Dan Rafael: Timothy Bradley Jr.

HBO and Showtime cards hurt each other

December, 17, 2014

So who won the battle of the two fight cards on Saturday in Las Vegas -- HBO’s tripleheader at the Cosmopolitan headlined by the Timothy Bradley Jr.-Diego Chaves draw (terrible decision) or Showtime’s quadrupleheader at the MGM Grand headlined by Amir Khan’s brilliant near-shutout performance of Devon Alexander?

Based on the viewership figures, it seems to me that it is basically a draw. While both did OK neither set the world on fire in their respective viewership universe. It is my opinion that the fact that most of the shows went head-to-head hurt both of them.

The main events, both in the welterweight division, were essentially on opposite each other and, according to Nielsen Media Research, Bradley-Chaves averaged 966,000 viewers for the live, first-time airing, peaking at 1.087 million. Bradley-Chaves was the 15th most-watched fight on American television this year. HBO has televised the top 13 and 14 of the top 15 while the only Showtime fight in the top 15 is No. 14, Danny Garcia-Mauricio Herrera from March.

Keeping in mind, of course, that HBO is in several million more homes than Showtime, it is no surprise that Bradley-Chaves had more viewers than Khan-Alexander, which averaged 762,000 viewers and peaked at 887,000. But Khan-Alexander’s average placed it sixth out of Showtime’s 13 “Showtime Championship Boxing” telecasts this year. Not bad, but not great. Without Bradley-Chaves on opposite it, it seems logical to think Khan-Alexander would have drawn far more viewers given the name recognition of both fighters.

The HBO opener, junior welterweight Jose Benavidez Jr.’s absolute gift decision against Herrera, averaged 807,000 viewers, peaking at 905,000. The co-feature, Andy Lee’s big sixth-round knockout of Matt Korobov to win a middleweight title averaged 787,000 viewers and peaked at 849,000 viewers.

Over on Showtime, the co-feature of welterweight Keith Thurman’s shutout of Leonard Bundu averaged 650,000 viewers, featherweight Abner Mares’s fifth-round stoppage of Jose Ramirez averaged 566,000 viewers and junior middleweight Jermall Charlo’s third-round knockout of Lenny Bottai averaged 451,000 viewers.

So both cards saw their audiences grow throughout the night -- a good thing -- but neither drew numbers all that great.

Showtime was pleased that the overall viewership for the four-fight event was on par with its “Showtime Championship Boxing” average for 2014.

HBO is pleased that it had a 44 percent viewership advantage for its event over Showtime’s for the night, even if the Bradley-Chaves main event was down about 13 percent from the average for HBO’s “World Championship Boxing” main events in 2014.

In the end fans got a good night of fights but would have been better served it seems had the cards not competed head to head in a sport that is already too marginalized to have major events against one another.

Purses for the big fight weekend in Vegas

December, 11, 2014

Saturday is a huge boxing day in Las Vegas with two major cards: the Top Rank/HBO tripleheader at the Cosmopolitan and the Golden Boy/Showtime quadrupleheader at the MGM Grand.

Each card is stacked with name fighters and some nice matchups, but let’s take a look at how the fighters are making out based on contracts filed with the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

The big purse winner is former welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley Jr., who is making more than double anyone else on either card -- $2 million -- for his HBO headliner.

Opponent Diego Chaves’ official purse is a mere $35,000. But don’t cry for the Argentine. This is undoubtedly a paperwork thing. He almost certainly is making much, much more than that through fancy accounting and television revenue in Argentina.

Also on the Cosmopolitan card, Andy Lee will earn $69,000 to challenge for a vacant middleweight belt against Matt Korobov, who is getting $160,000. In the opener on that broadcast, interim junior welterweight titlist Mauricio Herrera will get $200,000, a far cry from the supposed $500,000 he was offered to face former titlist Ruslan Provodnikov in Russia a couple of weeks ago. Challenger Jose Benavidez Jr. will make $90,000.

Over at the MGM Grand, Amir Khan will make $950,000 and Devon Alexander $600,000 for their welterweight main event, which is not for a world title but is in essence an eliminator for a possible shot at pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Interim welterweight titlist Keith Thurman’s purse is $500,000, a nice payday but nowhere near what he was offered in a three-fight deal by Roc Nation Sports: $2 million per fight. Opponent Leonard Bundu will make $85,000.

Featherweight Abner Mares will earn $250,000 for his fight against Jose Ramirez, who is getting only $15,000. In the opener, junior middleweight Jermall Charlo will get $50,000. Opponent Lenny Bottai is getting $40,000.

