Dan Rafael: HBO

Daniel JacobsDavid Doonan/Hoganphotos/Golden Boy PromotionsDaniel Jacobs would welcome the opportunity to fight middleweight sensation Gennady Golovkin.

Middleweight contender Daniel Jacobs faces serious business when he meets Jarrod Fletcher of Australia for a vacant belt Saturday night (Showtime, 9 ET/PT) at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, Jacobs’ hometown.

While winning the title would mean a lot to both Jacobs and Fletcher, the fact is they are vying for the WBA’s second-tier "regular" title, because the WBA absurdly has sometimes handed out as many as four titles in the same weight class and often doles out at least two.

Everyone knows that Gennady Golovkin holds the organization's top title and that he is probably also the best middleweight in the world.

So, naturally, Jacobs (27-1, 24 KOs) was asked for his views on an eventual fight with GGG, a growing attraction in New York, should he beat Fletcher for the JV title.

Jacobs said he would welcome the fight, although given the politics it's a tough one to make because Golovkin is under contract to HBO and Jacobs has been fighting on Showtime and is with adviser Al Haymon, whose fighters are not welcome on HBO at this point.

But we can still talk about it right?

"I think it will be huge," Jacobs said. "It's an opportunity that I would love to have to fight him. I also think that he's already a superstar and I think I want to have the opportunity to be a superstar myself. So, I think that if I can maybe get a couple of fights, maybe [fellow New Yorker and titleholder] Peter Quillin or someone like that and then go up to Golovkin, that's something that I would look forward to doing.

"But initially, right after the win, I mean, I'm not really in control of who I fight. But if I had it my way I would probably get me a couple of fights just to solidify that spot and to secure my name and be considered a superstar in the division and a big play in the division as well, so we can go ahead and make the fight."

Two weeks ago, Golovkin (30-0, 27 KOs) retained his title for the 11th time as he destroyed former titlist Daniel Geale in the third round at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Jacobs said he saw the fight and was impressed by GGG but believes he is beatable.

"I think his performance was great. I think what everyone else thinks," he said. "I think that the hype is real only in the sense that he's doing what he's supposed to do. Whether or not I believe in the hype, that's a different story. I see flaws in his game, but his power is tremendous and Mike Tyson used to say you can have all the game plan in the world until you get hit and that changes your whole perspective.

"You definitely have to be aware of his power, but I do see a whole lot of flaws in his game as far as his defense and his ability to move his feet and [his] being flat-footed. So, if there is a possibility that we can fight, I'll look forward to it."
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.”

NEW YORK -- Middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin took care of business inside the ring when he knocked out Daniel Geale in the third round of a dominant performance to retain his title for the 11th time (and score his 17th consecutive stoppage) on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.

The day before the fight, Golovkin took care of his business outside of the ring when he signed a multi-fight contract extension with HBO, K2 Promotions managing director Tom Loeffler told ESPN.com following the fight.

“We are looking forward to continuing our long-term relationship with HBO,” Loeffler said. “They've invested a lot in Gennady, and we feel they are the best television partner we could have to help take his career to the next level.”

The deal calls for a minimum of four fights, although the Geale bout was the first one under the contract. The agreement also has provisions for overseas fights and potential pay-per-view fights, meaning there could be far more than four bouts. The bottom line is that all of Golovkin’s fights, wherever they may take place, will be on HBO or HBO PPV for the foreseeable future.

The fight with Geale was supposed to be the final bout of Golovkin’s previous agreement with HBO, but the terms for Saturday’s fight were renegotiated, and the old deal was ripped up and replaced by the new deal.

Since making his HBO debut in September 2012, Golovkin’s star has steadily risen, as have his viewership figures, which are among the network’s best for boxing. Golovkin (30-0, 27 KOs) has fought five of his last seven fights on HBO, with his two overseas fights in Monaco not being on the network, which took some criticism for not showing his February fight with Osumanu Adama. That won’t happen again under this agreement.

HBO declined to comment on Golovkin’s contract, saying it won’t talk about its multi-fight agreements -- the same stance it took when it declined to discuss the exclusive deals it has recently made with Manny Pacquiao and Sergey Kovalev.

Golovkin is expected back in the ring for one more fight this year, likely in October or November.

Crawford-Gamboa ratings a hit

July, 1, 2014
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Lightweight titleholder Terence Crawford's exciting ninth-round knockout of Yuriorkis Gamboa in his first defense on Saturday night was a fight of the year candidate. It was also the second-most viewed fight of the year so far on American television, according to Nielsen Media Research, further enhancing Crawford's emerging star status.

