Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Wilfredo Vazquez set for May 7 defense
By Dan Rafael
Junior featherweight titlist Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. of Puerto Rico will make his third defense against Mexican star Jorge Arce on May 7 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Top Rank's Carl Moretti told ESPN.com on Wednesday.
The fight will be one of the televised bouts on the Showtime PPV undercard of pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao's welterweight title defense against former champ Shane Mosley.
Moretti was in Puerto Rico on Tuesday to oversee a news conference announcing featherweight titlist Juan Manuel Lopez's April 16 Showtime-televised defense in Bayamon against former titlist Orlando Salido. While Moretti was in Puerto Rico, he met with Tuto Zabala Jr., his longtime friend and Vazquez's promoter, to finish the deal.
Along with the fight against Arce, they also worked out terms for Top Rank to come aboard as Vazquez's co-promoter, Moretti said. It's a deal similar to the one Top Rank struck late last year with promoter Russell Peltz to co-promote Philadelphia welterweight Mike Jones.
"We're done, we're good to go," Moretti said of the deal with Zabala. "We've agreed on everything. We'll be doing a lot of fights with Tuto and Vazquez."
Moretti said they have not signed the paperwork yet, but that it was a formality.
"We could sign the papers on the night of the fight for all I know. I've known Tuto for 24 years. This deal is a result of a relationship that goes way back," Moretti said. "I trust him and he trusts us and because of what we do on the island, and the opportunities we have coming up, it's a win, win for everyone, especially [Vazquez]."
Top Rank, with its promotional acumen, has developed Puerto Rican champions Miguel Cotto and Lopez into top fighters and attractions in recent years. It hopes to do the same thing with Vazquez, whose popularity in Puerto Rico has been steadily growing as Zabala has promoted two of his title bouts there.
"Tuto has seen how we can take guys to the next level on the island and then cross them over in the [heavily Puerto Rican] New York market," Moretti said. "We'll make joint decisions on everything about Vazquez. We do what makes sense for the fighter first."
Top Rank will have plenty of marketable fights to offer Vazquez if he defeats Arce, the former junior flyweight and junior bantamweight titleholder. Top Rank promotes bantamweight titlist Fernando Montiel and Nonito Donaire, who meet Feb. 19. Both plan to eventually move up to junior featherweight. Top Rank is also heavily involved in the featherweight division, where Vazquez will eventually go, with fighters such as Lopez, titleholder Yuriorkis Gamboa and rising contender Miguel Angel "Mikey" Garcia on its roster.
"Vazquez is in a perfect weight class," Moretti said. "We have guys who can come up and challenge him, and eventually he will move up to featherweight where there are a lot of good fights. It's a great situation. He is well liked in Puerto Rico and he has his father's name as part of the package."
Wilfredo Vazquez Sr., who trains his son, is a former three-division titleholder and one of the top fighters in Puerto Rican history.
Vazquez-Arce figures to be an action-packed fight given their styles.
"It's a main event on any other card I would like to think," Moretti said. "It's a great television fight. It's a great opportunity for both guys to be on such a big card. You continue the great Puerto Rico vs. Mexico rivalry on a card headlined by the sport's biggest star."
Vazquez (20-0-1, 17 KOs), 26, claimed a vacant title via fourth-round knockout of Marvin Sonsona in February 2010 and has made two defenses, a 10th-round knockout of Zsolt Bedak in May and an 11th-round knockout of former junior bantamweight titlist Ivan "Choko" Hernandez in October.
Arce (56-6-2, 43 KOs), 31, one of Mexico's most popular fighters, has been a staple of Top Rank cards for years and has been involved in a slew of exciting fights.
Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter.