After a figurative toe-to-toe negotiating battle, junior middleweight titlist Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito have finally reached an agreement on the contract weight for their rematch: 153 pounds.
Although the division limit is 154 pounds, Cotto, who will be making his second title defense, insisted on a catchweight. He was obviously hoping to force the bigger Margarito to shed as much weight as possible before they meet Dec. 3 at Madison Square Garden in New York on pay-per-view. (Top Rank hasn't yet made a deal with HBO or Showtime to produce and distribute the fight.)
According to Sergio Diaz, Margarito's co-manager, the camps had agreed to fight when Cotto insisted on making the bout at 150 pounds with the stipulation of a weight check on the day of the fight, for which the fighters could not exceed 160 pounds.
"When we met with [Top Rank's] Bob Arum to negotiate the fight, no catchweight was spoken about," Diaz told ESPN.com. "So Bob was as surprised as we were that Cotto was asking for 150 pounds. Then Bob spoke with Cotto and got him to 152. Then it was presented to us and we went back and forth and we finally settled at 153. They were also asking for a next-day weigh-in where Antonio couldn't weigh more than 160. That was another issue we were going back and forth about. So we threw out 153 pounds with no second weigh-in."
Diaz said the negotiations got to the point where there was serious concern that the fight wouldn't be finalized because of the differences over the weight.
"There was no reason for a catchweight," Diaz said. "This is a junior middleweight title fight, but that is what Cotto wanted and Bob was worried it wouldn't get done because of the issue. We weren't going to accept ultimatums, but we wanted the fight and said, 'Let's work on this.' We weren't going to do 150 or 152 or a next-day weigh-in. Enough with the demands. Bob finally came back at 153 and no next-day weigh-in. I spoke to Tony and he said, 'Let's do it.' We have the paperwork and everything is all done. He will be putting his signature on it soon."
Top Rank's Todd duBoef said he and Arum had no opinion about the weight situation, as it was up to the fighters to be comfortable with the agreement.
"We were acting as a conduit to make the fight. The fighters had the issues about the weight, and we acted as the liaison between their camps," duBoef said. "I'm glad everybody agreed, but it was not easy. We encouraged dialogue between the camps because it was something that was out of our control. We could provide the financial terms for both camps for the fight, but we were not the guys getting on the scale and training."
Cotto (36-2, 29 KOs) and Margarito (38-7, 27 KOs) first met in 2008 and waged a memorable welterweight title bout in Las Vegas. Cotto took a big early lead, but Margarito came on late and stopped him in the 11th round of a bloody slugfest. The win was later tainted, however, when Margarito was caught trying to enter the ring for his next fight wearing loaded hand wraps. The incident led to speculation that Margarito might also have worn illegal wraps against Cotto.
Cotto is coming off a 12th-round knockout of former titlist Ricardo Mayorga in March. Margarito hasn't fought since November, when he was pounded in a lopsided decision loss to Manny Pacquiao for a vacant junior middleweight belt. In the fight, Margarito suffered a broken orbital bone and wound up with a cataract that required eye surgery and threatened his career.
No belt, no problem for Gamboa
In March, featherweight Yuriorkis Gamboa had two alphabet belts. He now has none, though he hasn't lost a fight since. So what happened? First, he was stripped by the IBF for declining to attend a mandatory weight check on the day of his one-sided fourth-round blowout of Jorge Solis on March 26.
But Gamboa never intended to defend that belt and didn't plan on paying the sanction fees. However, he did defend his other belt and paid his sanction fee to the WBA. Yet for reasons the WBA has declined to explain, the organization stripped him, leaving Gamboa without a title as he prepares to fight former junior featherweight titlist Daniel Ponce De Leon on Sept. 10 (HBO) in Atlantic City, N.J.
Although disappointed he no longer has a title, Gamboa can take solace in knowing he won't have to give up a chunk of his purse as a sanction fee.
"I feel sad that they took the belt away from me," said Gamboa, a 2004 Cuban Olympic gold medalist. "I fought Solis with the belt and now I don't have a belt. Now it is not about the belt. It is seeing who is the best out there."