Not only did Crawford draw a raucous crowd of 10,943 (and an approximate $500,000 live gate), the fight, Crawford's first pro fight in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska (and the first world title fight there in 42 years), attracted an average audience of 1.208 million viewers to HBO for the live, first-time airing. The fight peaked at 1.286 million viewers.

By comparison, Crawford-Gamboa nearly doubled the audience of the previous week's Showtime main event between Robert Guerrero and Yoshihiro Kamegai, another all-action fight, which averaged 614,000 viewers.

The only fight this year to have had more viewers than Crawford-Gamboa was the super middleweight rematch between Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Bryan Vera, which averaged 1.39 million viewers for their HBO fight on March 1 in San Antonio. HBO has televised the top eight most-viewed fights this year. Crawford was fighting on HBO for the third time, but in his first main event.

The less-than-compelling co-feature between middleweights Matt Korobov and Jose Uzcategui, both in their first HBO fights, averaged 929,000 viewers and peaked at 1.066 million.

Also of note, even though there was a free HBO preview this past weekend, those viewers do not count in Nielsen's viewership figures, which means even more people surely saw the fight.
Chris Algieri's stirring and controversial split-decision victory against Ruslan Provodnikov on Saturday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, drew a strong audience, perhaps making it more likely we will see a rematch later this year.

According to Nielsen Media Research, the bout was the third-most viewed on cable so far in 2014. The live, first-time airing averaged 1.046 million viewers to HBO, ranking only behind two other HBO-televised fights, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.-Bryan Vera II and Juan Manuel Marquez-Mike Alvarado. Algieri-Provodnikov peaked at 1.110 million viewers.

The top seven cable fights in 2014 have all been on HBO.

Provodnikov and his trainer, Hall of Famer Freddie Roach, both said after the fight that they are interested in a rematch of a fight that many thought Provodnikov (who scored two knockdowns in the first round and badly damaged Algieri's right eye) won.

Artie Pelullo told ESPN.com that there is a rematch clause in the contract that is at his "sole discretion" and that he and Provodnikov will talk about what they want to do. Based on the viewership figures and the bout's entertainment value, HBO figures to be interested.

The overall HBO telecast averaged 954,000 viewers, making it the network's most-watched edition of "Boxing After Dark" so far this year.

Demetrius Andrade's seventh-round knockout of Brian Rose to retain a junior middleweight title averaged 882,000 viewers.

The telecast opened with a replay of the previous week's Miguel Cotto-Sergio Martinez middleweight championship fight on HBO PPV. The replay averaged 970,000 viewers and peaked at 1.126 million.

Quillin caught up in cold war

April, 22, 2014
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Peter QuillinGeoff Burke/USA TODAY SportsWithout impressing fight fans, Peter Quillin, right, won an unanimous decision against Lukas Konecky.
WASHINGTON -- Since “Kid Chocolate” Peter Quillin won his middleweight world title in October 2012, dropping Hassan N’Dam six times and winning a decision in an exciting fight, his opponents in three defenses have not exactly inspired much excitement.

Quillin has won the fights easily, by knockout against Fernando Guerrero and Gabriel Rosado and a near-shutout decision against outclassed Lukas Konecny in a tedious fight that drew heavy booing from the crowd Saturday night at the DC Armory.

If there is any fighter who is a clear victim of the frigid political landscape in boxing with HBO having banished Golden Boy Promotions and Al Haymon fighters from the network, it’s Quillin, who is on Showtime, which has almost nobody of significance for him to fight barring Floyd Mayweather Jr. or Canelo Alvarez perhaps looking to move up to middleweight to challenge for his title.

Meanwhile, HBO has contracts with middleweight champion Sergio Martinez and fellow titleholder Gennady Golovkin, the two best fighters in the division.

Those two are clearly the most interesting potential opponents for Quillin, but when sitting down with reporters at ringside after the card Saturday night, he said he would not let the lack of those fights get to him.

“Golden Boy will try to get whatever opponent they can for me," Quillin said. "I’m an American champion. A lot of those other guys, they come to our country to fight over here to fight in our homeland, and I’ve always said I was hoping to fight Sergio Martinez, Gennady Golovkin, all these different guys, but it’s not really my fault, the political thing going on. All I have to do is keeping doing me.

