Dan Rafael: Sergio Martinez

Campillo, Martinez to return in Spain

November, 27, 2014
Light heavyweight contender Gabriel Campillo and former junior featherweight titlist Kiko Martinez will both appear in scheduled eight-round fights on Dec. 12 in Barcelona, Spain, their home country, on a card being put on by Maravilla Box Promotions, former middleweight champion Sergio Martinez’s company.

Oscar Zardain of Maravilla Box Promotions told ESPN.com that Campillo (24-6-1, 11 KOs) will face Czech Republic’s Tomas Adamek (21-10-2, 8 KOs), who should not be confused with Poland’s Tomasz Adamek, the former light heavyweight and cruiserweight titleholder and longtime heavyweight contender.

Campillo, a former light heavyweight titleholder, put himself back in the title picture with a fifth-round upset knockout of rising contender Thomas Williams Jr. on Aug. 1 on ESPN2.

Kiko Martinez (31-5, 23 KOs) will face France’s Amor Belahdj Ali (13-3-1, 2 KOs). Martinez is moving down to bantamweight for the fight, where he and trainer Gaby Sarmiento believe he will be a force.

Martinez is looking to rebound from a decision loss to Carl Frampton that cost him his world title on Sept. 6 in Frampton’s hometown of Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Also on the card will be an anticipated all-Spanish showdown between junior middleweights Roberto Santos (21-7-3, 12 KOs) and Javier Garcia Roche (15-2-1, 10 KOs).

Martinez visits doctor for knee exam

September, 18, 2014
Miguel Cotto, Sergio MartinezChris Farina/Top RankSergio Martinez, right, will have his future decided by an orthopedic surgeon in New York.
Former middleweight champion Sergio Martinez was in New York on Tuesday to visit Dr. Answorth Allen, the orthopedic surgeon for the New York Knicks, and have his balky right knee examined.

"Sergio saw the doctor and got some initial thoughts and had some basic tests done," promoter Lou DiBella told ESPN.com. "They need to review his whole history. They have current films and older films that they want to compare against each other. They want to review the changes and see what's going on.

"Sergio had some tests [including an MRI] and did some exercises to check his mobility, but it will be a few days or a week before there is a specific recommendation or a plan of action. When we know what the doctor is recommending and what he's going to do we will announce it."

Martinez, who would like to continue to fight, wanted to get an opinion from the doctor on whether his knee would hold up if he elected to keep boxing.

The knee has been a major problem for Martinez since he first injured it when he was knocked down in the 12th round of a lopsided decision win against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in September 2012 and had subsequent surgery.

Martinez hurt it again in his next fight, a decision win against Martin Murray, in April 2013 and again needed surgery.

Martinez returned on June 7 and lost his title by 10th-round knockout to Miguel Cotto in a one-sided fight in which Martinez got knocked down four times.

Although Martinez (51-3-2, 28 KOs), 39, said he did not specifically injure the knee again against Cotto, it never looked as though Martinez had his legs under him in the fight.

Martinez told ESPN.com last week what he wanted to hear from the doctor.

"The first thing I want to hear from the doctor is that my leg is going to be good enough that I can live a normal life and that I can have a normal leg like a normal person," he said. "I still have some pain I feel in my right leg. But if the doctor says I'm 100 percent or I will be 100 percent then I will continue [boxing]. If he doesn't say that then I won't fight anymore. I don't need to fight because my health is very important to me."

Martinez close to decision on future

September, 13, 2014
Miguel CottoChris Farina/Top RankSergio Martinez will have his injured right knee looked at by a surgeon next week in New York.
LAS VEGAS -- Former middleweight champion Sergio Martinez is in town and at the MGM Grand to enjoy the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Marcos Maidana rematch Saturday night before heading off to take care of serious business.

Martinez will fly to New York to pay a visit to Dr. Answorth Allen, the orthopedic surgeon for the New York Knicks, to have his right leg examined Tuesday.

Martinez's knee has been a problem since he injured it in a win against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in September 2012 and had surgery. He reinjured it in his next fight, a win against Martin Murray in April 2013. Martinez returned too quickly from surgery and was out of the ring for 14 months before facing Miguel Cotto in June and getting knocked out in the 10th round after being knocked down four times.

Although Martinez did not blame the knee for the defeat, it was clear that he was not 100 percent physically. Martinez, who turns 40 in February, said he wants to continue his career but would wait to hear what the doctor said about the condition of his knee.

"The first thing I want to hear from the doctor is that my leg is going to be good enough that I can live a normal life and that I can have a normal leg like a normal person," Martinez said Friday through translator Nathan Lewkowicz, the son of Martinez adviser Sampson Lewkowicz. "I still have some pain I feel in my right leg. But if the doctor says I'm 100 percent, or I will be 100 percent, then I will continue. If he doesn't say that then I won't fight anymore. I don't need to fight because my health is very important to me."

Martinez (51-3-2, 28 KOs) made an announcement during the summer that he planned to continue fighting, but he knew he had to see the doctor first.

"When I said I wanted to return to fight, I don't know if it was me saying it or my ego," Martinez said. "That's why I'm going to let someone who knows what they're talking about, like the doctor, make that decision for me."

Martinez still clearly has the fighting spirit that made him a great champion during his 2010-14 reign that covered six successful defenses against quality opposition and garnered him 2010 fighter of the year honors and the author of the 2010 knockout of the year (in his rematch with Paul Williams).

"I have 20 years of boxing, [almost] 40 years of age. I know what my body can do and what it can't do," Martinez said. "I want to fight the best, and I want to be the best, but I understand I am [almost] 40 and that I can't beat the same people I could beat when I was [younger]. It's very difficult to fight with your own ego. But it was [my] own ego that brought me to the level I was in boxing. Without my ego, I couldn't have been a world champion."
Sergio MartinezMike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesSergio Martinez's future depends on what his doctor has to say about his health.

A few weeks after Sergio Martinez got knocked down four times and eventually stopped in the 10th round by Miguel Cotto on June 7 in New York -- a defeat that cost him the middleweight championship -- Martinez vowed to fight on.

But whether the 39-year-old Martinez (51-3-2, 28 KOs) really does continue to box will depend largely on what his doctor has to say, particularly about his knee problems, following an exam due to take place Sept. 16 in New York, Martinez's adviser, Sampson Lewkowicz, told ESPN.com.

Lewkowicz will be with Martinez in Belfast, Northern Ireland on Sept. 6 when junior featherweight titlist Kiko Martinez, whom Lewkowicz promotes and Martinez (no relation) manages, defends his belt in a rematch with Carl Frampton.

Lewkowicz said that following the fight, he and Sergio Martinez will travel to Las Vegas to attend the Sept. 13 rematch between pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Marcos Maidana. They will be rooting for Maidana, Martinez’s countryman from Argentina.

“After the fight, we will go to New York together and Sergio will see his doctor,” Lewkowicz said of Dr. Answorth Allen, who is the orthopedic surgeon for the New York Knicks.. “He will have a complete checkup. We will listen to what the doctor has to say and then make a decision about his future."

Chavez Jr. fading away

August, 25, 2014
Bryan Vera, Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr.Soobum Im/USA TODAY SportsJulio Cesar Chavez Jr., left, hasn't fought since his decision win against Bryan Vera in March.

Super middleweight Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., who has fought just once this year, a decision win against Bryan Vera in their March rematch, just doesn’t seem in the mood to get into the ring. That is certainly Chavez’s prerogative, but he’s leaving a lot on the table in his snit with promoter Top Rank and apparent disinterest in boxing.

The negotiations for a January fight with titleholder Carl Froch are going nowhere and very well could be dead as Froch is instead looking at a mandatory defense against British countryman James DeGale because Chavez seems so reluctant to make a deal.

And now Chavez (48-1-1, 32 KOs), who fought just once in 2013 and will fight only once this year, is also passing up the opportunity to win a super middleweight title against Anthony Dirrell (27-0-1, 22 KOs), who claimed the belt on Aug. 16 as he outpointed Sakio Bika in a rematch of their draw. Chavez is Dirrell’s mandatory challenger and not inclined to take that undeserved title opportunity either.

The WBC announced on its website on Monday that Chavez has notified the organization that he will not exercise his mandatory status against Dirrell. The WBC, therefore, said it has approved Dirrell to make a voluntary defense of his title in his next fight while the organization figures out the mandatory challenger.

Keep in mind that Chavez now has not only rejected two different super middleweight title opportunities but also declined to face middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin in a fight that was being put together for July at the Forum in Inglewood, California.

Golovkin had agreed to all terms and would have moved up in weight, but Chavez could not work out his end of the deal with Top Rank, which had already come to an agreement with Golovkin promoter K2 Promotions as well as HBO PPV.

So since Chavez trained all of about a week for his shot against then-middleweight champion Sergio Martinez in September 2012 -- and then failed a postfight drug test and served a nine-month suspension -- he has fought all of twice, both times against Vera, including the first fight which he failed to make weight for and deserved to lose.

Could Miguel Cotto face Andy Lee?

August, 5, 2014
Miguel Cotto, Sergio MartinezChris Farina/Top RankAfter destroying Sergio Martinez in June, Miguel Cotto, left, is ready for a December return.
Many of us would love to see middleweight champion Miguel Cotto have his next fight against titleholder Gennady Golovkin or junior middleweight star Canelo Alvarez.

Neither is going to happen, however. At least not next. I know none of us like that. Just accept it.

It seems doubtful a Golovkin fight will ever happen, and an Alvarez showdown -- for my money, the biggest fight in boxing outside of a Floyd Mayweather Jr. or Manny Pacquiao fight -- probably would not take place until the spring of 2015, if it can even be made.

But Cotto plans to fight again this year, which is a good thing. Top Rank promoter Bob Arum says the date is Dec. 13 at New York’s Madison Square Garden, which is essentially the Puerto Rican star’s home arena.

Arum has also said that he would like for Cotto’s next fight to be on regular HBO, as opposed to HBO PPV, mainly because his June fight with Sergio Martinez was a huge disappointment in terms of the pay-per-view sales. But even if Arum wants it on HBO, it is still likely to be on HBO PPV because I’m told Cotto wants to be on pay-per-view and that HBO likely won’t be able to afford the level of license fee to have him on the network.

So whom can Cotto fight that would A) make for a good fight; B) draw a big crowd at MSG (although not necessarily a big PPV audience) and C) be a fight in which the challenger has a reasonable chance to win but a fight in which Cotto will be the favorite so as not to put Cotto-Alvarez into too much jeopardy.

Hello, Andy Lee!

He is a possible opponent for Cotto.

Top Rank and Cotto’s camp still need to go over the particulars of what Cotto wants for the December fight. But Top Rank has Lee on its short list for Cotto and Lou DiBella, Lee’s promoter, said he and Arum have spoken and that the fight is a possibility.

Frankly, if Cotto isn’t fighting Golovkin or Alvarez, Cotto-Lee makes a lot of sense.

Remember, Lee, who has been on HBO a few times, was supposed to fight Golovkin in April on the network, but the fight was canceled after Golovkin’s father died. He is a legitimate contender and it probably would be a crowd-pleasing fight.

When the Golovkin fight was canceled, Lee wound up winning a small-time fight in Denmark on April 12 and then fought John Jackson on the June 7 Cotto-Martinez pay-per-view undercard, surviving a hard knockdown in the first round to rally for a highlight-reel fifth-round knockout victory. That means that Lee and Cotto are on the same schedule.

Lee is also Irish, and the Irish fans in New York have always supported their fighters by gobbling up tickets.

[+] EnlargeAndy Lee
Rich Schultz/Getty ImagesAndy Lee of Ireland, left, was in trouble in the fifth round, but a well-placed right hand ended Julian Jackson night.
“Bob knows we won’t price ourselves out. He knows we want the fight and knows Andy sells a lot of tickets,” DiBella said. “I really believe you’ll have a similar crowd to what Cotto-Martinez drew, and Andy really wants the fight. Bob and I have worked together on fights before. I’m sure HBO would like Andy as an opponent, and I know the Garden loves the fight. Bob and I talked about it, and he knows we want the fight.

“Andy has wanted the opportunity to fight a legend. If you’re a fighter and you don’t want to fight a future Hall of Famer and the middleweight champion of the world, you’re not a real fighter. Andy Lee is a real fighter. It’s a tremendous fight. Say what you want, but Andy can crack and he showed he can overcome adversity against Jackson.”

Arum and DiBella have made plenty of fights together over the years, including some that were more complicated than a Cotto-Lee match would be, such as the Martinez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. pay-per-view in 2012.

“All my dealing with Top Rank have been good. We have always worked well together, and when there is a fight that we have tried to make, there’s never been a fight we couldn’t get done,” DiBella said. “If Bob and Cotto want to make this deal, we’ll make it very easily. We could do it in one phone call.”

Lee (33-2, 23 KOs) challenged then-titleholder Chavez for his world title in June 2012 and was stopped in the seventh round of a competitive fight. Lee, a 30-year-old southpaw, has won five fights in a row since.

By stopping Martinez in the 10th round, Cotto (39-4, 32 KOs), 33, became the first Puerto Rican boxer to win world titles in four weight classes, further enhancing his Hall of Fame credentials.
Middleweight contender Matthew Macklin, an Irishman who lives in England, has not fought in Ireland since he outpointed Rafael Sosa Pintos at National Stadium in Dublin in December 2009. Now the time is right for the three-time world title challenger to return.

Macklin will headline a card there on Aug. 30 in his first fight since agreeing to a co-promotional deal with Matchroom Boxing’s Eddie Hearn.

Hearn, who will co-promote Macklin with Lou DiBella, Macklin’s longtime promoter, made the announcement on Wednesday.

Macklin (30-5, 20 KOs), 32, doesn’t have an opponent yet. He is coming off a strong performance in a unanimous decision win against then-unbeaten Lamar Russ in December. Macklin’s next fight was supposed to be against former titleholder Daniel Geale on HBO on May 24, but when the Bryant Jennings-Mike Perez heavyweight main event was postponed, Macklin’s fight was called off because Geale got a better opportunity (a title fight with Gennady Golovkin on July 27).

That understandably upset Macklin, who instead has a chance to go back to the United Kingdom.

“It’s been four years since I last boxed in the U.K. and five since I boxed in Ireland, so I am really looking forward to boxing this side of the Atlantic again,” Macklin said. “The National Stadium has always been a great traditional venue for Irish boxing, and I think the atmosphere on August 30 will be electric.”

Hearn said he has been looking to promote in Dublin but needed the right fighter to appear in the main event. He believes he has the guy in Macklin, who lost a controversial decision in a title fight to Felix Sturm in 2011 but suffered knockout losses in title bouts against Sergio Martinez (2012) and Golovkin (2013).

“Matthew is a proven world-level fighter on the verge of another world title shot, and I am delighted to also be working with our American partner Lou DiBella on making that happen,” Hearn said. “Fans in Dublin can expect a corker of a card with Olympic super heavyweight king [Anthony] Joshua fighting in the city for the first time as a pro and an all-Irish grudge match between [middleweights] Spike O’Sullivan and Anthony Fitzgerald.”

DiBella said he will take the lead on Macklin's fights in the United States, while Hearn will handle the promotions for Macklin in Europe.

“I’ve always had a good relationship with Eddie,” DiBella said. “This was a deal that made sense for everybody.”