Top Rank's Bob Arum, Gamboa's co-promoter, has often used the sanctioning bodies to his advantage to help promote his fighters and fights. But even Arum couldn't factually explain why Gamboa was stripped. At first Arum said it was because Gamboa hadn't paid his sanctioning fees, but the fighter had. He also hadn't overlooked a mandatory defense. When told that Gamboa had paid up, Arum called the situation "crazy."
"This whole thing is getting to be nonsense, these sanctioning bodies," Arum said. "Who can waste time on following it all? They're all crazy, with the exception of maybe the IBF and WBO. They all do everything for their own business. So they thought it was their best business interest to take the title away. So who is going to waste time going to court to try to fight it?"
Cunningham to face Hernandez
Promoter Sauerland Event announced a major card for Oct. 1 in Neubrandenburg, Germany, that will include cruiserweight titlist Steve Cunningham (24-2, 12 KOs) of Philadelphia defending against Sauerland stablemate Yoan Pablo Hernandez (24-1, 13 KOs), who holds an interim belt.
Hernandez has been sitting as a mandatory for titleholder Guillermo Jones, but the bout has been in limbo for quite some time, which has frustrated Hernandez.
"I wanted to go for [Jones'} WBA title, but the fight never happened," Hernandez said. "Now I have set my sights on Cunningham. I have trained hard and I am sure I can beat him."
Jones will be making the second defense of his second reign.
The card will be headlined by former middleweight titlist Sebastian Sylvester (34-4-1, 16 KOs) of Germany against Poland's Grzegorz Proksa (25-0, 18 KOs) for the vacant European middleweight title. The fight will be Sylvester's first since losing his belt by split decision to Daniel Geale on May 7.
"The European title will put me back in line for another shot at the world title," Sylvester said. "I have something to prove and I am ready to make a strong comeback. Proksa can expect a helluva fight. He better be ready."
Also on the card, light heavyweights Karo Murat (24-1, 14 KOs) and former titlist Gabriel Campillo (21-3, 8 KOs) meet in a rematch of a fight that Murat won by decision three years ago.
Former junior featherweight titlist Steve Molitor (33-2, 12 KOs) of Ontario will meet Quebec's Sebastien Gauthier (21-2, 13 KOs) on Nov. 5 in Quebec City on the undercard of super middleweight titlist Lucian Bute's defense against Glen Johnson.
Carl Moretti of Top Rank, Molitor's promoter, told ESPN.com he had made a deal for the fight with Gauthier promoter Jean Bedard of InterBox.
"It's a good fight for that undercard, a good Canadian fight," Moretti said. "Molitor has a chance to get back with a win after losing his title and to be active in the 122-pound division. He could also fight at 126 pounds after this fight. The main thing is for him to fight and then see where we go."
The fight will be Molitor's first since he lost his title in March to Takalani Ndlovu, whom he already owned two wins against.
"I am still bitter about losing my title, but this bitterness is motivating me more than ever to keep the course and once again become a world champion," Molitor said. "I respect Sebastien. He is a talented boxer with good power, so I have to be very prepared against him. Unfortunately for Sebastien, it won't be against me that he makes a name for himself in boxing."
Said Gauthier, who is on a four-fight winning streak: "Molitor has accomplished a lot in boxing, has a good name in the world of boxing and has achieved the highest of the highs in twice becoming world champion," Gauthier said. "This is a big test for me and it could not come at a better time in my career. I am both excited and motivated for this fight."
• Although Floyd Mayweather Jr. and welterweight titlist Victor Ortiz are using USADA random drug testing (blood and urine) -- at Mayweather's insistence -- in the lead-up to their Sept. 17 HBO PPV fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, the Nevada State Athletic Commission also activated its in-training random testing program. The fighters recently gave urine samples to the commission, and executive director Keith Kizer said both tests came back negative for any prohibited substances. The commission's testing is limited to urine testing.
• Heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, who scored a near shutout of David Haye in their July 2 unification fight, plans to fight again before the year is over, manager Bernd Boente told ESPN.com. "He will fight in November or December for sure," Boente said. "We are still discussing different names [of potential opponents]." Boente said the fight could take place in Germany, where Ukraine's Klitschko has fought most of his career. "Wherever it is, it will be in the European time zone," Boente said. HBO televised Klitschko's fight with Haye and also will televise his brother Vitali Klitschko's heavyweight title defense against Tomasz Adamek on Sept. 10 from Poland. However, Boente said he doesn't yet have an American broadcast partner for Wladimir's next fight. "We would love to do the fight again with HBO and, of course, we would like to have the fight covered in the U.S. So if HBO does not want to do it, we would want to work something out with Showtime or Epix." Boente said there are four dates that German network RTL, which has a contract with the Klitschkos, has made available: Nov. 19, Dec. 3, Dec. 10 and Dec. 17.
• The heavyweight title eliminator between friends Tony Thompson (36-2, 24 KOs) and Eddie Chambers (36-2, 18 KOs), scheduled for Oct. 28 at Bally's in Atlantic City, N.J., has been added to Showtime's "ShoBox: The New Generation" telecast, which will expand to a tripleheader, promoter Dan Goossen told ESPN.com. Thompson-Chambers will open the broadcast. It will be followed by matches involving prospects Javier Molina and Shawn Estrada, 2008 U.S. Olympians promoted by Goossen. "Whenever you have a significant fight, it should be televised. In this case, I appreciate [Showtime executives] Gordon Hall and Ken Hershman for giving these two heavyweights the opportunity to showcase their skills," Goossen said. "Now it's up to the fighters to show their gratitude by giving the fans and network the type of fight they want to see from heavyweights. It's up to the fighters to go out there and fight. There's a lot on the line -- not only the winner's future on TV, but a title shot. We've got two Americans going at it." The winner will become a mandatory challenger for champion Wladimir Klitschko, who already owns knockout wins against both fighters.
• A purse bid will be held Sept. 13 to determine the promoter of the mandated rematch between bantamweight titlist Abner Mares (22-0-1, 13 KOs) and former titleholder Joseph Agbeko (28-3, 22 KOs), who are headed for a likely December rematch on Showtime. The IBF ordered the rematch after Mares' majority decision victory on Aug. 13 was clearly aided by the highly controversial performance of referee Russell Mora, who made an obvious error in calling an 11th-round knockdown against Agbeko and also refused to deduct points from Mares despite his throwing repeated low blows throughout the fight. According to a letter the IBF sent to its registered promoters, Golden Boy -- Mares' promoter -- is "unwilling to participate in the negotiations [with Don King, Agbeko's promoter]. They are requesting an immediate purse bid." The purse bid was granted. Although the typical purse order would result in the titleholder receiving 75 percent of the winning bid and the challenger getting 25 percent, the IBF, on a majority vote of its board, has ordered a 50-50 purse split, a reflection of the controversial outcome of the first fight.
• In the wake of his ninth-round knockout loss to Robert Helenius last Saturday in Erfurt, Germany, former heavyweight titlist Sergei Liakhovich was taken to the emergency room, where doctors diagnosed that his nose was broken in two places during the fight. Liakhovich, who was fighting for the first time in 17 months, said he had trouble breathing after the third round and was swallowing blood. According to promoter Main Events, Liakhovich's fractures were high on the bridge of his nose on the right and left side. "Sergei was unable to breathe through his nose from the moment the first break occurred in the third round," manager Tony Cardinale said. Liakhovich plans to have surgery. "Those who say that there are no exciting fighters in the heavyweight division haven't been paying attention," Main Events promoter Kathy Duva said. "Sergei has now participated in two of the most action-packed heavyweight fights of the past 10 years, and he let me know that he wishes to remain as active as possible as soon as he recovers." Liakhovich is best known for his all-action slugfest with Lamon Brewster, whom he outpointed to win a title in 2006.
