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Friday, March 9, 2012
Garcia eyes final step to title shot

By Dan Rafael
ESPN.com

Most of the boxing world's attention on Saturday night will be paid to Showtime's main event in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where featherweight titlist Orlando Salido of Mexico will defend against Puerto Rican star and former titleholder Juan Manuel Lopez in a rematch of Salido's huge upset last April.

Mikey Garcia/Bernabe Concepcion
Mikey Garcia, left, expects Bernabe Concepcion and Saturday's bout to be the last hurdle he must clear to land an opportunity to fight for a title.

But there is also a lot on the line in the opening bout on Showtime (10 p.m. ET/PT) as featherweight contender Miguel Angel "Mikey" Garcia squares off with former two-time title challenger Bernabe Concepcion in the scheduled 10-round co-feature, knowing a victory could propel him into a title shot against the Salido-Lopez II winner or titleholder Celestino Caballero.

Garcia (27-0, 23 KOs), of Oxnard, Calif., has knocked out five consecutive opponents and been waiting patiently for a title opportunity. Concepcion (29-5-1, 15 KOs), a former two-time featherweight title challenger from the Philippines, could be his last hurdle.

Concepcion has lost two of his past three bouts, including a second-round knockout loss in a fierce title fight in Puerto Rico against Lopez in July 2010, but Garcia knows he has a lot to lose if he looks past him.

"My fight with Concepcion is a tough fight; it's a dangerous fight and it means everything to me," Garcia said. "If I want my title shot, I need to win. There has been talk about me fighting the winner of Lopez and Salido. I want my chance. I hope to fight the winner of Saturday night's fight for the belt before the end of the year.

"I'm thankful for the reception I've received in Puerto Rico. It's my first time here and I like it very much. I'm really looking forward to Saturday's match. I've put in a lot of hard work because the fight is so important to me."

Cameron Dunkin, Garcia's manager, said fights with the main event winner and Caballero are possible, but that Garcia would soon fight for a belt as long as he wins Saturday.

"But Mikey has to be very careful with this guy," Dunkin said. "Concepcion is a tremendous puncher. I managed [former featherweight titleholder] Steven Luevano, and you remember that fight, when Concepcion hit him after the bell and knocked him out. He got disqualified, but you know the damage he can do. He can knock guys dead. He dropped Lopez hard in their fight.

"He can crack, and every time you hear him land a punch, it's nasty. So I have all the respect in the world for him. It's a good test for Mikey to get him ready for a world title fight."

For his part, Concepcion would like to erase the memory of the loss to Lopez in Puerto Rico by bumping off Garcia.

"I'm excited for fight night on Saturday against Garcia," Concepcion said. "I came to Puerto Rico once before. Thank you to the promoters and all the fans for having me back, but I hope for a different result this time."

Three other undercard bouts will air on Showtime Extreme beginning at 8 p.m. ET/PT: Jose Gonzalez (18-0, 13 KOs) against Hevinson Herrera (15-8-1, 10 KOs) in a 10-round lightweight fight; flyweight McWilliams Arroyo (10-1, 9 KOs) against Luis Maldonado (36-7-1, 27 KOs) in a 10-rounder; and flyweight Jonathan Gonzalez (8-0, 7 KOs) versus Erickson Martell (9-3-1, 7 KOs) in an eight-rounder.

Burns defends against Moses

Lightweight titlist Ricky Burns (33-2, 9 KOs) of Scotland will face former titlist Paulus Moses (28-1, 19 KOs) on Saturday but will go into the fight unfamiliar with Moses, who will be on enemy turf at Braehead Arena in Glasgow, Scotland.

Ricky Burns v Paulus Moses
Ricky Burns, left, hasn't had much exposure to Saturday's opponent, Paulus Moses; Burns claims he hasn't seen him fight at all.

Burns, who is making his first defense, claims he hasn't watched any footage of Moses during his preparation for the fight. Instead, he said, he would rather figure him out in the ring.

"The first time I will have seen Moses in action is when we swap punches in the ring on the night," said Burns, who held a junior lightweight title before vacating to move up in weight. "I haven't seen a thing on him. I don't want to watch him at all. I've left it to my trainer, Billy Nelson, who has watched all his fights and figured out the strategy to beat him.

"I never like to watch my opponents before the fight, so I just leave it to Billy. A lot of it I will work out when I'm in the ring with Moses. Some people will be shocked by this, but it works for me."

Burns, who said he has trained 10 weeks for the fight, also said he wasn't overly concerned with the challenger's power, even though Moses has knocked out 10 of his victims inside three rounds.

