Dan Rafael: Jorge Melendez
A few notes from around the boxing world:
• Flyweight champion Roman Gonzalez (41-0, 35 KOs) will fight journeyman Valentin Leon (38-28-3, 21 KOs) of Mexico, who has won four fights in a row, on Feb. 28. The nontitle 10-round junior bantamweight fight will take place in Managua, Nicaragua, Gonzalez’s home country. Gonzalez, a former strawweight and junior flyweight titleholder, won the flyweight world championship in September and defended the title in November. But he is considering a full-time move up to junior bantamweight with the hope to challenge titleholder Naoya Inoue of Japan later this year.
• Ukrainian middleweight prospect Ievgen Khytrov (7-0, 7 KOs), a 2012 Olympian, will face Puerto Rico’s Jorge Melendez (28-4-1, 26 KOs) in a 10-rounder on ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights” in the March 6 co-feature at the Marquee Ballroom at MGM Grand in Las Vegas, according to the network. In the previously announced main event, Detroit junior middleweight prospect Tony Harrison (19-0, 16 KOs) will face Antwone Smith (23-5-1, 12 KOs) in a 10-rounder. Junior middleweight prospect Erickson Lubin (9-0, 6 KOs) is also on the tripleheader in an eight-round bout but he is still in need of an opponent. Original opponent Rafael Cobos (15-5-5, 3 KOs) was not approved by the Nevada commission.
• Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn has April 25 at the O2 Arena in London on hold for a card he hopes will be headlined by super middleweight contender James DeGale (20-1, 14 KOs) facing Andre Dirrell (24-1, 16 KOs) for the belt recently vacated by Carl Froch. But while that fight is being negotiated, Hearn also has added former light heavyweight titlist Nathan Cleverly (28-2, 14 KOs) to the card against an opponent to be named. The fight will be Cleverly’s first since he lost a split decision to Tony Bellew in their cruiserweight rematch on Nov. 22. Another fight likely for the card is the rescheduled heavyweight bout between 2012 Olympic gold medalist Anthony Joshua (10-0, 10 KOs) and former title challenger Kevin Johnson (29-6-1, 14 KOs).
• Shortly after British and Commonwealth welterweight champion Frankie Gavin was released by promoter Frank Warren late last month he singed with Matchroom Boxing’s Eddie Hearn, Warren’s chief rival. Now Gavin (21-1, 13 KOs), 29, a former world amateur champion, has a fight scheduled in his hometown of Birmingham, England. He will face fellow southpaw Chris van Heerden (22-1-1, 11 KOs), 27, of South Africa, on May 9 at the Barclaycard Arena. Before that, however, Gavin will have his first bout under Hearn’s guidance against an opponent to be determined on March 28 at the Motorpoint Arena in Sheffield, on the undercard of welterweight world titleholder Kell Brook’s first defense against mandatory challenger Jo Jo Dan. Van Heerden owns wins against opponents such as Kaizer Mabuza and Matthew Hatton.
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.
But on Monday, Foreman, who lost his belt by ninth-round knockout to Cotto in 2010 at Yankee Stadium, said on his Facebook page that he was retiring and not fighting. He said it is because of a dispute he is having with manager Len Zimmerman.
“Dear Friends! Unknowingly, I signed a very harmful contract regarding my boxing [career],” Foreman wrote. “I tried all possible ways to free myself from it, but nothing else I can do than announce my retirement from boxing. So from now [on] I'm on to bigger and better things. Much blessings!”
You probably won’t find too many fight fans upset that Foreman might be off the show. There’s a reason why many call him “Yuri Boreman.” Promoter Lou DiBella, however, hopes Foreman will change his mind and issued a statement on the odd situation.
“Yuri Foreman has been training hard for his fight on June 7th against Jorge Melendez. At this moment, there is a dispute within Yuri's team that does not involve DiBella Entertainment,” DiBella said. “Yuri has worked very hard on his comeback to get to an opportunity like this. Lou DiBella and DBE have a great working and personal relationship with Yuri. We are awaiting a phone call and hope to see him fight on June 7th at MSG. This will be resolved very shortly."
"Let's get this finished so I can begin getting ready to give the great people of Puerto Rico my finest victory yet," said Melendez, who claims he has wanted a piece of Angulo for some time. "By beating Angulo into retirement, I will put my island back on the boxing map worldwide. It will be a war, but I'm a Puerto Rican warrior who doesn't run. I have the best power in the entire division, and Angulo will be destroyed."
The fighters are due to meet on the Showtime PPV card headlined by welterweight titlist Adrien Broner and slugger Marcos Maidana at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Given the straight-ahead styles of Angulo and Melendez, the fight figures to produce fireworks.
"With so many disappointing matchups this year, this is the kind of guaranteed action fight boxing needs," said Edwin Diaz, Melendez's manager. "Boxing fans and critics alike want this fight, so let's make it happen."
Angulo (22-3, 18 KOs), 31, is coming off a 10th-round knockout loss to Erislandy Lara in a June interim title bout. Angulo dropped Lara twice but suffered an orbital injury and quit.
The 24-year-old Melendez (27-3-1, 26 KOs), a protégé of Miguel Cotto, was upset in a 10-round decision loss to Nick Brinson in June but rebounded to stop Jamaal Davis in the second round on Oct. 5 on the undercard of Cotto's third-round knockout of Delvin Rodriguez.
"I'm going to train harder than I ever have for this fight, while my coach, Wilfredo Vazquez, designs the strategy to defeat Angulo," Melendez said. "Let's get this fight negotiation finished so I can get ready, and when that night comes, the dog, 'El Perro,' will go out screeching and with his tail between his legs."
• Former unified featherweight titlist and interim junior lightweight titleholder Yuriorkis Gamboa has never fought at lightweight, but when he makes his debut in the 135-pound division he will be fighting for another interim belt.
Gamboa (22-0, 16 KOs), the Miami-based 2004 Olympic gold medalist, meets 2008 Colombian Olympian Darleys Perez (28-0, 19 KOs) on Saturday (HBO, 10 p.m. ET/PT) at Bell Centre in Montreal. He will be on the undercard of light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson’s defense against Quebec’s power-punching Adonis Stevenson. But what was originally scheduled as a 10-round nontitle bout became an interim title bout after Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, the rap star and Gamboa’s promoter, paid a recent visit to WBA headquarters in Panama and got the bout sanctioned.
Also on the card, prospect Jose “Sniper” Pedraza (12-0, 8 KOs), a 2008 Puerto Rican Olympian, will face Sergio Villanueva (25-2-2, 13 KOs) of Mexico in a scheduled 10-rounder that HBO Latino will air on tape delay at 12:15 a.m. ET.
• East Los Angles junior welterweight prospect Frankie Gomez (15-0, 11 KOs), who is just 21, should gain valuable experience when he faces former titleholder (and now division gatekeeper) DeMarcus “Chop Chop” Corley (39-20-1, 23 KOs) of Washington, D.C., in a scheduled 10-round main event of a “Golden Boy Live” card (FSN/Fox Deportes) on July 20 at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, Calif. Corley is coming off a decision loss in his previous fight, when he traveled to Russia to face Viktor Postal in October, but in his previous two bouts Corley pulled upsets. He outpointed Gabriel Bracero and then stopped Paul McCloskey in the 10th round in Northern Ireland in a stunner. In the co-feature, junior featherweight prospect Randy Caballero (18-0, 10 KOs) will face Puerto Rico's Miguel Robles (12-2-2, 5 KOs) in a 10-rounder. Caballero, who is from Coachella, Calif., is a crowd favorite at Fantasy Springs, where he has fought 11 of his 18 pro fights.