• Showtime will be busy this fall with five "ShoBox: The New Generation" cards in eight weeks. To kick off the run, Gary Shaw is promoting a Sept. 9 card at the Grand Casino in Hinckley, Minn., headlined by welterweight Vincent Arroyo (11-1, 7 KOs), who is coming off an upset win on "ShoBox" against Willie Nelson. Arroyo will face Puerto Rico's Hector Sanchez (19-1, 9 KOs) at a contract weight of 143 pounds. Sanchez suffered his only career loss in April 2010, a fifth-round TKO at the hands of Cleotis Pendarvis. Opening the telecast will be Freddie Roach-trained Nigerian cruiserweight puncher Lateef "Power" Kayode (17-0, 14 KOs), who is closing in on a title opportunity. He will face gatekeeper Felix Cora Jr. (22-5-2, 12 KOs).
• The other four "ShoBox" cards announced for the fall begin with the Sept. 30 card at the Chumash Resort in Santa Ynez, Calif. It will be headlined by a junior welterweight title eliminator between Nigeria's Ajose Olusegun (29-0, 14 KOs) and Ali Chebah (35-1, 28 KOs) of France. Lightweight Darley Perez (22-0, 17 KOs) of Colombia will meet Mexico's Marvin Quintero (22-3, 18 KOs) in the co-feature. On Oct. 7, Las Vegas-based Ugandan prospect Sharif Bogere (20-0, 12 KOs) will face Francisco Contreras (16-0, 13 KOs), a native of the Dominican Republic living in New Jersey. The site hasn't been set. On Oct. 21, blue-chip super middleweight prospect Edwin Rodriguez (19-0, 14 KOs) will face an opponent to be announced. Rodriguez, 26, hopes to step up in competition before shooting for a world title shot. "I need two good fights against top-10 opponents, and then I'll be ready for a world-title fight," Rodriguez said. "I fought on Aug. 20 at 174, but only because my opponent couldn't make a lower weight. I have no issues making 168." On Oct. 28 in Atlantic City, N.J., 2008 U.S. Olympians Shawn Estrada, a super middleweight, and junior middleweight Javier Molina are slated to appear in separate bouts after the Tony Thompson-Eddie Chambers heavyweight eliminator opens the show.
• Junior lightweights Rocky Juarez (28-8-1, 20 KOs) and Vicente Escobedo (23-3, 14 KOs) were both U.S. Olympians. Juarez received a silver medal in 2000, and Escobedo was on the 2004 team. But as pros, neither has lived up to his potential and broken through to win a world title. Now the Golden Boy Promotions stablemates will meet at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, Calif., on Sept. 23 (Telefutura) in a scheduled 10-rounder. Both men have lost their biggest fights. Juarez has lost four fights in a row and is 0-5-1 in featherweight and junior lightweight title bouts. Escobedo is 2-2 in his past four fights, including losses to both of his notable opponents -- a decision to Robert Guerrero and a split decision for an interim lightweight belt against Michael Katsidis.
• After Australia's Daniel Geale won a middleweight title in Germany by outpointing Sebastian Sylvester, the plan was for Geale to return home to make his first title defense before looking for a possible fight in the United States. That's why promoter Gary Shaw said they rebuffed overtures to fight lineal champion Sergio Martinez this fall. Geale indeed returned home and outpointed Eromosele Albert (24-5-1, 12 KOs) on Wednesday in Hobart on the Australian island of Tasmania in his first defense, by scores of 119-109, 117-111 and 116-112. However, Shaw said they won't rush the next move because Geale injured his right hand during the fight and will take some time off. If he comes to the United States, it almost certainly wouldn't be until next year. "Daniel's dominance is proof he is ready for anyone in the world," Shaw said. "He's worked hard to become the fighter he is and he's been expertly brought along by Garrie Fransisco and Bill Tracy as his managers and Graham Shaw as his trainer. It's a regional success story that is now going global, and I'm proud to be his promoter."
