- Dan Rafael, Boxing
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Rafael Marquez held the junior featherweight championship for only five months in 2007, but the time sure was memorable.
That's because he stopped Israel Vazquez in the seventh round of their all-time-great first fight to win the title. They would fight four times total, with the series ending 2-2. Three of their bouts were contested for the junior featherweight title, before the final chapter in 2010 came at featherweight.
Although Vazquez defeated Marquez in the second and third fights -- named fight of the year in 2007 and 2008, respectively -- Marquez will always be remembered for their first three classics and the excitement they created at 122 pounds.
Now Marquez, also the former bantamweight champion, will get another chance to claim a belt at junior featherweight. He'll challenge Japan's Toshiaki Nishioka (38-4-3, 24 KOs), who will come to Las Vegas to make his seventh defense against Marquez (40-6, 36 KOs) on Oct. 1 in a ballroom at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Marquez, 36, is back at junior featherweight after a rough go in his last fight at featherweight. The younger brother of lightweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez challenged then-featherweight titlist Juan Manuel Lopez in November 2010 and didn't answer the bell for the ninth round because of a shoulder injury. It knocked him out of action for eight months before he returned on his brother's July 16 undercard in Cancun, Mexico.
Rafael Marquez dropped back to junior featherweight for that bout, dominating journeyman Eduardo Becerril for a sixth-round TKO to set him up for the shot at Nishioka.
"I believe that I can not only go back down in weight to 122, but will be successful again," Marquez said. "This is a good opportunity for me, and I will take advantage of it.
"This is a very tough fight against Nishioka, and I will need to be at my best. I will train very hard in Mexico City, and the fact that the fight is in Las Vegas [instead of Japan] will be to my advantage."
Top Rank is assisting top Japanese promoter Akihiko Honda of Teiken Boxing, which promotes Nishioka, with putting on the card in the United States. The card is being presented in honor of Japanese premium cable network WOWOW's 20th anniversary of televising top boxing matches from around the world. Its broadcast team is a staple at ringside for the biggest fights in Las Vegas and also will televise this card in Japan. WOWOW also regularly televises Top Rank bouts as part of an output deal with the company.
"They wanted to do a fight from Las Vegas and WOWOW is a good customer of ours, so we are doing the fight with them and helping out Mr. Honda," Top Rank president Todd duBoef said.
Also on the card: Junior flyweight titlist Roman Gonzalez (29-0, 24 KOs) will defend against an opponent to be determined. He retained his title with a seventh-round knockout of Omar Salado on the same July 16 card the Marquez brothers fought on.
DuBoef said the American broadcaster for the card is still undetermined. He said it could be a pay-per-view or run as an edition of "Top Rank Live" on Fox Deportes.
"I'm holding a pay-per-view date to do a 'Latin Fury' show, but obviously 'Top Rank Live' would make sense if we can make that work economically," duBoef said. "I'm weighing everything now."
DuBoef said that the winner of Nishioka-Marquez could be a potential opponent for Top Rank-promoted bantamweight star Nonito Donaire, who figures to give up his belts within the next couple of fights to seek a title at 122 pounds.
"It sets up the Nishioka-Marquez winner to be in the Donaire equation when he goes up to 122," duBoef said. "Donaire and Marquez is a helluva fight, isn't it? And Nishioka can punch, too."
Nishioka has won 15 consecutive fights since losing a decision when challenging then-bantamweight titlist Veerapol Sahaprom in 2004.
If Nishioka, 35, defeats Marquez, he would become the first Japanese fighter to successfully defend his title in the United States. Two others have attempted it and failed: Akifumi Shimoda, who was knocked out by Rico Ramos in the seventh round to lose his version of the junior featherweight title July 9 in Atlantic City, N.J.; and junior lightweight titlist Kuniaki Shibata, who lost his belt to Ben Villaflor via first-round knockout in Hawaii in a 1973 rematch.
Shumenov defends his belt
Light heavyweight titlist Beibut Shumenov (11-1, 7 KOs) will make his third title defense, against Danny Santiago (31-4-1, 19 KOs), in the main event of Telefutura's "Solo Boxeo Tecate" on Friday night (11:30 ET/PT) at the South Point Hotel Casino in Las Vegas. Shumenov, a 2004 Olympian for his native Kazakhstan, lives in Las Vegas and has wanted to defend his title there.
"What really drives Beibut is to be better in every single fight," said Kevin Barry, Shumenov's trainer. "He sets very high standards and goals. You can't tell Beibut he can't do something -- he'll do it, just to make a point. In my 25 years in boxing, I have never seen anybody as driven as Beibut."
