Dan Rafael: Isaac Chilemba

Light heavyweight contender Isaac Chilemba will square off with Cory Cummings on Aug. 2 at the Revel in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Main Events announced on Tuesday.

The fight will be the co-feature on the card headlined by light heavyweight titleholder Sergey Kovalev defending his belt against Blake Caparello.

[+] EnlargeChilemba
Rich Graessle/Main EventsLight heavyweight contender Isaac Chilemba, right, is being groomed as a future opponent for titlist Sergey Kovalev.
While Kovalev-Caparello will televised on HBO as part of a split-site tripleheader -- along with the Brandon Rios-Diego Chaves welterweight main event and junior welterweight titlist Jessie Vargas' first defense against Anton Novikov in Las Vegas, Chilemba-Cummings will not be televised in the United States, although it will be on the international broadcast.

Chilemba (22-2-2, 9 KOs), 27, of South Africa, is coming off a 10-round unanimous decision against Denis Grachev on March 15, his second win in a row since losing a title eliminator to Tony Bellew in their rematch.

"Come Aug. 2 I will be fully charged and ready to claim victory," Chilemba said. "I take all my opponents seriously as each one takes me a step closer to realizing my dream of the world title, so Cory Cummings should not for one minute think that I am coming unprepared."

Cummings (17-6-1, 13 KOs), 34, of Baltimore, is hardly a worthy opponent on paper. He is 2-6-1 in his last nine fights and has lost two fights in a row while boxing only once since 2011, a loss to badly faded former middleweight titlist William Joppy.

For Main Events, having Chilemba on the undercard makes a lot of sense. It needs to cultivate future opponents for Kovalev and by having him on his undercard it keeps them on the same schedule and also will give HBO executives a good look at him.

Barrera joins Main Events

February, 21, 2014
Feb 21
Main Events doesn’t have a deep stable of fighters under contract, but many of the fighters it does promote are in the light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions.

At light heavyweight, its central figure is titleholder Sergey Kovalev. A good promoter is always looking to build interest in a division in which it has a stake as well as build opponents for the star to fight.

That brings us to Cuban light heavyweight Sullivan Barrera (10-0, 6 KOs), who signed Thursday with Main Events, adding yet another 175-pounder to a roster that already includes Kovalev, Anatoliy Dudchenko, Isaac Chilemba, Lionell Thompson and Ilshat Khusnulgatin.

"I am very happy and very excited. I thank Main Events for the opportunity to let people know who Sullivan Barrera is,” Barrera said. “I feel I am the best in the light heavyweight division. The problem I've faced is that I wasn't given the opportunity to compete. Now that Main Events will give me the opportunity, I will be able to show my talent."

Barrera figures to gain national exposure on Main Events’ slate of “Fight Night” cards on the NBC Sports network.

"We are very excited to have Barrera on board with us here at Main Events. He has it in him to be an electrifying performer and the sky is the limit,” Main Events chief executive Kathy Duva said.

Barrera, 31, lives in Miami and turned pro in 2009, and he has had long stretches of inactivity. He fought only twice in 2011 and once each in 2012 and 2013. But as an amateur, he was 282-27 and holds victories against former light heavyweight world champion Chad Dawson and reigning titleholder Beibut Shumenov.

Barrera found his way to Main Events in part because his adviser, Egis Klimas, manages Kovalev and Khusnulgatin.

"Sullivan was always a fighter, but even as a veteran he continues to want to learn more,” trainer Milton Lacroix said. “He wants to continue progressing towards his ultimate goal, which is to be the best light heavyweight and champion of the world."

Said Klimas, “The light heavyweight division is getting to be one of the most interesting in boxing today, with champions like Bernard Hopkins, Beibut Shumenov, Adonis Stevenson and Sergey Kovalev. When we started with Sergey in 2009, the division was almost dead. We have a lot of young talents coming up into the division, young and aggressive fighters. Adding Sullivan Barrera to my list of fighters is great. He was not recognized for some time, just like Sergey Kovalev, until we signed him with Main Events."

