Father-son reunion for Donaires

November, 8, 2013
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Nonito Donaire has grown into one of the best fighters in the world. He claimed 2012 Fighter of the Year honors and has won world titles in three weight classes, plus an interim belt in another.

The person most responsible for the development of the skills that led to those achievements is Nonito Donaire Sr., his father, who trained the younger Donaire until an acrimonious falling-out several years ago. They had been estranged since then until their recent reconciliation brought on by the birth of Nonito Jr.'s son.

Rachel Donaire, the fighter's wife, gave birth in July to their first child, a baby boy named Jarel -- an unusual name derived from the first letters in each word of the phrase "Junior and Rachel's everlasting love."

After the birth, Nonito Jr. began thinking about his father. He said he even had dreams about him. Rachel, whose frosty relationship with her father-in-law was part of the reason for the split between father and son, noticed. She had tried at various times to help them patch things up.

Then, in September, she finally took matters into her own hands and brought Nonito Sr. -- a Filipino immigrant who settled in San Leandro, Calif., where Nonito Jr. was raised -- to Las Vegas, where they now live. She hoped father and son would reconnect, and also wanted Nonito Sr. to meet his grandson.

Rachel's efforts paid off, and not long after the smooth reunion, Nonito Jr. asked his father to return to his corner as part of his training team. It was something the boxer especially needed after losing his most recent fight, in April, when Guillermo Rigondeaux outpointed him to unify junior featherweight titles in an upset that came in Donaire's first bout after receiving his Fighter of the Year award. Up to that point, Donaire (31-2, 20 KOs) hadn't lost since his second professional fight in 2001.

Now Donaire is set to return against 37-year-old, former two-division titleholder Vic Darchinyan (39-5-1, 28 KOs) -- the brawling power puncher who is a native of Armenia and who lives in Australia -- on Saturday night (HBO, 9:30 ET/PT) at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, Texas.

"Things happen for a reason, and when we had our baby, I realized my dad was always there, so I wanted to reach out," Donaire said. "Coincidentally, it was the Darchinyan fight and we got it settled and it just worked out. I thought, 'Why don't we just make it happen?' and I'm glad that things happened the way they did."

Donaire-Darchinyan is a rematch of the 2007 fight that put Donaire on the map -- a fight for which his father was his head trainer. That night, Donaire pulverized Darchinyan with a one-punch fifth-round knockout to win a flyweight world title. A rematch was talked about on and off, and now it's finally on as both men are moving up to the featherweight division.

Although Robert Garcia remains Donaire's head trainer, he said he welcomed Nonito Sr. to their training camp.

"His dad is the one that made him and was there when he won his first title, so I was very happy when I heard that his dad was back in the training camp," said Garcia, a former junior lightweight titleholder who was trained by his own father, Eduardo Garcia. "We had a great camp and it will show on Saturday night.

"When he first became world champion, his father was his only trainer and his father was doing all the work. Like all families, they had differences, but now that he is back, I think Nonito is better prepared mentally; he is happier and enjoying training camp, and that's what matters to me. They are father and son, and I'm glad they are back together and they are happy."

Donaire, 30, is also happy to have his father back in his corner. Besides having his family together again, he believes his dad's presence will help him return to the ways that made him so good in the first place, after admitting that he was complacent going into the Rigondeaux fight and hadn't trained as hard as usual, perhaps caught up in all of the hype surrounding his stellar Fighter of the Year campaign.

"He doesn't have a title in the corner," Donaire said of his father's role. "He holds the mitts for me in the gym and he is involved with everyone putting the game plan together. He is just a guy that is in the corner.

"[But] it has been great having my father around. I am getting back to the old me -- a smarter me -- not just someone getting ready to brawl. And that is something we are trying to get back."

Tapia-Kirkland in the works

October, 11, 2013
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LAS VEGAS -- Anyone in the mood for a crossroads fight between two all-action guys with good power? If so, you’ll love this fight in the works: rising junior middleweight prospect Glen Tapia against knockout artist James Kirkland.

The fight is in the process of being finalized -- and there does not seem to be any issues -- for Dec. 7 on an HBO tripleheader from the Adrian Phillips Ballroom at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J. It would be on a card that also will include two fights being finalized: the main event of junior featherweight champ Guillermo Rigondeaux against former bantamweight titlist Joseph Agbeko, and a middleweight fight between former three-time title challenger Matthew Macklin and Willie Nelson.

Tapia-Kirkland, talks for which got serious in the past few days, easily could steal the show.