Shumenov is a big favorite against Santiago, who was knocked out the two times he stepped up to face a top fighter. In 2007, then-titleholder Zsolt Erdei stopped him in the eighth round and former champion Antonio Tarver knocked him out in the fourth round.
Santiago acknowledges that it will be a difficult fight.
"I don't really have very much of an experience advantage over him," Santiago said. "Don't look past his Olympics experience, on the grandest stage, fighting the best in the world. I may have more pro fights than him, but he's fought the same class of fighters, pro and Olympians, as I have. I'm not trying to butter him up, but Shumenov is very exciting, smart and strong. And just look at him -- he's [built like] a brick house. I need to be in the best shape of my life for this fight to fulfill the dream I had as a kid that I now have as a grown adult [which is to win a world title]."
McCloskey-Prescott eliminator set
Junior welterweight Paul McCloskey's opponent for his Sept. 10 bout at Odyssey Arena in Belfast, Northern Ireland, has been confirmed. He will face Colombia's Breidis Prescott in a title eliminator, promoter Eddie Hearn announced.
McCloskey (22-1, 12 KOs) is coming off a lopsided six-round technical decision loss to titlist Amir Khan on April 16. Prescott is best known for knocking out Khan in 54 seconds in a 2008 lightweight bout. Both want a rematch with Khan, the money man of the junior welterweight division.
"We're going for the man that Amir couldn't beat," McCloskey said. "I could've gone for an easier fight, but I don't feel like a beaten fighter, so why should I go for anything but the best? Breidis Prescott is as tough an opponent as you could ask for, but I want to fight the best fighters out there. I'm not looking to chase Khan for the rest of my career. I want to be a world champion. I'll fight anyone to reach that goal, and I know I belong at world level."
The winner will become one of Khan's mandatory challengers, although it's unlikely Khan will wind up facing him because he likely will move up to welterweight before the mandatory is due.
"I promise that if Amir is watching, and he happened to forget what occurred back in 2008, I will give him a reminder by my performance on Sept. 10," Prescott said. "I can only hope that, after I win, Amir keeps his promise and gets back in the ring with me."
Marroquin returning from first loss
Featherweight Roberto Marroquin of Dallas, one of Top Rank's top prospects, was on the fast track before he was derailed by Frankie Leal in April in a bloody split decision loss.
Marroquin (19-1,14 KOs) will try to get back on track against Mexico's Jose Beranza (33-20-2, 26 KOs) in an eight-round bout that will be the co-feature on "Top Rank Live" on Saturday night (Fox Deportes/FSN, 11 ET).
Junior welterweight contender Mike Alvarado (30-0, 22 KOs) will headline in his hometown of Denver against Gabriel Martinez (27-2-1, 14 KOs) of Mexico.
Marroquin, 21, will have a new trainer in his corner: Paul Reyes, who worked with since-retired champions Donald Curry and Paulie Ayala.
"We're ready to fight," Reyes said. "Marroquin did everything we asked, starting with a lot of running, which is what we did with our champions, Donald Curry and Paulie Ayala. Marroquin is an outstanding boxer who can adapt to another fighter's style. He is a good boxer with excellent hand speed. He needs this fight, and he needs a win on Saturday night. I know he will win. I can feel it.
"Marroquin reminds me a lot of Paulie, who fought with a lot of heart. Marroquin has another great weapon -- his uppercuts. He will fire off a few uppers on Saturday night."
• Premium cable network Epix is working on a deal for the American broadcast rights to carry the Aug. 27 heavyweight doubleheader from Erfurt, Germany, featuring Alexander Povetkin (21-0, 15 KOs) and Ruslan Chagaev (27-1-1, 17 KOs) meeting for a vacant belt and rising contender Robert Helenius (15-0, 10 KOs) facing former titlist Sergei Liakhovich (25-3, 16 KOs). Povetkin, 31, won a 2004 Olympic gold medal for Russia and quickly emerged as a top contender, but his career has stagnated because of injuries and because he rejected a mandatory shot at champion Wladimir Klitschko for a career-high payday of more than $2 million last fall. Chagaev, 32, a native of Uzbekistan living in Germany, has won two consecutive bouts since taking a beating from Klitschko in a June 2009 10th-round TKO loss.
• Welterweight titlist Jan Zaveck's defense against former titleholder Andre Berto (27-1, 21 KOs), scheduled for Sept. 3 on HBO, will take place at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi, Miss., promoter Lou DiBella told ESPN.com. Berto, who lost his title to Victor Ortiz by decision April 16 in a fight of the year candidate, has fought at the Beau Rivage once before. He defended his belt there in a 2009 slugfest against former titlist Luis Collazo. Zaveck (31-1, 18 KOs), of Slovenia, will be fighting in the United States for the first time and will be making his fourth defense. He can't wait to perform in America. "Honestly, I have been waiting for this opportunity all my life. This is going to be the beginning of my global career," Zaveck said. "This is going to be my first break overseas, but definitely not the last. We have done a lot of work to come this far. This is a dream fight for me. [Berto] is a great fighter, but far from being invincible. I am going to the USA to win the fight, not to watch it."
• Bantamweight Vic Darchinyan (36-3-1, 27 KOs), a former flyweight and junior bantamweight titlist, is from Armenia but has lived in Australia for years, and he has fought almost exclusively there or in the United States. But he has wanted to return to his homeland to fight professionally, and now his wish is being granted. Promoter Gary Shaw told ESPN.com that Darchinyan will fight Sept. 3 in the Armenian capital of Yerevan against Evans Mbamba (18-1, 9 KOs) of South Africa. Darchinyan is coming off participating in Showtime's four-man bantamweight tournament. Although he lost a split decision to Abner Mares in the December semifinals, he bounced back to win a shutout five-round technical decision against former titlist Yonnhy Perez in the April consolation match in a very strong performance. Mbamba's lone loss was two fights ago, a decision to Tomas Rojas in an interim junior bantamweight title bout. Darchinyan made his final junior bantamweight title defense against Rojas and knocked him out in the second round.
• Junior welterweight prospect Jessie Vargas (16-0, 9 KOs), a Floyd Mayweather Jr. protégé from Las Vegas who will open the Mayweather-Victor Ortiz HBO PPV telecast at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in a 10-rounder, has an opponent. He will face Josesito Lopez (29-3, 17 KOs) in a fight that was agreed to Thursday. "I love the fight. It's definitely an entertaining fight," Henry Ramirez, Lopez's trainer, told ESPN.com. "It's opening a huge card, so it's great exposure. We jumped at it when it was offered. Jessie Vargas is a good young prospect, and Josesito is a young contender on the rise." Lopez has won seven fights in a row and is coming off a seventh-round knockout of previously undefeated prospect Mike Dallas Jr. in January. Vargas is coming off a highlight-reel second-round knockout of veteran Walter Estrada on July 8.
• There is a price that sometimes must be paid for scoring a big knockout, as Philadelphia welterweight contender Mike Jones (25-0, 19 KOs) is finding out. He drilled Raul Munoz in the second round June 25 with a shot so hard that he badly bruised his right hand and was ordered to rest it by his doctor. Because of the tenderness, co-promoter Russell Peltz told ESPN.com that Jones will not fight on the Sept. 10 Yuriorkis Gamboa-Daniel Ponce De Leon undercard in Atlantic City, N.J., as originally scheduled. It might turn out to be good for Jones in the long run because Peltz said the fighter instead is likely to make his fall return on a much bigger card -- on the undercard of either the Nov. 12 Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez III pay-per-view or the Dec. 3 Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito II pay-per-view.
• It's unclear whether any of these bouts will actually happen, but the WBC has ordered significant fights at junior middleweight and light heavyweight. At 154 pounds, it ordered a final elimination match between Vanes Martirosyan (30-0, 19 KOs) and Alfredo "Perro" Angulo (19-1, 16 KOs), who has been inactive since July 2010 because of his immigration and promotional problems. If they don't reach agreement, a purse bid is scheduled for Aug. 19. The winner of the proposed bout would become the mandatory challenger for Saul "Canelo" Alvarez. At 175 pounds, the WBC ordered a four-man tournament, the winner of which would become the next mandatory challenger for the winner of the Oct. 15 bout between champion Bernard Hopkins and current mandatory challenger Chad Dawson. In the proposed tournament, Ismayl Sillakh and Chris Henry would meet in one semifinal, with former titleholders Jean Pascal and Zsolt Erdei meeting in the other semifinal.
• Super middleweight prospect Edwin Rodriguez (18-0, 13 KOs), sidelined because of a strained left rotator cuff since a January win against Aaron Pryor Jr., is preparing for his return. Promoter Lou DiBella told ESPN.com that Rodriguez will make his comeback in his hometown of Worcester, Mass., on Aug. 20 and will face Chris Traietti (10-2, 6 KOs). The fight will be recorded to air on DiBella's "Broadway Boxing" series. Rodriguez's fight will be his first since splitting with trainer Peter Manfredo Sr. and hiring Ronnie Shields. Rodriguez could have returned earlier, but DiBella said the layoff was extended as a precaution to make his sure his shoulder was fully healed. "We didn't want to rush him back," DiBella said. "Then, when he was recovered, he switched trainers and he needed some time with Ronnie. Now that he's 100 percent, he'll be back Aug. 20 and then hopefully in the fall on 'ShoBox.' We gave it a lot of time. A rotator cuff injury is a serious thing, but it's hopefully behind him now." Also on the card will be former junior middleweight titlist Joachim Alcine (32-2, 19 KOs), who hasn't fought since Alfredo "Perro" Angulo knocked him out in the first round in July 2010. It will be Alcine's first bout since signing with DiBella.
• Junior middleweight titlist Austin Trout (23-0, 13 KOs) thought he would be heading to Australia to make his second defense against Anthony Mundine (42-4, 25 KOs) on Aug. 24. However, Khoder Nasser, Mundine's manager, backed out of the deal after it had been agreed to, according to Greg Cohen, Trout's promoter. "I am beyond exasperated with the Mundine situation," Cohen told ESPN.com. "After five weeks of fully negotiating and agreeing to a deal with Mundine's promoter, he simply backed out of the deal. This kind of time wasting and dealing in bad faith is exactly what's ruining our sport. Where I come from, a deal is a deal and your word means everything. Austin, needless to say, is even more aggravated than I am. He was in full training camp and getting ready to make his second defense. Life goes on and we will be fine, but Mundine's people are dishonest, disingenuous, bold-faced liars who have to wake up every morning and look themselves in the mirror, and there is no way they can like what they see." Cohen said he would like to put together a unification bout between Trout and Sergiy Dzinziruk.
• Featherweight titlist Chris John (45-0-2, 22 KOs) will make his 15th defense -- against Japan's Satoshi Hosono (21-1, 15 KOs) -- in Singapore on Oct. 8, Sampson Lewkowicz, John's adviser, told ESPN.com. John, of Indonesia, has fought in the United States, but his recent fights have been in Asia. According to Lewkowicz, it is simply a matter of economics. Although John would like to fight in the U.S. again, Lewkowicz said the money they are making in Asia is better than he would earn in America. John, 31, has held his belt since 2003 and is boxing's longest-reigning active titleholder. Hosono has won five fights in a row since his lone defeat, a majority decision against then-junior featherweight titlist Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym in January 2010.
• Junior lightweights Argenis Mendez (18-1, 9 KOs), a Dominican Republic native living in New York, and former titlist Juan Carlos Salgado (23-1-1, 16 KOs) of Mexico will meet Sept. 10 in Agua Caliente, Mexico, for a vacant title, according to Mendez promoter Lou DiBella. Sean Gibbons, who is with Salgado promoter Zanfer Promotions, told ESPN.com that the date was pushed back from the originally planned Aug. 20 date to accommodate Mexican television. DiBella said that he owns the American broadcast rights for the fight and that he would package it to run on tape delay on an edition of his "Broadway Boxing" series.
• The hype for the Sept. 17 HBO PPV fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and welterweight titlist Victor Ortiz is under way. Although HBO's four-part "24/7," which will follow the buildup to the fight, doesn't begin until Aug. 27, the network's "Face Off with Max Kellerman: Mayweather-Ortiz" is already running on the network. Kellerman moderated the intense interview session in which both fighters faced each other, interacted and answered questions. There are multiple replays of the show on HBO, including at 8:30 a.m. ET/PT on Aug. 2. The show also will have replays on HBO2 and is available on HBO On Demand and HBO GO.
• It's a relatively light boxing weekend, but Golden Boy is promoting a card Saturday night in Mazatlan, Mexico, that will be available in the United States to AT&T U-verse television subscribers, at U-verse online at www.att.net/boxeo and to subscribers of the U-verse live TV mobile application (9:30 ET). Bantamweight prospect Leo Santa Cruz (16-0-1, 8 KOs) of Mexico will headline the show against Nicaragua's Everth Briceno (33-6, 28 KOs). In the co-feature, Manuel Jimenez (16-1, 11 KOs) meets Mexican countryman Mario Rodriguez (10-6-4, 7 KOs) in a strawweight bout. Fans watching will have a chance to win one of five prizes -- either one of four gloves signed by junior middleweight titlist Saul "Canelo" Alvarez or two tickets to his Sept. 17 defense against Alfonso Gomez at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. A question will be asked during the broadcast, and fans who send the correct answer to GoldenBoyPresents@gmail.com will be entered to win one of the prizes.
