AROUND THE RING
Margarito needs partner
Margarito's next fight will happen with or without Floyd Mayweather Jr. as his opponent. (Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Whether Floyd Mayweather Jr. fights Antonio Margarito or not, Margarito will defend his title Oct. 7 in a pay-per-view fight at Las Vegas' Thomas & Mack Center, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum told ESPN.com.
"I am ready to go with a Margarito fight and to back it up with a great undercard," Arum said.
Without Mayweather or Wright, Arum's next choice as the opponent is Carlos Quintana, who put on an impressive performance last week in outpointing hot prospect Joel "Love Child" Julio on HBO.
"I like that one because it's a Mexican vs. Puerto Rican match, which fans love," Arum said. "We've been talking to Quintana's people and they are interested."
The win against Julio made Quintana the mandatory for winner another welterweight title bout between Ricky Hatton and Oktay Urkal. However, Quintana is interested in fighting Margarito.
"A Margarito fight would be something we would consider strongly," said Ron Katz of Quintana promoter Northeast Promotions. "Our first priority is to fight Hatton or Urkal. We have to wait to see what develops with that situation, but Margarito is something we would be open to do."
Arum said Joshua Clottey, whose contract he just bought from Lou DiBella, is a more remote possibility to face Margarito.
Arum, who has the arena on hold as well as support from casino partners Caesars Palace and the Wynn resort, said he offered Winky Wright $4 million to fight Margarito Oct. 7 in a junior middleweight fight, but Wright turned it down because he wanted the same $8 million Arum has offered Mayweather.
"He doesn't want to do it because he is insulted because it is not what I offered Mayweather," Arum said. "Well the fights aren't the same, and that's still more money than Winky made to fight Jermain Taylor."
Mayweather turned down a Margarito fight in order to pursue a megafight with Oscar De La Hoya. But now that De La Hoya won't fight again until at least next spring, Arum said he is disappointed that Mayweather won't take the fight.
"I offered him $8 million with an upside [of the pay-per-view revenue], which is by far the most he ever got," Arum said. "He just doesn't want to fight Margarito even though it is the most money and the most makeable fight. I didn't ask for options or futures. It's a one-off, so that can't be the issue. He just doesn't want to fight Margarito and I can't blame him. He's bigger and stronger than this kid, and he will eventually catch him and hurt him. That why they're afraid of Margarito."
Mayweather could be awaiting the outcome of the July 15 Shane Mosley-Fernando Vargas rematch because another Mosley victory could pave the way to a Mayweather-Mosley fight, which would be big.
However, Arum is skeptical.
"No. 1, Mosley has to win and not be damaged," he said. "And he has to agree to go back to training. There's a very short window there and Shane hasn't agreed to any of those things.
"Then how much money is there in that fight? Is there more than a Margarito fight? Yes. But in a Margarito fight, Floyd is taking the bulk of the money. Mosley isn't going to settle for less than half, so Floyd would make less money. And what happens if Mosley isn't available, or he loses, or he gets injured or just doesn't want the fight? What will Mayweather do for the rest of the year? Then he can't fight early next year early because he's waiting to see what Oscar does.
"So Mr. Pound For Pound is looking at a situation where he doesn't fight for a year, and at his age and status, that is criminal. He loses a year. How many years does he have? Maybe five. At his weight, they don't go past 35.
"Giving Floyd $8 million for a Margarito fight is risky for me anyway, but I am willing to take the risk. He has no excuse for not fighting the guy. He just doesn't want to fight the guy."
Junior lightweight Manny Pacquiao (41-3-2, 32 KOs) has big future plans, but Oscar Larios (56-4-1, 36 KOs) is standing in his way.
The former junior featherweight champions square off in a 12-round junior lightweight bout Sunday morning (PPV, 9 p.m. ET Saturday in the U.S.) in the Philippines, where Pacquiao is a national icon.They will fight in the Manila suburb of Quezon City at historic Araneta Coliseum, which played host to the legendary third battle between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier ("The Thrilla in Manila") more than 30 years ago.
"I am very excited to be fighting in Manila in front of so many fans and for my countrymen," Pacquiao said. "I feel some extra pressure to win this fight because I am fighting at home and because I fight for the pride of my country."
Pacquiao, who could be distracted because of all the hoopla surrounding his homecoming fight, needs to get past Larios to set up huge future business.
He has a tentative Nov. 18 HBO PPV fight against rival Erik Morales riding on the outcome. Morales outpointed Pacquiao in March 2005 but Pacquiao knocked him out in their January rematch.
Pacquiao also has a potential big-money rematch looming against 130-pound champ Marco Antonio Barrera, whom Pacquiao knocked out in their first meeting for the world featherweight title. Pacquiao said he would be happy to give Barrera a rematch in his first bout of 2007.
"Larios is a major roadblock to my rematches against Morales and Barrera," Pacquiao said. "And to smooth out my road to those fights, I'm going to steamroll Larios. I'm going to knock him out so hard, fans watching on pay-per-view will think Larios is going to come through their TV screens."
Larios is moving up two weight classes to fight Pacquiao after losing his 122-pound title via third-round TKO to Israel Vazquez in December. Still, Larios figures to be a dangerous opponent, and he certainly sounds as though he is taking the fight seriously.
"I've been training for over a month in Japan getting acclimated to the time and the environment while Manny has been globetrotting playing movie star and Mr. Nightlife," Larios said. "I think Manny and [trainer] Freddie [Roach] have been drinking in too much of their own publicity. If you want to see a preview of our fight just watch a replay of the first Lennox Lewis-Hasim Rahman fight. I can assure you I'll be playing the role of Rahman. Manny Pacquiao will pay the ultimate price for not taking me or this fight seriously."
Said Rafael Mendoza, Larios' manager, "We didn't come here to compete. We came here to win because to beat Pacquiao now is to become a star in the United States. You reach the very big fat purses and that's [what] we're looking for."
Fans willing to shell out the $39.95 for the PPV shouldn't expect much from the two-fight televised undercard: former junior bantamweight titlist Gerry Penalosa of the Philippines vs. Tomas Rojas of Mexico and Filipino bantamweight Michael Domingo vs. Mexico's Alejandro Montiel in 10-round bouts.
Morales focused on conditioning
Promoter Arum isn't taking any chances anymore when it comes to his star fighters trying to make weight.
He vowed not to after Jose Luis Castillo missed making 135 pounds, resulting in the shocking cancellation of his rubber match with Diego Corrales the day before they were supposed to meet June 3.
Former three-division champ Erik Morales (48-4, 34 KOs), Arum's biggest attraction, has been struggling to make 130 pounds in recent fights.
But Arum has taken steps to make sure that there will be no issues with Morales' weight as he heads into an HBO PPV rubber match with Pacquiao on Nov. 18, assuming Pacquiao defeats Larios on Saturday.
"I met with Erik and his wife and I told him, 'No more messing around,'" Arum said. "We brought in a nutritionist and flew everyone to Los Angeles to meet last week to go over a program that will allow Erik to make the weight safely and to make the weight so he can be strong for the fight."
After going over the program details, Arum said that Morales was "blown away."
Arum said that he was going to rent Morales a home in Los Angeles at Top Rank's expense, and that Morales would work with the conditioner and nutritionist through mid-September before going to Mexico for training camp. One of the conditioners will accompany Morales to Mexico, Arum said.
"The conditioning coach will be with Erik every step of the way," Arum said. "When he goes to Mexico, we want him under 140 pounds. When we bring him to Las Vegas for the fight, we want him right around 130 pounds so he will have no problem making weight. No more nonsense. We have a professional group around him now making sure things are right. Erik was not only receptive to this, he was ecstatic.
"Not only do we believe this program will allow him to make weight safely, but it will help in the fight. His real downfall in recent fights has been that he hasn't been able to fight at a full pace for 12 rounds. This will take care of that. Erik believes this program will extend his career at least two years."
Gatti-Cotto this fall?