“I think it’s a real tough fight and we know Tapia is stepping up big,” Top Rank promoter Bob Arum told ESPN.com on Thursday. “But you take a shot. Tapia’s been looking good. He’s a strong kid and Kirkland doesn't have the best chin in the world.”

Tapia, 23, of Passaic, N.J., scored his biggest victory in July, having a breakout performance on “Friday Night Fights,” stopping then-undefeated prospect Abie Han in the eighth round of a terrific fight. Tapia returned Sept. 28 to stop veteran Elco Garcia in the fifth round.

Tapia and manager Pat Lynch are in Las Vegas this week for Saturday’s Timothy Bradley Jr.-Juan Manuel Marquez welterweight title fight and to meet with Top Rank officials to finish their deal. But as far Tapia and Lynch are concerned, the fight is a go.

“Kirkland is a warrior. He goes in to knock you out. I love that,” Tapia told ESPN.com. “Even if I'm the underdog, I’ll show people what I can do. I said yes to this fight from the beginning, as soon as it was brought up.”

Lynch, who managed the late Arturo Gatti for his entire career, said he’s still going over the numbers with Top Rank, but is confident it will be worked out.

“I’m nervous about the fight,” Lynch admitted. “It’s a big step up. But if Glen wins, listen, he could be on his way to stardom. He’s already become a big-ticket seller in New Jersey. You win a fight like this and you go to the next level.

“It’s a dangerous fight, so he’s got to fight a smart fight. But we got a shot to win the fight or we wouldn’t have taken it.”

Top Rank is negotiating with Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, the rap star who now represents Kirkland after his separation from Golden Boy following a lawsuit. Besides the promotional turmoil -- Kirkland, a felon who already had his career interrupted in 2009 by prison time for gun possession charges -- got in more trouble in June when he was arrested on an assault charge.

Kirkland, 29, will be coming off a long layoff, having not fought since a controversial disqualification win against Carlos Molina (who won a world title last month) in March 2012.

But Kirkland (31-1, 27 KOs) is a big puncher and a huge step up for Tapia (20-0, 12 KOs).

“This is a make or break fight. If I knock him out or beat him, I can become a superstar. Lose, and I gotta start over,” Tapia said. “Kirkland is always in shape and I don’t think he’ll be rusty.”

Kirkland’s only loss was a shocking upset to Nobuhiro Ishida, a feather-fisted fringe contender from Japan, who dropped Kirkland three times in a first-round knockout in 2011. Kirkland was also down in the first round of a wild slugfest with Alfredo Angulo in a 2011 sixth-round knockout win.

Rigondeaux-Agbeko in the works

October, 8, 2013
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Guillermo RigondeauxChris Farina/Top RankGuillermo Rigondeaux is set to return for the first time since his April victory over Nonito Donaire.
It looks like junior featherweight champ Guillermo Rigondeaux, coming off a decision win in a title unification bout against 2012 fighter of the year Nonito Donaire in April, finally has a date and opponent nailed down for his next fight.

If everything is finalized, Rigondeaux will be back to headline an HBO card Dec. 7 against former bantamweight titlist Joseph Agbeko, according to Top Rank promoter Bob Arum and the network. The site is not set, but probably will be in Atlantic City, N.J., at Boardwalk Hall's smaller, upstairs facility.

HBO was reluctant to put Rigondeaux (12-0, 8 KOs), a two-time Cuban Olympic gold medalist, back on after his less-than-entertaining performance against Donaire, but his talent is supreme and the network reconsidered its stance.

"I think it's a good fight and HBO likes it because they think Agbeko will make Rigondeaux fight," Arum said. "Agbeko is very confident he can beat Rigondeaux. I spoke to him at a recent press conference and that's what he told me."

At one point it looked like Rigondeaux's date was going to be Nov. 16 as part of a split-site card with super middleweight champ Andre Ward's fight with Edwin Rodriguez. However, manager Frank Espinoza, who recently signed Agbeko, said his fighter would not be available to fight in November because he had returned home to Ghana to take care of some personal business.

Things changed when the date for Rigondeaux's fight was moved back a few weeks, allowing Agbeko (29-4, 22 KOs), who is moving up in weight, to accept the fight.

The co-feature is expected to be a middleweight fight between former three-time world title challenger Matthew Macklin (29-5, 20 KOs) and junior middleweight contender Willie Nelson (21-1-1, 12 KOs), who would move up in weight. HBO owes Macklin a fight as part of his deal for what turned out to be a third-round knockout loss to middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin in June.

"That's what I was told. I don't have it in writing yet but that's what HBO told me," promoter Lou DiBella said of the date for the fight, which was also under consideration for the Nov. 16 Ward-Rodriguez undercard.

Rigondeaux to fight in December

September, 23, 2013
9/23/13
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Donaire-RigondeauxAl Bello/Getty ImagesGuillermo Rigondeaux, right, hasn't connected with audiences or network execs, despite his talent.

In April, Guillermo Rigondeaux outpointed Nonito Donaire to unify junior featherweight world titles. Although it wasn't a crowd-pleasing performance, Rigondeaux's talent is undeniable.

So when Top Rank chairman Bob Arum went to HBO to talk about his next fight -- and it was HBO that pressured Arum to make Rigondeaux-Donaire in the first place -- he was rather surprised when the network showed no interest in putting Rigondeaux back on.

The quote Arum gave me on the topic was one of his all-time classics:

"Every time I mention him, they throw up," Arum said of HBO executives.

Well, apparently those execs can now keep their food down because they have changed course and agreed to feature Rigondeaux (12-0, 8 KOs) as a headliner. Arum said that the network is giving him a date for the two-time Cuban Olympic gold medalists' next fight before the end of the year, which the network has acknowledged.

"He will definitely fight on HBO in December," Arum said.

The date will be either Dec. 7 or Dec. 14, Arum said.

"We're working on a good fight," Arum said, declining to name the prospective opponent. However, Arum did say it would not be Chris Avalos, a name floated recently as a possible Rigondeaux opponent but understandably declined by HBO.

Arum hopes to line up a fight for junior welterweight titlist Khabib Allakhverdiev (19-0, 9 KOs), a Russian southpaw, in the co-feature. He was due to fight on HBO in March in the Mike Alvarado-Brandon Rios II co-feature before an injury knocked him off the show.

Fights for Rigo, Allakhverdiev?

September, 2, 2013
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Junior featherweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux is coming off his biggest victory, by far, when he got up from a knockdown and won a decision to unify 122-pound titles against 2012 fighter of the year Nonito Donaire in April.

But Rigondeaux (12-0, 8 KOs) still has nothing specifically lined up because HBO, less than enthralled with his non-aggressive performance against Donaire, has resisted putting him back on the air -- even though it was network executives who pressured Top Rank promoter Bob Arum to match Rigondeaux with Donaire.

However, it's Arum who says he remains hopeful that he can work something out with the network and that a potential December date for Rigondeaux is being discussed.

"I don't think it's right for them to abandon Rigondeaux, whatever his style is," Arum said of the two-time Cuban Olympic gold medalist. "He's still an amazing talent. We have to get him in with a guy who is aggressive."

Arum also hopes to feature junior welterweight titlist Khabib Allakhverdiev (19-0, 9 KOs), a Russian southpaw -- possibly on the same card with Rigondeaux. Allakhverdiev was scheduled to fight on HBO in March on the Mike Alvarado-Brandon Rios II undercard in Las Vegas, but an injury forced him off the show. He returned in July and made his mandatory defense in Monaco, scoring a lopsided 11th-round knockout of Souleymane M'baye.

If Arum has his way, Allakhverdiev will be headed back to America for his next defense.

"Khabib is a very entertaining and interesting fighter," Arum said. "I'd like to match him with [former lightweight titlist Antonio] DeMarco."

DeMarco lost his 135-pound title to Adrien Broner in November but returned on Aug. 10 to stop Fidel Monterrosa in the fifth round in an entertaining junior welterweight fight.

Uncertainty for Ward, Rigo, Chavez

August, 15, 2013
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Andre WardAP Photo/Jeff ChiuWith no opponent and time running out to promote the date, Andre Ward will not fight on Sept. 28.
One thing is certain for Sept. 28: light heavyweight champ Adonis Stevenson is scheduled to make his first defense against former titleholder Tavoris Cloud in an HBO main event from the Bell Centre in Montreal.

I really like the fight and don't care that Cloud is coming off a points loss to Bernard Hopkins because, first off, there's no shame in being outboxed by a master like Hopkins. Second of all, Stevenson-Cloud should be a hard-hitting scrap. Besides, after the way Stevenson disposed of Chad Dawson to win the title with a sensational first-round knockout in June who wouldn't want to see "Superman" in action?

So we've got a very good fight that night. The question, however, is what the heck is up with the other televised fight?

Initially, the plan was for HBO to have a split-site doubleheader including the Montreal fight and a fight from San Jose, Calif., featuring super middleweight champ Andre Ward in his first action in a year due to shoulder surgery.

But HBO and Ward promoter Dan Goossen have spent most of the summer battling back and forth over an opponent.
Goossen had a deal in place for Ward to face Dimitri Sartison, a former titlist of the tissue paper variety with zero name recognition in the United States, not to mention about zero chance to win. Rightfully, HBO rejected the fight.

There was also an effort to match Ward with hot contender Edwin Rodriguez, a fight Goossen probably could have been convinced to make. Among the reasons the fight didn't come to pass is because Rodriguez was not available fight in September and began making other plans anyway.

Now Ward is no longer fighting in September. The exact reason is unclear. Maybe it was a continuing lack of opponent or because time was running short to mount a promotion. Whatever it is, Ward is on ice a bit longer.

"Everything was geared to fight Sept. 28 but HBO wanted to move us to another date," Goossen told me this week. "That's what I am working on now."

And Ward told me, declining to get into specifics, "I can tell you the 28th is no longer a possibility. I just know the 28th for me is not an option anymore. [There is] a lot going on at the moment."

I did ask Ward if the delay had anything to do with his shoulder or any other injury and he said it wasn't the case.

"No injury. I'm ready to go," Ward said. "I've been ready for a while now. It's the business end of things. It will work itself out shortly."

With Ward off the show, I was told by multiple sources that HBO, which had previously shown no interest in putting junior featherweight champ Guillermo Rigondeaux back on the air after his less-than-crowd-pleasing victory against Nonito Donaire in their April unification fight, had approved adding him as the televised co-feature in Montreal.

When HBO told Top Rank about that, Top Rank made Rigondeaux an offer and was proposing that he face Chris Avalos. That would probably be a massive mismatch, but it never really went any further. It's unclear exactly what happened, but depending on who you talk to, either Top Rank quickly pulled the offer or Rigondeaux declined it because it was supposedly for less money than the minimum purse in his contract.

Whatever happened, it was right around the time everything went down with Rigondeaux that Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. suffered a cut training for his super middleweight fight with Brian Vera on Sept. 7 in Los Angeles, causing Top Rank to postpone the whole card.

(By the way, in the photo circulated of Chavez's cut, it looked like a paper cut and not nearly anything severe enough to cancel a fight still a month away, leading many, myself included, to speculate that the cut made for a perfect excuse to delay a fight for which Chavez was not even remotely close to the 168-pound weight limit. But I digress.)

Chavez tweeted the other day that his fight would be rescheduled for Sept. 28 at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. If true, that would return HBO to its original plan of a split-site doubleheader with Chavez taking Ward's place.

However, although it's possible, HBO and Top Rank both told me it's not a done deal and might not happen that way.
So here's where we are: Ward? No opponent, and a shifting date. Rigondeaux? No nothing. Chavez? No date and a tiny cut. Fight fans? A lot of questions.

Big plans ahead for Top Rank

July, 10, 2013
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Nonito Donaire and Vic DarchinyanCourtesy Marty Rosengarten for Ringsidephotos.com Nonito Donaire could be headed toward a rematch of his 2007 knockout win against Vic Darchinyan.
After talking with Top Rank chairman Bob Arum on Tuesday about the Orlando Salido-Orlando Cruz vacant featherweight title bout that will be on the Timothy Bradley Jr.-Juan Manuel Marquez HBO PPV undercard Oct. 12, we discussed several other fights he has in the works. Here's an update:

• Former junior featherweight titlist Nonito Donaire (31-2, 20 KOs), who lost his belt by decision to Guillermo Rigondeaux in an April 13 unification bout, will be back in November.

"HBO is giving him a date in November and we're talking about a rematch with [Vic] Darchinyan," Arum said. "That's the fight Darchinyan wants and that's the fight that [Donaire manager] Cameron [Dunkin] wants."

Arum said the bout would be at junior featherweight, even though Donaire talked about moving up to featherweight after the April loss. In 2007, Darchinyan (39-5-1, 28 KOs) was a big favorite when he faced Donaire in defense of his flyweight title, but Donaire scored a ferocious fifth-round knockout to win the title and there has been on and off talk about a rematch since.

• Although Rigondeaux (12-0, 8 KOs) defeated Donaire, Arum said HBO has shown no interest in his next fight. "Every time I mention him, they throw up," Arum said. Rigondeaux, while immensely talented does not make for exciting fights.

"So I have to figure out who I could put him in with," said Arum, adding that he didn't think it was right that HBO pushed for him to match Donaire with Rigondeaux and now has turned its back on the winner.

