With some unspent money remaining in Showtime's 2011 budget, it's use it or lose it, so the network is scheduling an unusual Dec. 31 "Showtime Championship Boxing" card.
"[We are] looking to fill the date and listening to offers," said Showtime's Gordon Hall, who is making the deals in the wake of Ken Hershman's defection to rival HBO last week.
Promoters are pitching their wares with abandon, including:
• Dan Goossen and Lou DiBella are trying to put together a fight that would pit light heavyweight titlist Beibut Shumenov (12-1, 8 KOs) against former titlist Zsolt Erdei (33-0, 18 KOs) in a bout that would also serve to wipe away the lawsuit between Goossen and Shumenov.
The card could include the mandatory fight between junior featherweight titlist Rico Ramos (20-0, 11 KOs) and interim titlist Guillermo Rigondeaux (8-0, 6 KOs). Top Rank, Rigondeaux's promoter, won the right to promote the bout at a purse bid but likely will default. So it has given Goossen, Ramos' promoter, permission to try to find a spot for the fight.
• Don King is pitching a card on which light heavyweight titlist Tavoris Cloud (23-0, 19 KOs) would defend his belt in the main event with junior middleweight titlist Cornelius "K9" Bundrage (31-4, 18 KOs) defending in the opener. Both opponents have yet to be determined.
• Promoter Artie Pelullo tried to make a fight between middleweight titlist Dmitry Pirog of Russia and Montreal's David Lemieux. However, Yvon Michel, Lemieux's promoter, told ESPN.com his side isn't interested in that fight at this point, as Lemieux will first attempt to rebound later this year from his first defeat.
So now Pelullo has proposed a middleweight unification bout between Pirog (19-0, 15 KOs) and Australia's Daniel Geale (26-1, 15 KOs), which would give both titleholders the much-needed American exposure they desire.
Pelullo, Pirog's promoter, told ESPN.com that he made a deal with Gary Shaw, Geale's promoter, for the bout pending Showtime's acceptance.
"We've offered Showtime the unification fight," Pelullo said. "We're trying to sell a fight to Showtime like everyone else trying to sell them a fight. But Gary and I have a deal and the fighters want the fight, so we can do it if we can get Showtime on board."
For the opening bout, Pelullo said he is pitching a fight for former junior middleweight titlist Sergiy Dzinziruk, whom he co-promotes with Shaw, against an opponent of Showtime's choosing.
Whenever Dzinziruk (37-1, 23 KOs) fights, he won't defend his junior middleweight belt, because the WBO stripped him after he suffered a shoulder injury that forced him to withdraw from a Sept. 30 mandatory bout against Lukas Konecny.
"They said they stripped him because he was inactive," Pelullo said, "and our comment to the WBO was that he got injured and was ready, willing and able to defend in November."
Pelullo's ire is also directed at HBO, which he said failed to deliver a summer fight to Dzinziruk it was obligated to give him under the deal they had when he moved up to middleweight and challenged Sergio Martinez in March. Dzinziruk suffered an eighth-round knockout and returned to junior middleweight expecting to defend his title on HBO.
"We got stripped because HBO didn't deliver and didn't live up to its commitment," Pelullo said. "Then we had to make the mandatory fight and it was set for Sept. 30, and Sergiy got injured and the WBO stripped him."
Maidana, Morales updates
Before Saturday's Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson card at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Golden Boy promoter Richard Schaefer held meetings to discuss the future plans of two other fighters, junior welterweight titlists Marcos Maidana and Erik Morales.
First he met with Sebastian Contursi, Maidana's manager.
"They are ready to fight anyone," Schaefer said. "He said on top of his list is Floyd Mayweather and [that] I should tell Floyd he should rest assured that he won't kiss him [like Victor Ortiz did] in the ring. He said there would be no kisses exchanged in the ring. Maidana also said a rematch with Morales or Amir Khan would be fine, so he is willing to fight anybody. Maidana is saying if these guys at 140 don't want to fight him, he will move up to 147 next year."
Maidana edged Morales in a fabulous slugfest in April, and a rematch has been discussed.