“We over here on this network [Showtime] looking for guys for me. I got 31 professional fights. At this point, I can’t worry about who I am gonna fight. I only worry about staying ready and being in shape. I’m gonna take one week off, and then I’ll be back in the gym.”

Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer said he is open to making a fight with any of the top guys, even if it means having Quillin on HBO, where he appeared before the network kicked Golden Boy to the curb.

“If Golovkin wants to have a fight with Peter, then what they should do is that they should make us an offer,” Schaefer said. “That would be a start.”

With Martinez scheduled to fight Miguel Cotto on June 7 and Golovkin seemingly headed for a July showdown with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. at super middleweight (as long as Chavez can iron out his deal with Top Rank, which has been difficult), that leaves Quillin (31-0, 22 KOs) with few choices.

The most probable opponent is Golden Boy and Haymon stablemate Daniel Jacobs, 27, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., as does the 30-year-old Quillin.

“Danny would like the fight, the Barclays Center would like the fight, and Peter is the kind of guy who fights anyone as long he gets properly compensated and it’s a challenge,” Schaefer said. “That’s definitely a possibility. But if [K2 Promotions and HBO] want to do a fight with Golovkin, let’s do it.”

Jacobs (27-1, 24 KOs) was ringside for Quillin’s fight Saturday. He called it while filling in for regular Showtime analyst Paulie Malignaggi, who was on the card getting knocked out by welterweight titlist Shawn Porter.

“If it's Danny Jacobs and they want to make a fight right there in Brooklyn, well, I live right up the street from the Barclays Center,” Quillin said. “It won't take me long to get there. I'll drive my Corvette and drop the top on it when I go.

“I think Danny is special. Danny had his shot to glory when he fought for the same belt [I have] against Dmitry Pirog [in 2010], and Danny had his time to shine. Now it’s my time to shine. The spotlight is on me. My job is not worry about the guy who is trying to get that spotlight.”

Jacobs was a big favorite against Pirog but got knocked out in the fifth round in their bout for the vacant belt that Quillin eventually won against N’Dam.

Quillin suggested that Jacobs doesn’t deserve the shot at him and should fight Curtis Stevens, another Brooklyn middleweight contender, for the right to get the title shot.

Either way, Quillin’s dance card looks to be a bit barren for the time being.

Kovalev-Agnew tops 1M viewers

April, 2, 2014
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Light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev is as exciting as any fighter out there these days. He’s a knockout machine, so even though Cedric Agnew, Kovalev’s opponent last Saturday night, was totally obscure, not very accomplished as a professional and something like a 38-to-1 underdog, people still tuned in for Kovalev’s first HBO main event.

According to Nielsen Media Research, the live first airing of the fight drew 1.006 million viewers, who saw Kovalev dominate and score three knockdowns en route to a seventh-round knockout.

The audience peaked at 1.048 million viewers, which I view as pretty darn good, especially when you consider that the vast majority of the attention of the sports world was on the NCAA tournament, and the HBO card, which was horrible on paper, did not get all that much publicity.

Kovalev’s main event showed a significant increase on the 742,000 viewers who tuned in for the desultory welterweight fight between Thomas Dulorme and Karim Mayfield that opened the show.

Now just imagine what kind of numbers Kovalev could do if he had an elite opponent? Paging super middleweight champion Andre Ward.

Froch-Groves II to air on HBO

February, 28, 2014
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When super middleweight titlist Carl Froch and British countryman George Groves met on Nov. 23, HBO had hoped to televise the fight from Manchester, England.

However, that was the same day that Manny Pacquiao was facing Brandon Rios on HBO PPV in Macau, meaning HBO had to pass on the fight.

[+] EnlargeFroch-Groves
Scott Heavey/Getty ImagesCarl Froch got off the canvas to score a controversial stoppage over George Groves during their first fight last November.
As it turned out, Froch (32-2, 23 KOs), trailing on all three scorecards, got a ninth-round knockout victory against Groves (19-1, 15 KOs) when referee Howard John Foster made one of the most controversial stoppages in recent boxing history in what otherwise was a highly entertaining battle.

Foster's stoppage was so egregious that when Groves protested to the IBF, which sanctioned the bout for one of Froch's titles, the organization ordered an immediate rematch and called Foster's action "inappropriate conduct."

So when the rematch was made for May 31 -- site in the United Kingdom to be determined -- the question was would HBO televise the fight in the U.S. the second time around?

We got the answer on Friday and it was a good one -- yes. HBO said it finalized a deal with promoter Eddie Hearn for the American broadcast rights to the bout and will air the fight live in the afternoon.

"Carl Froch vs. George Groves is an exciting rematch that boxing fans around the globe are going to enjoy," HBO Sports president Ken Hershman said in a statement given to ESPN.com. "We are delighted that HBO is going to be able to televise the fight live in the United States. This shapes up as an important fight in the super middleweight division."

Hearn told ESPN.com he was happy to get the deal done after being unable to do so for the first fight.

"I'm over the moon to agree a deal with HBO to televise this fight," Hearn said. "This fight is one of, if not the biggest fight in British boxing history and it's great news for U.S. fight fans they will get the chance to see it live on HBO. If you need a trailer, then watch the first one."

The fight is Sky Sports pay-per-view event in the U.K.




No U.S. TV for GGG's Feb. 1 fight

January, 21, 2014
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Gennady Golovkin and Curtis StevensJoe Camporeale/USA TODAY SportsWith Gennady Golovkin not fighting April 26 following the death of his father, the card was canceled.
Middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin was boxing’s breakout star of 2013.

The new darling of HBO’s boxing franchise drew 1.41 million viewers for his Nov. 2 destruction of Curtis Stevens. That was the third-most viewed fight on HBO -- and on all of premium cable -- for the year, trailing only HBO fights involving established stars Miguel Cotto and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., and represented yet another increase in Golovkin’s viewership numbers.

But with Golovkin (28-0, 25 KOs) wanting to maintain a busy schedule -- he fought four times last year and hoped to do the same again this year -- K2 promoter Tom Loeffler made a deal for him to fight Osumanu Adama on a Feb. 1 card being put on by South African promoter Rodney Berman in Monte Carlo without HBO’s involvement. It was a similar deal to what Golovkin did last year, when one of his fights was on a Berman card at the same Monte Carlo casino against Nobuhiro Ishida. That fight was on a small American pay-per-view.

But HBO now holds exclusive North American television rights to Golovkin’s fights and initially could not accommodate him in its Feb. 1 schedule, not to mention the network was not too thrilled with Adama (22-3, 16 KOs) as the opponent, even though Adama is a noted tough guy who has never been stopped and gave then-titleholder Daniel Geale a very good fight in 2012.

HBO eventually made the right decision -- perhaps it heard the outcry from fans and media -- and changed its mind, deciding to try to work things out to televise the fight. It made sense since GGG is one of the most exciting fighters in boxing and as hot with the public as they come.

So the plan for the lower-budget fight was for HBO to televise it in the afternoon on its HBO2 channel. The network even planned to send its crew and announcers ringside to Monte Carlo. For weeks, they worked on the logistics. But on Tuesday everyone involved finally realized it was not going to work and pulled the plug.

As ridiculous as it sounds, Golovkin’s fight will not have American television coverage unless something changes drastically in the next two weeks.

“After extensive collective efforts, logistics to produce the fight from Monte Carlo could not be resolved,” HBO said in a statement given to ESPN.com. “We have tried for the past month to find a way to televise Gennady Golovkin vs. Osumanu Adama on Feb. 1 from Monte Carlo.

“Unfortunately, the venue could not accommodate our production needs. We spent weeks looking at creative ways to produce a telecast for the HBO2 service from Monte Carlo and it simply could not get resolved. We are grateful for all the assistance from Tom Loeffler and K2 in trying to get us accommodated.”

The casino seats only 900 and its small size could not handle another broadcast position inside the room and that was a huge issue, according to HBO. The casino could not even accommodate an HBO production truck in order to do the transmission of the event.

If Golovkin wins, he is due back on HBO on April 26 from the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York, where he fought two of his fights last year. But if you want to watch the Feb. 1 fight you’ll unfortunately have to hunt for a stream on the Internet.
Bernard HopkinsTimothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty ImagesBernard Hopkins is willing to fight Sergey Kovalev, but prefers a showdown with Adonis Stevenson.

Light heavyweight contender Sergey Kovalev and promoter Main Events are in a great spot. They have two quality options in the wake of Kovalev’s third-round destruction of Cornelius White last week.

The knockout win made Kovalev the mandatory challenger for titleholder Bernard Hopkins and the fight is due, so they can opt for that intriguing fight. Or they can finalize a deal for Kovalev to face titleholder Nathan Cleverly. That’s a fight HBO is pressing very hard for and one that it already has made a deal for on the Cleverly side and a date to air it -- Aug. 17.

But what about Hopkins’ willingness to face Kovalev, a fighter many people view as extremely dangerous to anyone at 175 pounds?

He answered the question on Wednesday, telling ESPN.com, “That’s my mandatory and that’s my obligation and I would say yes to that fight.

“I know about [Kovalev] because of John David Jackson. John worked with me for a few fights [as an assistant trainer] and now he trains Kovalev, so I heard about him through John and I also keep my eye on the light heavyweight division.”

So while Hopkins is in, if that is the direction Kovalev pursues, it gets a little complicated because HBO won’t do business with Golden Boy, his promoter. Though Showtime was ready to televise Hopkins against then-mandatory Karo Murat on July 13 -- before Murat dropped out because of an inability to get a visa -- the network, from what Hopkins said, is not interested in putting him on against Kovalev.

Go figure, because Hopkins-Kovalev is a much, much more interesting fight than Hopkins-Murat ever was.

“[Kovalev] is a good puncher and some people are excited about him,” Hopkins said. “He’s a better quality name than Karo Murat is.”

The reason for Showtime’s possible reluctance to put on Hopkins-Kovalev is because it is not heavily invested in the division and doesn’t have any future rights on Kovalev, so it wouldn’t want to build him up only to see him beat Hopkins and then go to HBO, which is doing a ton of business at light heavyweight and super middleweight.

So while Hopkins waits to see what will happen, he made a suggestion -- that Kovalev go fight Cleverly, and he would be happy to face new champ Adonis Stevenson, who drilled Chad Dawson in the first round June 8 to win the lineal title Hopkins used to hold (as well as an alphabet belt Hopkins used to own before losing to Dawson). Stevenson said he was interested in fighting Hopkins after beating Dawson.

“For me, it’s a no-brainer,” the 48-year-old Hopkins said. “Kovalev can go get Cleverly, I can probably get Adonis and we go head-to-head and give the fans the old light heavyweight battles they had in the late '70 and '80s, and then the winners can fight. It doesn’t seem complicated. OK, maybe I’m being a little sarcastic.”

Again, Hopkins said he would travel, so if it means meeting Stevenson in Montreal, fine.

“I’ll be in Canada tomorrow. It’s a challenge,” he said. “I would do that because it’s the right thing and logical. Adonis is a big puncher and that’s fine. Let’s see what he can do. I’ll never turn down nothing because I didn’t want to fight a guy or I because I was scared of anything.

“If we can’t get that fight, Kovalev is my mandatory. My promoter, Richard Schaefer, and Kathy Duva [of Main Events] can start negotiating.”

GBP announces changes; more fights

June, 13, 2013
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A little of this and a little of that from the world of boxing:

• There’s been a big shake-up behind the scenes at Golden Boy as chief executive Richard Schaefer recently announced a major restructuring of the staff of the world’s No. 1 promotional company.

Chief operating officer David Itskowitch is leaving the company after six years, effective July 31, which set off a slew of changes. Bruce Binkow, the chief marketing officer, will also now be the COO, and longtime vice president of operations Armando Gaytan will also assume the newly created position of deputy COO and has been promoted to senior VP of operations. Chief of staff Robert Gasparri will take on the role of VP of operations. Schaefer also announced that attorney Arnold Joseph, who has done work for the company for years, is joining the staff full-time as general counsel. Longtime director of communications and events Monica Sears was promoted to VP of operations and digital marketing coordinator Nicole “The Spark” Sparks is moving up to director of marketing. Marylyn Aceves is returning to the company as VP of public relations.

“Given his contributions to Golden Boy Promotions over the past six years, David Itskowitch's departure from the company is significant and he will be missed, but with the restructuring we have implemented we will have a smooth transition that will ensure the continued success of Golden Boy Promotions,” Schaefer said.

• Golden Boy announced the full undercard for its June 22 Showtime tripleheader at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. In addition to the TV fights -- welterweight titlist Paulie Malignaggi defending against lightweight titleholder Adrien Broner, the heavyweight rematch between Johnathon Banks and Seth Mitchell and Sakio Bika-Marco Antonio Periban for a vacant super middleweight belt -- junior middleweight prospect Julian Williams (12-0-1, 7 KOs) will face chin-challenged former titleholder Joachim Alcine (33-4-1, 19 KOs) in the most notable other bout. Three of the other bouts will involve members of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team: Staten Island light heavyweight Marcus Browne (4-0, 4 KOs), who always has a fan section cheering for him at Barclays, bantamweight Rau'Shee Warren (4-0, 2 KOs) and lightweight Jamel Herring (3-0, 2 KOs).

