Thursday, September 22, 2011
Pair of undercard bouts finalized
By Dan Rafael
While Top Rank promoter Bob Arum was wrapping up a four-city media tour on Thursday to promote the rematch between junior middleweight titlist Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito on Dec. 3 at New York's Madison Square Garden, he and his staff were also ironing out the undercard.
Arum gave ESPN.com a look at what he has so far for the HBO PPV card:
• Philadelphia welterweight contender Mike Jones will face former two-time title challenger Sebastian Lujan of Argentina. "It's all done," Arum said.
They will meet in a title eliminator that will make the winner the mandatory challenger for titlist Andre Berto, who has a current mandatory defense first due against former titleholder Randall Bailey.
Russell Peltz, who co-promotes Jones (25-0, 19 KOs) with Arum, said everyone on their team realizes it is a dangerous fight. Known for having a strong chin, Lujan (38-5-2, 24 KOs) is riding a 12-fight winning streak, including a dominant ninth-round knockout of promising Mark Melligen on ESPN2 on July 1.
"I think it's a lot tougher fight than Mike had with (Jesus) Soto Karass," Peltz said of the most difficult fights so far in Jones' career, back-to-back competitive decision wins against Soto Karass in November 20010 and in the February rematch. "(Jones) says if fighting this kind of fight is what he has to do to get a title shot, it is what he has to do. He has to be in better shape than he was for the second Soto Karass fight."
Said Jones: "Lujan puts on pressure, but not constant pressure like Karass. He moves his head a lot more than Karass but throws wide punches, which I will take advantage of. This will put me in line for a money fight."
• Junior featherweight titlist Rico Ramos (20-0, 11 KOs) will make his first defense against interim titlist Guillermo Rigondeaux (8-0, 6 KOs), a two-time Cuban Olympic gold medalist and one of the great amateurs of all time. The sides recently made a deal and avoided a purse bid.
Rigondeaux had stepped aside to allow Japan's Akifumi Shimoda to defend against Ramos on July 9 with the contractual promise that he would get the next shot at the winner. Ramos knocked out Shimoda in the seventh round.
Arum said the third televised undercard fight has not been set yet but that Top Rank president Todd duBoef "was working on it and I can't say what it is yet because it's not done."
Also back in action on the undercard will be junior middleweight Pawel Wolak, although his bout is not scheduled to be part of the HBO PPV broadcast. Wolak's opponent is not set, but manager Cameron Dunkin said they are OK with the fight not being on the telecast.
I'm trying to do certain things with him but it's been tough. We wanted (titlist Cornelius) Bundrage, but there wasn't the money to deliver it and Bundrage is with (promoter) Don King, which is never easy," Dunkin said. "So I'm trying to get him back out there and keep him active. We wanted him on TV but there wasn't a spot for him. This fight is the start and we'll keep him going from here."
Wolak (29-1-1, 19 KOs) gained a lot of attention this year because he stopped former titlist Yuri Foreman in a big upset in March on the Cotto-Ricardo Mayorga undercard and then fought to a draw with Delvin Rodriguez on July 15 in an all-action fight of the year candidate on ESPN2.
Naturally, Wolak hoped for his next fight to be televised and also hoped to face a name opponent. He won't get either of those scenarios, but is still looking forward to getting back to work, especially on a major card.
"Excited," Wolak said. "Unfortunately, (Bundrage) was scared. Canelo (Alvarez) and (Julio Cesar) Chavez (Jr.) aren't available and worried and there was no (premium) network interest in a rematch with Delvin, so we are going to Plan B. That is why I signed with a competent manager as he knows how to get me where I want to go."
Said Top Rank promoter Bob Arum: "Wolak wants a title fight. Rather than argue with him we said, 'We'll put you in with a second-level guy, but it won't be on television' and that way he stays active and I don't embarrass myself with the televised undercard."
In another untelevised undercard fight, Arum said light heavyweight prospect Mike Lee (7-0, 4 KOs), the 2009 Notre Dame graduate with a big fan base -- who also is starring in a national commercial for Subway -- will face an opponent to be determined in a four-rounder.
Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter.