Groves, DeGale angling for rematch
British super middleweight rivals George Groves, the British and Commonwealth champion, and James DeGale, the 2008 Olympic gold medalist and European champion, return on the same card in Liverpool, England, on Dec. 9 as promoter Frank Warren builds toward a rematch of the two fighters.
Groves, who outpointed DeGale via majority decision in a heavily hyped fight in May and had also beaten him in the amateur ranks, will face an opponent to be determined in the main event. Groves (14-0, 11 KOs) impressively knocked out Paul Smith in the second round Nov. 5 in his first bout since beating DeGale (11-1, 8 KOs). He got rid of Smith in much easier fashion than had DeGale, who needed nine rounds to dispatch Smith in December 2010.
"I signed with Frank to keep busy, and it is great that he's got me out once more before the end of the year and I can then look at an active 2012," Groves said. "I'm looking to put on an exciting and explosive performance for the fans, as I did against Smith, and show that I'm a true world-class potential. DeGale can say what he wants, but he knows the job I did on Smith in two rounds was more clinical and devastating than what he did [to Smith] in nine rounds. If he wants a long career, the last thing he wants to do is fight me again. I've beat him twice; once more and that's the end of him."
In DeGale's first fight since losing to Groves, he outpointed Poland's Piotr Wilczewski on Oct. 15 to win the European title. DeGale will make his first defense against Jose Guerrero (29-2-1, 11 KOs) of Spain, but hr ultimately wants a rematch with Groves.
"I'll take Groves again at the drop of hat because I believe I beat him last time out," DeGale said. "It was close, but I thought I won it. I've got my own business to see to on Dec. 9 and I'm just focused on improving with my trainer, Jim McDonnell. If [Groves] keeps winning and I keep winning, then it's a massive fight that the public are going to want to see again."
Jones mourns mentor Frazier
Philadelphia welterweight contender Mike Jones, who was trained by former heavyweight champion Joe Frazier as an amateur, is mourning the death of his mentor. Frazier died from liver cancer at age 67 on Nov. 7.
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"It hits me to the heart," Jones said. "He was a great person to be around and a great friend. We had a pretty close relationship. He took care of me a lot. He arranged transportation for me to his gym and then bought me a car. Everything was about the fighter. He knew the fighter had to perform, so he took care of the fighter, no matter what. That's what he was all about. Joe always said, 'You're going to get your brain shook, your money took and your name on the undertaker book, so you better do all your roadwork. Never miss a day of roadwork, and take it very serious.' That's in me to this day.
"I was born with Joe Frazier DNA, and when I went to his gym -- my dad took me there when I was 15 -- I just got even more of it, that tough Philadelphia heart and the desire to go in [the ring] and dig out a knockout. Joe always put his imprint on everything. He wanted all his guys to be modeled after him. He'd say, 'You want to plant those feet and get those knockouts, be grounded and have that foundation first. Sit in the pocket and really dig it out.' And his left hook? Oh, my! He'd say, 'The left hook, the double hook, it's not a 1-2, it's all one shot.'
"Joe was a great mentor to me, a great friend. He was a wonderful person. He was the best. He was a great personality, a great fighter. He was always about the fighter. God bless him, may he rest in peace."
Jones (25-0, 19 KOs) is preparing for a title eliminator against Argentina's Sebastian Lujan (38-5-2, 24 KOs) on the HBO PPV undercard of the Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito rematch on Dec. 3. With Andre Berto having vacated his version of the welterweight title, the IBF ruled that the winner of Jones-Lujan must next face Randall Bailey -- who had been Berto's mandatory challenger -- for the vacant belt.
Kirkland comfortable at 154
Junior middleweight contender James Kirkland (30-1, 27 KOs), who knocked out Alfredo Angulo in the sixth round of a ferocious battle on Nov. 5 in Cancun, Mexico, in an HBO main event, doesn't have his next fight planned -- his team is working on it -- but he plans to remain at 154 pounds.
"I lost the weight so good and beautiful for the fight, 154 is my home," Kirkland said. "I love how the weight came off. As far as who I want next, there is so many things we could do, but it's not my decision. We will set up something that would be spectacular. I will give the fans what they want to see every time."
Angulo knocked down Kirkland in the first round and it looked like he might be in trouble -- the way Kirkland was when Nobuhiro Ishida dropped him three times in the first round in a knockout loss in an April upset. Kirkland has won three fights in a row since the loss to Ishida, but a rematch isn't on his mind.