• Promoters Lou DiBella and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson announced that they have acquired the rights to “Tapia,” a documentary on the late former five-time world champion Johnny Tapia, who died in May 2012 at age 45. The world premiere of the documentary will take place at the Los Angeles Film Festival on Saturday. The film, directed by Eddie Alcazar, chronicles Tapia’s tumultuous personal and professional life using first-person narration from Tapia himself, archival footage and personal photos. Alcazar spent many hours with Tapia filming, including in the weeks before Tapia’s death. Those last interviews are included in the film, as are interviews with Mike Tyson, trainer Freddie Roach (who trained Tapia at one point during his career) and Teresa Tapia, Johnny’s widow.

“I was drawn to the intensity of this project,” Jackson said. “His story resonated with me because like Tapia, I too lost my mother to violence and grew up with limited means. It’s a heartfelt story and it was important for me to get involved with bringing this to a broader audience.”

Said DiBella, who, when he programmed boxing at HBO, put Tapia on the network, “This is not a boxing film, but a film about tragedy, triumph, demons and redemption. Johnny gives us an honest assessment of his strengths and frailties; he reminds us of the power and resiliency of the human spirit.”

• European light heavyweight champion Juergen Braehmer (40-2, 31 KOs), a former world titleholder, will make his second defense against Italy’s Stefano Abatangelo (17-2-1, 6 KOs) on Aug. 24 in Schwerin, Germany, Sauerland Event announced. Abatangelo is 11-0-1 in his past 12 fights. Braehmer is the mandatory challenger for world titleholder Nathan Cleverly, who he could meet later this year. Also on the card is supposed to be the return of former middleweight and super middleweight titlist Arthur Abraham (36-4, 28 KOs) against Willbeforce Shihepo (20-6, 15 KOs). In his last fight, Abraham was destroyed in four rounds and lost his super middleweight belt to Robert Stieglitz in their March 23 rematch.

• Some interesting stats from last Saturday’s head-to-head clash between the HBO and Showtime cards. According to Nielsen Media Research, HBO’s undercard fight of Yuriorkis Gamboa-Darleys Perez drew 947,000, which increased to 1,024,000 viewers for the Adonis Stevenson-Chad Dawson main event. Showtime, which had a tripleheader, drew a measly 207,000 viewers for the Jermell Charlo-Demetrius Hopkins opener, which grew to 471,000 for the Erislandy Lara-Alfredo Angulo co-feature and then 594,000 for the Marcos Maidana-Josesito Lopez main event. Although Showtime (which is in about 8 million fewer homes than HBO) had the better overall card for sure and has seen its boxing viewership on an overall upswing, the dreadful Gamboa-Perez undercard fight on HBO still drew 353,000 more than Showtime’s main event.

Merchant to reunite with Foreman

February, 28, 2013
2/28/13
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Larry MerchantAl Bello/Getty ImagesFormer HBO analyst Larry Merchant will reunite with George Foreman for an April card in Macau.
Hall of Fame broadcaster Larry Merchant, a ringside staple of HBO broadcasts since the 1970s, retired at the end of 2012. Former heavyweight champ George Foreman was one of his longtime broadcast partners on HBO before leaving the network several years ago.

When they worked together, their chemistry and often heated on-air disagreements -- seemingly refereed by blow-by-blow man Jim Lampley -- made "World Championship Boxing" a must-see show regardless of who was fighting in the ring.

Well, Merchant, perhaps like many of the fighters he has covered, is coming out of retirement for at least one fight card and will team with Foreman to call Top Rank's excellent slate of fights that will take place on April 6 in Macau.

Top Rank is producing the show and responsible for hiring the on-air talent, but it made a deal with HBO to carry the card in the United States on its HBO2 service beginning at 2 p.m. ET/PT (on about a 4-hour delay in the East and 7-hour delay in the West), meaning Merchant and Foreman -- whose call will also serve as the English-language international broadcast -- will be reunited on HBO. Tim Ryan, who called fights for many years on CBS, will serve as the blow-by-blow man on the broadcast.

It will be something of a reunion between Merchant and Ryan, too. Merchant told me that the first fight card he ever called, on NBC in 1976 in Paris, was with Ryan as his partner. It featured a middleweight title fight between Rodrigo Valdez and Nessim Max Cohen and a heavyweight fight between Earnie Shavers and Henry Clark.

"Larry and George are like Abbot and Costello, they work so well together," Top Rank president Todd duBoef said. "You include Tim and there is nobody better to represent our boxing brand in the biggest, fastest growing market in the world."

The Macau card, which will take place at Cotai Arena at The Venetian Macao, is a good one. The HBO2 broadcast will include junior flyweight Zou Shiming, the three-time Chinese Olympic medalist (and two-time gold winner), making his professional debut in the four-round main event against Mexico's Eleazar Valenzuela (2-1-2, 1 KO). He is a major star in China and his pro debut is a big deal there, which is why he is in the main event position.

But the broadcast will also include the two world title fights on the card: junior lightweight titlist Roman "Rocky" Martinez (26-1-2, 16 KOs) of Puerto Rico defending against Diego Magdaleno (23-0, 9 KOs) of Las Vegas and unified flyweight titlist Brian Viloria (32-3, 19 KOs), a Filipino from Hawaii, defending against Mexico's Juan Francisco Estrada (22-2, 17 KOs).

"We are delighted that HBO recognizes, as we do, the historic nature of the Macau event and is making it available on a same-day basis to its subscribers on HBO2," Top Rank chairman Bob Arum said.

Although HBO is paying a small license fee for the card -- "Their fee is not even covering my announcer expenses," duBoef said -- he wanted the HBO brand name behind the show more than money, as well as Merchant, Foreman and Ryan, who he called "iconic brand names."

"When introducing a new product to the biggest market in the world, we are thrilled that the biggest brands associated with boxing joins us," duBoef said. "HBO is the gold standard for the sport and we are honored to have their support and commitment to expanding the boxing brand.

"Big George coming to China to do the show is a big deal. Having Larry Merchant and Tim Ryan on is a big deal. They'll do interviews, the people there will see them and know this is a big event."

The two other featured bouts on the card include former junior featherweight titlist Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. (22-2-1, 19 KOs) of Puerto Rico against Japan's Yasutako Ishimoto (20-6, 4 KOs) and junior middleweight contender Vanes Martirosyan (32-0-1, 20 KOs) of Glendale, Calif. against Javier Francisco Maciel (24-2, 17 KOs) of Argentina.

Those bouts won't be on HBO2, but Vazquez-Ishimoto will air on same-day tape on UniMas' "Solo Boxeo Tecate" with Martirosyan-Maciel also part of the broadcast, time permitting.

Weisfeld added to HBO telecasts

February, 14, 2013
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New Jersey's Steve Weisfeld has been a professional boxing judge for 22 years and has been on the scoring panel for some 1,500 bouts, including numerous world title fights. For many years I have considered him to be one of the very best judges -- if not the best -- in the United States.

But Weisfeld, who has worked fights around the world, has resigned as a judge to take a gig with HBO, which has hired him to serve as a rules expert on its telecasts. He will handle any rules interpretation or clarifications that may arise during the bouts.

Weisfeld's first show will be on Saturday night (10:30 ET/PT) at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., where he will work the televised card featuring Adrien Broner-Gavin Rees and Sakio Bika-Nikola Sjekloca.

"Our producers see him in the same manner as the role that Mike Pereira plays for the NFL on Fox," HBO spokesman Ray Stallone told ESPN.com. "He's our rules expert."

Pereira was the NFL's vice president of officiating from 2004 to 2009 before joining Fox to serve as a rules expert and interpret calls on the network's NFL telecasts.

While it's a shame to see boxing lose an extraordinarily competent judge, HBO is adding depth to its roster and, although not saying so publicly, clearly will groom Weisfeld as Harold Lederman's eventual replacement.

Lederman, 73, who was recently elected to the California Boxing Hall of Fame and will be inducted in October, has been with HBO as its unofficial ringside judge since the 1980s. He will continue to serve in his role -- including on Saturday night -- and isn't going anywhere any time soon.

He recently signed a contract extension with the network and has been a tremendous asset to boxing fans watching HBO fights for years. Lederman's role has, at times, included discussing rules during fights, but now that will fall to Weisfeld. HBO said their roles won't overlap.

One area where we might see Weisfeld's scoring prowess come into play is when the network airs a split-site doubleheader. I would not be surprised to see Lederman at one site to score and Weisfeld at the other.

Gonzalez looks to rebound on FNF

December, 28, 2012
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On Sept. 1, junior middleweight prospect Johnathan Gonzalez got a huge opportunity to step up in competition and face former titleholder Sergiy Dzinziruk on HBO.

Instead of taking advantage, Gonzalez blew it big time and left his career in tatters. Not only did he show up way out of shape (he was 169 pounds a few days before the fight and ultimately weighed in at 163 pounds for a 154-pound fight), he fought terribly. In a tremendously uninspired performance, Gonzalez (15-0-1, 13 KOs) was lucky to get a 12-round split draw in a horrible fight.

The stench of his September performance and his blowing weight by such an absurd amount won’t be forgotten, but the 23-year-old former amateur standout from Puerto Rico is getting another chance to show that he should still be considered a prospect.

He’ll face Derek “Pooh” Ennis (23-3-1, 13 KOs) on Jan. 4 at the Magic City Casino in Miami, Fla., in the co-featured bout of the season-opening card of “Friday Night Fights” (ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes, 10 p.m. ET). In the main event, junior lightweight Rances Barthelemy (17-0, 11 KOs) will meet Arash Usmanee (20-0, 10 KOs).

Gabby Penagaricano, Gonzalez’s adviser, was as disappointed in his performance in September as anyone, but said he believes Gonzalez has learned from the situation and taken this training camp seriously.

“Jonathan has been in camp in Florida for close to two full months without any interruptions,” Penagaricano said. “These have been the best preparations of his career. He'll be 100 percent on fight night, on weight and ready to go.

"He's absolutely maturing as a result of the September fight and everything that happened. I think that camp, he needed to be in Puerto Rico for personal reasons and he wasn't able to be with his trainer, and there were interruptions and distractions. Even apart from the weight, he was not 100 percent like he will be this time. This time has been fantastic. He definitely made the right decisions for this one.”

Gonzalez is training in Miami under the supervision of trainers John David Jackson and Chico Ramos.

“He has taken this camp very seriously,” Penagaricano said. “We're all seeing him maturing as a fighter and as a person. I think he realized the need to leave Puerto Rico for camp every fight, like other important fighters [from this country] have done. He notices the difference in his level of conditioning.”

Penagaricano was talking about one of his clients, Puerto Rican star Miguel Cotto, who also trains in Florida.

"I'm very happy with the preparation. I'm in the best shape of my career, and at the end of the fight, the result will be a knockout,” Gonzalez said.

Penagaricano said he's also pleased that Gonzalez is facing a solid opponent in Ennis instead of having him return against a no-hoper.

“It would have been very easy to find some opponent for him to beat in one or two rounds, but in his career, he's never been like that,” Penagaricano said. “He's a prospect that has faced quality opposition since the beginning. His record has a lot of opponents with winning records, which is not typical anymore.

“The majority of opponents have been decent opposition and he has been able to knock all but (three) out. And now, even though we could have picked someone very easy for him, this opponent came across who is very decent and capable fighter and he said right away that's the fight he wants. That's just how he is. He will always choose the harder opponent. With his ability and this new mentality, I have no doubt he will become one of the great Puerto Rican fighters.”

HBO to re-air best bouts of 2012

December, 18, 2012
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Miguel Cotto, Floyd MayweatherAl Bello/Getty ImagesMiguel Cotto and Floyd Mayweather Jr. combined to put on one of 2012's most entertaining fights.
HBO had an excellent year when it came to big fights delivering drama and action and, as it usually does, fight fans can enjoy replays of those top bouts as part of HBO's year-end "Boxing's Best" series.

Beginning on Tuesday -- Christmas Day -- HBO will air seven significant 2012 bouts that it was involved with over five consecutive nights. The action starts at 11 p.m. ET/PT each night. Here's the rundown:

• Dec. 25: Floyd Mayweather vs. Miguel Cotto

• Dec. 26: Sergio Martinez vs. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.

• Dec. 27: Robert Guerrero vs. Andre Berto

• Dec. 28: Adrien Broner vs. Antonio DeMarco

• Dec. 28: Andre Ward vs. Chad Dawson (begins at 11:45 p.m. ET/PT)

• Dec. 29: Brandon Rios vs. Mike Alvarado

• Dec. 29: Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Manny Pacquiao IV (begins at 11:40 p.m. ET/PT)

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