Chilemba-Grachev set for March 15

February, 13, 2014
Feb 13
Isaac ChilembaDiBella Entertainment/Ed DillerLight heavyweight Isaac Chilemba looks to test himself against heavy-handed Denis Grachev.
South African light heavyweight Isaac Chilemba will face San Diego-based Russian Denis Grachev on March 15 (NBC Sports Net) in a scheduled 10-round bout at the Sands Casino and Hotel in Bethlehem, Pa., Main Events announced on Thursday.

The fight is the co-feature on the "Fight Night" card headlined by the rescheduled heavyweight bout between Tomasz Adamek and Vyacheslav "Czar" Glazkov.

"I know he is a tough Russian fighter, he has been in the ring against some of the best fighters and defeated some of them," Chilemba (21-2-2, 9 KOs) said. "I'm looking forward to the challenge. I'll destroy anyone who dares to stand in my way."

Grachev (13-2-1, 8 KOs) owns an upset knockout of Ismayl Sillakh, gave Lucian Bute a very hard fight in a decision loss and handed former titleholder Zsolt Erdei his first defeat. But he is also coming off a first-round knockout loss against Edwin Rodriguez last July.

"Chilemba is a good boxer, but I can hit hard," Grachev said.

Chilemba, Falcao sign deals

October, 4, 2013
Isaac ChilembaDiBella Entertainment/Ed DillerIsaac Chilemba plans to make a statement in the 175-pound division with a new promoter.

One established contender -- light heavyweight Isaac Chilemba -- signed with Main Events this week, and one Olympic bronze medal winner -- Yamaguchi Falcao -- did the same with Golden Boy Promotions.

In his two most recent bouts, both light heavyweight title eliminators, Chilemba (20-2-2, 9 KOs), 26, born in Malawi and living in South Africa, drew with England’s Tony Bellew in March and lost a unanimous decision in the May rematch.

Chilemba owns wins against Edison Miranda and Maxim Vlassov and has a draw with super middleweight contender Thomas Oosthuizen.

"I am pleased to be with Main Events and I look forward to getting back in the ring. Everything happens for a reason,” said Chilemba, who had been with promoter Lou DiBella.

Main Events promoter Kathy Duva said she would keep Chilemba busy on her NBC Sports Network “Fight Night” series.

“Isaac's most impressive fights occurred during times when he was very active. We believe that the combination of activity and the exposure he will receive fighting on the NBC Sports Network will create the right environment to bring out his full potential," Duva said.

He has no set date yet, but Duva said Chilemba would fight before the end of the year.

Falcao won a light heavyweight bronze medal for Brazil at the 2012 London Olympics and is one of his country’s most promising prospects. There has not been a top pro from Brazil since the early 2000s heyday of former lightweight and junior lightweight titlist Acelino “Popo” Freitas.

"Yamaguchi Falcao is a top-tier talent and a major signing for us," Golden Boy chief executive Richard Schaefer said. “He has the skill and charisma to become a star, and with the entire country of Brazil behind him, the sky's the limit for him."

Said Falcao, who also signed with manager Rolando Arellano, “I'm honored to be signed with Golden Boy Promotions, and I appreciate the faith they have in me. I promise to train my hardest and fight my best to one day become a world champion."

Falcao’s unusual first name comes from his father, a former MMA participant who named his son after his trainer, Yamaguchi.

Falcao’s brother, Esquiva, won a 2012 Olympic middleweight silver medal. Their medals marked the first time in 44 years that a Brazilian boxer had won an Olympic medal.

Bellew guaranteed 175 title shot

July, 31, 2013
Light heavyweight mandatory challenger Tony Bellew has been assured by a sanctioning organization that he will get his title shot before the end of the year.

England’s Bellew is the mandatory for champion Adonis Stevenson, but Stevenson has been granted an exception to face former titlist Tavoris Cloud in a fight that is being finalized and supposed to take place Sept. 28 on HBO at the Bell Centre in Montreal. Bellew is supposed to get the next crack at the winner.

According to Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Sport, Bellew’s promoter, the target date for Bellew’s title opportunity is Nov. 30, which happens to be Bellew’s 31st birthday. Bellew (20-1-1, 12 KOs) became the mandatory by outpointing Isaac Chilemba in their May rematch in London.

