While most of the focus of the boxing world is on May 2 and the match-up between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr., the business moves on and there is plenty going on behind the scenes and, of course, in the ring. Here’s some of the recent scuttlebutt on Bash Blvd…
– It looks like May 30 in Oakland is being targeted as the return of one Andre Ward – last seen in the ring in Nov. of 2013 – but there is still the issue of just whom his dance partner will be. Sources say Roc Nation Sports, which signed Ward to a lucrative deal (and paid off the Goossen family) at the beginning of the year, tried to get the likes of Rogelio “Porky” Medina and Marco Antonio Periban.
Yeah, not exactly Nigel Benn and Steve Collins there.
But therein lies the quandary with Ward’s situation. He has basically cleaned out the 168-pound class and has been openly reluctant to move up to light heavyweight. Then he has been insistent on having a tune-up fight or three after his protracted layoff from the ring in which he would get paid a couple million dollars. HBO’s stance is they shouldn’t have to fund his comeback because he kept suing his former promoter only to repeatedly get beaten in court by the late Dan Goossen.
And in the current marketplace, HBO can’t be in the business of multi-million-dollar tune-up bouts with a fighter who simply isn’t all that much of an attraction (the irony is that if Ward would’ve stayed with Goossen, there’s a chance he could be getting all the non-descript foes he wants for the millions he desires on NBC or CBS).
Yeah, Ward should take some tune-ups regardless of the circumstances but should HBO – and more importantly its subscribers – be forced to subsidize them? The word is HBO has made it clear to Roc Nation Sports that the high-priced deals they signed with Ward and then Miguel Cotto are their deals – alone – to live up to.
– Speaking of Cotto, the current plan is to have him make his debut for Roc Nation on June 6 but unlike the concert business, you need a B-side to go with the featured performer. Cotto’s reps are still trying to reach out to IBF junior middleweight beltholder Cornelius Bundrage even though it looks like he will be facing Tim Bradley in June. There was talk that Cotto, who holds the WBC middleweight title, would face his No. 1 contender, Jorge Sebastian Heiland but his promoter, Osvaldo Rivero, and Cotto’s adviser, Gaby Penagaricano are butting heads. Penagaricano also advises the Argentine contender.
HBO has made it clear to Cotto that to televise his next outing, he will have to commit to a fight in the second half of 2015 against Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. Bottom line is very simple: They aren’t giving him millions for a lay-up, only to have him leave them at the altar again and start looking around at a rematch with Floyd Mayweather Jr. (should “Money” come out victorious versus the “Pac-Man”) across the street on Showtime.
Also, while it’s assumed that Cotto will return in New York (by way of the Barclays Center or Madison Square Garden) where he has become a bona fide attraction the past decade, Top Rank Promotions has the Theater at Madison Square Garden on hold for June 13, the day before the annual Puerto Rican Day Parade, and it turns out that Lou DiBella/Al Haymon have the Barclays Center on hold for June 20 for a “Premier Boxing Champions” event.
– Felix Verdejo, who is being groomed as the next star from the Island and an heir to the likes of Felix Trinidad and Cotto, has a bout scheduled for April 25 at the Coliseo Mario “Quijote” Morales in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico on a card that will be featured on UniMas’ “Solo Boxeo.” This venue holds approximately 6,000 fans and tickets went on sale last week. Within 48 hours, over two-thirds were sold.
Should he come out of this bout versus Marco Antonio Lopez clean, Top Rank has plans to showcase the 21-year old on that June 13 card at MSG. The undefeated Ivan Najera is being mentioned as a possible opponent in what could be Verdejo’s HBO debut.
– Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports reported on Friday that Golden Boy Promotions had filed suit against Jhonny Gonzalez for basically breaching their promotional contract and in essence, not taking certain fights they had attempted to make last year. One example being Gary Russell Jr., who ultimately took the WBC belt from Gonzalez on Saturday evening.
This situation is a bit similar to what manager Frank Espinoza went through with Abner Mares last year. Mares actually had a rematch clause with Gonzalez stemming from their Aug. 2013 bout in which Gonzalez shocked Mares with a single left hook in the first round at the StubHub Center. But after initially agreeing to enforce the rematch clause for last February at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Mares suddenly got “injured.” From that point on, Mares simply wouldn’t enter the ring while under contract with Espinoza, who then filed suit against his fighter, who believed there was tampering taking place.
Eventually, Espinoza took a six-figure settlement for his troubles.
The common denominator in both situations: Al Haymon.
– Yeah, it’s clear that Oscar De La Hoya, who once retweeted those who canceled their HBO subscriptions back in 2013 for jettisoning his company from their airwaves, has re-subscribed to the network. As the Showtime card was taking place this past weekend, he tweeted (@OscarDeLaHoya):
“Whats everybody doing on a slow and lazy Saturday? I’m watching Batman begins on @HBO”
Oh, yeah, that’s a not-so-subtle sub-tweet of the highest order. But Stephen Espinoza, the head of Showtime Sports and no Twitter wallflower himself, counter-tweeted with this (@StephenEspinoza):
“You must have a special subscription. That’s not on HBO tonight. ‘@OscarDeLaHoya: Whats everybody doing ? I’m watching Batman begins on HBO'”
And then a few seconds later:
Espinoza: “Oh, HBO ZONE…that’s where HBO put the last Golden Boy fight, right? ‘@OscarDeLaHoya: put it on 520 direct tv HBO zone. Batman begins.'”
I just love Twitter.
– I’ve said in the past that Russell is the best pure natural talent from the DC-area since the great Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson and he won his first major world title by dominating Gonzalez over four rounds. He was simply too fast and quick off the trigger for Gonzalez, who hit the deck three times in this contest.
Now my question is this, now that he has possession of the WBC belt (which was prominently displayed on Showtime), I guess its safe to assume that he will eventually be paired with other Haymon clients such as Mares and Leo Santa Cruz – in fights in which I’d favor him. So hypothetically, let’s say he does come out victorious in those bouts and then the WBO titlist Vasyl Lomachenko, who defeated Russell handily last year, takes cares care of business against say, Nicholas Walters, does the possibility even exist of a rematch between the two? Or will Russell and Lomachenko exist in separate universes, with Russell being the PBC champion while Lomachenko has possession of all the other “real” titles?
– It was a close contest between junior middleweights Jermell Charlo and Vanes Martirosyan that opened the Showtime broadcast from the Palms Resort Casino in Las Vegas, Nev. It was a close fight won by Charlo and I don’t think anyone had a real problem with that verdict except for the 97-93 scorecard in favor of Charlo turned in by Adalaide Byrd.
Putting that aside, you have to wonder why Martirosyan wasn’t working with Joe Goossen for this pivotal fight. One of the issues he’s had is stability in his corner and it seemed like he and the veteran trainer were working well together. Regardless, as a veteran boxing guy once told me, “Hey, the fighters are the one’s getting hit. Ultimately, it’s their choice who trains them.”
I don’t disagree but there is a track record of boxers who have never performed quite as well after they leave Goossen (who is currently working with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.) going all the way back to Michael Nunn, Lance Whitaker, Joel Casamayor and John Molina.
In his place will be Marvin Somodio, who was in Provodnikov’s corner when “The Siberian Rocky” stopped Mike Alvarado a couple of years ago (while Roach was in the Philippines training Pacquiao for his bout against Brandon Rios).
– IBF welterweight titlist Kell Brook was impressive in bludgeoning Jo Jo Dan in Sheffield, England over four rounds. Brook, who took the crown from Shawn Porter last summer, is right in the thick of his physical prime at age 28 and improved to 34-0 (23).
So now the focus – at least from “Special K” and Matchroom Sport’s Eddie Hearn – is on Amir Khan, who, in the past, has resisted this fight – even been dismissive of it. Well, from the Showtime telecast, there seemed to be a very sizable crowd at the Motorpoint Arena. Brook has a major belt and it would be one of the biggest bouts in the UK.
So why not?
Or is Khan still trying to get into the Mayweather-Pacquiao mix? There is now talk of Khan facing Chris Algieri (yeah, I can hear your groans) in a fight that would take place in the States.
Showtime’s four-part preview of the May 2 mega-fight,”Inside Mayweather vs. Pacquiao” debuts on April 18 after “Showtime Championship Boxing”…Speaking of April 18, the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, NY, has announced that a “final wave” of tickets have been released for Provodnikov-Matthysse. No need for 1iota here…Juan Francisco Estrada’s stoppage of Rommel Asenjo had Vinny Vechione laughing…I demand to see Shannon Briggs-Razor Ruddock immediately. They are on a collision course…Louie Carnesecca’s lucky sweater would approve of Chris Mullin getting the head job at St. John’s…No doubt Kentucky is physically gifted but honestly, as good as they are, they lack some polish…Does anyone coach ’em up as well as Tom Izzo at Michigan State?…Hard to tell anything from spring ball but I do think the Hurricanes have the best defensive front since Al Golden took over…OK, Terrence Howard better get a raise on “Empire.” That show isn’t the same without Lucious Lyon….And finally, Ann Wolfe: Pound 4 Pound TV: Trainer Ann Wolfe throws medicine balls at her fighters!!!!…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.