"Right now, the way things are going, a rematch with Ishida isn't in the plans," he said. "I'm not going to look back. If it happens, it happens, but as long as things are looking up, there's no need to go backward."
Macklin eyes Martinez
Middleweight contender Matthew Macklin, an Irishman from England, is eyeing a shot against lineal champion Sergio Martinez (48-2-2, 27 KOs) next spring.
Macklin (28-3, 19 KOs) proved he is ready for the top middleweights in his fight with titleholder Felix Sturm in Germany in June. Although Macklin lost a split decision, it was tremendously controversial, with Macklin viewed as the clear winner by many but the victim of a hometown decision.
One of the reasons Macklin signed with promoter Lou DiBella was to help facilitate the fight with Martinez, whom DiBella also promotes. DiBella hopes to make the match for St. Patrick's Day weekend at New York's Madison Square Garden. Macklin has relocated to New York and immersed himself in the Irish community to help build his fan base.
"I've proved throughout my career that the bigger the challenge and the bigger the stage, the better I perform. And there's no bigger stage than fighting a guy considered to be among the top three pound-for-pound fighters in the world, in the Mecca of boxing," Macklin said. "Being in a massive world title fight at Madison Square Garden is the stuff every boxer dreams of and it's close to becoming a reality for me. The fact that it will be on St. Patrick's Day is just the icing on the cake.
"I have a lot of respect for Martinez. What he's done after taking up boxing so late is remarkable, but he's really a natural light middleweight and I'm a big, strong middleweight. I believe that my size, strength and power will be too much for him."
• Former heavyweight titlist David Haye's retirement may be short lived -- not that a comeback would surprise anyone. In July, Haye was embarrassed in a near-shutout loss to champion Wladimir Klitschko, after which Haye claimed he lost because of a sore pinkie toe. Unable to line up an immediate rematch, Haye said he would stick to his plan to announce his retirement on Oct. 13, his 31st birthday, and he did. But there are talks taking place to match Haye (25-2, 23 KOs) with Vitali Klitschko (43-2, 40 KOs), Wladimir's older brother and fellow champion, in March, Bernd Boente, Klitschko's manager, told ESPN.com. "Haye is one option for Vitali's next fight, but it's true we are at least negotiating," he said.
• If Manny Pacquiao's next fight isn't against Floyd Mayweather Jr. on May 5 -- and based on the talk coming from Pacquiao's promoter, Bob Arum, it doesn't look like it will be -- the date for Pacquiao's next fight will be penciled in for June 9. The fight Arum has said he is pursuing is a fourth bout with Juan Manuel Marquez, who dropped a debatable majority decision to Pacquiao this past Saturday in Las Vegas. Pacquiao is now 2-0-1 against Marquez in three exciting fights that ended in highly disputed decisions. Pacquiao-Marquez III was a big winner at the gate. According to the Nevada State Athletic Commission, the sold-out fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas generated a live gate of $11,648,300, good for ninth all-time in Nevada history. The 15,498 tickets sold were the most for a Nevada boxing event since Mayweather-Oscar De La Hoya on May 5, 2007 at the MGM and the second most since Bernard Hopkins-De La Hoya on Sept. 18, 2004, also at the MGM. There were 861 complimentary tickets given out for Pacquiao-Marquez III, according to the commission. In addition to the crowd at the MGM, the closed circuit broadcast of the fight at eight Las Vegas properties generated an additional $575,200 from 11,504 tickets, according to the commission.
• Rising heavyweight contender Robert Helenius of Finland will face England's Dereck Chisora for the vacant European title at Hartwall Arena in Helsinki on Dec. 3. The fight will be televised live in the United States on Epix, along with Russia's Alexander Povetkin (22-0, 15 KOs) making the first defense of his minor heavyweight belt against American Cedric Boswell (35-1, 26 KOs). Helenius (16-0, 11 KOs) owns knockout victories against three former titleholders: Lamon Brewster, Samuel Peter and Sergei Liakhovich, the last of whom he stopped in the ninth round in his most recent fight, in August on Epix. Chisora (15-1, 9 KOs) suffered a loss -- his first -- to Tyson Fury on points in July, then bounced back for a low-level win on Nov. 11. At 6-foot-6, Helenius will have a significant height advantage against the 6-1 Chisora. The European title became vacant when Alexander Dimitrenko (32-1, 21 KOs) relinquished it because he needed elbow surgery last month. The Helenius-Chisora winner will be obligated to face Dimitrenko.