DiBella stocking up at 160

June, 10, 2014
Promoter Lou DiBella likes his middleweights. He helped guide Bernard Hopkins to the undisputed title in 2001. He did the same with Jermain Taylor, and he promoted Sergio Martinez throughout his title reign, which came to an end Saturday night at the hands of Miguel Cotto.

DiBella has also promoted 160-pound contenders such as Matthew Macklin and Andy Lee. And now he is stocking up at 160 again.

DiBella recently signed amateur middleweight standouts Sergiy Derevyanchenko and Ivan Golub of Ukraine and on Tuesday announced that he has signed two more middleweight prospects: Eduardo Alicea (6-0, 3 KOs) and Paul Littleton (8-0-1, 5 KOs).

“The middleweight division has always been one of boxing's elite weight classes, and it is once again today,” DiBella said. “We just recently added two of the best amateur boxers in the world to the DBE roster and we are now adding these two undefeated prospects to our growing stable. We truly feel that these talented fighters, in addition to fellow DBE middleweight prospect Lamar Russ, make up the best young group of middleweights in all of boxing. We are excited to be working with each and every one of them.”

Alicea, 23, who is trained by Robert Garcia, was 143-16 as an amateur and won at the 2007 national Junior Olympics. He’s been a pro since 2011 but had promotional and managerial issues. DiBella is co-promoting Alicea with Steve Smith's Rumble Time Promotions.

Alicea’s next fight will be June 27 at Ameristar Casino in St. Charles, Missouri, on an ESPN2 “Friday Night Fights” undercard. Golub will make his pro debut on the same card.

Littleton is a former Chicago Golden Gloves champion. He and Derevyanchenko will have their first bout with DiBella this summer on one of his Broadway Boxing cards.

Martinez simmers over slights

June, 6, 2014

NEW YORK -- Middleweight champion Sergio Martinez is a proud man, so it took a lot for him to swallow a bit of pride and be dictated to by Miguel Cotto when it came time to make a deal for their showdown on Saturday night (HBO PPV, 9 ET) at Madison Square Garden.

Although Martinez, like Cotto, will someday likely enter the International Boxing Hall of Fame, and has been a fine champion for several years, he does not have the economic muscle that Cotto has (or the drawing power).

Maybe Martinez does in Argentina, where his homecoming defense against Martin Murray last year drew nearly 50,000 to a soccer stadium in Buenos Aires. But in New York? No way. This is Cotto’s town, where he has sold more tickets than anyone in recent decades, and this is also his weekend, that of the annual Puerto Rican Day parade in New York.

Cotto has also been involved in several high-profile pay-per-view fights, while this will be Martinez’s second fight as a pay-per-view headliner. So when it came time to make a deal, Cotto’s side asked for -- and got -- basically everything it asked for.

A catch weight of 159 pounds? Yup.

Cotto’s name first in the promotion even though Martinez is the champion? Yup, that’s why the official name of the fight is Cotto-Martinez.

Cotto will also walk to the ring last and be introduced last, the slots usually reserved for the champion.

It has drawn the ire of Martinez and his team throughout the promotion.

“I don’t consider it a lack of respect, just absurd requests and absurd demands,” an annoyed Martinez said. “I have put that in the past.”

Said promoter Lou DiBella, “This was not an easy negotiation. We had to keep calling Sergio with more concessions that a champion doesn’t generally have to make, and at that time he was not pleased. And I think that came out at some of the press conferences very clearly as well as some of the interviews. If you saw the ‘Face Off with Max Kellerman’ [on HBO] you could see that he was upset about certain things, but I think he has channeled that to his benefit. Right now he is fixated on giving Cotto a beating and walking out of Madison Square Garden with [the] championship belt.