"I've been in the ring with big punchers and beaten them -- Roman Martinez and Michael Katsidis more recently," Burns said. "If I was worried about being hit, I wouldn't have taken up boxing. I'm just going to stick to my game plan that I've worked out with Billy and beat this guy."

If Burns wins, promoter Frank Warren has talked about a summer showdown between Burns and England's Kevin Mitchell (33-1, 24 KOs), whose only loss was by knockout to Katsidis. But Mitchell has rebounded with two wins in a row, including an impressive eighth-round knockout of well-regarded and previously undefeated John Murray of England in July.

Rios not concerned about making weight

Whether former lightweight titleholder Brandon Rios (29-0-1, 22 KOs) faces Yuriorkis Gamboa (21-0, 16 KOs) or somebody else on April 14 (HBO) at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, he said he would make the 135-pound limit if necessary.

Brandon Rios and John Murray
Brandon Rios failed to make weight against John Murray, but he may not have to worry much longer about making the 135-pound limit.

"I hired a nutritionist and he's been cooking for me, so everything is going good," Rios said. "My weight is good. I'm 150 right now [on Tuesday], maybe a little under, so I will be ready for April 14. I have never felt this good before coming down in weight."

Rios, of course, failed to make the weight for a Dec. 3 title defense against John Murray on the Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito II undercard and was stripped of his title. His immense struggle to try to make weight was chronicled on HBO's "2 Days," and showed just how depleted Rios was as he weighed in. Although utterly drained and no longer in possession of the title, Rios went out the following night and knocked out Murray in the 11th round.

After he was called out by Gamboa, Rios decided to fight once more at lightweight rather than move up to junior welterweight. He and Gamboa are supposed to meet for that still-vacant lightweight belt, but Gamboa didn't show up at two promotional news conferences this week, putting the fight in jeopardy. Top Rank president Todd duBoef said Rios will still fight April 14, even if a replacement opponent must be found. It's possible the replacement fight could be at junior welterweight.

Viloria eyes revenge on Nino

In 2006, Brian Viloria was an undefeated junior flyweight titleholder when he made his second defense against Omar Nino of Mexico.

Viloria (30-3, 17 KOs) lost a lopsided decision for his first career defeat. Three months later, they fought to a draw in a rematch, a decision later ruled a no-contest because Nino tested positive for a banned substance after the fight.

Those blemishes on Viloria's record have bothered him ever since, which is why he is so eager for a third meeting with Nino (31-4-2, 13 KOs).

"I want to clean the slate this fight," Viloria said. "We've had a loss and a draw changed to a no-contest, and that was my first loss. It kind of set the tone for how my career would go. I feel like there'd be unfinished business if I left it like that. The trilogy gives me a chance to put that chapter behind me. Romero is deceivingly quick and a little awkward at times. He goes in and out fairly well and throws a lot of combinations."

Viloria will defend his flyweight title when he and Nino meet for the third time on March 31 (Integrated Sports PPV, 9 p.m. ET, $29.95) at Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City in the Philippines, where Viloria, a Filipino-American, has developed a strong following.

Viloria has won three world titles (two at junior flyweight and his current belt at flyweight) and was a 2000 U.S. Olympian, but he views avenging the loss to Nino as a way to bolster a legacy that is important to him.

"Right now, making it into the top 10 of the pound-for-pound list is what really keeps me going," Viloria, 31, said. "It's been a dream of mine. I've done just about everything as an amateur and professional. I want to keep fighting, but not just to be a footnote. I want to make my imprint to where people in 10 to 20 years will talk about watching 'The Hawaiian Punch.' My legacy is what really drives me today.

"I love boxing. It's been my passion since I was 6, so I've been doing this for a while. When the day comes to hang it up, I'll cross that bridge and I'll know when it's time. I'm in the best shape of my life now. I'm in my prime and plan to be world champion for a while longer."

Quick Hits

• Talks for a Jean Pascal-Ismayl Sillakh light heavyweight title eliminator -- the winner would become mandatory for the winner of the April 28 Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson rematch -- had fallen apart, then began to come back together. But for the time being, the fight certainly is off after Pascal (26-2-1, 16 KOs) suffered a right shoulder injury that will keep him out of action until the summer, Yvon Michel, Pascal's promoter, told ESPN.com. "He slightly injured his right shoulder when he fell on the ice during a friendly hockey game," Michel said. "Jean is an excellent hockey player and he plays weekly in a noncontact league. This injury has nothing to do with the one that required surgery in 2009. Only bruises, but his doctor recommended two weeks of rest. His comeback is likely to be pushed until June." Pascal hasn't fought since May, when he lost a unanimous decision and the light heavyweight title in a rematch against Hopkins. With Pascal out of the picture for the moment, Sillakh (17-0, 14 KOs), a native of Ukraine living in Southern California, will likely fight this spring on ESPN2, Square Ring promoter John Wirt said. A possible opponent is Denis Grachev (11-0-1, 7 KOs), a native of Russia living in San Diego.

Wladimir Klitschko and Jean-Marc Mormeck
After Wladimir Klitschko destroyed Jean-Marc Mormeck last week in Germany, he already had his next opponent lined up: Tony Thompson.

• After heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko (57-3, 50 KOs) polished off Jean-Marc Mormeck in an utterly one-sided fourth-round demolition last week, Klitschko already knew who his likely next opponent would be: mandatory challenger Tony Thompson (36-2, 24 KOs). The fight is due by mid-July, according to the IBF, and Klitschko has no intention of giving up the belt. Klitschko knocked out Thompson in the 11th round of a dominant performance in a 2008 mandatory defense, but Thompson has won five fights in a row (all by knockout) to become the mandatory challenger again . "I'm doing everything to solely focus on beating him," Thompson said. "I just want to fight, point-blank. It doesn't matter to me where it takes place. If he wants to come over here, great. If he wants to fight in Germany, that's great too." Thompson's team would like to lure Klitschko to Washington, his hometown, for the fight. Wherever the fight takes place, Thompson said he will go into it without the knee injury that hampered him the first time they met (it required surgery afterward). "I'm ready," Thompson said. "I'm done waiting for this part of my life to be over and I'm looking forward to becoming the heavyweight champion of the world."

• Middleweight titlist Daniel Geale (27-1, 15 KOs) retained his belt on Wednesday in Hobart, Australia, by outpointing mandatory challenger Osumanu Adama (20-3, 15 KOs) in his second title defense, 118-110, 117-111 and 115-113. Now Geale and promoter Gary Shaw are turning their attention to bringing Geale from Australia to the United States. Shaw said he hopes to match Geale with the division's best, including champion Sergio Martinez and titleholders Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Dmitry Pirog and Felix Sturm. "Sky is the limit for Daniel," Shaw said. "Right now the goal is to bring Geale to the U.S. for a big fight on [premium cable] television. He's earned the right to fight any of the current champions at middleweight. Daniel is a fantastic fighter, and I see him becoming the undisputed champion at 160. When I get back to the States, I will put everything in motion." Geale, who won his title in Germany by split decision against Sebastian Sylvester in May 2011, wants to fight in America. "A move to the U.S. could be next for me," he said. "I have confidence in my ability to unify the titles and become the best middleweight in the world. I feel great right now and I'm extremely happy knowing big opportunities await me. My career is headed in the right direction, and I'm looking forward to my next fight, whoever it may be. A fight with [former champ] Jermain Taylor is also intriguing, being that we were both Olympians in the 2000 Sydney Games. I'm ready to fight the best out there, including Sergio Martinez."

• They are two of the most famous female boxers in history, even if they are years past their primes. But that won't stop Christy Martin, 43, from facing Mia St. John, 44, on June 19 in a junior middleweight fight at the Table Mountain Casino in Friant, Calif., promoter Roy Englebrecht announced. It will be a rematch. Martin (49-6-3, 31 KOs), who said this will be her final fight, easily outpointed St. John (46-11-2, 18 KOs) in a welterweight fight at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Mich., in 2002. "I am excited about this opportunity to get my 50th win against Mia St. John to finish my career," Martin said. "This time, I will KO Mia. That's as good a guarantee as you get." Martin, who returned after suffering serious injuries when she was shot and stabbed by her husband, Jim Martin, in November 2010, was stopped in the sixth round by Dakota Stone in June in a fight that Martin was winning before she suffered a broken right hand and the bout was called off over her objections. St. John will be coming off a 20-month layoff but is eager for another crack at Martin. "I've waited nearly 10 years for this rematch," St. John said. "I know I outboxed Christy in the last fight, but this time I am going to beat her."

• The story of Dewey Bozella will come to ESPN in the form of a documentary. ESPN Films chronicles Bozella's journey from prison to prizefighter in "26 Years: The Dewey Bozella Story," which debuts March 15 (8:30 p.m. ET) on ESPN. He served 26 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit before gaining his release, then won, at age 52, the one professional fight he dreamed of having. Bozella first gained national attention when he was honored with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2011 ESPYs. Light heavyweight champ Bernard Hopkins, who had served 4½ years in prison for armed robbery, and Oscar De La Hoya took notice and helped Bozella gain his license, then put him on the undercard of Hopkins' defense against Chad Dawson last October. Directed by award-winning producer/director Jose Morales, the film follows Bozella on his quest to earn a professional boxing license and sheds light on a man who never gave up fighting for his freedom. It is narrated by actor Laurence Fishburne and includes interviews with De La Hoya, Hopkins and Bozella's wife, Trena, and his lawyers.

Roy Jones Jr.
Roy Jones Jr. is set to make his return, although not as a fighter or even an analyst. He'll man Kendall Holt's corner on the March 16 edition of "Friday Night Fights."

• Roy Jones Jr. will appear on ESPN2/ESPN3's "Friday Night Fights" on March 16. But the former pound-for-pound king and four-division champ won't be fighting. Instead, he will be manning the corner of former junior welterweight titlist Kendall Holt (27-5, 15 KOs), who will meet Tim Coleman (19-2-1, 5 KOs) in the main event at Morongo Casino Resort in Cabazon, Calif. Holt, who grew up idolizing Jones, has lost three of his past five fights and is looking to get back in the win column following his decision loss to Danny Garcia in October on the Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson undercard. According to John Beninati, matchmaker for Holt's promoter, Gary Shaw, Jones -- with whom Holt has become friendly -- will work the corner because others were unable to. Holt's dad, Barry Porter, has been training him in the gym, Beninati said, but can't make the trip because of impending foot surgery. Mike Skrowronski, Holt's former trainer, was also asked to fill in but couldn't because of his travel schedule for his job outside of boxing.

• Tickets for unified junior welterweight titleholder Lamont Peterson's rematch with Amir Khan go on sale at 3 p.m. ET Saturday, Golden Boy announced. Tickets for the May 19 rematch at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas are priced at $300, $200, $150, $100 and $50 (not including applicable service charges) and will be available via Ticketmaster and Mandalay Bay and their websites. In December, Peterson won a controversial decision in Washington, his hometown, against England's Khan to claim a pair of 140-pound belts. The all-action fight was marred by the highly questionable refereeing of Joe Cooper, who docked two points from Khan for pushing, a very obscure call. After a difficult negotiation, the sides agreed to a rematch.

• Although long-faded three-division champion James Toney was brutalized and shut out in a decision loss to Denis Lebedev in an interim cruiserweight title bout in Russia in November, he will fight on at age 43. Toney (73-7-3, 44 KOs) will face Bobby Gunn (21-4-1, 18 KOs), a former cruiserweight title challenger, in a heavyweight bout on April 7 in Southaven, Miss. ... England's Ryan Rhodes (46-5, 31 KOs), who lost a junior middleweight world title bout to Saul "Canelo" Alvarez in 2011, suffered a back injury and has withdrawn from a March 24 European title bout against Sergey Rabchenko (19-0, 14 KOs), who will instead fight an opponent to be determined in an eight-rounder on the card in Sheffield, England. ... Heavyweight Audley Harrison (27-5, 20 KOs), who hasn't been in the ring since he was stopped in the third round of a world title bout against David Haye in November 2010, postponed his planned April 14 return against Ali Adams (13-3-1, 5 KOs) in Brentwood, England, because of a right elbow injury. The fight has been postponed until May 26 at the same venue. ... Integrated Sports will carry promoter Jimmy Burchfield's March 24 card from Resorts Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, N.J., on pay-per-view (4 p.m., $29.95). Heavyweight Mariusz Wach (26-0, 14 KOs), a native of Poland living in North Bergen, N.J., will face Tye Fields (49-4, 44 KOs) in the main event.

Adamek

Quotable

"I've already forgotten about the last fight. I lost on Saturday, and on Monday I came back to my family and my life in America. I was ready to get back to work. I quickly came back to the gym and went back to work." -- Heavyweight contender Tomasz Adamek, on shaking off a lopsided 10th-round knockout loss to titleholder Vitali Klitschko in September in his native Poland as he gets ready to return on March 24 (NBC Sports Net) against Nagy Aguilera

DeMarco

"We are working on certain things to take away his aggressiveness, but to be honest, sometimes the tactics you work on in the gym don't work in the ring. That is why the thing that we are going to do most in this fight is give it our all, our heart, our soul, our will to be somebody, and the desire to keep being a world champion. That is what is going to help me withstand everything and win the fight." -- Lightweight titlist Antonio DeMarco, on preparing for his first title defense, against Mexican countryman Miguel Roman on March 17 in Los Mochis, Mexico, DeMarco's hometown

"I used to watch Shane Mosley's fights. Now I am fighting him. It is like a dream." -- Junior middleweight titlist Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, on his defense against the former champion in Las Vegas on May 5 (HBO PPV)

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter at danrafaelespn.