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• With HBO's early 2012 schedule still not set as the network prepares for Ken Hershman to start his new job as HBO Sports president on Jan. 9, Top Rank is planning to put together its own pay-per-view card in February featuring Nonito Donaire (27-1, 18 KOs) in the main event. Donaire, the unified bantamweight titlist, plans to move up to junior featherweight for his next fight. "We're looking at several opponents, but we don't have anything set yet," manager Cameron Dunkin told ESPN.com. "We don't know who he will fight yet, but it's going to be a quality guy. And it will be a pay-per-view unless HBO gives us a date out of the blue." Dunkin said there was no set venue yet either, but that it would probably be in Las Vegas.
• HBO announced that its new six-episode series "On Freddie Roach," which will focus on the famed trainer, his career and his battle with Parkinson's disease, will debut Jan. 30 (9:30 p.m. ET/PT). Emmy nominee Peter Berg is the director and executive producer for the series, while HBO blow-by-blow man Jim Lampley also serving as one of the executive producers. "We are truly excited to partner with Peter Berg on this exceptional production," president of HBO programming Michael Lombardo said in making the announcement. "Freddie Roach is an extraordinary person and a fascinating personality." Said Berg: "HBO's enthusiasm in supporting a less-conventional, vérité style of storytelling is why they continue to create original and truly innovative programming. It's why they are the best, and we are very excited to be working with them."
• Cruiserweight titlist Marco Huck, who could return in February for a mandatory defense against Ola Afolabi, is thinking like most cruiserweights: that he is interested in seeing how he would fare as a heavyweight. So Huck, who celebrated his 27th birthday on Nov. 11, said he wants to challenge either Wladimir or Vitali Klitschko for their titles. Huck thinks he might have a good chance to get Wladimir in the next couple of years. "I am sure that I have a good chance of knocking out Wladimir," said Huck, who presently would give up about six inches and 45 pounds to Klitschko. "He can't handle pressure, and I certainly wouldn't run away or be terrified by his jab like his last opponents. But even if people think that I just run my mouth and should stop dreaming, I am pretty sure that I am a more credible opponent than Jean-Marc Mormeck [whom Klitschko faces Dec. 10]. He is far past his prime, and even in his best days, I would have beaten him. So if Wladimir fights him, why not take on me?"
• Mexico's Jorge Arce (58-6-2, 45 KOs) has vacated his junior featherweight belt and will drop down to bantamweight to face Indonesia's Angky Angkotta for a vacant belt in Mazatlan, Mexico, on Nov. 26 in the main event of a "Top Rank Live" (Fox Deportes) card. They will fight for the 118-pound title vacated by Nonito Donaire, who is moving up to junior featherweight, where he likely will fight for the belt Arce relinquished. Arce and Angkotta (25-5, 14 KOs) will be fighting in a rematch of their January 2010 bout in Mexico City. Arce won that fight and claimed a vacant junior bantamweight title on a seventh-round technical decision. The bout was stopped and sent to the scorecards after Angkotta suffered a cut over his eye because of an accidental head clash. Arce had pitched a 60-54 shutout on two of the scorecards through six rounds and was ahead 58-56 on the third scorecard.
• British welterweight contender Kell Brook (25-0, 17 KOs), who is close to landing a title shot, will make his American debut against Luis Galarza (17-2, 13 KOs) of Puerto Rico at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., on Dec. 17 on the undercard of the Super Six World Boxing Classic final between super middleweight titleholders Andre Ward (24-0, 13 KOs) and Carl Froch (28-1, 20 KOs). "I'm going over to America to dazzle them and show them what us Brits can do," Brook said. "He's 17-2, won his last eight and beat Paul Delgado, a former world title challenger, in his last fight. He's a tough guy, but it's a great opportunity for me to go out and get some American exposure and get in tune for my world title fight."
• South Africa's Ali Funeka (30-3-3, 25 KOs), a former lightweight contender, will return as a junior welterweight on Saturday in Johannesburg for his first fight since a split decision loss to Joan Guzman in March 2010. Funeka was suspended after the fight by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for nine months and fined $35,000 (of his $105,000 purse) for testing positive for a banned substance, the diuretic hydrochlorothiazide. Funeka was eligible to fight months ago, but did not. He will face Zolani Marali (21-4, 13 KOs) on the undercard of a show headlined by a heavyweight fight between faded contenders Francois Botha (48-5-3, 29 KOs), who is from South Africa, and American Michael Grant (47-4, 35 KOs). The card is being carried on pay-per-view in the United States beginning at 2 p.m. ET.
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• Former cruiserweight titlist Enzo Maccarinelli (32-5, 25 KOs) will return Friday night in London in his debut as a light heavyweight. Maccarinelli, 31, will face Gyorgy Marosi (12-0, 8 KOs) of Hungary. Maccarinelli, who has shown time and again that he can't take a heavy punch, has been knocked out in all five of his defeats. He hasn't fought since Alexander Frenkel scored a massive seventh-round knockout against him in September 2010 in a European cruiserweight title fight. Maccarinelli decided he would be better served fighting at light heavyweight and hopes to land a fight with titleholder Nathan Cleverly, his former sparring partner, stablemate and Welsh countryman. "I'm feeling great at light heavyweight, very fast and agile," Maccarinelli said. "I'll be looking to put in a solid performance at York Hall so I can start challenging for domestic and then eventually world titles at light heavyweight."
• Japan's Daisuke Naito (36-3-3, 23 KOs), who held a flyweight title from 2007 to 2009 and went 1-2-1 in his rivalry with the great Thai flyweight champion Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, announced his retirement at age 37. Naito lost his first two title bouts against Wonjongkam via first-round knockout and seventh-round technical decision, but he took the belt off him by decision in 2007. In their fourth fight in 2008, Naito retained the title in a draw. He made five defenses before losing the belt via decision to Koki Kameda last November. Naito returned for a victory in May, but couldn't secure a rematch with Kameda (who has since moved up two weight divisions) and decided to retire.
• The announcement of the 2012 International Boxing Hall of Fame class will be announced Dec. 6. The biggest name among those on the ballot for the first time is Thomas "Hitman" Hearns. The 23rd annual induction weekend will be held June 7-10 at the Canastota, N.Y., shrine. Lightweight titlist Miguel Vazquez (29-3, 13 KOs) will make a mandatory defense against Ameth Diaz (30-10, 21 KOs) on Jan. 28 at a site to be determined in Mexico after the sides made a deal and avoided a purse bid. The bout was originally slated to take place Nov. 26, but was moved. Top Rank announced a Dec. 17 edition of "Top Rank Live" (Fox Deportes/FSN), which will take place at the WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Okla. In the main event, junior featherweight prospect Roberto Marroquin (20-1, 14 KOs), from nearby Dallas, will face Carlos Valcarcel (12-3-4, 5 KOs) of Puerto Rico. Former bantamweight titlist Fernando Montiel (46-3-2, 36 KOs), now fighting at junior featherweight, will face Victor Terrazas (31-2-1, 18 KOs) on Saturday night in Los Mochis, Mexico. The fight will be Montiel's third since he lost his 118-pound belts to Nonito Donaire on a vicious second-round knockout in February.
"Joe Frazier loved Muhammad Ali. And even in [Joe's] death, Ali loves Joe. Forget about what they said about each other. I saw them alone. They couldn't live without the other's attention. They wanted to embrace, sing and dance when they met, but they were Southern guys. The boys up north might laugh and call them more names."
-- Former heavyweight champion George Foreman on the relationship between Ali and the late Joe Frazier
"I'm tough and strong. I'm like a caveman ready to tear someone apart. I'm going to walk forward, hit him hard and often, and I just feel with his lack of punching power, he'll struggle to hold me off."
-- Super middleweight Carl Froch, who is preparing for the Super Six World Boxing Classic final against fellow super middleweight titlist Andre Ward on Dec. 17 (Showtime)
"I think that the heavyweight division is not in great hands right now. I respect the Klitschkos, but someone has to go out and beat them. I want to continue to progress. I want to be the man to dethrone the Klitschkos."
-- American heavyweight prospect Seth Mitchell, who makes his HBO debut against Timur Ibragimov on Dec. 10 on the Amir Khan-Lamont Peterson undercard in Washington, D.C.
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter at danrafaelespn.
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