Dan Rafael: Shawn Porter

Brook, Khan camps in early talks

February, 27, 2015
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Amir KhanAlex Livesey/Getty ImagesAmir Khan could face Kell Brook in an all-British world title fight in June this year.

When Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao finally agreed to their May 2 megafight, the big loser was welterweight contender Amir Khan.

Had the fight not been made, Khan, a former unified junior welterweight titleholder, was a likely next opponent for either man. But now Khan is left to take a look at what’s behind door No. 3, and it’s not so bad: welterweight titleholder Kell Brook in a big-time all-British world title fight.

Obviously, that fight for Khan is not nearly as big as a fight with either Mayweather or Pacquiao would have been, but it is clearly the next-best thing that he can pursue, and according to Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn, the talks have begun.

“Just some friendly, initial talks,” Hearn said of his recent conversations with Khan’s team. “They are confident the fight will happen this year. I am pushing for it early June.”

For a Brook-Khan fight to become a reality that quickly, Brook will have to make sure he takes care of business when he makes his first title defense, a mandatory against Jo Jo Dan, on March 28 at Motorpoint Arena in Brook's hometown of Sheffield, England.

If Brook wins and does not suffer any cuts or injuries, a fight in June seems quite possible. Khan had hoped to fight Mayweather or Pacquiao in May, so waiting a few extra weeks for a fight with Brook should be no big deal.

Khan (30-3, 19 KOs) last fought on Dec. 13, turning in a sensational performance in a near-shutout of former titleholder Devon Alexander in Las Vegas.

Last month, Khan, 28, told ESPN.com that if he couldn’t get Mayweather or Pacquiao next that a fight with Brook was third on his wish list.

"It’s a big fight even if it isn’t as big as me against Manny or Floyd,” Khan said. “Kell Brook is very powerful, very strong. He’s kind of slick the way he fights. He puts his punches together quite well. Plus, it would be a massive U.K. fight. I think we could sell out Wembley. A fight between us has been talked about for a long time. It would bring a lot of money for him to fight me. But he’s my third choice.”

Brook (33-0, 22 KOs) won his 147-pound world title by majority decision against American Shawn Porter on Aug. 16 at StubHub Center in Carson, California. Brook, 28, was supposed to make his first title defense in December but he suffered a stab wound in his leg during an incident in September while he was on vacation in Spain, and his first defense was pushed back to March while he recovered.

Tarver, Smith join Spike TV's crew

February, 19, 2015
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Spike TV rounded out its broadcast team for the monthly “Premier Boxing Champions” series that adviser/manager Al Haymon has bought time on the network for.

Former light heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver, a Haymon client now campaigning as a heavyweight, and Jimmy Smith, known to the Spike TV audience as a commentator for the network’s coverage of Bellator mixed martial arts, will join host Dana Jacobson and blow-by-blow announcer Scott Hanson. Jacobson and Hanson were previously announced for the series.

The first Spike TV card is scheduled for March 13 (9 p.m. ET) at the Citizens Bank Arena in Ontario, California, and will be headlined by former welterweight titlist Andre Berto against Josesito Lopez, with former welterweight titleholder Shawn Porter taking on Robert Garcia in the co-feature. It is the first of nine cards this year, with 12 more on tap for each of the next two years.

“We are thrilled to add two dynamic and knowledgeable voices who each possess their own unique perspectives of combat sports,” said Spike TV senior vice president Jon Slusser. “Antonio delivers a huge personality with a championship pedigree, and Jimmy will bring his incredible insight and energy that he has for MMA to boxing.”

Tarver earned a reputation as one of boxing’s best color commentators while working as an analyst on Showtime, but the network fired him in 2012 after he tested positive for steroids following a Showtime-televised cruiserweight fight against Lateef Kayode. The dirty drug test also cost Tarver his analyst job with NBC, which had hired him to work on the network’s boxing coverage at the 2012 London Olympics.