Schaefer then met with Morales, who has two fights in mind: a drop down to lightweight to challenge new titlist Antonio DeMarco, who rallied to win a vacant belt by stopping Jorge Linares in a dramatic comeback on the Hopkins-Dawson card, or facing Maidana again.
"We have to see which fight can be made," Schaefer said, "but I know the WBC is going to order a rematch of the DeMarco-Linares fight."
Schaefer said Morales' previous plan for a Dec. 10 bout in his hometown of Tijuana, Mexico, is less likely than it had been a couple of weeks ago.
"He's currently mulling that over," Schaefer said. "That is not a for-sure thing."
Schaefer said he would like to put on a card early next year featuring Maidana-Morales II with DeMarco-Linares II on the undercard.
"That would be a sensational card," he said.
Hernandez-Cunningham rematch on tap
The mandated immediate rematch between cruiserweight titlist Yoan Pablo Hernandez (25-1, 13 KOs) and former titlist Steve Cunningham (24-3, 12 KOs) is on track to take place in January, Sauerland Event promoter Chris Meyer told ESPN.com.
Hernandez was awarded a sixth-round technical split decision to claim the belt in Neubrandenburg, Germany, on Oct. 1. Ringside physician Dr. Walter Wegner recommended that referee Mickey Vann stop the fight because Hernandez had two small cuts. Hernandez was then awarded the questionable victory.
The Cunningham camp protested the result, and the IBF ordered a rematch, claiming that the stoppage was incorrect because the cuts, which were not bleeding, weren't dangerous or interfering with Hernandez's ability to compete.
"We, as promoter of both fighters, accept the decision [to order a rematch]," Meyer said. "A technical decision is unsatisfactory for all involved -- the fighters, ticket buyers and TV audience. Hernandez does accept the decision as well. He wants to demonstrate that he is the best cruiserweight in the world and wants to beat the best around in bouts with undisputed results."
Meyer said the next step is to work with the Cunningham camp to iron out the details. The bout must take place by Feb. 11 under the IBF's order.
In April, 22-year-old middleweight David Lemieux (25-1, 24 KOs), a heavy favorite and one of boxing's rising stars, was dominating Marco Antonio Rubio before being shockingly knocked out in the seventh round on ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights." Although he is supposed to return in December -- possibly against fellow Montreal fighter and former junior middleweight titlist Joachim Alcine -- he will do so without trainer Russ Anber, whom he had worked with since he was 9.
Anber and Michel, Lemieux's promoter, both said the split was amicable. Lemieux will now be trained by Marc Ramsay, one of Anber's close friends who also trains former light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal.
"I let him go because I didn't want him to fight in December," Anber told ESPN.com. "What I wanted from him was a four-month commitment to boxing. Train, get his weight down, do a lot of conditioning and then go to a training camp. We spent the last five months trying to get him to commit to training. I realized I'm banging my head against the wall. I want him to see what you need to do to be an elite middleweight, to prepare for a career, not just one fight, and we weren't going to see eye to eye."
Anber said he brought Lemieux to train with middleweight champion Martinez in Oxnard, Calif., for two weeks before Martinez's Oct. 1 fight to demonstrate how a top pound-for-pound fighter trains. Anber said Lemieux was miserable and has yet to put together three consecutive weeks of training since the Rubio fight.
"We just don't see eye to eye on the way he should be preparing for fights," Anber said. "Instead of him being miserable in the gym, and for my mental sanity, it's better to go separate ways than butt heads. Marc has my blessing. He trains his fighters in my gym, so this split with David is not a hateful split or about money. It's just we are on a different philosophical plane on what it takes to succeed in the elite world of boxing."
Big Australian card
Featherweight titlist Chris John (45-0-2, 22 KOs) of Indonesia -- the longest-reigning active titleholder in boxing, having held his belt since 2003 -- will make his 15th defense Nov. 30 in Perth, Australia, on one of the biggest cards in Aussie history.
John is due to face Stanyslav Merdov (32-7, 24 KOs) of Ukraine.
"As always, Chris John makes history in his country, and this time he will make history in Australia in one of the biggest events ever held in that country," said Sampson Lewkowicz, John's adviser. "I am very proud of my champion as we continue to look forward to landing a big fight, with my champion receiving the type of payday that he deserves."