“Look, there were a lot of concessions that were made due to Cotto’s star value and concessions that he wanted that a champion doesn’t normally give, but Sergio’s attitude was that he wanted Miguel Cotto and he wanted this fight badly. He thought it was a great opportunity and he always wanted to fight in the big room at Madison Square Garden before he retired and to prove himself at the ‘Mecca of Boxing,’ and in order to get the fight we had to swallow some things we didn’t want to swallow.”

Indeed, during the kickoff news conference a couple of months ago, Martinez lashed out at Cotto, saying, “Don’t forget one thing,” Martinez said (in Spanish). “We are gonna fight because I am the champion and I’m coming into the ring first and he’s coming in second, otherwise there would be no fight. I go to the blue corner and I really don’t care, because I’m the champion, and if it wasn’t for that he won’t fight.

“I will be introduced first in the ring because if it wasn’t that way Cotto would not fight me. I can imagine on June 7th that he’s going to ask for rose petals, otherwise he won’t walk into the ring.”

Cotto’s take on Martinez’s ire was calm and cool. He knows the deal, since he entered fights with Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather as the titleholder but the B-side of those promotions and had to make similar concessions as Martinez has.

“If Sergio has any kind of issue with anything about this fight, he can discuss it with his guy [DiBella],” Cotto said. “We closed the deal a long time ago.”

Of Martinez taking the role as the B-side of the promotion, adviser Sampson Lewkowicz was practical.

“I prefer to be at the short end of the stick and be the B-side and win the fight.” he said.

NEW YORK -- There is plenty of opinion on who will win the fight between middleweight champ Sergio Martinez and Miguel Cotto on Saturday night (HBO PPV, 9 ET) at Madison Square Garden. How about some celebrity and athlete picks?

Mike Tyson: “This will be a defining moment for Cotto. If he gives his absolute best and uses everything he has learned from his experience in boxing, he will give a great account of himself. I would like to see him do well because he has gotten some bad breaks in his career. He is going to have to cut Martinez off in the ring because he is a great mover. He's like a tango mover when he boxes. My personal opinion, I think this is going to be one of the greatest fights of the year. I am looking forward to taking my wife on a great date night to celebrate our fifth anniversary.”

Felix Trinidad: “It is an interesting fight for the boxing world and also for Team Cotto. Cotto should win by decision.”

Sugar Ray Leonard: “I've met both of these incredible fighters with such a wonderful demeanor outside the ring, and the question is who has the most boxing ingredients left at this point in their career? Sergio always will have that power, which never leaves a boxer even past his prime, and Cotto will always have that knowledge to break down an opponent during the fight. A slight edge to Cotto, but don't bet the house. Good luck to two great fighters and decent men!”

Rosie Perez: “Both are excellent fighters. And most have Martinez winning this match. And no disrespect to Sergio, who I love. But are you kidding me? How can I not root for my fellow Boricua? I'd be run outta town! Win, lose or draw, Miguel Cotto!”

Brandon Jacobs: “I am a big Cotto fan. I think he's outmatched in this fight. He's the smaller guy, plus his hand speed isn't faster. I'd love for Cotto to beat this guy, but I don't think it's going to happen.”

Micky Ward: “Sergio by close decision. He must use his smarts or Cotto will take it.”

Reggie Miller: “Martinez will take it. He's bigger, stronger and more physical.”

If there’s one thing Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach likes to do, it’s predict a knockout victory for his fighter. So it comes as no surprise that he is calling for Miguel Cotto to knock out middleweight champion Sergio Martinez when they meet Saturday night (9 ET, HBO PPV) at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

“I think we win in four rounds,” Roach said. “Miguel's ring generalship alone will win this fight.”

Martinez’s response?

“Freddie Roach is excellent at telling jokes, and this is one of the best jokes he has ever told,” he said.

Roach said Cotto is “one of the hardest punchers” he has ever worked with -- and Roach has worked with many quality punchers, such as Mike Tyson, Manny Pacquiao and Oscar De La Hoya.

“We are working every day on the mitts with my body protector on, and that doesn’t help that much anymore," Roach said. "Miguel goes right through that. His punching power is great, his speed has been good, and everything is right where I want it to be. Miguel is one of the hardest workers I have been with, and he is the most disciplined fighter I have ever worked with. We have a great relationship, and it will show in the fight.”

Cotto (38-4, 31 KOs), never one to make predictions, seemingly agreed with Roach’s prediction without saying it in so many words.

"I understand why Freddie is so confident and is saying the things he is saying,” said Cotto, who is seeking to become the first Puerto Rican fighter to win a world title in four weight classes. “He believes in me. We have worked hard in the gym. The work is almost done.

"Martinez is a world champion. I am prepared to fight, and I want to promise my fans I will do my best to win the world championship."

Cotto, who won titles at 140, 147 and 154 pounds, is moving up to 160, and Martinez (51-2-2, 28 KOs) does not believe his power will follow him up the scale again.

“Of course, I realize that Miguel does not have the same power at this weight that he had at 147, but I am the one that has the power in this case,” Martinez said. “I am the power puncher of the two of us. But the most important fact in this fight is going to be the intelligence that I am going to be able to use in this fight.

“I'm sure that I will win the fight by knockout because I'm training in a very hard and intense way and with such motivation that every day I'm hitting harder, throwing more punches. Whatever Cotto will do in the ring doesn't matter to me; I don't care. What is important is for me to be the day of the fight in the same state that I'm working right now. ... It is going to be an early stoppage.”

Verdejo's exposure is growing

June, 2, 2014
Lightweight Felix Verdejo, a 2012 Puerto Rican Olympian and one of boxing’s most significant prospects, fights on Saturday night at New York’s Madison Square Garden. But although his scheduled six-round fight with Engelberto Venezuela won’t be part of the HBO PPV telecast, it will still be televised.

Top Rank and Miguel Cotto Promotions have made a deal with WAPA America, a Spanish-language Puerto Rican channel, to air three undercard bouts involving Puerto Rican fighters -- Verdejo, Jose Lopez and Jantony Ortiz -- Saturday beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET. The non-pay-per-view bouts will also stream live on ESPN3.com starting at 7 p.m. ET.

In addition to airing Verdejo (12-0, 9 KOs) against Valenzuela (9-1, 3 KOs), the telecast will also include junior featherweight Lopez (13-0, 11 KOs) against Raul Hidalgo (21-10, 16 KOs) in an eight-rounder and the professional debut of flyweight and 2012 Olympian Ortiz in a four-round bout against Elio Ruiz (1-4, 2 KOs).

“We are very happy to present these bouts, which will feature some of the top prospects from Puerto Rico,” Cotto said. “This historic telecast will be enjoyed by all Puerto Rican fans.”

Cotto promotes regular cards on WAPA, so this was a no-brainer.

The exposure is key for Verdejo, a Top Rank fighter widely considered one of the best prospects in boxing both in terms of ability and marketability. He already is a popular draw and could eventually headline his own major pay-per-view events.

“I am very excited that everyone in Puerto Rico will be able to see these fights from New York live on the same night that our great champion Miguel Cotto will be looking to make history, and one day before my childhood idol Felix ‘Tito’ Trinidad will be enshrined in the International Boxing Hall of Fame,” Verdejo said. “I know we will have great support in the stands and I feel blessed that I will have the opportunity to show my talent in the most famous arena in the world, Madison Square Garden.”

Much like Top Rank did with a young Cotto a decade ago, it is priming Verdejo for big things, which is apparent by the way it is promoting his appearance on Saturday’s card.

It has him on his own schedule throughout fight week, which included a public workout and meet and greet with fans this past Saturday, an appearance at Yankee Stadium at Sunday’s baseball game, a television feature on him Monday on Telemundo and other activities associated with the card throughout the week. On Sunday, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum and Verdejo will fly to Canastota, New York, for Trinidad’s Hall of Fame induction.

You can count Trinidad as a Verdejo fan.