Although junior welterweight titlist Miguel Cotto is still in a soft cast after suffering a hairline fracture in his left hand during his decision victory against Paulie Malignaggi on June 10, there is already discussion about his next fight in the fall.
Cotto will move up to welterweight and hopes to face action star Arturo Gatti. However, the fight would dependent on Gatti winning the welterweight world title from Carlos Baldomir on July 22.
"We have agreed with [Gatti promoter] Main Events to do nothing until after July 22," Cotto promoter Arum said. "If Gatti wins and is not banged up, then hopefully on Dec. 2 Gatti will fight Cotto. If Gatti loses, or Gatti wins and is banged up and the fight can't go until next year, we will look to get Cotto another fight at 147 pounds. Then we would hope to arrange a Gatti-Cotto fight next year."
Carl Moretti of Main Events said that, indeed, if Gatti beats Baldomir, that is the fight they will pursue.
Arum said that although he has had discussions with Artie Pelullo, the co-promoter of welterweight titlist Ricky Hatton, a Hatton-Cotto fight in the fall is unlikely. Hatton is headed to a mandatory defense against Oktay Urkal instead.
Besides, Arum said, he would prefer to put together a match between Hatton and former lightweight champion Jose Luis Castillo first.
Castillo's career, however, is up in the air because he faces disciplinary action from the Nevada commission for his failure to make weight for his third bout against Diego Corrales on June 3, resulting in the cancellation of the fight.
Nevada commission executive director Keith Kizer said Castillo will have a hearing before the commission, probably in August.
Diaz gets new opponent
Lightweight titlist Juan Diaz of Houston finally has an opponent for his July 15 bout, but it's not the exciting match fans could have seen.
Diaz (29-0, 14 KOs), who was supposed to face a mandatory rematch with Lakva Sim, will instead face Randy Suico (24-2, 21 KOs) of the Philippines on the Mosley-Vargas II HBO PPV undercard in Las Vegas.
Diaz is facing Suico because after Sim backed out and abruptly retired because he was unhappy with his purse of close to $40,000, promoter Main Events made a deal for Diaz to face "Kid Diamond" Almazbek Raiymkulov.
However, the fight was shot down by Mosley-Vargas II co-promoter Golden Boy Promotions. The reason: Golden Boy, engaged in a long-running feud with Raiymkulov promoter Top Rank, refused to allow a Top Rank fighter on its show. Therefore, fans will see Diaz-Suico instead.
"That's on them," Arum said of Golden Boy. "Everyone conducts their business the way they want. That's how they decided to do theirs. If that's what they want to do, so be it."
Suico hardly seems worthy of a title shot given that he lost his only two fights of consequence, and they were at junior lightweight. He dropped decisions to former lightweight titlist Javier Jauregui in September 2005 and Mzonke Fana in a May 2004 title eliminator. Fana would go on to be crushed in two rounds by 130-pound champ Barrera.
Also added to the pay-per-view card: junior featherweight titlist Daniel Ponce De Leon (28-1, 26 KOs) of Mexico makes his second defense in a rematch against Thailand's Sod Looknongyangtoy (27-1, 10 KOs). De Leon defeated him Oct. 29, 2005, to win the vacant belt.
In his first defense on May 27, De Leon obliterated Gerson Guerrero, scoring a second-round knockout.
Rahman declares 'fisticpendence
The full-court press is on in the promotion for the fight between heavyweight titlist Hasim Rahman and mandatory challenger Oleg Maskaev, who meet Aug. 12 (HBO PPV) in a rematch.
In a hilarious media release, dreamed up by ace publicists Fred Sternburg and Kelly Swanson, Rahman issued his "Declaration of Fisticpendence," which happens to coincide with Fourth of July weekend.
"I hold this truth to be self-evident, that all heavyweights are not created equal," Rahman said in the release. "This is my Declaration of Fisticpendence. While you are enjoying the July 4 holiday, look at the evening's activities as a preview of the real fireworks that will be exploding when I defend my WBC heavyweight title against No. 1 contender Oleg Maskaev.
"In six weeks I will free myself from my mandatory by avenging my loss to Maskaev so that I can move ahead and unify the heavyweight titles and prove that all heavyweight champions are not created equal."
In addition, Rahman recorded an audio message for the media encouraging it pay attention to the fight.
"Only six more weeks until I ring Maskaev's bell," Rahman said.
Sternburg, of course, has authored many a holiday-themed release. There is his annual Boxing Day release related to the Canadian holiday that has nothing to do with pugilism. And there is his annual Groundhog's Day release in which whatever fighter he happens to be working for inevitably declares six more weeks of training.
Now we can add Fisticpendence Day to the growing roster.
Briggs, Tua headline
Perennial heavyweight contenders Shannon Briggs (47-4-1, 41 KOs) and David Tua (44-3-1, 38 KOs) will co-headline against opponents to be named on promoter Cedric Kushner's Gotham Boxing card July 26 in New York.
For Briggs, it is a chance to tune up for a possible fall title shot. For Tua, it is a chance just to get back to business.
Although he hasn't fought any top contenders in several years, Briggs has won 11 fights in a row, including a knockout of faded contender Ray Mercer. A victory could propel Briggs into a Nov. 11 fight against titlist Wladimir Klitschko. Briggs is Klitschko's No. 1 choice for an opponent, particularly because the fight is being planned for Madison Square Garden in New York, where Briggs has a loyal following.
"I am taking it fight by fight. Cedric's keeping me busy," Briggs said. "The world title is what it's all about. I want Klitschko, then [Nicolay] Valuev, then [Hasim] Rahman."
Briggs wants only knockouts no matter who he faces.
"I am back to knock people out, not to win decisions. I want to decapitate people," he said.
"You get the big money when you knock people out the way Tyson did."
Tua's career has been at a virtual standstill since a draw with Rahman in March 2003.
Since then, he has fought just twice, in part because of a legal battle with his former managers, Kevin Barry and Martin Pugh.
Both of the fights were last year, when it looked like Tua would get back on track. But after outpointing Cisse Salif in October, Tua will have gone another nine months without fighting.
Tua, who lost a decision in 2000 to Lennox Lewis in his only title opportunity, said he is looking forward to getting things going again.
"It has been very frustrating being on the sidelines," Tua said. "But more importantly the positive that has come out of it has been tremendous. My body hasn't taken a beating for 2½ years. I believe I am right there with the four heavyweight champions. I need to stay busy to get the ring rust off. I have to get back into the swing of things.
"I want to fight every month. It's hard to say how long it will take. I just have to take it fight by fight. I want to be ready to win the world title, not just fight for the title."
Purse bids settled
In a joint purse bid this week, Warriors Boxing and Frank Warren's Sports Network of England won the right this week to promote the light heavyweight beltholder Clinton Woods' mandatory defense against Glen Johnson.
They won with a bid of $505,000 (75 percent of which goes to Woods and 25 percent of which goes to Johnson), beating out Woods' promoters Dennis Hobson and Robert Waterman of Fight Academy's $457,000 offer.
Johnson and Woods have fought twice with Johnson settling for a highly controversial draw in their first fight and then easily outpointing him in the rematch.
The fight will be Sept. 2, either in England or Florida, where Warriors and Johnson are based.
Warriors promotes Johnson, but what makes the winning bid intriguing is that Fight Academy is Warren's chief rival in Great Britain. He didn't wait to rub it in, especially to Hobson.
"Clinton's promoter may have won if he had the faith in his own fighter that his recent offer of a bet suggested," Warren said in a statement. "I'm sure Clinton will be disappointed that he will have to put his title on the line against a guy he has yet to beat on two occasions in his hometown and for 50 percent of what he was offered to fight Joe Calzaghe here in Britain."
In another purse bid this week, Germany's Wilfried Sauerland won the right to promote the middleweight title bout between beltholder Arthur Abraham and mandatory challenger Edison Miranda. Sauerland won with a bid of $404,000. Warriors Boxing, which handles Miranda, bid $335,000. The bout will take place Sept. 2 in Germany.
