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|After a rough end to '10, Christy Martin is healed and ready to gun for win No. 50.|
Top Rank is putting the finishing touches on the three fights that will be part of the Miguel Cotto-Ricardo Mayorga pay-per-view undercard on March 12 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Cotto, of course, defends his junior middleweight belt for the first time in the main event against Mayorga, the former welterweight champ and a former junior middleweight beltholder.
Yuri Foreman, the man from whom Cotto won the belt, will make his return to the ring against Pawel Wolak (28-1, 18 KOs). It will be Foreman's first fight since the loss to Cotto and subsequent knee surgery.
Also on the card: lightweight titlist Miguel Vazquez in a mandatory defense against Leonardo Zappavigna and the return to the ring of female boxing pioneer Christy Martin following an 18-month layoff.
"The card has a little bit of everything," Top Rank's Carl Moretti said. "You have the main event, which should be an action fight. You have Christy coming back, which is a story. You have the lightweight title fight. I'm sure the winner will put himself in the sweepstakes for a bigger fight in 2011 or maybe be in position for a big fight at 140 pounds if they want to move up. And you have Yuri coming back."
Although the 42-year-old Martin (49-5-3, 31 KOs) will open the show in a scheduled six-round rematch with Dakota Stone at a contract weight of 150 pounds, she may be the biggest story on the undercard.
Boxing's most famous female fighter has not fought since taking a 10-round majority decision from Stone (9-8-5, 1 KO) to win a vacant women's junior middleweight world title in September 2009. It will also be Stone's first fight since the loss to Martin.
Martin, who famously was on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1996, is in Las Vegas and had her first workout with trainer Miguel Diaz on Thursday.
Martin made headlines in November because of an incident in which her husband, Jim Martin, allegedly shot and stabbed her at their home in the Orlando, Fla., suburb of Apopka during a domestic dispute. She had just told him that she was leaving him for a woman.
The attack left Martin with stab wounds in her chest and leg and a bullet in her back. Although Martin did not want to discuss details -- Jim Martin is facing numerous criminal charges -- she said her injuries have healed and she is excited to get back in the ring after meeting with Top Rank's Bob Arum, who agreed to put her on the card.
"I feel great and I am so happy to be back in the gym. It's my first day," Martin told ESPN.com just before beginning her session on Thursday. "I'm 100 percent physically."
Martin said she had begun working out about two weeks before the incident with her husband. After she recovered from her injuries she started working out again around Christmas.
"I felt good, I felt strong. My punching power is still there," she said. "But, like all fighters, I need to work on conditioning, especially after everything that happened."
Martin said she never considered herself retired after the first Stone fight. She negotiated various bouts, but things fell through each time. She said some of her friends and family encouraged her to retire, especially after she broke her hand in two places against Stone and needed surgery.
"They thought it would be a perfect storybook ending, me winning a world title with a broken hand. I thought about it, but that lasted about three days," she said with a laugh.
One of the reasons Martin said she is boxing again is because she wants to win her 50th fight.
"I said I wanted that a long time ago," Martin said. "Now I'm thinking I might want to get 60 wins. I'm in it to win it. As long as I can keep winning, I'd like to collect a few more world titles and convince Mr. Arum that I add something to his shows. I would be happy to be promoted by Top Rank for the rest of my career. So this is a great opportunity for me to go for the 50th win and prove to myself and to everybody that I can still do this."
Cotto won the 154-pound belt on June 5 at Yankee Stadium by stopping Foreman in the ninth round of a bizarre fight.
Foreman injured his right knee during the seventh round, when it gave out on him and he fell to the canvas during his first title defense. While Foreman was badly limping during the eighth round, his trainer, Joe Grier, threw in the towel to stop the fight. But, in a highly unusual move, referee Arthur Mercante Jr., the only person with the official authority to stop the bout, ignored the corner's request, even though the ring filled with officials and handlers believing the fight had ended. It resumed a few minutes later and Cotto eventually stopped the hobbled Foreman, who later had surgery to repair a torn ACL and meniscus.
Foreman (28-1, 8 KOs) returned to training in October and will be fighting for the first time since the death of his beloved co-manager Murray "Schpipples" Wilson, who passed away that month.
Mexico's Vazquez (27-3, 12 KOs) will make his second title defense against Australia's Zappavigna (25-0, 17 KOs). Better known as Lenny Z, he knocked out Ji Hoon Kim in the first round in October in a title eliminator to become the mandatory challenger.
Although the fight is not scheduled to be part of the PPV broadcast, former welterweight titlist Joshua Clottey will return to the ring on the undercard. It will be his first fight in almost exactly one year since losing a near-shutout decision to Manny Pacquiao.