“I’m blessed to be doing what I love,” Tarver said.

Besides his work as the color analyst for Spike TV’s Bellator coverage, Smith was an MMA fighter, turning pro in 2003. He went 5-1 before retiring in 2006 to focus on a television career. He joined Bellator in 2010 and has served as its lead color analyst since.

Spike TV targets Hanson to call fights

February, 10, 2015
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The deal has not yet been signed but Spike TV is in the process of finalizing its deal with broadcaster Scott Hanson to handle the blow-by-blow duties on its monthly Friday night telecasts of Al Haymon’s “Premier Boxing Champions” series, a source with knowledge of the agreement told ESPN.com.

[+] EnlargeScott Hanson
John Storey/AP ImagesNFL Network host Scott Hanson could handle the blow-by-blow duties for the PBC on Spike TV.
Hanson, 43, is best known for his work as a host on the NFL Network and the popular "Sunday NFL Red Zone." This will be Hanson’s first boxing assignment. A Spike TV spokesman declined to comment.

Prior to his start at the NFL Network, Hanson, a Syracuse University graduate, spent two years with Comcast SportsNet in Philadelphia and four years at Comcast’s Mid-Atlantic regional sports network.

Last week, Spike TV announced that former ESPN “SportsCenter” anchor Dana Jacobson would serve as the host for the series. The analyst roles have not yet been determined.

Spike TV’s first boxing card is March 13 at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California. The welterweight doubleheader will feature former titlist Andre Berto (29-3, 22 KOs) against Josesito Lopez (33-6, 19 KOs) in the main event with former titleholder Shawn Porter (24-1-1, 15 KOs) facing Roberto Garcia (36-3, 23 KOs) in the co-feature.

Spike TV and Haymon have a deal for nine cards this year and 12 apiece in 2016 and 2017.

Dana Jacobson to host PBC on Spike TV

February, 5, 2015
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A few notes from around the boxing world:

• Although there have been no announcements yet on the broadcast team for Spike TV’s telecasts of Al Haymon’s “Premier Boxing Champions” series, the host of the monthly cards will be Dana Jacobson, according to multiple sources with knowledge of her hiring. Female broadcasters in high-profile positions in boxing are rare. But Jacobson is an experienced broadcaster. She spent 10 years at ESPN working as a “SportsCenter” anchor and co-host of “First Take.” Jacobson currently works at CBS Sports Network on college football, basketball and the NFL and also worked the NFL playoffs for CBS.

Spike TV’s first boxing card is March 13 at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California. The welterweight doubleheader will feature former titlist Andre Berto (29-3, 22 KOs) against Josesito Lopez (33-6, 19 KOs) in the main event with former titleholder Shawn Porter (24-1-1, 15 KOs) facing Roberto Garcia (36-3, 23 KOs) in the co-feature.

• Heralded junior middleweight prospect Erickson Lubin (8-0, 6 KOs) of Orlando, Florida, was slated to face Rodolfo Quintanilla (14-4-3, 11 KOs) of Mexico in the eight-round co-feature on this week’s “Friday Night Fights” (ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, 9 ET) until Quintanilla was ruled out of the fight on Thursday when he failed his blood test. According to a source, he tested positive for hepatitis. The new plan is for Lubin to face Michael Finney (12-1-1, 10 KOs), who agreed to the fight and was on his way to the site, although he had not yet signed a contract. Finney had been training for another fight in a few weeks. To accommodate Finney taking the fight on short notice the weight limit was adjusted to 157 pounds. Middleweight contender Sergio Mora (27-3-2, 9 KOs) faces Abie Han (23-1, 14 KOs) in the main event.