“I am delighted Tony has got the shot -- and what a perfect potential date for it,” Hearn said. “Tony has worked tirelessly to get a second crack at a world title, and he’s ready to claim it now. What a dream birthday present it will be when he does.”

Bellew’s only loss came in 2011, a majority decision against light heavyweight titlist Nathan Cleverly in a close fight.

Golovkin-Macklin close, plus more

April, 10, 2013
Here's the lowdown on a bunch of fights that are either set, in the works or falling apart:

• Middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin (26-0, 23 KOs) of Kazakhstan and former title challenger Matthew Macklin (29-4, 20 KOs) of Great Britain have a deal in principle to fight June 29 in the main event of an HBO tripleheader, according to both camps. The fight likely will be finalized in the coming days and could be announced as soon as Saturday at a news conference in New York, where many boxing writers will be covering the Nonito Donaire-Guillermo Rigondeaux junior featherweight unification bout. No site is set yet, but the Foxwoods resort in Mashantucket, Conn., is the front-runner to host.

The co-feature will pit South African super middleweight Thomas Oosthuizen (21-0-1, 13 KOs) against Sacramento's Brandon Gonzalez (17-0, 10 KOs). The fight has been agreed to but isn't yet signed. The opener will feature Cleveland junior middleweight Willie Nelson (20-1-1, 12 KOs), although promoter Lou DiBella and HBO have been arguing over an opponent for days.

• Fresh off his junior lightweight title defense against Diego Magdaleno in Macau, China, last Saturday, Roman "Rocky" Martinez (27-1-2, 16 KOs) is looking toward his next defense. It could come against former featherweight titlist Orlando Salido (39-12-2, 27 KOs) in September in Martinez's native Puerto Rico, according to Salido's manager, Sean Gibbons. Salido, who lost his featherweight belt to Mikey Garcia in January, will fight June 1 in Mexico or June 15 in Puerto Rico before the possible bout with Martinez.

• Light heavyweights Tony Bellew (19-1-1, 12 KOs) of England and Isaac Chilemba (20-1-2, 9 KOs) of South Africa will meet in a rematch May 25 in London on the undercard of the Mikkel Kessler-Carl Froch super middleweight title rematch, according to Chilemba's promoter, Lou DiBella, who said he made a deal with Bellew promoter Eddie Hearn. Once again, Bellew and Chilemba will fight for the right to become champion Chad Dawson's mandatory challenger. Bellew and Chilemba met on March 30 in Bellew's hometown of Liverpool, England, and fought to a draw.

• The third fight between cruiserweight titlist Marco Huck (35-2-1, 25 KOs) and interim titlist Ola Afolabi (19-2-4, 9 KOs) is scheduled for May 11 in Germany, and both fighter camps say their man is training. However, promoter Don King, who doesn't handle either fighter yet won the purse bid for a whopping $1.5 million, still doesn't have a specific site or a television deal, leading both sides to believe the fight won't come off as scheduled. According to the Afolabi camp, the WBO, which is sanctioning the bout, has given King a Wednesday deadline to produce signed contracts for the fight or he will forfeit his right to promote the bout.

• Lightweight Ameth Diaz (31-11, 22 KOs) of Panama will travel to Martin Gethin's hometown of Walsall, England, for a lightweight title eliminator on May 24. Diaz was supposed to face Marvin Quintero in the eliminator on April 5 in Santa Ynez, Calif., but Quintero suffered a broken nose, needed surgery and withdrew from the fight. Since Quintero was unavailable, Gethin (24-3-1, 11 KOs) was the next available contender in the IBF's rankings for the eliminator. The Diaz-Gethin winner will become the mandatory challenger for Miguel Vazquez.

• Featherweight titlist Evgeny Gradovich (16-0, 8 KOs) of Russia will make his first defense against mandatory challenger Mauricio Munoz (26-3, 12 KOs) of Argentina. An April 16 purse bid was canceled after the sides made a deal. Top Rank, Gradovich's promoter, plans to put the fight on in June or July, probably on the undercard of featherweight titlist Mikey Garcia's first defense.

• The promoters for junior lightweights Rances Barthelemy (18-0, 11 KOs), a Miami-based Cuba native, and Thailand's Fahsi Sakkreerin (39-3-1, 21 KOs) reached an agreement for their title elimination bout. Warriors Boxing promoter Leon Margules told ESPN.com that the sides have agreed on the terms and that the fight will be promoted in the United States this summer. The Barthelemy-Sakkreerin winner will become the mandatory challenger for 130-pound titlist Argenis Mendez.

DiBella puts on 'rising stars' card

June, 28, 2012
Last July, I wrote about HBO's plans to launch a prospect-oriented boxing series on its HBO2 platform.

Promoters Lou DiBella, Gary Shaw and Golden Boy's Richard Schaefer, along with then-HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg, signed the paperwork to create a monthly tripleheader (probably a four- or six-rounder followed by 10- or 12-round bouts) for about $150,000 per show.

The show was originally delayed until January and now has been canceled altogether. Obviously, Ken Hershman, the new HBO Sports boss who replaced Greenburg -- who was forced to resign last summer -- didn't want to go forward with the series.

But he still had obligations to the promoters for the money they would have received for a year's worth of cards under the deal. That has now seemingly been worked out, and the promoters will get lower-priced "Boxing After Dark" shows to make up for the license fees they would have gotten for the now-dead (and unnamed) series.

The first of these "makeup" shows looks promising. DiBella will put on a Sept. 29 tripleheader from the Foxwoods resort in Mashantucket, Conn., that will feature some of his most promising fighters: super middleweight Edwin Rodriguez and junior featherweight Luis "Orlandito" Del Valle and probably light heavyweight Isaac Chilemba.

"There's a need to build some new blood," DiBella said. "HBO is doing what they promised they'd do, but in a different way. This is like a rising stars card, where the matches all look good on paper and should have action, and there's a chance for a prospect to make his mark."

Rodriguez (21-0, 14 KOs), 27, who outpointed Donovan George in his HBO debut in March, will fight in the main event, largely because he is from nearby Worcester, Mass., and will bring a crowd. He'll face New Jersey's Jason Escalera (13-0-1, 12 KOs), also 27.

Escalera has never faced anyone close to Rodriguez's caliber, so I'm far more intrigued by the undercard bouts.

DiBella said the deal is done for Puerto Rico's Del Valle (16-0, 11 KOs), 25, to face former junior bantamweight and flyweight champion Vic Darchinyan (37-5-1, 27 KOs). Darchinyan, 36, has lost two in a row at bantamweight and is moving up in weight, but he is very experienced, packs a punch, usually is in entertaining fights and has nothing to lose. He is Del Valle's best opponent -- by far.

"Del Valle-Darchinyan, it's a war," DiBella said. "The thing I love about Edwin and Orlandito is, they're great TV fighters because they can't help themselves to engage even though they don't have to. But it's who they are. They put themselves in danger, and it makes it fun to watch. Orlandito is a little beast. We know Darchinyan is a warrior. He never makes a bad fight.

"If Orlandito passes the test, he emerges as a legitimate challenger for [titleholder] Nonito Donaire. Orlandito against [former titlist] Wilfredo Vazquez Jr., if Vazquez beats Rafael Marquez in August in Puerto Rico, is a big fight. [Top Rank's Bob] Arum and I have already talked about that fight."

DiBella is working to finalize the third fight -- South Africa's 25-year-old Chilemba (19-1-1, 9 KOs) against former light heavyweight and cruiserweight titlist Zsolt Erdei (33-0, 18 KOs), who's a bit older (38) and hasn't fought in a year but is regarded as one of the best at 175 pounds. Chilemba is coming off a career-best win against Edison Miranda, whom he outpointed in February on "Friday Night Fights."

DiBella said he tried to work out a deal with British promoter Frank Maloney to have heavyweight prospect David Price (13-0, 11 KOs), a 2008 Olympic bronze medalist and perhaps England's best heavyweight hope, appear on the show, but it didn't work out.

Shaw is supposed to get his version of a "rising stars" card in October, and could feature welterweight sensation Thomas Dulorme (15-0, 12 KOs) of Puerto Rico.