What began as a July 29 pay-per-view "legends" card with bouts featuring Roy Jones Jr., Evander Holyfield and Virgil Hill in separate fights wound up featuring only Jones.
Holyfield opted to do his own promotion and will face Jeremy Bates Aug. 19 in Dallas, and Hill could not come to financial terms with organizers.
So while Jones still will face Badi Ajamu in Boise, Idaho, in a 12-round light heavyweight main event, Jones' first fight since suffering three consecutive losses (two by crushing knockout), the rest of the $24.95 card has been patchwork and probably won't excite the masses:
• Cruiserweight Kenny Keene (51-3, 28 KOs), who is from Idaho, faces long-faded former titlist Arthur Williams (42-14-1, 29 KOs) in a 10-rounder. If Keene wins, he could get a crack at Hill, whom he was supposed to fight had Hill stayed on the show. Hill will be ringside working as a broadcaster on the PPV while also scouting Keene.
• Former light heavyweight beltholder William Guthrie (33-3-2, 26 KOs) faces Luke Munsen (19-5, 13 KOs) in a 12-round cruiserweight bout.
Other bouts might be added to the telecast.
The nominees for the 14th annual ESPYS are out, and the "Best Boxer" is one of the numerous categories. And the nominees are Bernard Hopkins (retired after winning the light heavyweight title against Antonio Tarver June 17), Mayweather Jr. (the No. 1 fighter in the world coming off an impressive April win against Zab Judah); Jermain Taylor (the middleweight champ who twice beat Hopkins and retained his title with a draw against Wright on June 17) and Oscar De La Hoya (won a junior middleweight title with a knockout of Ricardo Mayorga on May 6).
ESPN will televise the event on tape delay from Hollywood's Kodak Theatre on July 16 at 9 p.m. ET (the event takes place July 12). To vote for top boxer, as well as all the other categories, go to www.espys.tv. Voting runs through July 8.
• The comeback fight of four-time heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield (38-8-2, 25 KOs), originally scheduled for Aug. 19, has been moved up one day to Aug. 18 to accommodate a television deal finalized Thursday. Holyfield, 43, will face Jeremy Bates (21-11-1, 18 KOs) in a 10-round fight that will be televised nationally on Fox Sports Net's "Best Damn Sports Show Period." The fight, which was offered to ESPN, will take place at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. It will be Holyfield's first bout since dropping a lopsided decision to Larry Donald in Nov. 13, 2004.
• Junior flyweight titlist Brian Viloria (19-0, 12 KOs) will make his second title defense -- against Mexico's Omar Nino (23-2-1, 10 KOs) -- Aug. 11 at The Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Top Rank's Bob Arum told ESPN.com. The fight will be the second in the new series of Top Rank's live monthly Thursday night cards on OLN. Arum said he hopes to finalize a deal to feature popular middleweight prospect John Duddy in the co-feature. The "Fight Night" series kicks off July 27 in Connecticut with middleweight Kelly Pavlik headlining against Bronco McKart.
• Arum, who will promote the Sept. 30 "Boxing After Dark" card on HBO, intends to feature exciting flyweight star Jorge Arce. Arum said Arce is moving up to junior bantamweight to face Hawk Makepula of South Africa for an interim title. Champion Masamori Tokuyama is out of commission while recovering from a shoulder injury suffered in a car accident in Japan.
• Welterweight contender Kermit Cintron, who is trained and managed by Emanuel Steward, has withdrawn from a July 29 bout on HBO's "Boxing After Dark" against Richard Gutierrez, a move that has really peeved HBO executives. Cintron, who had not yet signed a contract, pulled out to take a mandatory fight with Mark Suarez for a vacant welterweight belt. Suarez had been mandatory for titlist Floyd Mayweather Jr., but when Mayweather vacated the title, Cintron was next in line to fight Suarez to fill the vacancy. No date has been set for the Suarez-Cintron bout. To round out the HBO card, Gutierrez probably will face Clottey, whose contract DiBella sold this week to Top Rank.
