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Articles of 2010

ANOTHER Tourney For Showtime; Bantams Will Collide

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YONNHY PEREZ & JOSEPH AGBEKO

VIC DARCHINYAN & ABNER MARES

SHOWTIME’S KEN HERSHMAN

PRESS CONFERENCE QUOTES

Thursday, Sept. 30, The Conga Room, L.A. Live, Los Angeles

LOS ANGELESSHOWTIME® Sports hosted a press conference Thursday at The Conga Room , L.A. Live, to formally introduce and discuss “BANTAMWEIGHT TOURNAMENT: WINNER TAKES ALL that begins Saturday, Dec. 11, live on SHOWTIME at 9 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast) from Irapuato, Mexico.

In attendance was Ken Hershman, SHOWTIME Sports Executive Vice President and General Manager, the four world class boxers who will participate in the two-round, single-elimination tournament to determine the best fighter at 118 pounds – International Boxing Federation (IBF) champion Yonnhy Perez (20-0-1, 14 KOs), former world champions Joseph Agbeko (27-2, 22 KOs) and Vic Darchinyan (35-2-1, 27 KOs) and world-ranked rising star Abner Mares (29-0-1) – and their promoters

The semifinal matchups: Perez defends his title against Agbeko and Darchinyan and Mares vie for the World Boxing Council (WBC) Silver Belt The bouts are scheduled for 12 rounds. The winners of each semifinal will clash in the final in 2011 with the losing fighters competing in a consolation fight.

Each of the participants in the bantamweight tournament has previously fought at least one of the other fighters in competitive bouts, all on SHOWTIME.

The bantamweight tournament is promoted by Gary Shaw Productions for Darchinyan and, in association with Thompson Boxing Promotions, for Perez, Golden Boy Promotions for Mares, and Don King Productions for Agbeko.

What the fighters, Hershman and the promoters said Thursday:

KEN HERSHMAN (SHOWTIME)

“I want to thank the press for coming out and the fighters and promoters for participating in this amazing series of fights. Our promise to our subscribers has always been very simple and that’s to put on the best fights as possible and let the fans enjoy it. I think we have four of the top 118-pounders in the world and I don’t think there’s a bad matchup in the bunch.

When we looked at the various configurations, we couldn’t figure out where we wanted to go and that to me is exactly what you want. You don’t go into the fight knowing who’s going to win, who’s not going to win, everyone gets two shots and I think we’ll be able to claim who’s the undisputed champion in this weight category.

“I believe the sport of boxing is a tremendous sport by itself, but I think when you overlay tournament style rules to this sport it becomes that much more thrilling. Obviously, for our subscribers, keeping it new, keeping it fresh is what we’re after. I want to thank the promoters. This was really a very cooperative effort.

RICHARD SCHAEFER (Golden Boy Promotions, Mares’ promoter)

“This really is an amazing lineup. It’s natural for Mexico to host the opening round of this tournament. As we all know, Mexico has a rich and deep history with bantamweights.

“These four fighters will deliver what I know will be the best four fights.’’

ABNER MARES

“The four-man tournament is great. Tournament boxing is great. It helps not only fighters but boxing because in this tournament you have four of the best fighters facing each other. There’s no ducking any fighters here. You’re fighting the best no matter what. You don’t pick fighters in a tournament and this is what people want and I want that. I am here for the fans.

“I want to take the time to thank SHOWTIME for putting this show together and not forgetting about the little guys because there are a lot of people that don’t even look at the little guys. It’s a great opportunity for all four of us. It’s tremendous for the weight class and I love it.

“It’s a privilege to fight Vic Darchinyan. He’s a well-known fighter, a big name. He’s beaten a lot of good fighters. All around I think he’s a good fighter but I don’t think of myself as a bad fighter. I think I’ve got the perfect style for him. I think it’s going to be a tough fight for both of us.

“I’ve got to take it fight by fight. But this fight is really big. I’ve got to take full advantage of my opportunity.

It will be my first time fighting in Mexico so that is exciting.’’

(On fighting Yonnhy Perez to a draw on SHOWTIME)

“I was ready. I said I was ready for that fight and I proved it going the 12 rounds. I still haven’t got over it because I have people telling me, ‘you won the fight.’ (But) it is what it is.’’

KEN THOMPSON (Thompson Boxing, Perez’ promoter)

“I think we’re going to have the most fabulous tournament ever. We’ve got four of the best fighters in the bantamweight division and they’re from all over the world: Ghana, Mexico, Armenia and Colombia. We’ve got a mix like never before — future champions, former champions and current champions. With this mix, you’ll never see fights like this again. But in the end we think the IBF Champion of the World, Yonnhy Perez, will be standing there right in the middle of the ring as the world champion. We’re looking for everything that could possibly happen to happen in this tournament. This is the greatest collection of bantamweights ever.’’

“You’ve got the best of the best with SHOWTIME putting this on. You’ve got the best promoters. SHOWTIME is one of the finest groups of people you could work with and they have a vision like no one else. I can’t wait for this to start.’’

YONNHY PEREZ

“I’m very happy that SHOWTIME is putting this tournament on. In the end it’s going to show who the best bantamweight in the world is. For SHOWTIME to get all these promoters together is great because you don’t have to get fights. It’s set. Whoever wins goes on; whoever loses, there is still a fight. My goal is to win it all. I’m very happy about the tournament because basically everyone included has a title.

“I can’t express how thankful I am to SHOWTIME for putting on this tournament and even putting me on Shobox when I first came up from Colombia. I’m very thankful. After everything is done I hope I continue to have their support and I’ll always be ready to fight and will always give a great fight for SHOWTIME.

“I’m concentrating on my fight. I don’t consider myself the favorite. I know I’m the world champion but I go into every fight thinking I’m the underdog. I’m going to prepare for this fight and come out victorious.’’

GARY SHAW (Gary Shaw Productions, Darchinyan’s promoter)

“Let me thank Ken Hershman. Ken, even with the problems we’ve had with the Super Six, saw the value in tournaments. I think tournaments is the way boxing is going to have to go. It has the interest of the fans. It has the interest of the fighters and once and for all you’ll know who the best really is.

“This is a great tournament. There are four great fighters. I have a lot of respect for all of them. Agbeko fought a great fight and Darchinyan had concrete between his ears, didn’t listen to his corner and I believe cost himself the fight, but Yonnhy finished the unfinished work of Vic by finishing Agbeko off.

“Abner Mares, who I have a tremendous amount of respect for, is the youngest fighter and was in an absolute war with Yonnhy. I thought Yonnhy won by one round but I thought Mares showed a huge amount of heart and courage, stayed in that fight and took it to a draw. Darchinyan is the oldest fighter on the stage, the one with the most experience. Everybody at SHOWTIME knows Darchinyan and they know how he thinks and they know when he fight, he comes to fight. He’s never in a dull fight.

“I want to tell you how you confident I am in Vic Darchinyan. This fight is in Mexico, but I told Vic ‘don’t worry, you are the best in the tournament.’ He said, “You really believe that?’ I said, ‘I believe it so much I called up Jose Sulaiman and we’re going to have a Mexican referee, we’re going to have three Mexican judges, a Mexican timekeeper and I know you’ll win.

VIC DARCHINYAN

I want to thank Gary Shaw , Ken Hershman and everyone at SHOWTIME for putting on this show. Now, the whole world can see at bantamweight who’s the best. I am very happy for this tournament. I’m physically prepared all the time.

“I’m happy I’m fighting in Mexico. My style is a Mexican style, guys are coming to fight, coming for a show, so that’s what I’m going to do. Mexicans love my style. I am not against them, I am not against anyone. I’m just against my opponent. It just happens Mexicans have been my opponents, which is good. Mexicans are good fighters.

“The two other guys (Francisco Montiel, Nonito Donaire) that didn’t want to be in the tournament know they cannot be at the same level. Some of them think they are good, but if you’re good, get in the tournament. If you’re one of the best at bantamweight, come and fight. Mares is a good fighter.