Lee wants to win title for Steward

December, 10, 2014
Andy Lee Rich Schultz/Getty ImagesFormer middleweight contender Andy Lee, left, faces Matt Korobov in Las Vegas on Saturday

From the time Irish southpaw and 2004 Olympian Andy Lee turned pro in 2006 big things were expected from him. Surely, he would win a world title, especially under the guidance of his longtime trainer and mentor, the great Hall of Famer Emanuel Steward.

In June 2012, Lee finally got a shot at a world title against then-titlist Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Lee started off well, but could not hold up under Chavez’s pressure and was stopped in the seventh round in a very disappointing loss.

The fight would be the last time Lee worked with Steward, who sadly died four months later. Lee and Steward were very close. Lee even lived with Steward for several years in his Detroit home when he relocated from Ireland.

Lee eventually returned to Ireland and began training with Adam Booth, best known for his work for former heavyweight titlist David Haye.

Since the loss to Chavez, Lee has won five fights in a row, albeit not against elite opposition, including a stirring comeback victory in June. That is when Lee, fighting John Jackson (son of former world titleholder Julian Jackson) on the Miguel Cotto-Sergio Martinez undercard, got knocked down hard in the first round, was trailing on all three scorecards and in big trouble in the fifth when he rallied for a spectacular, one-punch knockout.

Coming off that eye-catching win, Lee has another chance to fulfill the promise Steward and so many others had for him when he meets Matt Korobov for a vacant world title on Saturday night (HBO, 10 ET/PT) in the middle bout of the tripleheader at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas that is headlined by welterweight Timothy Bradley Jr. (31-1, 12 KOs) against Argentina’s Diego Chaves (23-2, 19 KOs).

Lee (33-2, 23 KOs), 30, and Korobov (24-0, 14 KOs), 31, a 2008 Russian Olympian now living in Florida, will be vying for the 160-pound belt that Peter Quillin vacated rather than defend against Korobov, the mandatory challenger, for a career-high purse (about triple) of $1,428,630 under the terms of a purse bid won by Roc Nation Sports.

Lee, the next leading available contender, quickly accepted the fight and aims to win it in Steward’s memory.

"I will win and thank my greatest trainer, Emanuel Steward, who I dearly miss,” Lee said.

Lee believes that all those years with Steward, as well as what he learned in the loss to Chavez and from Booth since they’ve been together, put him in position to get the job done against Korobov.

“I relish this opportunity to fight for the WBO middleweight title. I have never been more ready to win the title,” Lee said. “I am totally focused on the fight and I’m ready to take care of business on Saturday night.

“I have learned a lot over the years. I’ve been in different fights and training camps and I’ve picked up a lot of experience along the way. I’ve fought a lot of different guys with different styles, been in different situations, faced adversity, and I fought my way through. This is my time and my date with destiny.”

Although Lee is the underdog, he believes he has two advantages against Korobov: pro experience and power.

"Korobov is a good boxer, technically sound, but the major difference is my experience in the ring,” Lee said. “For the first time in Korobov's career he is taking on a fighter he knows can beat him. Korobov is a fast starter and I plan to match him with that. My extra experience and punching power will be the difference. He's very much untested. I have faced far more adversity inside the ring.”

Said Booth, “I’m not really sure how Korobov will approach the fight and I don’t really care about him. I just care about Andy Lee. Hopefully, I’ve prepared him for every eventuality. Let’s just say that I don’t enter this fight hoping that Andy will cause an upset, I fully expect him to win.”

Korobov is also confident, believing his bigger amateur resume is the foundation for victory.

"I had over 300 amateur fights so I have more experience than Andy Lee has,” he said. “In camp we brought in an Irish left-hander and I had no problems with him. There's danger in every fight but I don't expect Andy to come out and rush towards me. He's smarter than that. This is my time. Andy knows it too.”

Chaves set to fight Bradley

November, 3, 2014
Over the past few days, there has been rampant speculation that welterweight contender Diego Chaves was going to pull out of his fight with former titleholder Timothy Bradley Jr. because he was unhappy with his deal for the bout that will headline an HBO tripleheader at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas.

The speculation stemmed from media reports in Argentina, Chaves’ home country. But, according to Top Rank promoter Bob Arum and Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti, who was tasked with getting to the bottom of the issues, everything was worked out on Monday and the fight most definitely is on.

“I read those articles, as well, and this involved a minor dispute between his Argentine promoter [Osvaldo Rivero] and Chaves as to how they would whack up the money Top Rank was providing under the provision of services agreement we did with Rivero,” Arum told ESPN.com. “All of that was resolved [on Monday afternoon], and the fight is definitely on without a problem.”