• The date for interim junior welterweight titlist Mike Alvarado's return is Oct. 19 (HBO) in a fight that would take place in his hometown of Denver. Arum said he's close to finalizing a deal with Artie Pelullo of Banner Promotions for Alvarado (34-1, 23 KOs) to face Ruslan Provodnikov (22-2, 15 KOs), who gave Bradley such a tough fight in March only to lose a close decision, despite nearly knocking Bradley out at least three different times in the action-packed fight.

• Arum said that even though HBO said it isn't interested in the vacant junior middleweight title bout between Vanes Martirosyan, who is with Arum, and Demetrius Andrade, who is co-promoted by Pelullo and Joe DeGuardia, he's talking to Pelullo about a deal. "If I have to do it myself without HBO, so be it. The fight will happen before the end of the year," Arum said. "I owe it to Vanes." The fight is a match of undefeated former American Olympians. Martirosyan (33-0-1, 21 KOs) was on the 2004 team and Andrade (19-0, 13 KOs) was on the 2008 squad.

• If two-time Chinese Olympic gold medalist Zou Shiming wins his second pro fight against Jesus Ortega, a six-round flyweight bout July 27 (HBO2) in Macau, China, Arum said Zou would advance to an eight-rounder for his third pro bout, which would take place on the Manny Pacquiao-Brandon Rios HBO PPV card in Macau on Nov. 23.

• With Top Rank having reunited with Miguel Cotto for his Oct. 5 bout -- opponent not set, but likely to be Delvin Rodriguez -- Arum plans to put rising lightweight contender Terence Crawford (21-0, 16 KOs) on in the HBO co-feature. There is no opponent yet, but Arum said, "I'd like to make him with [interim titlist Yuriorkis] Gamboa." He said he is talking to Gamboa promoter Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson about the fight. Arum said Jackson is interested, but it remains to be seen if Gamboa is.

• Arum said he has met with super middleweight contender James DeGale (16-1, 11 KOs), a 2008 British Olympic gold medalist, and is interested in signing him. "He's a very nice guy and he wants to sign with us," Arum said. "I'm interested but I'm not interested in buying a lawsuit." Arum said he is still doing his due diligence to see if DeGale is still under contract to British promoter Mick Hennessy but that if he is a free agent, he'd like to sign him. "He's a very good fighter, but I know he's not the most exciting guy in the world. He'd certainly be a good opponent for [champion] Andre Ward. There's a lot you can do with him."

• Former featherweight titlist Mikey Garcia (32-0, 27 KOs) could return on the same November HBO card with Donaire, Arum said. Garcia, who knocked out Juan Manuel Lopez on June 15 but was stripped of his featherweight belt for not making weight, likely would move up to challenge junior lightweight titlist Rocky Martinez, Arum said. However, Arum said he's hopeful he can work something out with HBO to have Donaire and Garcia each headline their own show. If that happens, Arum said he would use the televised undercard slots to feature featherweight titlist Evgeny Gradovich and heavyweight prospect Andy Ruiz if they both look good in their bouts in Macau on July 27 (HBO2).

Updates: Chavez, Garcia, more

April, 25, 2013
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A few fight and fighter updates:

•  Former middleweight titlist Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., whose first fight since losing his belt to Sergio Martinez and subsequent suspension for testing positive for marijuana after the fight was being planned for either June 15 or 22, will be delayed a few weeks. Top Rank promoter Bob Arum told ESPN.com that Chavez, who is likely to fight at about 164 pounds, will instead fight July 13 (HBO). Arum said the likely opponent is Brian Vera and that the fight would be in Texas or Mexico.

•  With Chavez moving into July, Arum said featherweight titlist Miguel Angel "Mikey" Garcia would tentatively take the June 15 HBO date for his first defense. The two opponents under discussion remain former titlist Juan Manuel Lopez and Orlando Cruz. Prospect Terrence Crawford, who easily outpointed perennial junior welterweight contender Breidis Prescott on March 30 as a late substitute on the Mike Alvarado-Brandon Rios II undercard, is being penciled in for the opening television bout. Crawford fought Prescott at junior welterweight but he is likely to go down to lightweight, where he has fought most of his career.

•  Junior featherweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux, who unified titles on April 13 with a decision victory against Nonito Donaire, has nothing specific planned yet for an encore, but Arum said he would meet with HBO in the coming weeks to talk about his next bout.

•  Junior middleweight titlist Ishe Smith's first defense (and a mandatory) against Carlos Molina will take place July 19 in Las Vegas, Warriors Boxing promoter Leon Margules told ESPN.com. Margules, who promotes Molina, made a deal for the fight with Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe to promote the bout a few weeks ago, but now the date is locked in. Smith, the first native of Las Vegas to win a world title, will get to make his first defense in his hometown. TV arrangements are pending.

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