“I’m going to be prepared for anything. No fear. I moved up to challenge other champions. The super tournament connects all the dots. I don’t want to defend my titles and fight No. 10, No. 15. If I fight, I collect all belts. The point is not who you can beat, it’s what champions you can beat. I want to prove myself and I want to prove to everyone I’m the best. Why worry?

ALAN HOPPER (Don King Productions)

“I happened to be at ARCO Arena in Sacramento in 2007 when pretty much an unknown guy came in to face a tough as nails Nicaraguan name Luis Perez. He had been the ideal bantamweight champion since 2003 Joseph knocked him out and sent him to the hospital. That’s how he catapulted himself to this stage. Later, in his career-defining fight, he met Darchinyan.

“It’s always going to be a good promotion with Vic, a lot of back and forth talking. The Florida commission used SHOWTIME’s clock and there was an extra minute in a round and in that round Vic knocked Joseph down. It was a wonderful fight and Joseph was fortunate enough to come out with a victory. Then, there was the “Halloween Thrilla at Treasure Island on SHOWTIME where Yonnhy met Joseph. Yonnhy had a great game plan and I give him everything. In the 10th round there was a terrible head butt and Joseph got knocked down. The referee didn’t see it, and called it a knock down. Joseph feels like he has some unfinished business.’’

JOSEPH AGBEKO

“This is going to be a very nice tournament. The opportunity to meet the best bantamweights in the world is going to give me a very good platform. This tournament is the return of “King Kong.’’ It’s giving me the opportunity to get back in the ring. My trainer and I are coming together to make me the best bantamweight.

“Perez is a great fighter. He’s got a brave heart. I’m going to come very well prepared. I’m not thinking about Vic, I’m not thinking about Mares, I’m thinking about Perez. The winner will meet me.

“I think it’s going to be a very nice opportunity for me to fight in Mexico. They’ve produced a lot of great fighters and it’s going to be an honor to fight in Mexico.

“I’m very motivated to get back the belt because Ghana has no champion right now. They all have supported me and want me to win the title.’’

Articles of 2010

Judah To Fight Mbuza March 5 In NJ

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Totowa, NJ – Kathy Duva, Main Events CEO, announced their promotional firm won the purse bid held at IBF headquarters in East Orange, NJ, Thursday. The bid was for the right to hold the IBF's junior welterweight title fight between Zab Judah of Brooklyn, NY and Las Vegas, and South Africa's Kaizer Mabuza.

IBF Championships Chairman, Lindsay Tucker explained, “It is a 50-50 split of the earnings between the two fighters. Kaizer is ranked No. 1 by the IBF, and Judah is No. 2. Where the fight will be held is up to the winning bidder.”

Judah (39-6, 26 KOs) is promoted by Main Events and his own firm Super Judah Promotions, and Branco Milenkovic, of South Africa, promotes Mabuza (23-6-3, 14 KOs).

Kathy Duva confirmed the fight will take place at Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, late February or early March this year as part of Main Events' Brick City Boxing Series.  (Saturday Update: the fight is March 5th, in NJ at the Pru Center. The bout will be part of a PPV card.)

“We are very happy that Zab has the opportunity to fight for the IBF Junior Welterweight title right here in New Jersey.  Winning this fight will put Zab right in the mix with the winner of Bradley-Alexander and Amir Khan.” Duva elaborated, ” Zab will work very hard to win this fight so that he will be one step closer to his ultimate goal of unifying all of the Junior Welterweight titles by the end of 2011!”

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Articles of 2010

UFC 125 Preview: Frankie Edgar Vs. Gray Maynard

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UFC_Edgar_and_Maynard_Dec._2010
Few predicted Frankie Edgar would grab the UFC lightweight championship last year but he did. Most felt he would eventually win it but Edgar not only took the title, he beat one of the best mixed martial artists in history to do it.

Edgar (13-1) has emerged from the milieu of nondescript MMA fighters to become one of the more brilliant performers for Ultimate Fighting Championship. Next comes a rematch with Gray “The Bully” Maynard (11-0) tomorrow at the MGM Grand Casino in Las Vegas. UFC 125 will be televised on pay-per-view.