When Top Rank and Rivero negotiated the agreement, Rivero signed a contract with Top Rank to deliver Chaves’ services. That is standard operating procedure in boxing.

According to Arum and Moretti, Chaves was not satisfied with his cut of the money and, apparently, threatened to pull out.

“Now he is satisfied, and he signed a contract himself today with Rivero for the fight, and Rivero is going to send it to Moretti [on Monday night],” Arum said. “It was all handled well by Moretti. He was concerned, obviously, and he was back and forth on the phone with them all day, and everything is finished now. Everything is good. And this time we don’t have a visa problem with Chaves.”

Before Chaves boxed Brandon Rios on Top Rank’s Aug. 2 HBO card at The Cosmopolitan, it was touch-and-go as to whether he would be able to get into the United States in time for the bout. A computer problem was holding up thousands of visas and preventing travelers from coming to the United States. However, Nevada Sen. Harry Reid’s office intervened and helped Chaves get his visa processed in time for him to get to Las Vegas two days before the fight, which he lost by ninth-round disqualification.

Ramirez to train with Pacquiao

November, 2, 2014
Welterweight Jose Ramirez, a 2012 U.S. Olympian and one of boxing’s top prospects, has been added to the Top Rank card on Dec. 13 at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas.

Former welterweight and junior welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley Jr. headlines the HBO tripleheader against Argentina’s Diego Chaves with Matt Korobov and Andy Lee vying for a vacant middleweight belt and Mauricio Herrera facing Jose Benavidez Jr. in a defense of his interim junior welterweight belt.

Ramirez’s eight-round bout is not scheduled to be part of the HBO broadcast, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if the network aired highlights of his fight. Ramirez does not yet have an opponent.

The 22-year-old Ramirez (12-0, 9 KOs) is fresh from an explosive first-round knockout of David Rodela on Oct. 25 at the Selland Arena in Fresno, California -- near his hometown of Avenal -- where Ramirez drew a crowd of about 7,000. He has Top Rank promoter Bob Arum excited about his potential.

"Jose is a great fighter, a future world champion," Arum said. "We had a big crowd with a big fight atmosphere in Fresno.”

Ramirez was happy with the quick knockout, saying, “I wasn't expecting it to turn out like this, but I am very happy I did because it took all of the nerves out of my mom and dad and we did it in front of my hometown fans and friends."

To prepare for the Dec. 13 fight, Ramirez is headed to the Philippines to train with Freddie Roach and to spar with Manny Pacquiao, whom Roach is getting ready for his welterweight world title defense against Chris Algieri on Nov. 22 (HBO PPV) in Macau, China.
Golden Boy promoter Oscar De La Hoya is putting his money where his mouth is.

For the past several months, since assuming day-to-day control of the company in the wake of the resignation of CEO Richard Schaefer in June, De La Hoya has preached nonstop about his desire to work with all promoters and networks to put on the best fights possible.

[+] EnlargeOscar De La Hoya
AP Photo/Alex MenendezOscar De La Hoya and Golden Boy Promotions will have a hand in promoting a pair of rival cards in Las Vegas on Dec. 13.
So far, so good.

He has repaired his relationship with longtime rival Top Rank, and they have begun to make fights together, including the Sadam Ali-Luis Carlos Abregu welterweight bout and Mauricio Herrera-Jose Benavidez Jr. interim junior welterweight title bout, even if the companies have not yet made a big-time main event.

Golden Boy also negotiated Bernard Hopkins-Sergey Kovalev with Main Events and has repaired its battered relationship with HBO while continuing to work with Showtime.

Hopkins is moving back to HBO to face Kovalev on Nov. 8, Golden Boy also signed Canelo Alvarez to the network in a recent deal, it has Herrera on HBO's Dec. 13 card in Las Vegas, and it is promoting a Dec. 6 card on HBO that will be headlined by middleweight David Lemieux against Gabriel Rosado.

But Golden Boy is still doing business -- even if it is a bit strained -- with Showtime, where it is promoting a card on Dec. 13 headlined by Amir Khan versus Devon Alexander.

That card is also in Las Vegas and will go head-to-head with the HBO card headlined by Timothy Bradley Jr.-Diego Chaves on which Herrera will appear.

"It was something that we could not avoid, but we will make it work as best as possible," De La Hoya told ESPN.com.

Golden Boy would have preferred to have the Dec. 13 card in San Antonio, as originally planned, but it was pushed to Las Vegas by Showtime.

"This is a testament to what I have said before about working with anybody," De La Hoya said. "When I took control of the company, that is what I said, and I mean it. So I have to be at The Cosmopolitan with Mauricio Herrera on HBO watching him fight a Top Rank fighter [Benavidez], and then I have to run across the Strip in Vegas to the [MGM Grand] and go and sit down for the Showtime fights we are doing.

"We're willing to work with anybody and anywhere as long as we can make fights."

De La Hoya acknowledged the delicate balance he is dealing with on Dec. 13 but said he was up front with Top Rank and HBO about it and that he is doing what is best for the boxers involved, as well as for Golden Boy.

"Yes, it puts us in a tough position as a promoter, but we are working with everybody," he said. "The great thing is we talked to HBO about going to Las Vegas [with Showtime] on their same night. I talked to [Top Rank president] Todd [duBoef] and said we had a problem and explained everything to him. There were no surprises for nobody. We're gonna have a lot of boxing on TV and in Vegas that night. Hopefully the Cosmo is packed, and hopefully the [MGM Grand] is also packed.

"Regardless, it will be a helluva night on HBO and Showtime and a great night for boxing. I just want to make the best fights. I have said this before and I will say it again, and you can quote me on this: Ego is not my amigo."

Andrade's Showtime fight Dec. 13

October, 10, 2014
A few notes from around the boxing world:

• I wrote earlier this week that junior middleweight titlist Demetrius Andrade (21-0, 14 KOs) was leaving HBO for Showtime for a December fight against one of the Charlo twins because his promoters, Artie Pelullo and Joe DeGuardia, could not come to an agreement for his next fight with HBO, which has televised his last two fights. The deal has not been announced yet, but according to a source with direct knowledge of the deal, Andrade will face Jermell Charlo (24-0, 11 KOs) on a Dec. 13 card at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. That means Showtime and HBO will have competing cards on the same night in the same city as HBO has a show -- likely a tripleheader -- topped by former welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley Jr. versus Diego Chaves down the Strip at The Cosmopolitan.

• The purse bid for junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia’s mandatory defense against Viktor Postol continues to be moved. First it was scheduled for Sept. 12 but delayed until Oct. 1. Then it was moved to Oct. 6, and now it has been moved yet again to Oct. 20. There are a lot of games being played right now for a fight that that seems unlikely to ever happen. Why the WBC continues to move the date is unclear because, from what I am told, there have not been any serious talks between the camps.

• It’s bad enough that the WBA has at least two titleholders in every weight classes and three in several of them, giving it a total of 41 titleholders in 17 divisions. At heavyweight the real champion is Wladimir Klitschko, but it also recognizes “regular” titleholder Ruslan Chagaev and interim titlist Luis Ortiz. Thankfully, there will soon be one less heavyweight titleholder, as Chagaev (33-2-1, 20 KOs) and Ortiz (22-0, 19 KOs) have been ordered to face each other in a mandatory bout. They have until Nov. 2 to make a deal or a purse bid will be ordered.

• A second fight has been added to the HBO Latino telecast of the Oct. 18 (tape-delayed, 12:45 a.m. ET/PT) undercard fights from the Stub Hub Center in Carson, California. In addition to the previously announced return of Edwin Rodriguez against Azea Augustama in a move up to light heavyweight following a year off since a one-sided loss to Andre Ward, middleweights Marcos Reyes (32-1, 24 KOs) and Abie Han (22-1, 14 KOs) will clash in the 10-round opener. The fights are on the undercard of the Gennady Golovkin-Marco Antonio Rubio/Nonito Donaire-Nicholas Walters doubleheader on HBO.

Notes: Sturm-Stieglitz, Bradley, more

September, 18, 2014
A few notes from around the boxing world:

• Former four-time middleweight titlist Felix Sturm (39-4-2, 18 KOs) and former two-time super middleweight titleholder Robert Stieglitz (47-4, 27 KOs), two of Germany's most popular fighters, will hook up in a long-awaited showdown as each winds down his career. They are due to meet Nov. 8 in Stuttgart, Germany. Stieglitz, 33, notched a win in July in his return from losing a split decision and his world title to Arthur Abraham in their rubber match. Sturm, 35, lost his last fight and his title by decision to Sam Soliman on May 31.

• The likely site for former welterweight and junior welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley Jr.'s bout on Dec. 13 (HBO) is the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas. Top Rank has a request for that date at the Cosmo on the agenda for the next Nevada State Athletic Commission meeting. Bradley (31-1, 12 KOs) does not have an opponent yet for his first fight since losing a decision to Manny Pacquiao in their April rematch, but the leading candidate is Diego Chaves (23-2, 19 KOs) of Argentina.

• Junior welterweight prospect Jose Ramirez (11-0, 8 KOs), a 2012 U.S. Olympian, headlines a UniMas-televised card against an opponent to be determined on Oct. 25 in his home region of Fresno, California and will shortly thereafter join Pacquiao's training camp in the Philippines to spar with him and help him prepare for his welterweight title defense against Chris Algieri on Nov. 22 (HBO PPV) in Macau, China.

• Welterweight prospect Dusty Hernandez-Harrison (23-0, 12 KOs), scheduled to fight Hector Munoz (23-13-1, 15 KOs) on Sept. 27 in his hometown of Washington, D.C., has postponed the bout because of an ankle injury. No new date has been set. "We will know more this week after we receive further medical guidance and see how Dusty is feeling after his first couple of days of training, including sparring," All In Entertainment promoter Jeff Fried said.

• Darleys Perez (30-1, 19 KOs) will go home for the first defense of his interim lightweight belt when he meets Jaider Parra (23-1-1, 12 KOs) on Oct. 24 in Barraquilla, Colombia, according to Alex Caponovo of Thompson Boxing, Perez's co-promoter.

• Junior bantamweight titlist Kohei Kono (30-8, 13 KOs) and Koki Kameda (32-1, 17 KOs), who vacated his bantamweight title earlier this year and moved down in weight, have reached an agreement for their mandatory fight and avoided a purse bid on Wednesday. The date and venue for the all-Japanese bout have not been announced.

Arum: Bradley eyes Chaves fight

September, 4, 2014
Although Top Rank promoter Bob Arum's main reason for being in New York on Thursday was to wrap up the final stop on the 12-day media tour for the Nov. 22 HBO PPV fight between welterweight titlist Manny Pacquiao and junior welterweight titleholder Chris Algieri, he also had other business to attend to.

[+] EnlargeBradley Jr
Chris Farina/Top RankFresh off his first defeat, Timothy Bradley Jr. could return in December against Argentine Diego Chaves, according to promoter Bob Arum.
Arum said he was also planning to meet with HBO executives to go over the schedule for the rest of the year. One of the most significant fighters Top Rank promotes who does not have a fight scheduled yet is former welterweight and junior welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley Jr., a priority of the meeting.

Bradley (31-1, 12 KOs), 31, of Palm Springs, California, is coming off a unanimous-decision loss to Pacquiao, who regained his title in their April rematch.

Arum told ESPN.com that Bradley likely would return to HBO on Dec. 6 or Dec. 13 in either Las Vegas or Los Angeles. The opponent most likely to face Bradley, according to Arum, is Diego Chaves (23-2, 19 KOs), 28, of Argentina, a former interim titlist who faced Brandon Rios on Aug. 2 and was disqualified in the ninth round of a bruising fight. It was a very competitive but very dirty fight, with referee Vic Drakulich never establishing control.

"We have agreed with HBO that they will do a Tim Bradley fight in December, either the 6th or the 13th," Arum said. "Diego Chaves isn't finalized but Tim has accepted him as an opponent and we have the terms done. Chaves would be happy to take the fight, but we need to talk to HBO."

Arum said if he can convince HBO to add a second fight to Bradley's card, he will endeavor to convince the network to buy a match between Russian featherweight titlist Evgeny Gradovich (19-0, 9 KOs), 28, and former titlist Simpiwe Vetyeka (26-3, 16 KOs), 33, of South Africa. Vetyeka knocked out Chris John in the sixth round for a major upset to win the belt in December and then lost it to Nonito Donaire by fifth-round technical decision on May 31 in Macau, China.

"We have an opponent for Gradovich, Simpiwe. We made the match, but now we have to sell it," Arum said.

Arum said if he can't work it out for the bout to be on Bradley's undercard, he said another possibility would be for it to be on the undercard of lightweight titlist Terence Crawford's Nov. 29 defense on HBO.
Floyd Mayweather Jr.Noel Vasquez/GC Images

Pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr. is getting ready for his welterweight unification fight with Marcos Maidana on Saturday (Showtime PPV, 9 p.m. ET) at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, but that didn’t stop him from critiquing fighters involved in two recent major fights that were also at the MGM.

Mayweather was impressed by former junior middleweight titlist Canelo Alvarez’s dominant 10th-round knockout of Alfredo Angulo on March 8 but not much by either Manny Pacquiao or Timothy Bradley Jr., who squared off in a rematch April 12.

“Canelo looked unbelievable against Angulo,” said Mayweather, who rolled to a one-sided decision against Alvarez to unify junior middleweight belts in September in the richest fight in boxing history. “I was like, this guy, he’s back. What else can I say? It’s the only thing I can say, that he’s back.”