Clottey (35-4, 20 KOs) is due to face Calvin Green (21-5-1, 13 KOs) in a scheduled 10-rounder at 155 pounds. Top Rank matchmaker Brad "Abdul" Goodman said the fight has been verbally agreed to and he has sent out contracts. Clottey has lost his past two fights, to Pacquiao and a close decision to Cotto in a welterweight title bout. Green has not fought since last April, when Sergio Mora stopped him in the seventh round on the undercard of the Bernard Hopkins-Roy Jones Jr. rematch.
|Arthur Abraham, left, is hoping to bounce back from consecutive losses.|
Former middleweight titlist Arthur Abraham, who has lost his past two fights in lopsided fashion to Carl Froch and Andre Dirrell in Showtime's Super Six World Boxing Classic, nonetheless advanced to the tournament semifinals on the strength of the Group Stage 1 knockout of Jermain Taylor that earned him three points.
Abraham (31-2, 25 KOs) is due to face super middleweight titleholder and tournament favorite Andre Ward (23-0, 13 KOs) in late May. However, Abraham is taking a Feb. 12 tuneup fight to try to get back on the winning track, promoter Sauerland Event announced. No opponent has been selected yet for the 10-rounder. With Showtime's approval, Super Six participants are allowed to fight outside of the confines of the tournament.
In the main event, interim cruiserweight titlist Steve Herelius (21-1-1, 12 KOs) will face Yoan Pablo Hernandez (23-1, 12 KOs) in Düsseldorf, Germany. Hernandez earned the opportunity with a first-round knockout of Ali Ismailov in a Dec. 18 title eliminator.
Alexander Frenkel (23-0, 18 KOs), the European cruiserweight champion, will also fight on the undercard in his first bout since scoring a massive seventh-round knockout of former titlist Enzo Maccarinelli in September.
• Zab Judah (40-6, 27 KOs) and Kaizer Mabuza (23-6-3, 14 KOs) will fight for a vacant junior welterweight belt now that the deal is signed, sealed and delivered. Main Events promoter Kathy Duva, who promotes Judah, told ESPN.com that she received a signed contract from South Africa's Mabuza on Wednesday. The fight will take place March 5 (Integrated Sports PPV) at the AmeriHealth Pavilion at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. With the main arena booked, Judah-Mabuza will be the first event to take place in the smaller arena on the Prudential Center premises, Duva said. She said Main Events intends to put on smaller boxing shows there throughout the year. Some had questioned whether Mabuza would come to the U.S. for the fight for just $25,000, his share of Main Events' winning purse bid. Mabuza promoter Branco Milenkovic had his bid of $104,000 disqualified because it was sent via e-mail, which is not consistent with the IBF rules. He sent it that way because of a snowstorm that held up his paper bid from arriving at the IBF offices in New Jersey on time. "Very few people would pass up the title fight," Duva said. "We're glad we have an event now." She said her staff was working on the undercard, but that welterweight prospect Sadam Ali, a 2008 U.S. Olympian from New York, would be on the pay-per-view. Duva said a news conference announcing the show was being planned for next week.
• HBO and Top Rank are talking about the next fight for featherweight titlist Yuriorkis Gamboa (19-0, 15 KOs), the 2004 Cuban Olympic gold medalist who later defected, Top Rank's Carl Moretti told ESPN.com. The target date is March 26 on "Boxing After Dark." They are discussing potential opponents. It is possible that Gamboa could face Jason Litzau (28-2, 21 KOs), who pulled a major upset against Celestino Caballero in November. However, Litzau is a junior lightweight and Gamboa would move up to face him in a nontitle bout, Moretti said. The undercard could feature red-hot featherweight prospect Miguel Angel "Mikey" Garcia (24-0, 20 KOs). Opponents being mentioned as possibilities for the 23-year-old include Matt Remillard (23-0, 13 KOs), 24, who would be taking a huge step up in competition, and titleholder Jonathan Victor Barros (31-1-1, 18 KOs) of Argentina. Barros' lone loss was a decision to Gamboa in March 2010.
• Middleweight titlist Dmitry Pirog could make his first defense March 11 in his native Russia. Artie Pelullo, Pirog's co-promoter, told ESPN.com he and Pirog's other handlers are working on a deal for him to fight in Moscow, although there is no opponent yet. Pirog (17-0, 14 KOs) scored a major upset in July, scoring a spectacular fifth-round knockout of American Daniel Jacobs in Las Vegas to win a vacant belt.
• The hunt for an opponent for junior welterweight titlist Amir Khan's April 16 defense in his native England continues. According to Golden Boy promoter Richard Schaefer, Lamont Peterson, the original target, is unlikely to face Khan in the HBO fight. "We are far apart on the money and I just don't think it's going work out," Schaefer said. Other names Schaefer said he is discussing with the Khan side include John Murray of England, Breidis Prescott (who knocked Khan out in the first round in his only defeat), Lucas Matthysse (who nearly upset Zab Judah in November) and lightweight contender Robert Guerrero, whom Schaefer said has expressed interest in the fight even though he is more likely to appear on HBO on March 5 on the undercard of junior middleweight Saul "Canelo" Alvarez's fight.
• Former featherweight titlist Elio Rojas has resumed training after a shoulder injury knocked him out of a unification fight on HBO against Yuriorkis Gamboa last summer. While he was injured, the WBC unceremoniously stripped Rojas (22-1, 13 KOs) of his title, which he won in July 2007 and defended once. Promoter Don King said he would like to get Rojas the fight with Gamboa eventually. "He's back in the gym, healthy and ready to go," King said. "He's over the injuries and he'll be in the ring very shortly. I want to get him a warm-up fight after the layoff and then bring [Gamboa] on."
• Junior lightweight titlist Ricky Burns (30-2, 7 KOs), who claimed his belt by outpointing Roman Martinez in a September upset in one of the best fights of 2010 and defended it in December, is hoping for a unification bout this year. His target: South African titlist Mzonke Fana (30-4, 12 KOs). "When I told people that I would be a world champion by the end of 2010, I got a few funny looks," Scotland's Burns said. "Not many people thought that I would beat Roman Martinez, but the doubters just spurred me on. I took my boxing to another level in 2010, but having scaled the mountain, I want to stay there. Scotland has had some great world champions down the years like Ken Buchanan and Jim Watt, and more recently Alex Arthur and Scott Harrison, but we've never had one who has held two world titles at the same time and I want to be the first. I've recharged my batteries, pigged out over Christmas and now I can't wait to get back in the gym for serious training and start preparing for my next title defense. I've asked my promoter Frank Warren to look into a unification fight later this year, and he has assured me that he's working hard to deliver one for me. Last year I followed Martinez very carefully, and I'll be doing the same with Mzonke Fana in 2011. He looks like the man to beat at the moment, and he's the fighter that I want."
• Faded former four-time heavyweight titleholder Evander Holyfield (43-10-2, 28 KOs) won't be the only heavyweight fighting in what looks like a mismatch on the pay-per-view card he's headlining from White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., on Jan. 22. Holyfield, 48, headlines the $29.95 Integrated Sports pay-per-view card against Sherman Williams (34-11-2, 19 KOs). Three other heavyweight fights were also announced as part of the undercard this week: 41-year-old Cedric Boswell (32-1, 25 KOs) against Dominique Alexander (19-9, 9 KOs), who has been knocked out in three of his past four fights, including twice in the first round; faded former contender Monte Barrett (34-9, 20 KOs) against fellow 39-year-old Charles Davis (19-21-2, 4 KOs); and Travis Kauffman (21-1, 16 KOs) against Julius Long (15-14, 13 KOs), who has lost six in a row.
• Former flyweight titlist Takefumi Sakata (36-6-2, 17 KOs) of Japan announced his retirement Thursday. The 30-year-old Sakata lost his first two bids for a flyweight belt to Lorenzo Parra in 2004 and 2005, losing a majority decision each time. In 2007, Sakata faced Parra for a third time and knocked him out in the third round to win the title that Parra had been stripped of the day before the fight for not making weight. Sakata made four defenses, including against Denkaosan Kaovichit, before losing the belt to him in a December 2008 rematch in which Kaovichit knocked him out in the second round. Sakata rebounded to win three in a row and got a shot at titleholder Daiki Kameda in September and lost a unanimous decision before announcing his retirement this week.
• Promoter Gary Shaw announced he has signed middleweight prospect Kurtiss Colvin (2-0, 2 KOs), of Austin, Texas. Colvin, who is trained by 1984 Olympic gold medalist and former middleweight titlist Frank Tate, will have his first fight with Shaw on Feb. 4 in Santa Ynez, Calif., on the untelevised portion of the "ShoBox" card (Showtime) featuring the Luis Franco-Leonilo Miranda featherweight bout and Lateef Kayode-Nicholas Iannuzzi cruiserweight fight. "My matchmaker, John Beninati, heard a lot of good things about Kurtiss and his style of fighting fits in perfectly with the type of shows presented by GSP," Shaw said. Said Beninati, "I had heard Kurtiss was giving [super middleweight contender] Sakio Bika fits in sparring while Bika was training for his fight against Andre Ward. If a fighter with just two professional bouts could do that to Bika, who has three world championship fights under his belt, I knew he had to be special."
"The strong country has been battered, but the pride and the spirit of the people will never wither. Haiti is a place I hold very dear to my heart and we will continue to stay strong and work to rebuild toward a better Haiti. Although the images of their struggles aren't on television daily anymore, the Haitian people continue to struggle so please continue to remember their plight." -- welterweight titlist Andre Berto, a 2004 Haitian Olympian, reminding people of Wednesday's one-year anniversary of the devastating earthquake that killed some 300,000 in Haiti, including eight members of his family
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.