- Dan Rafael, Boxing
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Lightweight titleholders Ricky Burns and Miguel Vazquez will meet March 16 in a 135-pound world title unification bout on a major card that British promoter Frank Warren announced Monday.
The card will take place at Wembley Arena in London and also include light heavyweight titleholder Nathan Cleverly in a mandatory defense against Robin Krasniqi.
Also on the card: George Groves (16-0, 12 KOs) will face Mouhamed Ali Ndiaye (22-1, 13 KOs) for the vacant European super middleweight title; junior lightweight Liam Walsh (13-0, 10 KOs) will defend his Commonwealth title against an opponent to be determined and cruiserweight Neil Dawson (11-1, 4 KOs) meets Tony Conquest (10-1, 4 KOs) in a rematch.
Former world heavyweight title challenger Dereck Chisora also is due to fight on the show against an opponent to be determined in a scheduled 10-round bout as long as he is licensed by the British Boxing Board of Control. He previously had been barred by the board for disciplinary reasons.
All-boxing subscription network BoxNation will televise the card in Great Britain, with American coverage slated for Epix and EpixHD.com.
"It's the best of Britain all in one night of big fights," Warren said. "Fans have got two of our very best world champions, Burns and Cleverly, in action with Burns in a huge unification clash against Vazquez, while Cleverly faces a hard defense against Krasniqi. Groves has the chance to add the European title to his collection and has a tough fight against Ndiaye, while Chisora is reapplying for his license."
Burns (35-2, 10 KOs), 29, of Scotland, will be making his third title defense after two easy ones in 2012 -- a lopsided decision against former titlist Paulus Moses and a fourth-round knockout of contender Kevin Mitchell in September. A Dec. 15 defense against Walsh was called off when Walsh hurt his back in a car accident and replacement opponent Jose Ocampo also dropped out.
Warren had been in talks for Burns to face Adrien Broner in a Feb. 16 unification bout, but they fell apart over money, leading to the deal with Vazquez.
"This is a dream come true for me," said Burns, who held a junior lightweight title before vacating to move up in weight. "Any boxer would be happy winning two world titles at two weights and retire, but for me, I want to continue winning more world titles, unifying them and stepping up the weight divisions. Vazquez is a top fighter and one that I've been after a long time so I'm over the moon that it's happening."
Vazquez (33-3, 13 KOs), of Mexico, will be making the sixth defense of the belt he has held since 2010. Most recently, Vazquez, 26, won a lopsided decision against Mercito Gesta on Dec. 8 in Las Vegas on the Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez IV undercard in a fight devoid of action.
"We're really excited about getting this fight," said Sean Gibbons of Zanfer Promotions, which promotes Vazquez. "Adrien Broner is running from us because of our style. We're not the most exciting at times but we are the No. 1 lightweight in the world. We've proven it. We took the Burns fight because we couldn't get Broner. So since we couldn't get Broner, we'll take the man Broner wanted, Burns. And when we beat Burns decisively, we hope Broner quits talking and fights the best lightweight in the world.
"Burns is a good, solid fighter and a good test, and going to England is not an easy place to win, but Miguel Vazquez is a master boxer and has the style to beat anyone in the world at lightweight."
Cleverly (25-0, 12 KOs), of Wales, will be making fifth title defense when he meets Krasniqi (39-2, 15 KOs), of Germany. Warren claimed promotional rights to the bout by winning a purse bid for $500,000, beating Ulf Steinforth of SES Boxing, Krasniqi's promoter, who bid $431,650. Krasniqi, 25, lost two of his first three pro bouts -- both four-round decisions -- but has been perfect since, although he is taking a significant step up in competition against Cleverly, 26.
"Krasniqi will be a hard defense and he's a fighter not to be underestimated," Cleverly said. "I've got to beat him and in style to keep the heat on for a unification fight against (Tavoris) Cloud, (Chad) Dawson or (Beibut) Shumenov. Every fight is crucial for me, but there is extra pressure on this one to perform, which I love, because I fight best when the pressure's on."
England's 24-year-old Groves, who sent former light heavyweight world champion Glen Johnson into likely retirement with a one-sided win Dec. 15, will be fighting for the European title recently vacated by rival James DeGale, the 2008 British Olympic gold medalist whom Groves outpointed in their heavily hyped 2011 showdown.
Ndiaye, 33, who was born in Senegal but lives in Italy, has won nine fights in a row since his lone loss -- a split decision to Lolenga Mock -- in 2008.
"I've won the British and Commonwealth titles and the European is the next step for me towards the world title," Groves said. "The guy (Ndiaye) is tough and awkward. James DeGale didn't want to fight him, but I've got the tools to beat him. It's a great show to be on alongside Cleverly, Burns and Chisora and it will be a fantastic night in London."
England's Chisora (15-4, 9 KOs) will look to end a three-fight losing streak that began with a highly controversial split decision loss to Robert Helenius in Helenius' hometown of Helsinki in December 2011. In his next fight, Chisora, 29, acquitted himself well in a decision loss to heavyweight titleholder Vitali Klitschko.
At the news conference after that fight, Chisora and former titleholder David Haye were involved in an ugly brawl that led to their trouble with British boxing regulators. In July, Haye knocked out Chisora in the fifth round of a fight that the British Boxing Board of Control refused to sanction.
Instead, Warren worked with the Luxembourg Boxing Federation to oversee the card. Now Chisora is seeking a license again from British regulators in order to fight on this card, which is being overseen by the British Boxing Board of Control.
Walsh will be fighting for the first time since the car accident kept him from challenging Burns. In his previous fight, Dawson surprisingly knocked out Conquest in the first round on Dec. 15 and is fighting him again.
Lightweight titleholders Ricky Burns and Miguel Vazquez will meet March 16 in a 135-pound world title unification bout on a major card British promoter Frank Warren announced on Monday.