• Former featherweight titlist Orlando Salido (39-12-2, 27 KOs), who got dropped four times and lost his title via lopsided eighth-round technical decision to Mikey Garcia in January, will be back Aug. 16 in his hometown of Ciudad Obregon, Mexico, manager Sean Gibbons told ESPN.com. Salido, 32, suffered a right broken orbital bone in the fight, one of the reasons for the extended layoff. Gibbons said there is no opponent yet, but that Salido will be fighting at junior lightweight, possibly in a title eliminator that would put him in line for a crack at titleholder Roman “Rocky” Martinez.
• Puerto Rican junior middleweight Jorge Melendez (26-2-1, 25 KOs), a Miguel Cotto protege, is on his third opponent for his “ShoBox: The New Generation” main event Friday night (Showtime, 11 ET/PT). Melendez was due to face Mexico’s Luis Grajeda (14-1, 10 KOs) in the scheduled 10-rounder. When Grajeda dropped out -- for no reason other than he decided against taking the fight, according to Showtime -- Lanardo Tyner (30-8-2, 19 KOs) stepped in. However, even though Tyner is coming off a 12th-round knockout win on May 9 in Dallas, he was suspended under the normal Texas rules that say a fighter must be off three days for every round he fought in his most recent fight, which keeps him out until after Friday. So now it’s Nick Brinson (14-1-2, 6 KOs) stepping in on short notice. Puerto Rican bantamweight Jonathan Vidal (17-0, 9 KOs) faces Mario Munoz (13-0-1, 10 KOs) of Mexico in the eight-round co-feature.
• Japan’s Koki Kameda (30-1, 17 KOs) will make his seventh title defense when he faces the Philippines’ Mark John Apolinario (17-2-3, 4 KOs) on July 23 in Tokyo. Odd stat about Apolinario: He’s got three draws in his past four bouts, including back-to-back draws with Roberto Vasquez in interim title bouts.
• Miguel Cotto, who likely will return to the ring in September, is keeping busy with his promotional company. In his June 7 card on Showtime from Turning Stone Casino in Verona, N.Y., junior middleweight Jorge Melendez (26-2-1, 25 KOs) of Puerto Rico will headline against Mexico's Luis Grajeda (14-1, 10 KOs) in a 10-rounder. Puerto Rican bantamweight Jonathan Vidal (17-0, 9 KOs) will face Mario Munoz (13-0-1, 10 KOs) of Mexico in the eight-round co-feature.
• Junior bantamweight titlist Juan Carlos Sanchez (15-1-1, 8 KOs) of Mexico will make a mandatory defense against Argentina's Roberto Sosa (24-0, 14 KOs) on June 8 (UniMas) at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Top Rank announced. Hot prospect Jessie Magdaleno (14-0, 10 KOs), who is from Las Vegas, will fight in the eight-round junior featherweight co-feature against Henry Maldonado (16-1, 11 KOs) of Nicaragua. Also on the card: heavyweight prospect Andy Ruiz (18-0, 12 KOs) in an eight-rounder against Carl Davis (16-5, 12 KOs). It's a tune-up fight for Ruiz, who is scheduled to face fellow undefeated prospect Joe Hanks on July 27 in Macau.
• The ESPN2 card headlined by junior featherweight Chris Avalos (21-2, 16 KOs) and former interim junior bantamweight titlist Drian Francisco (24-1-1, 19 KOs) of the Philippines, originally scheduled for June 14 at Texas Station Gambling Hall & Hotel in Las Vegas, has been moved to July 12. Junior middleweight prospects Glen Tapia (18-0, 10 KOs) and Abie Han (19-0, 12 KOs) will meet in the 10-round co-feature.
• Welterweight prospect Dusty Hernandez-Harrison (14-0, 8 KOs), an 18-year-old from Washington, D.C., who was just 17 when he turned pro, will headline a hometown card at the University of the District of Columbia's Sports Complex on Saturday night when he steps up a bit in competition against Puerto Rico native Eddie Soto (12-6, 4 KOs) of Pawtucket, R.I. Harrison is a student at the school. The card will be streamed live at Gofightlive.tv beginning at 7 p.m.