Dan Rafael: Luis Grajeda
Although heavyweight Antonio Tarver suffered a broken thumb while training for a Sept. 29 fight with Johnathon Banks, forcing the bout to be postponed, Tarver said he looked on the bright side. The injury, he said, gave him more time to train and get into shape, even if he could only use one hand.
"What was important is I trained through it, never leaving the gym, even though I was training one-handed," said Tarver, the former light heavyweight champion, who turned 46 on Nov. 21. “I focused on my mind and body. We were locked into the original date, but sometimes there's a silver lining when something like that happens. We made it into a positive by training right through. Hopefully, everybody will see the energy, power and conditioning in the fight when I am victorious over Banks.”
The fight was rescheduled and will take place Dec. 11 (ESPN2, 10 p.m. ET) on a tripleheader at the Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, California, that also will feature former junior middleweight titlist Austin Trout (27-2, 14 KOs) in the main event against Luis Grajeda (17-3-2, 13 KOs) and Oscar Escandon (23-1, 16 KOs) taking on Tyson Cave (22-2, 6 KOs) in a junior featherweight elimination bout.
Tarver (30-6, 21 KOs), of Tampa, Florida, who will be coming off a 13-month layoff, is a southpaw and injured his left thumb near his wrist. He was in a cast for five weeks, then spent two more weeks in a brace.
"I've had long layoffs the last five years with only five fights. It's been frustrating,” Tarver said. “I'm hoping to get busy after this fight, as I get closer to the opportunity to end my career on the highest note, when I'm crowned heavyweight champion of the world."
One of the reasons for a 17-month layoff that caused him to be idle for parts of 2012 and 2013 was the fact that he tested positive for a banned steroid after a draw with Lateef Kayode in a cruiserweight bout. (It was changed to a no decision.)
Banks (29-2-1, 19 KOs), 32, of Detroit, who also serves as the head trainer for heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, will be coming off an 18-month layoff after a decision loss to Seth Mitchell in their June 2013 rematch.
Banks trained Klitschko for his Nov. 15 knockout victory against Kubrat Pulev while training for his own fight. Tarver said that probably was helpful to Banks.
"Any time you're training Klitschko has to help Banks," Tarver said. "He has the best of both worlds training the heavyweight champion of the world. I'm sure Klitschko shared strategy with him. I'm expecting to fight the best Johnathon Banks. Klitschko wants him to be successful, so I'm sure he let Banks share his training camp and his on-site trainers for conditioning. Training Klitschko can only help Banks."
I wrote about Austin Trout (27-2-0, 14 KOs) meeting Luis Grajeda (17-3-2, 13 KOs) in a junior middleweight main event the other day, along with the fact heavyweight contender Chris Arreola (35-4, 31 KOs), whose opponent is not set yet but could be Joe Hanks (21-2, 14 KOs), would also be on the card, as will be former light heavyweight champ Antonio Tarver in a heavyweight bout.
Tarver (30-6, 21 KOs) probably will face Johnathon Banks (29-2-1, 19 KOs), but the final details are still being ironed out, according to Goossen Promotions’ Tom Brown. Tarver and Banks were due to meet Sept. 29 but the fight was postponed after Tarver fractured his thumb training.
But on Friday more fighters -- all in the vast stable of manager Al Haymon but not signed to Goossen Promotions -- were announced for the card, which will take place at the Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, California.
Colombia’s Oscar Escandon (23-1, 16 KOs) will face Haiti’s Tyson Cave (22-2, 6 KOs) for a vacant interim junior featherweight title.
Also appearing against opponents to be announced will be former junior middleweight titlist Sergio Mora (26-3-2, 9 KOs) in a middleweight bout; light heavyweight Edwin Rodriguez (25-1, 16 KOs), who is making a quick return from an Oct. 18 victory that came after a year off; former junior featherweight titlist Rico Ramos (23-4, 12 KOs); light heavyweight prospect Marcus Browne (12-0, 9 KOs), a 2012 U.S. Olympian; and light heavyweight prospect Ahmed Elbiali (7-0, 7 KOs).
ESPN2 will televise three hours' worth of fights from the card beginning at 10 p.m. ET. Some of the non-televised fights likely will stream live on ESPN3 before the telecast.
Cleveland’s Nelson (22-1-1, 13 KOs) came out of the fight with his elbow feeling good and will be back in a tougher fight when he headlines the Aug. 8 edition of “Friday Night Fights” (ESPN2/ESPN Deportes, 9 ET) at the Churchill County Fairgrounds in Fallon, Nevada, promoter Lou DiBella announced on Tuesday.
Nelson will face Luis Grajeda (17-2-2, 13 KOs) of Mexico in a scheduled 10-rounder.
In the eight-round super middleweight co-feature, 18-year-old Hungarian prospect Norbert Nemesapati (14-0, 13 KOs) will make his U.S. debut against Lennox Allen (17-0-1, 10 KOs). The opening bout will feature the heavily hyped four-round pro debut of heavyweight Zhang Zhilei, the 2008 Olympic silver medalist from China.
“Willie is knocking on the door to a world title opportunity and an impressive performance against the hard-punching Grajeda moves him in that direction,” DiBella said. “The co-feature pits two undefeated boxers in the most important fight of their careers. Norbert is on the fast track to stardom and is looking to make an immediate impact on the super middleweight division in his U.S. debut, but this is the type of opportunity that Lennox has been waiting for, to prove that he is among the best 168-pound fighters in the world. It is a true crossroads bout, with the winner clearly cementing himself as a legitimate player in the division.
“Opening up the card, you have Zhilei, a silver medalist who many believe has the ability to be a future star in the heavyweight division. This is a big event for the people of Fallon and we are excited to be a part of it.”
Nelson, 27, has won six fights in a row since a majority decision loss in an eight-rounder to Vincent Arroyo in 2011.
• 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.
It’s not the biggest fight in the world but it harkens back to the neighborhood battles of years past in New York -- Dmitriy Salita, the orthodox Jew from Ukraine living in New York, against Puerto Rico’s Hector Camacho Jr., whose late father Hector Camacho Sr. was an icon in Spanish Harlem, where he grew up.
Salita and Camacho will meet Feb. 9 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn in a scheduled 10-rounder at 152 pounds on the undercard of the Danny Garcia-Zab Judah junior welterweight title bout. Salita-Camacho Jr. likely will be part of the Showtime Extreme coverage of the preliminary bouts.
The 30-year-old Salita (35-1-1, 18 KOs) fought on the inaugural card at the Barclays Center on Oct. 20, winning a six-rounder. He once fought for a junior welterweight world title but got knocked out in the first round by Amir Khan.
Camacho (54-5-1, 29 KOs), 34, never lived up to the hype and is coming off a sixth-round knockout loss in July to Luis Grajeda.
But even though Salita and Camacho never really advanced beyond their considerable hype, it figures to draw some attention in New York and in their ethnic communities.
Salita said he trained for four weeks at Brooklyn’s Starrett City Boxing Club with trainer Nirmal Lorick and conditioning coach Dave "Scooter" Honig. Salita said he will continue his training in Detroit working with Javon "Sugar" Hill, protégé and nephew of the late Emanuel Steward.
“I am happy and grateful that Golden Boy is giving me this opportunity,” Salita said. “I want good, significant fights. Camacho is a talented fighter and I expect for him to come prepared. This will be my sixth camp in Detroit. I look forward to getting great sparring and continuing my preparation in that great competitive environment.”
The fight will be Camacho’s first since his father was shot and killed in November in Puerto Rico.