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Articles of 2010

PREDICTION PAGE: Rafa-JuanMa, Johnson-Green

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LAS VEGAS (Nov. 4, 2010)SHOWTIME Sports® will kick off a tremendous run of world championship boxing to close out 2010 this Saturday with two can’t miss fights, LIVE at 10 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the west coast) from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

In the SHOWTIME Championship Boxing main event, Puerto Rican superstar and WBO featherweight world champ Juan Manuel Lopez and Mexican legend and future Hall of Famer Rafael Marquez will meet in what has been called a rebirth of the spirited Puerto Rican vs. Mexican rivalry that spans generations.

In the co-feature, world-ranked contender Allan Green will face veteran contender and former world champ Glen Johnson in a must-win Super Six World Boxing Classic bout. The winner of the 12-rounder will earn a spot in the tournament Semi-Finals.

The fighters participated in a final press conference just two days before the important bouts and were joined by promoters Bob Arum and Gary Shaw, and their trainers and managers.

What the participants had to say on Thursday:

CHRIS DeBLASIO, On behalf of SHOWTIME Sports General Manger Ken Hershman

“Allan Green vs. Glen Johnson is a terrific, cross-roads matchup in its own right. Add on the layer of intrigue of the Super Six World Boxing Classic and it makes this fight even more dramatic. Juan Manuel Lopez vs. Rafael Marquez could end up being a Fight of the Year candidate. We all know what these two great fighters bring into the ring every time out.

“These fights fit perfectly into Ken Hershman’s programming strategy of televising the most competitive and compelling fights in boxing, directly to our subscribers.

JUAN MANUEL LOPEZ:

“I want to thank Bob Arum, SHOWTIME and MGM Grand and obviously God for giving me this great opportunity. It is truly a dream that is coming true. For all of us it is just a dream to have this opportunity. We are going to take full advantage of it.

“I know that I read that the team of Rafael Marquez said that I have no chin. But the one that is undefeated is me. I know he has won a few fights by knockout, but on Saturday night you’ll see who really can take a punch and who can’t. And one time Gary Shaw told me if you’re so good how come you don’t fight Rafael Marquez. I’m so good I’m going to beat Rafael Marquez on Saturday.

BOB ARUM (Lopez Promoter)

“You’ll see Saturday night that Juan Manuel Lopez rises to the occasion as he fights one of the greatest. Juan Manuel Lopez has his work cut out for him, but as his promoter since his first professional fight we are confident he will shine through and come out on top Saturday night.

ORLANDO PINERO (Lopez Manager)

“We are really thankful for this opportunity. What you are going to see Saturday is a dream come true. When Juan Manuel won his first title he told the world at the post conference that he wanted to fight the best in the world and the first two names he mentioned that night were Rafael Marquez and Israel Vazquez. This Saturday up in the ring is Rafael Marquez and he is expecting a great war. You are going to see a great war between Puerto Rico and Mexico.

RAFAEL MARQUEZ:

“I want to thanks everyone, Gary Shaw, SHOWTIME and Top Rank. I am a man of few words. I know it will be a spectacular fight and I will win this fight for me and for Mexico. I had a tremendous training camp. I am in terrific shape and I will take this title.

“You will see on Saturday night the hard work that I put in. I will show that I can beat anyone at any point in their career. Experience and talent will beat youth on Saturday night. I will answer any questions on Saturday night. Did I bring my power with me? I think I have. Hard work and preparation will beat youth anytime.

“I was probably the smallest of all the great Mexican fighters. It has never been a detriment to my career or to my morale. The Vazquez series raised my visibility and I’m grateful for that.

“I have a lot of respect for Juanma’s talents. I believe he is a top-10 pound-for-pound fighter. I don’t think the fight will go the distance and I know Juanma won’t be the winner.

GARY SHAW (Marquez Promoter)

“On the right in Juanma who is younger and maybe quicker then my fighter (Marquez), but in my fighter you have age and experience. My late father told me there is no replacement for age and experience.

“Juanma is going to find himself in the deepest fight he has ever fought. I don’t think the fight goes 12 rounds. I’ve seen Marquez in the biggest wars of his career. I’ve seen him go down and every time he got up he was tougher and stronger then before he went down.

“In some respects I wish I didn’t have a fighter in the fight so I can buy a seat and really enjoy the fight. It’s going to be a tremendous fight. I have history with Bob Arum. We did Corrales-Castillo together and here we are going to do another fight this Saturday night. The real winner here is the fans.

ALLAN GREEN:

“It is an honor and a pleasure to be here. I want to thanks Ken Hershman for keeping the Super Six intact.

“I feel good. I feel great. I’m ready to fight. Glen Johnson is a very good friend of mine and always has been. I learned a lot from him in my early career but as he said, come Saturday night we’ll come to do business. Let the best man win. I’ll do the rest of my talking Saturday night.

ANTHONY WILSON (Green Trainer)

“Glen Johnson is a true legend. Normally I talk a lot of sh__ but I can’t say anything bad about Glen Johnson. He is a friend of ours inside and outside the ring. His trainer said it wouldn’t go the distance and maybe it won’t. Allan Green has had a long training camp and he has nothing to prove to himself, just to his fans.

GLEN JOHNSON:

“First I want to thank SHOWTIME for even considering me when they were looking for a replacement. Thanks very much. I feel appreciated for all the years I put in boxing. To be a part of such a prestigious event — I feel grateful just to be apart of it.

“I thought making the weight would be more difficult then it was. I was at weight two weeks ago so that was surprising for me.

“I just want to say, Allan Green is a friend of mine. It is not somebody that I’m looking forward to fight just because of our relationship, but this is business and I’m sure he will feel the same way. We’re just going to go out there and do our job and our relationship will remain the same afterwards.

ORLANDO CUELLAR (Johnson Trainer)

“I’ll give you some insight. You guys know Glen Johnson and you know what he brings. You know how he fights. You know everything there is to know. There are no secrets. He is a straight up, in your face, smash mouth, hard fighter. That is what you are going to see Saturday when he faces the very talented Allan Green. This is business. After the fight we’ll buy him a beer.

“Glen had a great training camp. He did over 120 rounds of sparing. He brought his weight down to what he hasn’t been in 10 years. I know a lot of people were concerned if he could make (1)68, much less be effective at (1)68. I guess you all get to find out Saturday, but if it is any indication what he has done at the gym I think he is faster, lighter on his feet. I think we discovered that maybe he should have been at this weight a few fights back.

“We’re not going to let anyone down. This fight will not go the distance. Glen is going to show something special, something fast, something furious at 168 pounds this Saturday.

HENRY FOSTER (Johnson Manager)

“There is no animosity between camps but come Saturday night we are going to go out there and do our job.

Check out a promo video, featuring Al Bernstein, which sums up these matches: www.youtube.com/watch

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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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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