Dan Rafael: Tavoris Cloud

Kovalev-Pascal undercard in the works

December, 30, 2014
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Promoters Main Events and InterBox are working on the undercard for the fight between unified light heavyweight titleholder Sergey Kovalev (26-0-1, 23 KOs) and former champion Jean Pascal (29-2-1, 17 KOs), which will take place March 14 at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Pascal’s hometown. HBO is hoping to put on a tripleheader.

Main Events CEO Kathy Duva told ESPN.com that she hopes that one of the bouts will pit light heavyweight Isaac Chilemba (23-2-2, 10 KOs), 27, of South Africa, against red-hot prospect Artur Beterbiev (7-0, 7 KOs), 29, the two-time Russian Olympian now living in Montreal who drilled former titleholder Tavoris Could in the second round in September.

Duva said it’s a fight HBO wants, adding that Chilemba has agreed to take the match. Duva said she is waiting to hear back from Beterbiev promoter Yvon Michel to see if they are interested.

Duva is also hoping to finalize another bout for the broadcast, one she’s been working on since the main event was announced made several weeks ago, a heavyweight title eliminator between Vyacheslav “Czar” Glazkov (19-0-1, 12 KOs), 30, a 2008 Olympic bronze medalist from Ukraine, and Philadelphia’s Steve Cunningham (28-6, 13 KO), 38, a former two-time cruiserweight titleholder.

Stevenson due back in April

December, 22, 2014
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Light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson’s fourth title defense against Dmitry Sukhotsky on Friday night in Quebec City proved little other than to reinforce what we already know -- Stevenson, a southpaw, has awesome power in his left hand.

He used it to score four knockdowns in a one-sided fifth-round blowout to finish his forgettable year, which consisted of wins against big underdog Andrzej Fonfara, against whom he got dropped and struggled mightily to a decision win, and the destruction of no-hoper Sukhotsky.

It wasn’t exactly what Stevenson’s breakout 2013 campaign was like, when he was a big-time fighter of the year contender thanks to four knockout victories as he avenged his only loss against Darnell Boone, scored a 76-second demolition of Chad Dawson to win the world title and notched impressive stoppages of former titlist Tavoris Cloud and mandatory challenger Tony Bellew in his first two defenses.

In 2014, Stevenson (25-1, 21 KOs) was a disappointment, mainly because of the opposition he faced, especially when significant fights were on the table: unification bouts with Sergey Kovalev and Bernard Hopkins and an all-Montreal showdown with former champ Jean Pascal.

It does not look to get much better, at least out of the gate for 2015. Although the WBC made the unusual move of appointing the March 14 Kovalev-Pascal winner (who will have three belts) as Stevenson’s mandatory challenger -- organizations do not rank titleholders from other alphabet bodies -- I wouldn’t take the match to the bank no matter how much Stevenson claims to want to fight the winner. Of course, he had ample opportunity to face either guy in 2014 and for a lot of money.

Even if the fight was to get made, it would not be until the second half of the year because the Kovalev-Pascal winner is obligated to make a mandatory against Nadjib Mohammedi (36-3, 22 KOs) next.

So with that in mind, Stevenson promoter Yvon Michel (perhaps with input from Stevenson adviser Al Haymon) is planning for Stevenson’s next fight to take place on April 4.

Just don’t expect a big name. One possibility is a rematch with Fonfara (26-3, 15 KOs), who signed with Haymon after Stevenson beat him in May.

“Fonfara is a very tough fighter. [He] would be a very good opponent,” Michel told ESPN.com.

Leon Margules, Fonfara’s promoter, said there have been no discussions about it, but it’s a fight he would like to make.

“My fighter’s goal is to get the rematch. He would love a rematch,” Margules said. “I think he would win. He’s a better fighter now. He learned from the fight in May. It was a great experience for him. I don’t think he’s gonna be worse. It’s a very compelling fight. He’s been the only one who has handled Stevenson’s power since he knocked out Dawson. Nobody else has come close to handling Stevenson. We just ran out of rounds.”

Michel said another fighter he would like to match Stevenson with is Nadjib Mohammedi.

“If I had my way, we would be fighting Nadjib Mohammedi for the next fight if he was game enough,” Michel said. “He qualified himself for a world title against Kovalev, so he would be granted one, and that way it would clear the path for the winner between Kovalev versus Pascal to fight the winner of Stevenson versus Mohammedi without unnecessary delays. This is me. I have not spoken to Adonis, Al or the people controlling the Frenchman [Main Events], but I will bring that up. This is my wish and my proposal.”

Beterbiev dominates, stops Cloud

September, 28, 2014
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Artur Beterbiev, Tavoris CloudEric Bolte/USA TODAY SportsArtur Beterbiev, right, needed less than two rounds to stop former light heavyweight titlist Tavoris Cloud.

Either former light heavyweight titlist Tavoris Cloud is totally shot and finished as a meaningful fighter or Artur Beterbiev is the real deal and a potential new star on the world boxing scene.

The reality is it’s probably a bit of both but, wow, was Beterbiev impressive blowing away Cloud in the second round of a four-knockdown complete destruction on Saturday night at the Bell Centre in Montreal.

However shot you might think Cloud is, Beterbiev’s performance was still eye-catching.

Cloud (24-3, 19 KOs) is only 32, but he looks just about done after losing his third fight in a row in the most lopsided fashion yet. He may have lost two previous fights, but he didn’t get destroyed like this.

In the two losses that preceded the loss to Beterbiev, Cloud lasted into the seventh round challenging light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson last September before getting stopped. In the fight before that, Cloud lost his belt and his first fight to the great Bernard Hopkins in a one-sided decision in March 2013. But Beterbiev (6-0, 6 KOs) laid waste to Cloud. And he did it quickly and ruthlessly.

Those who have followed Beterbiev know that he has vast potential. Still, there’s a difference between having the p-word and actually living up to it. So far, Beterbiev, who is 29 but didn’t turn pro until June 2013, is living up to his billing as the bluest of blue-chip prospects.

His amateur background is impressive. Beterbiev, who now makes Montreal his home, was a 2008 and 2012 Russian Olympian, a 2009 world amateur champion, and owns a pair of amateur wins against countryman and light heavyweight titleholder Sergey Kovalev, one of the most destructive forces in boxing today.

As a pro, Beterbiev’s opposition pre-Cloud was nothing too much to write home about. Only one of his first five opponents had a winning record (and barely). Three had sub-.500 records. One opponent was .500. Still even watching him against lesser opponents it was obvious that he had talent and a certain ferocity about him. Promoter Yvon Michel, who has promoted some top fighters in his time and been around for many years, has called him special. He just might be right after seeing what he did to Cloud.

What he did to him was knock him down to a knee with an onslaught of head shots, including a nasty uppercut, with 42 seconds left in the first round. An onslaught of rights and left sent him to the mat 20 seconds later and yet another series of blows dropped him for the third time right at the bell ending the round.

Cloud was basically finished at that point. He was brave to come out for the second round but he had nothing. Beterbiev immediately attacked him, backed him into a corner and was swinging heavy shots. He connected with two booming left hooks to the head and Cloud went down face first, getting counted out by referee Michael Griffin 38 seconds into the round.

It was undoubtedly the end of Cloud’s career as a meaningful fighter but also the exciting birth of Beterbiev’s position as the possible future of the light heavyweight division.

Light heavyweight Beterbiev on fast track

August, 28, 2014
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Light heavyweight Artur Beterbiev was a decorated amateur who twice competed on the Russian Olympic team (2008 and 20012), won a gold medal at the 2009 world amateur championships and twice defeated Russian destroyer Sergey "Krusher" Kovalev in the unpaid ranks.

Now living in Laval, Quebec, the 29-year-old Beterbiev (5-0, 5 KOs), who turned pro 14 months ago, is on the super fast track.

After making his pro debut in a four-rounder and then fighting scheduled six-rounders in his next four bouts, Beterbiev is stepping up to a scheduled 12-round fight for a regional title against former world titleholder Tavoris Cloud (24-2, 19 KOs).

Cloud, 32, is still regarded by many as a top-10 light heavyweight despite back-to-back losses, a decision that cost him his title against Bernard Hopkins in March 2013 followed by a seventh-round knockout loss challenging champion Adonis Stevenson in Montreal last September.

Beterbiev, whose wife gave birth to their third child a few weeks ago, will meet Cloud on Sept. 27 at the Bell Centre in Montreal, promoter Yvon Michel announced Wednesday.

Cloud, who may not be what he once was, has vast professional experience, good power and a good chin. But Michel is convinced that Beterbiev is the next big thing. This fight should go a long way to making that determination.

"Artur Beterbiev is an extremely special talent and we have a boundless confidence in his abilities," Michel said. "It is unheard of for a fighter with only five fights of professional experience to headline an event at the Bell Centre against an opponent the caliber of Cloud."

Stevenson, Cloud stay on target

August, 31, 2013
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Adonis StevensonRichard Wolowicz/Getty ImagesLight heavyweight champ Adonis Stevenson is on weight for his Sept. 28 defense with Tavoris Cloud.
With a month to go before light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson defends his title against former titleholder Tavoris Cloud on Sept. 28 (HBO) at the Bell Centre in Montreal, both fighters are on target to make the 175-pound weight limit.

Stevenson (21-1, 18 KOs) and Cloud (24-1, 19 KOs) both submitted to their required 30-day weight check and were well inside the limit.

They could have weighed as much as 193 pounds, but at his training camp in Traverse City, Mich., Stevenson was 186 pounds while Cloud, at his Ocala, Fla., training camp, was 188.

They will also be required to check their weight seven days ahead of the fight and can be no more than 184 pounds, which doesn't appear will be an issue for either.

Stevenson won the title in sensational fashion, drilling Chad Dawson with a booming left hand in just 76 seconds on June 8 and will be making his first defense against Cloud.

Cloud lost his version of the title in his last fight, getting taken to school by the master, Bernard Hopkins, in a decision loss on March 9.

Haye-Fury finds U.S. TV home

August, 27, 2013
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Tyson Fury, David HayeClive Rose/Getty ImagesAmerican fans will be able to watch the David Haye-Tyson Fury fight on TV.

Since the fight was made it was unclear where American fans could watch the very interesting all-British heavyweight showdown between rising heavyweight contender Tyson Fury and former titleholder David Haye, which takes place on Sept. 28 in Manchester, England.

Worry no more.

HBO has made a deal for the American rights and will broadcast the scheduled 12-round fight between Fury and Haye, who have talked smack throughout the promotion, as part of an unprecedented tripleheader from three countries.

“Haye versus Fury is going to be entertaining,” said HBO Sports president Ken Hershman, who decided to go after the fight even though he already had two other bouts scheduled from two other locations. “It features two heavyweights who as much as they want to win also don't want to lose to this fighter in particular.”

The network has televised plenty of split-site doubleheaders in its 40 years of boxing coverage, but this will be the first time it has had three fights from three locations.

"HBO subscribers love big events and that is what we plan on delivering on Sept. 28. Three exciting bouts from three different countries,” Hershman said.

I agree with him. After opening with Haye-Fury on a few hours’ delay (no decision has been made yet whether HBO will also air it live in the afternoon), the telecast will shift to Montreal for light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson’s first defense against former titlist Tavoris Cloud followed by former middleweight titleholder Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.’s return to the ring after a year off to face Brian Vera in a super middleweight fight from Carson, Calif.

When Fury-Haye was announced, I thought the card might end up headlining an independent afternoon pay-per-view. Fury promoter Mick Hennessy was in talks trying to make a deal and it made sense, because I didn’t think HBO would have room to accommodate a third fight coming from Europe.

I’m glad I was wrong. As Hershman said, and I couldn’t agree more: “Great value night for boxing fans.”

All three of these fights have a chance to be highly entertaining and I’m glad to see Hershman go all in on a tripleheader that, while it could be logistically complicated, has a real chance to deliver in triplicate.

Uncertainty for Ward, Rigo, Chavez

August, 15, 2013
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Andre WardAP Photo/Jeff ChiuWith no opponent and time running out to promote the date, Andre Ward will not fight on Sept. 28.
One thing is certain for Sept. 28: light heavyweight champ Adonis Stevenson is scheduled to make his first defense against former titleholder Tavoris Cloud in an HBO main event from the Bell Centre in Montreal.

I really like the fight and don't care that Cloud is coming off a points loss to Bernard Hopkins because, first off, there's no shame in being outboxed by a master like Hopkins. Second of all, Stevenson-Cloud should be a hard-hitting scrap. Besides, after the way Stevenson disposed of Chad Dawson to win the title with a sensational first-round knockout in June who wouldn't want to see "Superman" in action?

So we've got a very good fight that night. The question, however, is what the heck is up with the other televised fight?

Initially, the plan was for HBO to have a split-site doubleheader including the Montreal fight and a fight from San Jose, Calif., featuring super middleweight champ Andre Ward in his first action in a year due to shoulder surgery.

But HBO and Ward promoter Dan Goossen have spent most of the summer battling back and forth over an opponent.
Goossen had a deal in place for Ward to face Dimitri Sartison, a former titlist of the tissue paper variety with zero name recognition in the United States, not to mention about zero chance to win. Rightfully, HBO rejected the fight.

There was also an effort to match Ward with hot contender Edwin Rodriguez, a fight Goossen probably could have been convinced to make. Among the reasons the fight didn't come to pass is because Rodriguez was not available fight in September and began making other plans anyway.

Now Ward is no longer fighting in September. The exact reason is unclear. Maybe it was a continuing lack of opponent or because time was running short to mount a promotion. Whatever it is, Ward is on ice a bit longer.

"Everything was geared to fight Sept. 28 but HBO wanted to move us to another date," Goossen told me this week. "That's what I am working on now."

And Ward told me, declining to get into specifics, "I can tell you the 28th is no longer a possibility. I just know the 28th for me is not an option anymore. [There is] a lot going on at the moment."

I did ask Ward if the delay had anything to do with his shoulder or any other injury and he said it wasn't the case.

"No injury. I'm ready to go," Ward said. "I've been ready for a while now. It's the business end of things. It will work itself out shortly."

With Ward off the show, I was told by multiple sources that HBO, which had previously shown no interest in putting junior featherweight champ Guillermo Rigondeaux back on the air after his less-than-crowd-pleasing victory against Nonito Donaire in their April unification fight, had approved adding him as the televised co-feature in Montreal.

When HBO told Top Rank about that, Top Rank made Rigondeaux an offer and was proposing that he face Chris Avalos. That would probably be a massive mismatch, but it never really went any further. It's unclear exactly what happened, but depending on who you talk to, either Top Rank quickly pulled the offer or Rigondeaux declined it because it was supposedly for less money than the minimum purse in his contract.

Whatever happened, it was right around the time everything went down with Rigondeaux that Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. suffered a cut training for his super middleweight fight with Brian Vera on Sept. 7 in Los Angeles, causing Top Rank to postpone the whole card.

(By the way, in the photo circulated of Chavez's cut, it looked like a paper cut and not nearly anything severe enough to cancel a fight still a month away, leading many, myself included, to speculate that the cut made for a perfect excuse to delay a fight for which Chavez was not even remotely close to the 168-pound weight limit. But I digress.)

Chavez tweeted the other day that his fight would be rescheduled for Sept. 28 at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. If true, that would return HBO to its original plan of a split-site doubleheader with Chavez taking Ward's place.

However, although it's possible, HBO and Top Rank both told me it's not a done deal and might not happen that way.
So here's where we are: Ward? No opponent, and a shifting date. Rigondeaux? No nothing. Chavez? No date and a tiny cut. Fight fans? A lot of questions.

Looks like January for Pascal-Bute

August, 8, 2013
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A few notes from the world of boxing:

• When former super middleweight titlist Lucian Bute suffered a left hand injury and needed subsequent surgery to remove bone fragments, his showdown with former light heavyweight champ Jean Pascal scheduled for May 25 at the Bell Centre in Montreal, where they are both stars, was postponed.

Then came the announcement that it would be delayed for quite some time -- either until Dec. 7 or Jan. 25, depending on the schedules of HBO and the venue. Now it looks like the fight is going to take place in January, according to Pascal promoter Yvon Michel.

“Most likely it will be in January as there are no longer Saturdays available at Bell Centre in December because of the Canadiens of the NHL,” Michel told ESPN.com.

Pascal (27-2-1, 16 KOs) has not fought since easily outpointing Aleksy Kuziemski in a 10-round fight on Dec. 14, and it will have been 13 months since his last fight by the time he faces Bute. Bute (31-1, 24 KOs) lost his title by fifth-round knockout to Carl Froch in May 2012 and has fought just once since, struggling to a decision win against Denis Grachev in November. He will have gone 14 months between fights.

• Michel also said that he is expecting to receive a signed agreement in the coming days from former light heavyweight titlist Tavoris Cloud and his promoter, Don King, which would finalize a deal for Cloud to challenge champion Adonis Stevenson on Sept. 28 (HBO) at the Bell Centre. Stevenson won the title with a sensational 76-second knockout of Chad Dawson on June 8. Cloud lost his version of the 175-pound title in his last fight, losing a clear unanimous decision to Bernard Hopkins on March 9.

• Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. faces Bryan Vera in a super middleweight fight and Demetrius Andrade and Vanes Martirosyan square off for a vacant junior middleweight belt in the featured bouts Sept. 7 (HBO) at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, but Top Rank is putting a number of its best fighters on the untelevised undercard (although, fortunately, most of them will be streamed live on Top Rank’s website). According to Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti, the card will also include bouts involving blue-chip junior lightweight prospect Oscar Valdez, middleweight rising contender Matvey Korobov, newly signed junior welterweight contender Karim Mayfield, junior lightweight contender Diego Magdaleno (in his first bout since losing a split decision to world titleholder Rocky Martinez in April) and junior lightweight Jose Felix.

Bellew guaranteed 175 title shot

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

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

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

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

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

Stevenson-Cloud deal is near

July, 18, 2013
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Light heavyweight world champion Adonis Stevenson and Tavoris Cloud are getting closer to fighting each other. Their promoters, Yvon Michel and Don King, respectively, are nearing a deal for the fight, which, if finalized, is penciled in for Sept. 28 on HBO and would take place at the Bell Centre in Montreal, where Quebec's Stevenson is a crowd favorite.

Stevenson (21-1, 18 KOs) won the world championship on June 8, blasting out Chad Dawson in just 76 seconds. Cloud (24-1, 19 KOs) lost his version of the 175-pound title via unanimous decision to Bernard Hopkins on March 9.

That HBO telecast could also feature the return of super middleweight champion Andre Ward against an opponent to be determined from another site. Ward (26-0, 14 KOs) hasn't fought since last September after a shoulder injury and subsequent surgery.

Stevenson ordered to face Bellew

July, 8, 2013
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Sanctioning organizations have called for four purse bids for various title bouts:

• Light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson, who won the world title on a one-punch knockout in just 76 seconds against Chad Dawson on June 8, has been ordered to face mandatory challenger Tony Bellew. A purse bid is slated for July 26 if Stevenson promoter Yvon Michel and Bellew promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Sport don't make a deal.