• Although nothing came of it, middleweight champion Miguel Cotto recently engaged in talks with Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports about a possible deal, according to multiple sources. Cotto, although proclaiming loyalty to Top Rank, is a promotional free agent and a sought-after one as well given his stature in the sport. Cotto (39-4, 32 KOs) knocked out Sergio Martinez in the 10th round to win the middleweight title last June and has not fought since. His next move is unclear, but a proposed May fight with Canelo Alvarez fell apart. Cotto has also been prominently discussed as a possible Floyd Mayweather Jr. opponent in a rematch should the talks for a Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight in May fall apart yet again.
Welterweight titlist Kell Brook will make his first defense on March 28 at the Motorpoint Arena in his hometown of Sheffield, England, Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn announced on Monday.

But Hearn likes the slow build so he only announced the date and venue on Monday. If you want to know the opponent Brook will face, that will be another announcement, which will come at a news conference in Sheffield (and by press release) on Thursday.

Brook (33-0, 22 KOs), who was the mandatory challenger, outpointed Shawn Porter in Carson, California, to claim the title in August. Brook’s first defense was initially slated to take place late last year, but was canceled after Brook, 28, suffered a stab wound while on vacation in Spain in September.

News and notes from the WBO convention

October, 31, 2014
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The 27th annual WBO convention wrapped up on Thursday at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. The most significant activity at any sanctioning body convention comes on rankings and mandatory day, which is when the floor is open for promoters to make their cases for their boxers to receive favorable rankings. The organizations also will typically go over each division's title status and make any necessary rulings.

Here's an update with a few notable items from the convention, division by division:

• Super middleweight: Although the WBO declined to order a mandatory rematch between titlist Arthur Abraham and Paul Smith in the wake of Abraham's controversial decision win on Sept. 27, it said the fighters likely will face off in an optional rematch in February. It's no secret that their promoters have been in talks.

• Middleweight: The Nov. 29 fight between Billy Joe Saunders and Chris Eubank Jr. was sanctioned as the final eliminator to produce the mandatory challenger for the winner of the Dec. 13 vacant title bout between Matt Korobov and Andy Lee.

• Welterweight: Former welterweight titlist Shawn Porter, who held another organization's belt, and former junior welterweight titlist Mike Alvarado requested to rankings in the welterweight division, which are likely to be granted.

• Junior welterweight: In a surprise move, the WBO announced that titleholder Chris Algieri, who challenges welterweight titlist Manny Pacquiao on Nov. 22, will have his belt vacated with the commencement of the fight with Pacquiao -- rather than be able to pick a division to defend in should he win or have the ability to return to junior welterweight to defend if he loses.

• Junior lightweight: Titleholder Orlando Salido may go to Russia to defend against Andrey Klimov, but whomever he fights he expects to defend in February or March.

• Junior featherweight: The organization said it would sanction a bout for the vacant interim title. Full titleholder Guillermo Rigondeaux had been ordered to face mandatory challenger Chris Avalos. Rigondeaux's team won a purse bid, but Avalos, also mandatory in the IBF, elected to go that route for a bigger fight with titlist Carl Frampton. So the WBO wants the winner of the interim title bout -- participants TBA -- to face Rigondeaux in a mandatory fight. It's pretty silly to sanction the interim title bout if that's the reason. The WBO should either go down its rankings until it finds somebody willing to accept the mandatory assignment against Rigondeaux or it should order the top contenders to fight and call it a title eliminator, not an interim title bout.

• Junior bantamweight: Titleholder Omar Narvaez will defend in December, but no date or opponent was specified.

• Junior flyweight: Titleholder Donnie Nietes will defend his belt against Carlos Velarde on Nov. 15 in the Philippines, but after that Nietes plans to go up to flyweight, which would leave the junior flyweight belt vacant.

Hearn: Brook-Khan discussions begin

August, 21, 2014
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Newly crowned welterweight titlist Kell Brook is getting a hero's welcome in his hometown of Sheffield, England.

Brook won a well-deserved majority decision against Shawn Porter on Saturday night in Carson, California, to claim a 147-pound world title and thrust himself onto the world stage.