• Top Rank announced that it has re-signed 24-year-old junior lightweight prospect Diego Magdaleno (20-0, 7 KOs) of Las Vegas to a multi-year agreement. Magdaleno has been brought along by Top Rank since his pro debut in 2007 and is nearing a fight with a top opponent. The first fight on his new deal is being planned for a "Top Rank Live" (Fox Deportes/FSN) card at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas on Nov. 11, the eve of the Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez HBO PPV fight that Top Rank is promoting at the MGM Grand. Top Rank also promotes Jesse Magdaleno (5-0, 3 KOs), a 19-year-old junior featherweight prospect (and Diego's younger brother), who would appear on the Nov. 11 undercard. Also slated for the proposed card in a televised bout is Filipino lightweight Mercito Gesta (22-0-1, 12 KOs), although he first must get by Manny Perez (16-6-1, 4 KOs) on a "Top Rank Live" card (Fox Deportes/FSN) Sept. 17 in Parker, Ariz.
• Junior middleweight titlist Sergiy Dzinziruk (37-1, 23 KOs) of Ukraine is headed to the Czech Republic to face Lukas Konecny (47-3, 22 KOs) on Sept. 30 in a mandatory defense, Artie Pelullo, Dzinziruk's co-promoter, told ESPN.com. Dzinziruk is returning to 154 pounds to defend his title after he was dropped five times and stopped in the eighth round while challenging middleweight champion Sergio Martinez in March. Dzinziruk and Konecny will be meeting in a rematch. Dzinziruk claimed a majority decision against him in a 2008 title defense in Germany. Pelullo and co-promoter Gary Shaw made this fight despite believing Dzinziruk is owed a return match on HBO this year as part of the deal they had for his fight with Martinez. They are unhappy with the network and have said they are contemplating legal action.
• After junior welterweight titlist Marcos Maidana's Aug. 27 HBO fight against Robert Guerrero was called off because of Guerrero's shoulder injury, Maidana was quickly rescheduled for a defense against an opponent to be determined on Sept. 16 in his native Argentina. However, his adviser, Sebastian Contursi, told ESPN.com that the date has been shifted to Sept. 23. ... Yvon Michel, promoter of former light heavyweight champ Jean Pascal, told ESPN.com that he will meet next week in Florida with Don King, who promotes light heavyweight titlist Tavoris Cloud, to discuss a deal to make that fight, which HBO is interested in. "We went as far as it is possible to in discussions over the phone with King. I have now set a meeting next week in Florida with the hope to conclude [a deal]," Michel said. ... In the event that Top Rank and Golden Boy can't make a deal, the WBC has ordered a Sept. 23 purse bid for the final eliminator between junior middleweights Vanes Martirosyan and Alfredo "Perro" Angulo. The winner would become the mandatory challenger for the winner of the Sept. 17 bout between titlist Saul "Canelo" Alvarez and Alfonso Gomez. ... Heavyweight Johnathon Banks (26-1-1, 17 KOs), a staple of the Klitschko brothers' undercards (he is promoted by their K2 Promotions) will appear on the undercard of Vitali Klitschko's heavyweight title defense against Tomasz Adamek on Sept. 10 in Wroclaw, Poland. Banks, of Detroit, is scheduled to face former title challenger Fres Oquendo (32-7, 21 KOs) of Chicago in a 10-rounder.
"This is a big step for me in my career, and I thank everyone involved for giving me this opportunity. Miranda is a tough opponent, but I need to go out there and treat him like all the rest, by dominating him and then finishing him off."
-- Featherweight prospect Gary Russell Jr. (17-0, 10 KOs), who makes his HBO debut Saturday night (10:30 ET/PT) against Leonilo Miranda (32-3, 30 KOs) on the Jan Zaveck-Andre Berto undercard at the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino in Biloxi, Miss.
"I looked at Garcia when he was coming up, and I said, 'This kid has a lot of potential. I can't wait to see this kid in the future.' Golden Boy Promotions has done a good job with him. They have gotten him the right fights. Up until now."
--Former junior welterweight titlist Kendall Holt, on his fight with Danny Garcia on the Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson undercard on Oct. 15 (HBO PPV)
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter at danrafaelespn.