However, Stevenson has requested an interim bout against former titlist Tavoris Cloud, which Michel is negotiating with Cloud promoter Don King and HBO, which would air the fight in the fall from Montreal, where Quebec's Stevenson is a growing draw. The WBC is willing to grant the exception to Stevenson as long as he and Cloud agree for the winner of their proposed fight to face England's Bellew within 90 days after.

Bellew became the mandatory challenger by outpointing Isaac Chilemba on May 25 in London in a rematch of their draw.

• Lightweight titlist Miguel Vazquez of Mexico and mandatory challenger Ammeth Diaz of Panama are headed for a July 16 purse bid at IBF headquarters in Springfield, N.J., for their bout unless the sides make a deal. Vazquez has made five title defenses, but he has a boring style and the fight with Diaz would be a rematch of their January 2012 snoozer, which Vazquez won by virtual shutout -- 120-107, 120-107 and 119-108. Since losing to Vazquez, Diaz has won both of his fights, including a seventh-round knockout of Martin Gethin in England on May 31 in a final eliminator to set up the rematch.

• Interim junior featherweight titlist Scott Quigg of England has been ordered to face Miami-based Cuban Yoandris Salinas for a vacant full title. The purse bid is scheduled for July 15 at the WBA offices in Marbella, Panama. Registered promoters are eligible to bid, but the minimum offer is $120,000. Each boxer is due to receive 50 percent of the money from the winning bid, and the bout is supposed to take place within 90 days of the bid.

• Flyweight titlist Moruti Mthalane of South Africa is due to make his fifth defense when he faces mandatory challenger Silvio Olyeanu, the European champion, of Spain. An IBF purse bid is scheduled for July 18 in the event the sides don't work out an agreement.

Alexander: Yes to Khan, no to Dubai

June, 25, 2013
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A few notes from around the world of boxing:

• Welterweight titlist Devon Alexander was in Brooklyn, N.Y., over the weekend for the Adrien Broner-Paulie Malignaggi fight and I had a chance to talk to him at the fight hotel. He’s still sporting the soft cast on the left hand he broke in his knockout win against Lee Purdy on May 18. Alexander said he'll be in the cast for a few more weeks and is still on track for a probable Dec. 7 defense against Amir Khan. However, Alexander said he did not want to fight in Dubai, one of the places where Golden Boy promoter Richard Schaefer has said was a possibility venue because of the interest there in Khan.

• Newly crowned light heavyweight champion Adonis “Superman” Stevenson, who blasted Chad Dawson to win the title on June 8, was also Brooklyn for the fight and I had a chance to meet him for the first time at the fight hotel. He said that while he was in New York he met with HBO executives, to talk about a plan for his future fights. One possibility is a match with former titlist Tavoris Cloud, who lost his belt to Bernard Hopkins in March. Stevenson, however, said he is more interested in fighting Hopkins, although he has a mandatory due against the reinstated Karo Murat.

• Sauerland Event promoter Chris Meyer said that Murat, who was dropped from a July 13 mandatory shot against Hopkins because he could not obtain a visa to enter the United States, has worked out the paperwork issues. However, when it looked like it might take six months to clear up his problem, Hopkins promoter Golden Boy and Showtime canceled the card. With Murat’s paperwork cleared up, he is the mandatory again, but Showtime has no plans to reschedule the card given its busy -- and expensive -- slate of upcoming shows, according to what Showtime boxing chief Stephen Espinoza told me on Saturday night at the Broner-Malignaggi fight. That would leave the fighters, Golden Boy and Sauerland Event in a tough spot, because HBO has no interest in the fight, either.

• Mexico’s Sergio Thompson (27-2, 25 KOs) has been on a roll since a 2010 split-decision loss to Alisher Rahimov. Thompson has won 13 in a row and made a name for himself with an upset second-round knockout of Jorge Linares in March 2012. The streak has landed Thompson a shot at junior lightweight titlist Takashi Miura (25-2-2, 19 KOs). Golden Boy matchmaker Eric Gomez told ESPN.com the contracts are signed for the fight, which will take place Aug. 17 (Fox Deportes) in Thompson’s hometown of Cancun, Mexico. Miura, who stopped Gamaliel Diaz in the ninth round to win the title in April, will be making his first defense.

• Although neither side is talking publicly, super middleweight champion Andre Ward and promoter Dan Goossen are headed to an arbitration hearing on Tuesday in Los Angeles. Ward, for reasons that have not been disclosed, is seeking to break his promotional contract with Goossen, who has promoted Ward for his entire career, including negotiating for him to have his world title shot against Mikkel Kessler during the Super Six in Ward’s hometown of Oakland, Calif.

• Puerto Rican featherweight contender Orlando Cruz (20-2-1, 10 KOs), who made headlines last year as the first active boxer to announce he was gay, was supposed to fight Friday night on promoter Tutico Zabala’s Telemundo-televised card. However, Zabala told ESPN.com on Monday that he pulled Cruz from the show. The reason, Zabala said, was because after Mikey Garcia was stripped of his featherweight title for not making weight for his June 15 defense against Juan Manuel Lopez, the WBO ordered Cruz to face the former titlist for the vacant belt and Zabala and Cruz didn’t want to risk the surefire title shot.

• Top Rank announced two UniMas cards: July 13 at the Hollywood Park Casino in Inglewood, Calif., headlined by junior lightweight Alejandro Perez (17-1-1, 11 KOs) against Edgar Riovalle (35-14-2, 25 KOs) with light heavyweight prospect Trevor McCumby (11-0, 9 KOs) on the undercard, and Aug. 10 at the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, Pa., headlined by featherweight Gamalier Rodriguez (21-2-3, 15 KOs) facing Jorge Pazos (19-5-1, 13 KOs).

• Top Rank also finalized one of the undercard bouts for the Timothy Bradley Jr.-Juan Manuel Marquez HBO PPV undercard on Oct. 12: light heavyweight Seanie Monaghan (18-0, 11 KOs) against Anthony Caputo Smith (14-1, 10 KOs).

Adonis Stevenson's next move

June, 16, 2013
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The excitement of Adonis Stevenson's one-punch highlight-reel knockout of Chad Dawson on June 8 has yet to wear off, but Dan Rafael is ready to look forward at the immediate prospects for the new light heavyweight titlist. Watch the video above for more.

Karo Murat: 'I will hurt Hopkins'

April, 13, 2013
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The specific date and location haven't been set, but German light heavyweight contender Karo Murat is just happy that titleholder Bernard Hopkins has decided to fight him.

"I was so excited when I first found out about this," said Murat, 29.

On March 9, Hopkins won a light heavyweight title for the third time by outpointing Tavoris Cloud to become, at age 48, the oldest fighter in boxing history to win a world title -- breaking the record he set at age 46 in 2011 by beating Jean Pascal in their rematch.

Hopkins isn't going to fight much longer, so he had to make a decision: take the mandatory defense against Murat, an unknown fighter in the United States, or give up the title and pursue a bigger fight. Hopkins (53-6-2, 32 KOs) elected to face Murat (25-1-1, 15 KOs).

The bout will take place in July or August in the United States, likely at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., or Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., according to Golden Boy chief executive Richard Schaefer, who promotes Hopkins.

"Hopkins proved that he doesn't belong to the old guard," said Murat, who will be fighting in America for the first time. "I will do everything I can to be in the best shape possible. I am really looking forward to it. Fighting in the States will be a very special occasion in my career.

"I will hurt Hopkins. I have the same attitude as he does. I don't just train hard, but I train the right way. He is going to feel that."

Murat's only defeat came by 10th-round knockout to Nathan Cleverly of Wales in a 2010 title elimination bout, after which Cleverly went on to win a world title.

Solis, Aydin, Chagaev in action

March, 21, 2013
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Former heavyweight title challenger and Cuban 2004 Olympic gold medalist Odlanier Solis (18-1, 12 KOs), welterweight contender Selcuk Aydin (23-2, 17 KOs) and former heavyweight titlist Ruslan Chagaev will all be featured on a card in Berlin, Germany on Friday. The card will be televised on Eurosport throughout Europe.

Solis will face Leif Larsen (17-0, 14 KOs) of Norway, Turkey's Aydin will meet Giuseppe Lauri (53-11, 31 KOs) of Italy, and Chagaev (30-2-1, 19 KOs), of Uzbekistan, will take on American Mike Sheppard (20-14-1, 9 KOs).

"It feels good to be back in Germany," said Solis, who defected there. "I started my pro career over here and still have lots of friends in Berlin. In my last fight in Germany [in March 2011], I suffered a bad [knee] injury when challenging [heavyweight titlist] Vitali Klitschko. But now my knee is well again. I am ready to go and want to prove that I am the best heavyweight fighter in the world."

Aydin is trying to get back on track after back-to-back decision losses to Robert Guerrero and Jesus Soto Karass. Chagaev is looking for his fourth consecutive victory since a decision loss to Alexander Povetkin for a vacant belt in August 2011.

• Ukraine junior middleweight Taras Shelestyuk, a 2012 Olympic bronze medalist, has signed with Banner Promotions, the company announced.

Shelestyuk was a three-time Ukrainian national champion, a 2010 bronze medalist in the European championships and a 2011 world amateur champion in the 152-pound weight division. As an amateur, Shelestyuk, 27, went 195-15. He is scheduled to make his pro debut March 29 in Verona, N.Y., on the ESPN/WatchESPN "Friday Night Fights" card headlined by middleweight Brian Vera against Donatas Bondoravas.

"We are very excited to add Taras to our roster," Banner Promotions chief Artie Pelullo said. "We have big plans for Taras and we feel he will become a world champion."

• According to the New York State Athletic Commission, the March 9 card at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, which was headlined by Bernard Hopkins' win against Tavoris Cloud to break his own record for becoming the oldest fighter (48) to ever win a world title, generated a gate of $611,974 from 9,377 tickets sold. There were 826 complimentary tickets given away.

• Epix officially added two more fights to its schedule this week. It will air light heavyweight titlist Nathan Cleverly's mandatory defense against Robin Krasniqi from London on April 20 and heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko's defense against Francesco Pianeta from Mannheim, Germany on May 4. Cleverly-Krasniqi was originally supposed to be part of the March 16 card headlined by the lightweight unification match between Ricky Burns and Miguel Vazquez. But Burns-Vazquez was canceled and the rest of the card postponed. Besides the cable channel, the fights will also stream live and free on EpixHD.com and on the Epix app on Xbox consoles and Roku players.

• Last Saturday's epic battle between welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley Jr. and Ruslan Provodnikov was so good that HBO made the unprecedented move of scheduling a primetime replay on the main network. There will be an encore presentation Sunday night (10:35 ET/PT). It will be immediately followed by a replay of "Road to Rios-Alvarado II," which previews the much-anticipated March 30 rematch between Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado.

According to HBO, the live broadcast of Bradley-Provodnikov -- a riveting fight of the year candidate in which Bradley won a tight decision after surviving nearly being knocked out in the first and second rounds and a knockdown in the final 15 seconds of the bout -- drew 1.2 million viewers (the same number that tuned in the previous week for Hopkins-Cloud). Bradley-Provodnikov peaked at 1.4 million viewers, HBO said. And then there were another 274,000 viewers who tuned into the Sunday morning replay, a 57 percent improvement over the comparable replay of Hopkins-Cloud. HBO said that its four boxing telecasts this year rank as the top four performing televised boxing events on cable for the year.

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