The 28-year-old Brook (33-0, 22 KOs) is set to address fans and media Friday at the Winter Garden in Sheffield. Members of Team Brook will be greeted by Councillor Peter Rippon, who is the mayor of Sheffield, at town hall before Brook, trainer Dominic Ingle and promoter Eddie Hearn will address the media and fans. Brook will also sign autographs.

“I am so proud to be bringing the title back to Sheffield,” Brook said. “The people have always supported me so passionately from day one, and I am sure that they all stayed up to see me win the title. I am looking forward to thanking them on Friday, and I hope there’s a great turnout.”

While Brook basks in the glory of the title victory, Hearn is already making plans for his first title defense. He said it will take place Dec. 6 in Sheffield against an opponent to be determined.

“He came of age in that ring, and great things lie in wait for him, including [a fight with countryman] Amir Khan,” Hearn wrote in his Daily Mail column. “I am looking at next spring or summer in a fight, maybe at Wembley, that will be just as big as [Carl] Froch-George Groves. I’ve started talks on it.”

Hearn said that Khan, a former unified junior welterweight titlist now at welterweight, is interested in the fight and “we are, too. People from Showtime, who show Khan’s fights in the U.S., came into the dressing room after Kell won and said ‘Let’s talk.’ Other U.S. broadcasters have also been on -- it’s exciting times.

“I think this [Brook-Khan] fight can be made, but people have to put arrogance and ego to one side. Before, when we offered Khan 3 million pounds to fight, he didn’t fancy it. Kell had a reasonable name and no title. He has a huge name and a world title now. That changes the negotiating position a lot, but this is such a big fight, everyone can do well out of it. So long as Khan doesn’t demand an unrealistic split, we should make it happen. I want to make this fight, and I think it will be huge. Maybe Floyd Mayweather will feature down the line. Kell is certainly in that reckoning now.”

Hearn said that besides Khan, other names he has in mind as possible opponents for Brook on Dec. 6 include former titlist Andre Berto (if he wins on Sept. 6), Juan Manuel Marquez, Brandon Rios and Josesito Lopez.

“[They] are all names being thrown in the pot, but it is very early days,” he said. “We will talk over the options and go from there. Kell has a great future and I am so happy for him.”

Brook is in a great position in that he is not aligned with HBO, Showtime, Top Rank or Al Haymon, which means a Brook fight against any top welterweight faces no impediments since Hearn is able to make a deal with any of those entities.
Omar Figueroa and Daniel EstradaCarlos Delgado/Hoganphotos/Golden Boy PromotionsOmar Figueroa, right, defends his lightweight title against Daniel Estrada on Saturday.

Lightweight titlist Omar Figueroa Jr. is one of boxing’s most exciting performers. He loves to rumble, rarely takes a backward step and throws tons of hard punches.

But one thing that has hampered him is hand problems, something that often takes its toll on powerful punchers.

Although Figueroa says his hands are fine as he heads into his second title defense when he faces mandatory challenger Daniel Estrada (32-2-1, 24 KOs), 29, of Mexico, on the undercard of the Shawn Porter-Kell Brook welterweight title bout Saturday night (Showtime, 9 ET with preliminary bouts on Showtime Extreme beginning at 7 ET/PT) at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, he knows that anything can happen at any moment with his fragile hands.

"My hands will always be an issue,” Figueroa said. “We will find out how long they last me on Saturday. I hope they last me long enough to get rid of my opponent. If not, then I will have to suck it up.”

Figueroa (23-0-1, 17 KOs), 24, of Weslaco, Texas, has sucked it up before, one of the things that makes him such a fan favorite.

When he battled Japan’s Nihito Arakawa in an interim title fight in 13 months ago, Figueroa won a decision in one of the most savage fights of the year. Making Figueroa’s victory even more impressive was the fact that he injured both his hands in the bout.

The injury kept him out of the ring for nine months before he returned April 26 to make his first defense, a split decision against Jerry Belmontes, his amateur rival.

Golden Boy Promotions president Oscar De La Hoya, Figueroa’s promoter, knows what it’s like to have hand injuries. He had his share during his Hall of Fame career.

De La Hoya was fortunate that his hand problems never became severe enough to seriously hamper his career and he is hoping the same thing for Figueroa.

“He’s a terrific fighter and he loves throwing punches, but when you go in the ring with an AK-47 but with no bullets, it’s a big problem. He can continue to fight but the next step is to get him with the right doctors.

“Many fighters have had problems with their hands but when you get them with the right doctors it can help the situation. It’s a matter of making sure he does the right therapy and is going to the right doctor. Maybe he hasn’t done the therapy on his hands the right way. It could be a problem with the wrapping of his hands. We have to sit down with him after the fight and figure out the problem, but he has a bright future if his hands hold up.”

To train for the fight with Estrada -- who will have close adviser and future Hall of Famer Juan Manuel Marquez working in his corner -- Figueroa did not train in California with Joel Diaz, as he had been.

"The reason why I moved back home and started training with my dad [Omar Sr.] was mainly because I wanted to be close to my daughter. I missed her terribly when I wasn't home,” Figueroa said. “I wasn't able to take advantage of the things that were presented to me by training with Joel Diaz because of my [sore] hands, so I decided to just stay home. If I wasn't able to get the world-class sparring and training, then what was I doing being away from my family? Leaving Joel Diaz had nothing to do with him, I love him. It was solely a personal decision.

"My dad grinds my gears. It can be a bit rocky. But with the knowledge I brought over from training with Joel Diaz it can make me grow as a boxer and my dad will grow as a trainer.”

Ruiz to face faded Liakhovich

August, 14, 2014
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A few notes from the boxing world:

" Heavyweight prospect Andy Ruiz Jr. (22-0, 16 KOs), 24, will headline a card on Sept. 20 (UniMas) in Phoenix against former world titleholder Sergei Liakhovich (26-6, 16 KOs), who lives in Arizona. Although Liakhovich is the first name opponent of Ruiz’s career, he is badly diminished. The 38-year-old, who is originally from Belarus, has lost three of his last four fights with each defeat coming by knockout, although he won his most recent fight by eight-round decision against the unknown Chad Davis, who was 5-11. When Liakhovich faced Deontay Wilder last August, Wilder knocked him out so severely in the first round that Liakhovich was on the canvas convulsing.

" Although there is no opponent set yet, the HBO target date for middleweight titleholder Gennady Golovkin’s next fight is Oct. 18. Golovkin (30-0, 27 KOs) retained his title for the 11th time on July 26, destroying former titlist Daniel Geale by third-round knockout.

" HBO announced that “The Fight Game With Jim Lampley,” a 30-minute boxing studio show that covers the top fights and issues in the sport, will return for a four-show run beginning Sept. 16 with additional episodes on Oct. 28, Nov. 18 and Dec. 23.

“I am excited to hit the ground running in September and deliver four more shows during what promises to be a robust time in the boxing season,” said Lampley, HBO’s blow-by-blow commentator. “We will continue to explore hot-button issues, sprinkle in some entertaining elements, and deliver comprehensive unfiltered discussion and analysis of the sport on this platform.”

" One week after claiming a vacant secondary middleweight title on Showtime, Daniel Jacobs, who knocked out Jarrod Fletcher in the fifth round at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, will be ringside to serve as a guest analyst for the network’s tripleheader topped by the mandatory fight between welterweight titlist Shawn Porter and Kell Brook from the StubHub Center in Carson, California, on Saturday night (9 ET/PT).

“How cool is that? Fighting one week on one coast on Showtime and then announcing the fights the very next week on Showtime from the other coast,” said Jacobs, who will sit in for regular analyst Paulie Malignaggi, who will miss the card for family reasons. “I love this. I think announcing fits me. To be able to do something like this, to be in this position, is very important to me. Other fighters have done it as well, of course, but for me to be able to follow in their footsteps is an honor. It shows that we can not only announce fights, but we can be good at it."

Welterweight titlist Shawn Porter has a tough assignment in mandatory challenger Kell Brook (32-0, 22 KOs) of England on Saturday night at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.

But if Porter (24-0-1, 15 KOs) prevails, one of the best fights that could be made in the division would be to match him vs. interim titleholder Keith “One Time” Thurman.

Thurman (23-0, 21 KOs) is sidelined at the moment nursing a shoulder injury, but he is expected back in action in October, not against Porter.

But if Porter wins Saturday (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET with preliminary bouts on Showtime Extreme beginning at 7 p.m. ET/PT) and Thurman comes through his October fight, a Porter-Thurman showdown in early 2015 would be something to get excited about.

Both are in the vast stable of adviser Al Haymon, so the fight could be made easily. And you can bank on this: Showtime would be an interested buyer.

So what about it? Porter was enthusiastic about the possibility of facing Thurman.

“I'll fight ‘One Time’ two times,” Porter said. “I don't look past what's in front of me. Again, we've seen it all over the internet, all over the media wavelengths -- everybody wants that fight. I think it'd be an exciting fight, and it's a fight that I wouldn't turn down.”

Dan Birmingham, Thurman’s trainer, recently told ESPN.com that he thinks the fight will eventually happen. Like everyone else, he thinks it would be a good one.

“I think that fight is inevitable,” Birmingham said. “We know those guys, Shawn and his dad [Kenny Porter]. We have had Shawn in our camp before and we’re friends with them, but this is also business. We all know they might have to fight. When they do, it’ll be a great fight.”

Wilder, Linares in very soft fights

August, 8, 2014
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Heavyweight contender Deontay Wilder and lightweight contender Jorge Linares now have opponents for their fights on the Aug. 16 Shawn Porter-Kell Brook undercard at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.

Wilder (31-0, 31 KOs) is staying busy in anticipation of a mandatory heavyweight title shot against Bermane Stiverne and taking no gambles.

Wilder, a 2008 U.S. Olympic bronze medalist, who has faced extremely soft opposition throughout his career, will face gargantuan underdog Jason Gavern (25-16-4, 11 KOs), 37, who has won four of his last five fights following a seven-fight losing streak. He has been knocked out in seven of his losses. In his last fight, Gavern lost a three-round decision to Michael Sprott in a “Prizefighter” tournament final in England in November after winning a three-round decision against the totally shot James Toney in the semifinals earlier in the evening.

Linares (36-3, 23 KOs), a former featherweight and junior lightweight world titleholder, will face club fighter Ira Terry (26-11, 16 KOs), who is 2-9 with a no contest in his last 12 bouts. He has been knocked out in seven of his defeats. Linares is staying busy in anticipation of a possible shot against the winner of the fight between lightweight titlist Omar Figueroa and mandatory challenger Daniel Estrada, which is also on the card.

Injured Thurman poised for return

August, 6, 2014
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If you have been wondering where Keith Thurman has been you are not alone. I too was curious what has been going on with the talented and crowd-pleasing interim welterweight titleholder.

After all, he is a 25-year-old on the rise and has looked sensational in his recent fights, but he has only fought once so far this year, a one-sided third-round blowout of faded former lightweight titlist Julio Diaz.

[+] EnlargeKeith Thurman, Julio Diaz
AP Photo/Jae C. HongUnbeaten interim welterweight titlist Keith Thurman is looking at an October return after nursing a left shoulder injury.
As it turns out, Thurman has been nursing a left shoulder injury. In fact, the plan had been for him to fight on the Showtime PPV undercard of the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Marcos Maidana rematch on Sept. 13 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. However, because of the shoulder problem, he's not expected back in the ring until October, trainer Dan Birmingham told ESPN.com on Wednesday.

"Keith should be back to full training in about two weeks," Birmingham said. "He has a strained labrum. He's feeling good now and doing some light work and running. We didn't want to rush anything before he goes back into camp so he has been in the gym doing leg stuff, but not working on his upper body because of the shoulder."

Birmingham said that Thurman (23-0, 21 KOs), of Clearwater, Florida, had an MRI on his shoulder about three weeks ago and that there was no tear, so the recommendation from his doctor was to rest for another month or so.

At that point, rather than rush back into a fight without being 100 percent, the decision was made not to fight on the Mayweather-Maidana II card, Birmingham said.

"But in the last few days [Thurman adviser] Al [Haymon] told us we would have a [Showtime] date in October," Birmingham said. "We don't have the date nailed down yet or an opponent, but Keith will be back in October. I don't want to speculate on an opponent, but Roberto Garcia, who just signed with Al, might make a good opponent. He has got a great record and he's a good fighter."

Birmingham said that eventually he believes that Thurman will meet Shawn Porter, another talented undefeated welterweight in the Haymon stable. There has been a lot of talk about that potential fight, but Porter, of course, must defeat Kell Brook in a mandatory title defense on Aug. 16. Even if it does happen, it's probably a couple of fights away.

"I think that fight is inevitable," Birmingham said of Porter-Thurman. "We know those guys, Shawn and his dad [Kenny Porter]. We have Shawn in our camp before and we're friends with them, but this is also business. We all know they might have to fight. When they do, it'll be a great fight."
Shawn Porter Rob Carr/Getty ImagesShawn Porter will defend his welterweight title on Aug. 16 against Kell Brook in Carson, California.
Unless a promoter is being paid a site fee for a fight -- typically by a casino -- the promoter usually will look to hold the card in a venue where he can sell the most tickets and, thus, maximize revenue.

That's why, for example, Miguel Cotto fights in New York's Madison Square Garden so often, why Top Rank took lightweight titlist Terence Crawford home to Omaha for his first defense last month and why Golden Boy loads up its cards at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, with New York fighters.

So when Golden Boy announced that its excellent Aug. 16 Showtime tripleheader would be at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, I was a bit surprised.

Don't get me wrong -- StubHub Center is one of the best boxing venues in the country. There have been numerous great fights there in its relatively short history.

But the Aug. 16 card features welterweight titlist Shawn Porter (from Akron, Ohio) against Kell Brook (England), super middleweight titlist Sakio Bika (Australia) against Anthony Dirrell (Flint, Michigan) and lightweight titlist Omar Figueroa (Weslaco, Texas) against Daniel Estrada (Mexico).

They are all solid and worthy matchups, but not a single bout has any local tie to Southern California and none of the fighters is a remotely notable ticket seller in the region.

So I asked Golden Boy president Oscar De La Hoya why he put the show in a place that didn't seem to make much sense given the composition of the card. I was not surprised when De La Hoya made the case for the StubHub Center, which is an outdoor tennis arena that holds about 8,000 for boxing.

"The StubHub Center was a perfect fit for this type of card," De La Hoya said. "As you know, StubHub Center has the reputation of staging some of the best fights in recent years. We saw [Robert] Guerrero and [Yoshihiro] Kamegai, which was a tremendous, tremendous fight [on June 21]. When putting this event together, the StubHub Center was the first choice. The fact that you have no local fighters does not matter.

"I feel that the fans in Los Angeles who will be attending are just accustomed to watching some great fights no matter where they're from, and the fact that the fighters will be performing at the StubHub Center, there's a bit of added pressure for every single fighter because you must perform. It reminds me kind of like the 'Thunderdome' movie with Mel Gibson. I mean, you have to fight there, you have to. The atmosphere is great. The fans are expecting great fights and I believe this is what Kell Brook and Shawn Porter and every fighter on the card will give us -- a tremendous, tremendous fight."