• Top Rank has announced signing Nigerian welterweight Oyewale "Lucky Boy" Omotoso (18-0, 16 KOs), who is being trained by Freddie Roach. Top Rank matchmaker Bruce Trampler was impressed by Omotoso after watching him spar with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. at Roach's Wild Card Gym in Hollywood, Calif. "'Lucky Boy' is skilled, and he hits real hard. He got my attention real quick," Trampler said. According to Top Rank, Omotoso had been boxing in Australia but came to California to meet Roach because he had heard so much about him. "Already he has taught me footwork, to attack from different angles, how to throw hard punches," Omotoso said. "He is the best, and now I am with the best promotional company in Top Rank." Omotoso is managed by Steven Feder, who also handles junior middleweight contender Vanes Martirosyan, who has been with Top Rank for his entire career.
• South Africa's Jeffrey Mathebula (25-3-2, 14 KOs) and Mexico's Giovanni Caro (22-9-4, 17 KOs) have been ordered to meet in a junior featherweight eliminator to determine the mandatory challenger for 122-pound titlist Takalani Ndlovu of South Africa. If their promoters don't make a deal, a purse bid will take place Aug. 9. Mathebula lost his only title shot, a split decision to then-unified junior featherweight titlist Celestino Caballero in 2009. Three fights ago, Mathebula lost a split decision to Ndlovu in a title eliminator. Caro is coming off a clear decision loss to Simphiwe Vetyeka, yet the IBF approved his taking part in a title eliminator.
• According to manager Cameron Dunkin, lightweight titlist Brandon Rios likely will return on the Nov. 12 Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez III pay-per-view undercard. "That's what we're working on, and it looks very good," Dunkin told ESPN.com. Cruiserweights Lateef Kayode (17-0, 14 KOs) and Garrett Wilson (10-5-1, 4 KOs) have been ordered to meet in a title eliminator to decide the next mandatory for titlist Steve Cunningham. If their promoters -- Gary Shaw for Kayode and Russell Peltz for Wilson -- don't reach agreement, the purse bid will be scheduled for Aug. 2. John Beninati, Shaw's matchmaker, said he hoped to make a deal and possibly place the fight on a Sept. 30 "ShoBox" card he is working on. Frankie Gomez (10-0, 8 KOs), Golden Boy's 19-year-old blue-chip junior welterweight prospect from East Los Angeles, goes on the road to face Adrian Granados (6-0-1, 4 KOs), 21, in his hometown of Chicago on Aug. 26 on "Solo Boxeo Tecate" (Telefutura, 11:30 p.m. ET/PT). Former super middleweight titlist Karoly Balzsay (23-2, 17 KOs) of Germany is headed to the hometown of Stas Kashtanov (28-0, 15 KOs) in Donetsk, Ukraine, to face him for a vacant belt Aug. 26. The winner would face Balzsay's Universum stablemate Dimitri Sartison, who was stripped of the belt because of a knee injury but has been given a mandatory shot at the winner. "I am really looking forward to get another title shot," Balzsay said. "I have worked my butt off to come back to this stage again."
"Many weeks ago, my brother [Wladimir Klitschko] fought against David Haye, and people ask who's stronger, David Haye or Tomasz Adamek? No question, David Haye is much stronger by talking. He is unbeatable by talking. Tomasz is stronger by fighting."
-- Heavyweight titleholder Vitali Klitschko, comparing Haye, who lost a lopsided decision to Wladimir on July 2, to Adamek, whom Vitali defends his version of the title against on Sept. 10 (HBO) in Adamek's native Poland
"There is a great series of movies, 'Rocky.' They captured the mentality of the underdog. If the favorite always won in sport, it wouldn't be any fun. I'm here to prove that the underdog can cause a massive upset. So you may not know who I am now, but come Oct. 1, you will know exactly who 'Dazzling' Darren Barker is."
-- Darren Barker, in a recent news conference announcing his upcoming HBO fight against middleweight champion Sergio Martinez
"I know that we have both fought Vic [Darchinyan] and Yonnhy [Perez]. He survived that, but he will not survive me."
-- Bantamweight titlist Joseph Agbeko, on challenger Abner Mares, whom he will face in the Aug. 13 final of Showtime's four-man bantamweight tournament at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter at danrafaelespn.
The 126-pound division didn't treat Rafael Marquez particularly well, so the former junior featherweight (and bantamweight) champ is back at 122 to make another run at a title, against Toshiaki Nishioka.