Mayweather-Pacquiao has loomed as boxing’s biggest potential fight for years, but the future Hall of Famers have never been able to make a deal despite multiple efforts. Both sides deserve their share of blame.

To the surprise of many, Mayweather said he watched Pacquiao-Bradley II, an exciting fight that Pacquiao won by clear unanimous decision to reclaim his welterweight belt and right the wrong by two judges in their first meeting two years ago.

Mayweather typically says he doesn’t watch Pacquiao’s fights. What Mayweather did see did not impress him.

“Yes, actually I did watch the fight. You know, I haven’t seen Pacquiao fight in years. I’ve seen highlights,” Mayweather said. “I haven’t seen Pacquiao since before [he knocked out] Miguel Cotto [in 2009]. I thought that he deserved congratulations. He’s the better man, but as far as Bradley, whoever he’s working out with, they have to make a lot of changes because he’s lifting too many weights. I think he’s more worried about how he looks when he get on the scale instead of how he performs inside that ring.

“I thought that Bradley went out there and fought his heart out, but I think he was pulling a lot of shots like an amateur. I think he was making a lot of mistakes and he was very fatigued early on. I think that he was making a lot of mistakes, falling off balance and fighting like an amateur. I think both fighters fought like amateurs.

“I thought Pacquiao fought like an amateur also, and I wasn’t pleased with his performance, but he got the victory the best way he knows how, but I wasn’t pleased with his performance and I’m seeing something totally different in Pacquiao.”

While Mayweather didn’t say it in so many words, it seemed he was alluding to alleged performance-enhancing drug use that has dogged Pacquiao for a few years, despite a lack of evidence.

“I don’t see the same pop in Pacquiao’s shots. Once again, I’m not saying this guy is doing anything, but I don’t see the same snap in his shots,” Mayweather said. “He’s getting tired when he wasn’t getting tired before. I’m seeing something totally different whereas me, I’m still sharp, I’m still smart, I’m not getting fatigued. I wasn’t getting fatigued from the beginning, and those are the things that I see. I don’t know if you guys see it, but that’s what I see.”

Pacquiao talks Bradley-Marquez

April, 8, 2014

Manny Pacquiao has faced Juan Manuel Marquez in four memorable battles, going 2-1-1, including a shocking one-punch knockout loss in fight No. 4 in December 2012.

Pacquiao has also faced Timothy Bradley once, losing a massively controversial split decision in June 2012.

After facing Pacquiao, Bradley outboxed Marquez two fights later, in October, to defend the title he claimed against Pacquiao.

Now Pacquiao is set to go back into the ring to face Bradley in a rematch on Saturday night (HBO PPV, 9 ET) at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. So is there anything Pacquiao might have picked up about Bradley watching him face Marquez, his greatest rival?

Not exactly.

That’s because Pacquiao said he did not watch the fight (if you believe him). Pacquiao did, however, say that Bradley’s decision win did not surprise him.

“That is what I had predicted,” Pacquiao said. “Bradley obviously fought the better fight and boxed Marquez. I assume Marquez just could not overcome Bradley's skills and youth and there was no way Bradley was going to go toe-to-toe after his battle with Ruslan Provodnikov.”

In the fight after facing Pacquiao, Bradley slugged it out with Provodnikov in the 2013 fight of the year, a battle in which Bradley was knocked down, badly hurt multiple times and concussed. He said he fought Provodnikov toe to toe by design. Then he returned to a boxing style against Marquez.

So which Bradley will show up against Pacquiao? Pacquiao said he expects Bradley fight him the way he did Marquez, rather than try to slug with him like he did against Provodnikov. Pacquiao has far better power than Bradley.

"I do not think Bradley will fight toe-to-toe with me, either, so I will have to hunt him down,” Pacquiao said. “I am prepared for that. I am not going for a knockout but if the opportunity presents itself, I am going to go for it this time. Bradley's talk that I am no longer hungry has inspired me throughout this training camp. As [trainer] Freddie Roach keeps saying every day in training, ‘No mercy.’”

Roach has watched Bradley’s performance against Marquez and perhaps gleaned something from it, especially since he is also so familiar with Marquez’s style.

“For his fights he does what he is supposed to do,” Roach said of Bradley. “He boxed well against Marquez and he beat a good fighter. What he will bring to the table against Manny is what he brought against Marquez. He likes to exchange a little bit also, so when we get into an exchange we will have to take advantage of that moment.”

Orlando Cruz returns April 19

March, 31, 2014
Featherweight Orlando Cruz got a tremendous amount of attention before his last fight but probably won’t get nearly as much in his next one.

Back in October, Cruz, 32, of Puerto Rico, challenged Orlando Salido for a vacant featherweight world title on the Timothy Bradley Jr.-Juan Manuel Marquez pay-per-view undercard. In addition to the fight being a title bout, Cruz also got a lot of attention because he had come out as boxing’s first openly gay fighter.

It made him a hero to many and it took a lot of courage for him to come out. Although Salido knocked Cruz out in the seventh round of a one-sided fight, Cruz had made history, even if it wasn’t the kind that got him a title belt.

Now Cruz (20-3-1, 10 KOs) is set for his ring return. He will face Gamalier Rodriguez (23-2-3, 16 KOs), 27, of Puerto Rico, in a much lower profile 10-rounder on April 19 (UniMas) at the Bahia Shriners Event Center in Orlando, Fla., Top Rank and All-Star Boxing announced on Monday.

"I want to thank Top Rank and All-Star Boxing for this opportunity to redeem myself by getting me this [regional] title fight with Rodriguez,” Cruz said. “By winning this fight, I will be right back on the verge of another world title opportunity and conquer my dream of being a world champion.”

The co-feature will showcase 20-year-old blue chip lightweight prospect and 2012 Puerto Rican Olympian Felix Verdejo (11-0, 8 KOs) in a scheduled six-round bout.

Kimmel reunion set for PacMan

March, 28, 2014
Pacquiao/KimmelRandy Holmes ABC/Getty ImagesManny Pacquiao is set to make his traditional pre-fight visit on April 2 to "Jimmy Kimmel Live."
Last year, Manny Pacquiao only fought once, his November wipeout of Brandon Rios. But that fight took place in Macau, China and it meant for the first time since 2009 that Pacquiao did not pay his traditional pre-fight visit to Jimmy Kimmel to appear on his late-night talk show.

But the tradition, a hilarious one, is back as Pacquiao gets ready for his rematch with Timothy Bradley Jr. on April 12 (HBO PPV) at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Pacquiao will appear on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (ABC, 11:35 p.m. ET) on Wednesday, April 2, along with the other guest that night -- President Bill Clinton.

Talk about political heavyweights. Pacquiao is a current congressman in the Philippines.

The appearance will be Pacquiao's eighth on the program dating to November 2009, when he made his first appearance before facing Miguel Cotto. It was on that episode that Pacquiao sang his version of the sappy 1970s ballad "Sometimes When We Touch." During ensuing appearances, Pacquiao sang duets with Kimmel and Will Ferrell and did a hilarious spoof of HBO's "24/7" with Kimmel sidekick Guillermo.

Clinton, back in the day, once played the saxophone on Arsenio Hall's late-night talk show. No word if there's a Pacquiao-Clinton performance coming.

Alvarado: 'I’m a Marquez fan'

March, 26, 2014

Forgive former junior welterweight titlist Mike Alvarado if he was perhaps a little bit in awe Wednesday when he came face to face with Mexican star and former four-division titleholder Juan Manuel Marquez at the news conference to kick off the promotion for their welterweight title elimination fight.

They meet in an HBO-televised main event at the newly refurbished Forum in Inglewood, Calif., May 17 in a fight that will produce the mandatory challenger for the April 12 rematch between titleholder Timothy Bradley Jr. and Manny Pacquiao. Marquez-Alvarado will be the first card at the Forum, which used to be a boxing hotbed and where Marquez came up as a young prospect almost 20 years ago, since it was recently renovated.

Alvarado was -- is -- a big Marquez fan. He looked up to him when he was a young fighter, loved watching his fights and hoped one day to come close to matching his achievements.

“When I first started fighting I was watching Marquez fight and looking up to him,” Alvarado told ESPN.com. “He’s one of the best. He’s a Mexican boxing legend. It’s awesome, a real-life dream come true for me to fight someone like this. I looked up to Marquez and have all the respect in the world for him.”

So while Wednesday’s news conference was a day for Alvarado to revel in the fact that he will face a future Hall of Famer, make a big payday and qualify to fight an even bigger fight for another world title if he wins, the seriousness of his May 17 task was not entirely lost on him.

“I’m a Marquez fan but I still have to do what I have to do,” Alvarado said. “It’s amazing and kinda shocking and hasn’t hit me yet that I’m fighting him. It’s still kinda like, ‘Hey, I’m fighting Marquez,’ and that’s cool. But it’s sinking in. I am pushing myself. I know I’m gonna have to dig deep to redeem myself.”

Alvarado said he views this fight as redemption for his last fight, when he and Ruslan Provodnikov put on a tremendous slugfest, but Provodnikov dropped Alvarado twice and forced him to retire on his stool after the 10th round.

[+] EnlargeRuslan Provodnikov and Mike Alvarado
Chris Farina/Top RankMike Alvarado, right, lost his title in a tough battle with Ruslan Provodnikov last October.
Alvarado lost his world title and, to make matters worse, it happened in front of his hometown fans in suburban Denver.

“It was really tough,” Alvarado said. “I was mentally beating myself up for the next couple of weeks after the fight. I have to get back to where I need to be. I had to bring the old Mike back, bring back the basics that made me who I am. Not changing things up. I know that ring.

“I went home and hung out, and iced my eyeball. I was hard-timing it. It sucks. It was my hometown. I have a lot of great supporters. Everyone was happy to see a good show like that, but it hurt. I watched [a video of the fight] eventually. I’d be watching and saying, ‘Why’d I let that happen? How’d that happen.’ I wasn’t at the top condition I should have been or I could have been. I wasn’t going after it. I guess there were a lot of distractions fighting at home. I will be more secluded for this fight.”

Alvarado (34-2, 23 KOs) knows Marquez (55-7-1, 40 KOs), as great as he has been, is 40 now and also coming off a loss, a decision challenging Bradley for his belt in October. As he has done after many of his recent fights, Marquez once again talked about possible retirement before agreeing to fight Alvarado.

Alvarado, although a confessed Marquez fan, would love to be the one to send him into retirement for real.

“I don’t know his plans after this fight, if he plans on retiring or what, but it could be huge for me,” Alvarado said. “I could redeem myself and retire a boxing legend. That would be the best way to redeem myself. I’m so motivated for what I have to do.

“I think he’s on his way out, so this is kind of like a farewell. He seems like he’s ready to go. He already made a mark in this boxing game and doesn’t have much to prove. He don’t have to prove anything. He built his legacy and he’s 40. It’s time to retire. This is awesome -- me knowing I can be the man to retire him.”

Roach: 'It's last call for Bradley'

March, 20, 2014
Manny Pacquiao spent the first few weeks of his training camp in the Philippines preparing for his April 12 rematch with welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley Jr. (HBO PPV) at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Last week, Pacquiao and trainer Freddie Roach returned to Roach's Wild Card Gym for the final weeks of camp.

Not surprisingly, Roach said he likes what he has seen so far. Of course, what trainer has ever said his fighter was having a terrible training camp?

So let's see what the Hall of Fame trainer had to say.

"Manny started the week a little slow due to jetlag but finished off strong on Saturday," Roach said. "He was just brilliant in his sparring on Saturday. His footwork was effortless, his hand speed was blazing and his power is as good as it has ever been.

"We are training for big game in this fight. Manny knows he is going to have to hunt Bradley down and close the show this time. The first fight with Bradley was so easy for Manny that after six rounds he just took it easy on him. Not this time."

When they first met in June 2012, Pacquiao looked as though he had cruised to a lopsided and easy unanimous decision. Then the judges shocked the world with two of them awarding Bradley the controversial split decision -- one of the worst decisions in boxing history.

Now, the two fighters are doing it again, and Roach expects Pacquiao to step on the gas this time.

"Our Mantra is 'Close the show. No mercy.' You don't have to be a groundhog to know that Bradley's days as welterweight champ are numbered," Roach said. "It's last call for Bradley on April 12.

"Manny is really motivated for this fight. We decided no matter how many fights we have remaining, we are determined to run the table and win every one. And when it is over, it is going to be as world champion. And that can only happen with a total and absolute victory over Bradley."

Roach also went after Bradley, who claimed he hurt both of his feet during the fight and showed up at his postfight news conference in a wheelchair.

"Bradley says he fought Manny last time with two bad feet. I don't remember him coming into the ring in a wheelchair," Roach said. "He hurt his feet when Manny connected his power punches on him. Manny hit Bradley so hard it broke his ankles.

"For Bradley to say, 'Manny doesn't have the hunger anymore and it's never coming back' and 'Manny no longer has his killer instinct,' that tells me that Bradley is still suffering from the concussion [Ruslan] Provodnikov laid on him."

Last March, in his first fight after the fight with Pacquiao, Bradley barely survived to win a decision against Provodnikov in the 2013 fight of the year. In his next fight, Bradley (31-0, 12 KOs) outpointed Juan Manuel Marquez in October.

In Pacquiao's first fight following the Bradley controversy, Marquez knocked Pacquiao (55-5-2, 38 KOs) out in the sixth round in December 2012 in that year's fight of the year. Pacquiao took nearly a year off before returning to rout Brandon Rios in a near-shutout decision in November in Macau.