Indeed, the StubHub Center has been home to some modern classics besides Guerrero-Kamegai. It has also hosted such great fights as Israel Vazquez-Rafael Marquez I and III (the 2008 fight of the year), Timothy Bradley Jr.-Ruslan Provodnikov (the 2013 fight of the year), Lucas Matthysse-John Molina (a strong 2014 fight of the year contender), Brandon Rios-Mike Alvarado I, Erislandy Lara-Alfredo Angulo and Marcos Maidana-Josesito Lopez (on the same card in June 2013) and Paul Williams-Antonio Margarito.

Here's hoping at least one of the fights on Aug. 16 joins that list.
When welterweight titlist Shawn Porter and mandatory challenger Kell Brook agreed to their fight they also agreed to undergo random drug testing -- blood and urine -- that would be overseen by United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).

However, neither fighter had been tested as of last week, raising questions about what was going on for a fight that is scheduled for Aug. 16 (Showtime) at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.

Even Golden Boy Promotions president Oscar De La Hoya and Porter were a bit confused about what was up with the testing when they spoke to the media on a teleconference about the fight last week, and I asked about the drug testing protocol.

“Well, the drug testing was handled through [Golden Boy vice president] Eric Gomez and through [Porter adviser] Al Haymon,” De La Hoya said. “There is a drug testing in place, which the fighters should already have been taking, and going through the process.”

Porter, however, said he had not yet been tested and was expecting it.

“Well, boxing, you roll with the punches. ... I just know that we are supposed to be testing,” Porter said.

Gomez explained what happened in an email, saying the issue happened because the fight was originally scheduled for Sept. 6 but was moved up to Aug. 16. He also assured that there would be testing over the final few weeks before the fight.

“In order to use USADA, they need at least six weeks to get all the required documents and testing done,” Gomez said. “When the date changed to Aug. 16, there wasn’t enough time. We then, collectively [Golden Boy and Brook promoter Matchroom Boxing], agreed to have the California State Athletic Commission handle the testing. The UCLA Olympic Analytical Laboratory, through the [California] Department of Consumer Affairs, will handle the testing for us. They start testing this week.”

Gomez said the testing would include blood and urine, although he was unsure if it would follow the exact protocol that USADA uses.

Porter (24-0-1, 15 KOs), 26, of Akron, Ohio, will be making his second defense when he faces Brook (32-0, 22 KOs), 28, of England.
Welterweight contender Kell Brook isn’t the only British fighter headed to the StubHub Center in Carson, California, to fight on Aug. 16.

Two of his Matchroom Boxing stablemates -- lightweight Luke Campbell and super middleweight Callum Smith -- will be joining him, promoter Eddie Hearn announced on Friday.

Brook, the mandatory challenger, will face world titleholder Shawn Porter in the main event of the Showtime card.

Campbell (6-0, 4 KOs), 26, a 2012 London Olympics gold medalist, and Smith (12-0, 9 KOs), 24, two of England’s best prospects, will both face opponents to be determined.

"I’m delighted to be able to get Luke and Callum their first taste of action in America as pros," Hearn said. "I believe both fighters will be a real hit with both fans and pundits across the pond, and I expect that they will both return there in the future in world-title fights.

"It's all part of the development of our great, young fighters. New experiences, new atmospheres, all part of making them the finished articles. It’s also a great bonus for Kell’s traveling fans to see two rising stars from Britain perform on such a massive stage."

Golden Boy is promoting the card, but undoubtedly part of the deal to avoid a purse bid was for Hearn to get some spots for his fighters on the undercard.

In addition to Porter-Brook, there are two other world-title bouts on the card. Omar Figueroa defends his lightweight belt against Daniel Estrada, and super middleweight titleholder Sakio Bika meets Anthony Dirrell in a rematch of their draw.

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