All it took was not one, but two victories over BJ Penn.

If you’re not familiar with Penn, he’s one of the most versatile fighters in MMA history and had been nearly unbeatable in the 155-pound lightweight division. That is until he clashed with Edgar. Until he met New Jersey’s Edgar, the Hawaiian fighter chopped down lightweight opponents with ease. It was only the heavier welterweights he had problems against. Namely: Canada’s Georges St. Pierre.

Edgar showed poise, speed and grit in defeating Penn in back-to-back fights. The world took notice.

“You know, if I keep winning fights, the respect will come eventually,” said Edgar during a conference call.

Now Edgar will find out if he can avenge the only loss on his record.

“I just think I grew as a fighter. You know, mentally, you know, physically I, you know, possess differently skills, increased – you know, I think I boxed and got better, my Jiu-Jitsu got better and, you know, just have much more experience now,” Edgar says.

Maynard seeks to find out if Edgar has added any more fighting tools to his repertoire. Back in April 2008, the artillery shelled out was not enough to beat the Las Vegas fighter.

“It’s a perfect time. He had the chance and, you know, he took it and the time is now for me and I’m prepared,” said Maynard (11-0). “Any time you’re going up against the top in the world, you evolve and change and so I’m prepared for a new fight, so it will be good. I’m pumped for it.”

Though Maynard’s record indicates he is unbeaten that’s not entirely true. He did suffer a defeat to Nate Diaz during The Ultimate Fighter series and subsequently avenged that loss last January.

The UFC lightweight title is in Maynard’s bull’s eye.

“Looking to take the belt for sure,” said Maynard. “We’ll see on January 1.”

Edgar versus Maynard should be a good one.

Other bouts:

Nate Diaz (13-5) faces Dong Hyun Kim (13-0-1) in another welterweight tussle. Diaz is the only fighter with a win over Maynard. Anyone watching TUF remembers Maynard tapping out from a Diaz guillotine choke. The Modesto fighter has a tough fight against South Korea’s Kim.

Chris Leben (21-6) fights Brian Stann (9-3) in a middleweight fight. Leben is a veteran of MMA and if an opponent is not ready for a rough and tumble fight, well, that fighter is not going to win. Stann dropped down from light heavyweight and we’ll see if the cut in weight benefits the Marine.

Brandon Vera (11-5) meets Thiago Silva (14-2) in a light heavyweight match up. Vera is trying to rally back to the promising fighter he was tabbed several years back. Silva is a very tough customer and eager to crash the elite. A victory by either fighter could mean a ticket to the big time.

Clay Guida (27-8) versus Takanori Gomi (32-6) in a lightweight bout. Guida has become one of the most feared fighters without a title. No one has an easy time with the long-haired fighter. Gomi lost to Kenny Florian but knocked out Tyson Griffin. Can he survive Guida?

Marcus “The Irish Hand Grenade” Davis (22-8) clashes with Jeremy Stephens (18-6) in another lightweight fight. Davis is a go-for-broke kind of fighter and is looking to get back in the win column after a tumultuous battle with Nate Diaz last August. Stephens needs a win too. In his last bout he lost to Melvin Guillard.

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Articles of 2010

Borges Looks Back, And Forward With Hope

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PacquiaoClottey_Booth_6

As the end of another year approaches, there’s no need to invoke Charles Dickens to describe what went on in boxing. It was neither the best of times nor the worst of times. It was just too much time spent on The Fight That Never Took Place.

For the second straight year the sport could not deliver The Fight, the only one fans universally wanted and even casual fans craved – the mix between Floyd Mayweather, Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao.  No one has to be singled out for blame for that failure because this time there’s plenty to go around on both sides. The larger issue is what does it say about a sport when it cannot deliver its top event?

What would the NFL be without the Super Bowl? Where would major league baseball be without the World Series? Golf without the Masters? College basketball without March Madness?

They would all be less than they could be and so it was with boxing this year. Having said that, the sport was not without its signature moments. It was not bereft of nights that left those of us with an abiding (and often unrequited) love for prize fighting with good reason to hope for the future.