"In Puerto Rico people are talking a lot about him,” Trinidad told Puerto Rican media. “He is a good kid and very dedicated to boxing. He has the discipline. His trainer and manager Ricky Marquez is doing a good job with him. Felix Verdejo has all the potential to become the next 'Tito' Trinidad. He has everything. He is tall and he has a great record. I hope he stays undefeated. He has all the tools to become a solid world champion."

DiBella inks Ukrainian Olympian

May, 29, 2014
Middleweight champ Sergio Martinez is the current star of promoter Lou DiBella's stable and has a huge fight on June 7 when he defends the title against Miguel Cotto. But DiBella is also looking to the future with his latest middleweight signing.

Ukraine’s Sergiy Derevyanchenko, 28, a 2008 Olympian and 2007 world amateur championships bronze medalist, has signed with DiBella and co-promoter Fight Promotions.

His pro debut will be on a date to be determined this summer on one of DiBella's "Broadway Boxing" cards, but he is experienced. Derevyanchenko, who was 390-20 as an amateur, has compiled a 23-1 record fighting in the World Series of Boxing -- which some consider professional bouts -- so expect him to move quickly. DiBella said his summer bout is likely going to be a scheduled eight-rounder.

"Turning pro was a logical step for me at this point in my career," Derevyanchenko said. "It has always been my dream to be a world champion and fight the best fighters in the world. I am ready to do whatever it takes, taking one step at a time, putting in hard work to achieve my ultimate goal. I am delighted to have signed a promotional agreement with Fight Promotions and DiBella Entertainment.

"With hard work and a great team behind me, I will become a world champion in the middleweight division. There is no doubt in my mind."

DiBella is happy to have the prospect on board.

"Sergiy is one of the most decorated amateurs in the world and 100 percent one of the best middleweight prospects in all of boxing," DiBella said. "We feel that in one year's time, he will be ready to compete at the highest level in boxing."
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.

Martinez expects KO of Cotto

May, 22, 2014
Middleweight champion Sergio Martinez believes his size and power will lead him to victory against former three-division titleholder Miguel Cotto when they meet June 7 (HBO PPV) in a much-anticipated showdown at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Cotto, who has won titles at junior middleweight, welterweight and junior welterweight, is seeking to become the first Puerto Rican boxer to win world titles in four weight classes. Martinez, the favorite, will be making the seventh defense of the lineal championship.

"I realize that Miguel does not have the same power at this weight that he had at 147, but I am the one that has the power in this case," Martinez said through a translator. "I am the power puncher of the two of us. But the most important fact in this fight is going to be the intelligence that I am going to be able to use in this fight.

"I think it will be a great fight for the fans, very good for boxing fans. It will be a fight that when I start to find my rhythm, my timing and the right distance, the fight will be over."

The fight will be contested at a catch weight of 159 pounds, one less than the division limit, which was one of the many concessions Martinez (51-2-2, 28 KOs) made to the smaller Cotto (38-4, 31 KOs), who is the bigger name and much more of an economic force.

"I'm sure that I will win the fight by knockout because I'm training in a very hard and intense way and with such motivation that every day I'm hitting harder, throwing more punches," said Martinez, who is coming off a 14-month layoff caused by a second right knee surgery following his last fight, a shaky decision win against Martin Murray in an Argentina homecoming bout.

"Whatever Cotto will do in the ring, doesn't matter to me. I don't care. What is important is for me to be the day of the fight in the same state that I'm working right now."

At the Garden, Martinez will be fighting in what is essentially Cotto's home arena, where he will be fighting for the ninth time and where the Puerto Rican fans give him tremendous support. This fight should be no different, especially because the fight is on the eve of the annual Puerto Rican Day parade in New York, a weekend on which Cotto usually fights.

But Martinez said he couldn't care less about Cotto's perceived home-turf advantage.

"As far as the judges are concerned -- they won't have to do much work that evening because this fight is definitely not going the distance," he said. "It will end before the scheduled number of rounds."