Monaco to host 4-man, $1M event

Updated: February 1, 2013, 6:45 PM ET
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com

Top American super middleweight prospect Edwin Rodriguez and former light heavyweight titlist Zsolt Erdei will be part of a four-man tournament announced Friday in which the finalists will share $1 million -- with $600,000 going to the winner and $400,000 to the runner-up.

South African promoter Rodney Berman of Golden Gloves has partnered with the Principality of Monaco and the Nelson Mandela Foundation to announce the "Monaco Million Dollar Super 4."

The semifinals will take place March 30 at the Casino de Monte Carlo and will pit Rodriguez (22-0, 15 KOs) against Ezequiel Osvaldo Maderna (19-0, 13 KOs) in a 10-round super middleweight bout and Erdei (33-0, 18 KOs) against Denis Grachev (12-1-1, 8 KOs) in a 10-round light heavyweight fight.

"Zsolt is fighting a tough guy and Edwin is in with a guy we don't know lot about, but he's a big puncher," said Lou DiBella, who promotes Erdei and Rodriguez. "This is a huge opportunity for these four fighters. The winner of this tournament clearly cements themselves as one of the top fighters in the entire world."

The finals are scheduled to take place July 13, also at the Casino de Monte Carlo, with the winners meeting at a maximum weight of 171½ pounds, which is between the 168-pound super middleweight limit and the 175 light heavyweight limit.

The previously announced main event of the March 30 card will be middleweight titleholder Gennady Golovkin's seventh title defense, which will come against former title challenger Nobuhiro Ishida of Japan. Also on the card, European junior middleweight champion Sergei Rabchenko (22-0, 16 KOs) of Belarus will defend against Italy's Adriano Nicchi (20-3-2, 9 KOs).

DiBella said he was working to find an American television outlet for the tournament.

"The (March 30) card is a really good show and to have Golovkin on the card just adds to it," DiBella said. "Very few places in the world are nicer than Monaco, so I am looking forward to it. Now I need to figure out a way to get it televised so the American public can see it, but the economics of the event work even without American TV. You can't rely any longer just on American networks."

The tournament final will be held as a celebration of South African icon Nelson Mandela's 95th birthday, which is July 18. Berman said the tournament will be used to "help raise public awareness and interaction with Mandela's initiative to encourage public funding for the Nelson Mandela Children's Hospital, a project to build a state-of-the-art research and care facility for children throughout Africa."

Ndaba Mandela, one of Nelson Mandela's grandsons, said in a statement, "On behalf of my foundation, Africa Rising, it is a great honor to be a part this event. My grandfather (is) an avid boxing enthusiast and we felt it would only be fit to honor him with a world class boxing event as part of the celebration of his 95th birthday. We are very excited to be a part of the 'Monte Carlo Million Dollar Super Four' and honored to have his Serene Highness Prince Albert II and the people of Monaco be a part of what will be an extraordinary celebration."

Rodriguez, of Worcester, Mass., won his last two bouts on HBO and is one of the top rising 168-pounders.

"It is a dream come true for me to participate in this tournament," Rodriguez said. "I have worked my entire life for this opportunity and don't plan on wasting it. While I am happy and honored to be in the tournament, I won't be satisfied until I win it. Having not had the opportunity to participate in the 2008 Olympics, it's an added bonus to be placed against an undefeated former Olympian in Maderna for my first fight."

Maderna, a 2008 Olympian for Argentina, will be fighting outside of his home country for the first time.

Erdei, a former light heavyweight and cruiserweight titlist from Hungary, never lost either title in the ring. He made 11 light heavyweight title defenses during his 2004-09 reign before vacating his title and moving up to cruiserweight and winning another title, which he never defended. He returned to light heavyweight in 2010 after a year off and fought twice in the United States but has not fought since June 2011 because of injuries.

"This past year I have had some serious injuries, therefore, I have missed out on some really big fights," said Erdei, who withdrew from a title fight against Tavoris Cloud because of a serious right hand injury. "I've successfully recovered from all these injuries and now I am back on my game. I feel healthy, energized and focused. I have the opportunity with this tournament to prove that I am still the one of the best in the world. Winning the tournament puts me right in line for a shot at reclaiming my world championship, and there is no way I will let that opportunity pass me by."

Grachev, a Russia native living in San Diego, gained notoriety in April 2012 when he scored a major upset by knocking out contender Ismayl Sillakh on ESPN2. In his next bout, Grachev gave former super middleweight titlist Lucian Bute fits in a decision loss in November.

"I believe that I am fighting the best out of the four of us, but once I beat Erdei, I will then be the top guy left in the tournament," Grachev said. "I can't rely on the judges in these bouts. That is why I am going to take matters into my own hands and I am going into this tournament with full intention of knocking both of my opponents out. This is a huge opportunity for me and a way for me to reach my ultimate goal as being recognized as one of the best fighters in the entire world."

Golovkin (25-0, 22 KOs), of Kazakhstan, is coming off a seventh-round destruction of Gabriel Rosado in New York on Jan. 19. With his next HBO date not until June, he's staying busy against Ishida (24-8-2, 9 KOs).

"I am excited about fighting in Monaco in my next fight," Golovkin said. "It is a great location and I always want to keep contact with my European fans. Ishida has proven he is a very dangerous opponent with his KO win over James Kirkland, and I am up for the challenge."