• Former junior lightweight titlist Carlos "Famoso" Hernandez (41-6-1, 24 KOs) is returning to action after a nine-month layoff. Hernandez will face Shaun Plessis (17-2, 14 KOs), who has won eight fights in a row, on July 14 (Telefutura) in San Antonio. Hernandez, who lost his 130-pound belt in a unification fight against Morales in July 2004, is coming off a 10-round split-decision loss to Bobby Pacquiao in October. However, that verdict was regarded by many as the worst decision of 2005. How bad was it? Even Pacquiao's trainer, Freddie Roach, said afterward that Hernandez was robbed.
• With cruiserweight titlist Johnny Nelson of England recovering from a knee injury, Enzo Maccarinelli will face Marcelo Dominguez for an interim belt July 8 on the undercard of the Danny Williams-Matt Skelton heavyweight rematch in Wales. Before the injury, Nelson had planned to fight Maccarinelli. If Maccarinelli wins, the two will face each other in the fall -- assuming Nelson's knee has healed.
• Heavyweight Andrew Golota, 38, who unsuccessfully challenged for titles four times, is in trouble. According to Chicago media reports, he was charged Thursday night with unlawful possession of 12 unregistered guns. He faces 12 misdemeanor counts and has a July 19 court date. Golota hasn't fought since last summer, when then-titleholder Lamon Brewster knocked him out in less than a minute.
• Newly crowned junior lightweight titlist Cassius Baloyi (32-2, 17 KOs) will make his first defense July 29 in his native South Africa. He is slated to defend against Gairy St. Clair (37-3-2, 17 KOs), a native of Guyana based in Australia. Baloyi claimed a vacant belt -- one stripped from division champion Barrera -- by scoring an 11th-round TKO of Manuel Medina on May 31. Baloyi co-promoter Artie Pelullo said that if Baloyi wins, the fighter will make his second defense in the fall on the undercard of the next fight for either welterweight titlist Hatton or lightweight belt holder Acelino Freitas.
• The second season of the reality boxing series "The Contender" is scheduled to premiere July 18 (ESPN, 10 p.m. ET). This season will be contested in the welterweight division, and several fighters among the 16 contestants are far more well-known heading into the series than the first season's batch of lesser knowns and mostly unknowns. Many of the Season 2 boxers have appeared on "Friday Night Fights" or faced notable opponents. They include former junior lightweight titlist Steve Forbes, Gary Balletto, Norberto Bravo, Andre Eason, Ebo Elder and Michael Stewart. The finalists will meet Sept. 26 live on ESPN from Staples Center in Los Angeles.
• The hype for the Mosley-Vargas rematch continues when HBO premieres "Countdown to Mosley-Vargas II" on July 8 (10 p.m. ET/PT). The half-hour special, which will be replayed several times on HBO and HBO2, will feature fighter profiles, expert analysis and forecasts for the showdown between the two superstars. Mosley, of course, scored a 10th-round TKO win against Vargas in a rousing battle that was stopped because of severe swelling on Vargas' left eye.
• Former cruiserweight titlist Kelvin Davis (21-4-1, 16 KOs) will make his heavyweight debut against Charles Shufford (20-6, 9 KOs) July 7 in Hyannis, Mass., although the crossroads bout surprisingly is scheduled for only six rounds. Davis has lost two in a row, a 12-round decision to Steve Cunningham and a fourth-round TKO to Guillermo Jones. Cunningham and Jones face each other for a vacant title July 8. Shufford, who has lost four of his last five, has lost to several big-name opponents, including Wladimir Klitschko, Samuel Peter and Jameel McCline. However, Shufford does have a decision win against former titlist Brewster.
"The weigh-in. That was always dreadful. That is always something a fighter doesn't want to experience. You have to go through hell and back. It's the first battle you go through without throwing any punches. It is difficult. Making the weight, the waiting. It is nerve-racking."
-- Oscar De La Hoya, reflecting recently on what he will miss least when he retires from boxing