Three times promoter Bob Arum took the sport into massive stadium venues just like the good (very) old days and each time boxing drew a far larger crowd than its many critics expected. Twice those fights involved the sport’s leading ambassador, Pacquiao, who brought in crowds of 40,000 to 50,000 fans into Cowboys Stadium against inferior opponents Joshua Clottey and Antonio Margarito. Imagine what he might have done had Mayweather been in the opposite corner?

While both fights were, as expected, lopsided affairs, they showcased the one boxer who has transcended his sport’s confining walls to become a cultural icon and world celebrity. Pacquiao alone put boxing (or at least one boxer) on the cover of TIME and into the pages of such varied publications as Esquire, GQ, The Wall Street Journal, the American Airlines in-flight magazine and even Atlantic Monthly.

As history has proven time and again, that is what happens when boxing has a compelling personality to sell it and Pacquiao is that. Mayweather is such a person as well,  but for different reasons.

The one night he appeared in a boxing ring, he set the year’s pay-per-view standard against Shane Mosley while also leaving a first hint of dark mystery when he was staggered by two stinging right hands in the second round.

Mayweather was momentarily in trouble for the first time in his career but the moment passed quickly and Mosley never had another. By the end he had been made to look old and futile, a faded athlete who’d had his chance and was unable to do anything with it. So it goes in this harsh sport when the sands are running out of the hour glass.

As always there were some surprising upsets, most notably Jason Litzau’s domination of an uninterested and out of shape Celestino Caballero and Sergio Martinez’s one-punch demolishment of Paul Williams. The latter was not so much an upset as it was a stunning reminder that when someone makes a mistake against a highly skilled opponent in this sport they don’t end up embarrassed. They end up unconscious.

SHOWTIME did all it could to further the future of the sport, offering up a continuation of its interminably long but still bold Super Six super middleweight tournament as well as the launching of a short form bantamweight tournament which already gave fans to two stirring and surprising finishes with Joseph Agbeko decisioning Jhonny Perez and Abner Mares upsetting Victor Darchinyan in a battle of contusions.

While the Super Six has had its problems – including several of the original six pulling out – it also lifted the profile of former Olympic gold medalist Andre Ward from nearly unknown to the cusp of universal recognized as the best super middleweight in the world this side of Lucian Bute. If Ward continues winning he’ll get to Bute soon enough because that’s why SHOWTIME signed a TV deal with the Canadian and America may get its next boxing star if Ward proves to be what I think he is – which is still underrated and underappreciated.

HBO and HBO pay-per-view put on 23 shows, few of them compelling and many of them paying big money to the wrong people while doing little or nothing to grow the sport that has helped make their network rich. But they did have the knockout of the year – Martinez’s second round destruction of Williams – and some fights in the lower weight classes that were left you wanting more.

Two new names popped up who are causing the kind of fan reaction that also gives us hope for 2011 – American Brandon Rios and Mexican Saul Alvarez. They are two of the sport’s brightest young prospects because each comes to the arena the old-fashioned way – carrying nothing but bad intentions.
Aggression and knockouts still sell boxing faster than anything else and each exhibited plenty of both this year and left fans wanting to see more. Alvarez is already a star in Mexico without having yet won a world title and Rios is the definition of “promise.’’ Whether the star will continue to shine and promise will be fulfilled may be answered next year and so we wait anxiously to find out.

Backed by Golden Boy Promotions, there is no reason 2011 shouldn’t be Alvarez’s year and if it is people will notice and remember him because he has a crowd-pleasing style that is all about what sells most.

That is what boxing needs more of – fresh faces and new stars… so as fans we should root for guys like Alvarez, Ward, Rios and young Brit Amir Khan, who is a star in England but still a question mark with a questionable chin but a fighter’s heart here in the U.S.

Those guys and others not yet as well known are the future of boxing, a sport that for too long has been recycling the likes of Mosley (as it will again in May for one last beating against Pacquiao in a fight that's a joke), Bernard Hopkins (who can still fight although it is unclear why he bothers or where it’s all headed), Roy Jones and, sadly, even 48-year-old Evander Holyfield, who continues to delude himself but not many other people into believing he will soon unify the heavyweight title again.
If fighters like Ward, Alvarez, Rios, Khan, WBC welterweight champion Andre Berto and middleweight king Sergio Martinez continue their rise they could be the antidote for the art of the retread that Arum and Golden Boy have been forcing fans to buy the past few years at the expense of what boxing needs most – fresh faces.

The heavyweight division, which many believe determines the relevancy of boxing to the larger world, remains a vast desert of disinterest here in the US. The Klitschko brothers, Vitali and Wladimir, hold 75 per cent of the title belts but few peoples’ imaginations in the US, although to be fair they are European superstars and don’t really need U.S. cable TV money to thrive economically.

Each defended their titles twice this year, Vitali against lame competition (Albert Sosnowski and Shannon Briggs) and Wladimir against better fighters (Sam Peter and Eddie Chambers) but not competitive ones. Sadly, there is no American on the horizon to challenge them, a comment on the division and on our country, where the athletes who used to be Joe Louis or Muhammad Ali now opt for the easier and frankly safer road of the NFL or the NBA. Who can blame them considering all the nonsense a fighter has to go through to just make a living these days?

The one heavyweight match that would be compelling and might lift the sport up for at least a night would be either of the Klitschkos facing lippy WBA champion David Haye. The fast-talking Brit claims to not be ducking them but he’s had more maladies befall him after shouting from the rooftops how much he wants to challenge them that you have to wonder if Haye is simply a case of big hat no cattle syndrome.

For the sake of the sport, we should all be lighting candles each night in hopes our prayers will be answered and Haye will finally agree to meet one of them. It may not prove to be much of a fight but at least it will give us something to talk about for a few months.

Whatever Haye and the Klitschkos decide the fighter with the most upside at the moment however seems to be Sergio Martinez.  He has matinee idol looks, a big enough punch to put Paul Williams to sleep with one shot and a work ethic second to none. The Argentine fighter had a year for himself, starting with a drubbing of Kelly Pavlik followed by his demolishment of Williams. Those kinds of victories, coupled with his Oscar De La Hoya-like looks, are the type of things that if HBO or SHOWTIME would get behind him could allow Martinez to capture the attention of both fight fans and more casual ones.

In general, Hispanics fighters continued to dominate much of the sport’s front pages with Juan Manuel Marquez’s two victories in lightweight title fights leading that storyline. His war with Michael Katsidis is a strong candidate for Fight of the Year and his technical skill and calm demeanor make him the uncrowned challenger to Pacquiao. The two have unfinished business that should be settled this year if Arum stops standing in the way.

Two other fighters who gave us moments to remember in 2010 were Juan Manuel Lopez, who knocked out three solid opponents including highly respected Mexican warrior Rafael Marquez, and Giovani Segura, who won four times (that’s three years work for Mayweather) in 2010, all by knockout. Along the way, Segura defeated one of the great minimum weight fighters in history, slick Ivan Calderon, to win the belt on Aug. 28.

Lastly, boxing gave us another magical cinematic moment as well with the release of “The Fighter,’’ a film based on the life and hard times of junior welterweight scrapper Micky Ward. The film has won rave reviews and many awards and seems likely to have several of its actors nominated for Academy Awards, most notable Christian Bale for his sadly humorous portrayal of Ward’s troubled half brother, former fighter Dickie Ecklund.

Boxing has a long history of providing the framework for memorable movies and it did it again with “The Fighter,’’ a film that did more for boxing than any promoter did all year.

All in all, it wasn’t the best of years for boxing but it was a good year that picked up speed in the final months and, like that great golf shot you finally hit out of the rough on the 18th, left us with reasons to hope for a better year in 2011. If somehow it gives us Mayweather-Pacquiao, the emergence of Alvarez and Rios, the ascension of Martinez and Haye vs. the best available Klitschko in addition to the kind of solid performances that always come along, it could be a year to remember.

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