The main event features Australia's popular Danny Green (31-4, 27 KOs), coming off his upset ninth-round knockout loss to Antonio Tarver in July, fighting in his hometown of Perth, where he will challenge cruiserweight titlist Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (45-2-1, 32 KOs) of Poland.
"I don't see this fight card ever being eclipsed in this sport in this country ever," Green, whose company is promoting the show, said at a news conference announcing the card this week. "Chris is a superstar in Indonesia. The poor guy can't walk down the street without being mobbed. The president rings him after he's victorious in his fights. To have him fight on our show is a massive thing. He's a superstar of the sport."
Also on the card will be promising Australian junior lightweight Will Tomlinson (17-0-1, 12 KOs), who will face veteran Ricardo Castillo (39-10-1, 26 KOs), a former featherweight and junior featherweight title challenger (and the younger brother of former lightweight champion Jose Luis Castillo).
• Top American heavyweight prospect Seth Mitchell (23-0-1, 17 KOs) of Brandywine, Md., who will make his HBO debut on Dec. 10 on the Amir Khan-Lamont Peterson card in Washington, D.C. (where he will have a home crowd on his side), likely will face Timur Ibragimov (30-3-1, 16 KOs) of Uzbekistan. Golden Boy's Schaefer told ESPN.com that a deal had been reached with Ibragimov, but he was waiting for HBO's approval, which he expected to be forthcoming. Ibragimov would be a step up in competition for Mitchell, a 29-year-old former Michigan State linebacker who didn't begin boxing until his 20s. Ibragimov suffered his first defeat on HBO when he was outpointed by then-undefeated prospect and 2000 U.S. Olympian Calvin Brock.
• The hunt continues for an opponent for blue-chip featherweight prospect and 2008 U.S. Olympian Gary Russell Jr. (18-0, 10 KOs), who is scheduled to appear in the opening bout on HBO's Nov. 26 split-site tripleheader. The hunt continues because 2004 Cuban Olympian Luis Franco (10-0, 6 KOs), who defected and turned pro in 2009, turned down the fight and a six-figure payday, according to Schaefer. One name being discussed for Russell is Philadelphia junior featherweight Teon Kennedy (17-1-1, 7 KOs), although Kennedy is coming off an underwhelming performance against Alejandro Lopez in a unanimous decision loss Aug. 13. Russell will fight in Cincinnati, where hometown fighter Adrien Broner (21-0, 17 KOs) will compete for a vacant junior lightweight belt, probably against Argentina's Vicente Rodriguez (34-2-1, 19 KOs). Then the action will shift to Mexico, where junior middleweight titlist Saul "Canelo" Alvarez (38-0-1, 28 KOs) will make his third defense against former welterweight titlist Kermit Cintron (33-4-1, 28 KOs).
• Although official numbers aren't yet available for Saturday's HBO PPV card headlined by the controversial Hopkins-Dawson light heavyweight title fight, Schaefer was ready for bad news -- and he got it. "Not good," he said. Although he didn't know for sure, it's likely the fight did fewer than 100,000 buys. Golden Boy, however, was not at risk. HBO, which put up about $3 million under its contract with Hopkins, "flipped" the fight to pay-per-view as it organized its fall schedule, hoping to recoup whatever it could in PPV receipts to offset the license fee it was obligated to pay for the fight. HBO will replay Dawson's controversial second-round knockout of Hopkins on Saturday night (10:30 ET/PT) along with coverage of bantamweight champion Nonito Donaire's defense against Omar Narvaez. Also on the telecast, HBO plans to show portions of the dramatic DeMarco-Linares lightweight title bout and Dewey Bozella's pro debut from the pay-per-view.
• HBO kicks off the 11th installment of its "24/7" reality series on Saturday night (10 p.m. ET/PT, prior to the Donaire-Narvaez "Boxing After Dark" telecast). This edition -- "24/7 Pacquiao/Marquez" -- is a four-part series that will follow the buildup to pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao's third showdown with Juan Manuel Marquez, which takes place Nov. 12 (HBO PPV) at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The second and third episodes air on subsequent Saturday nights, with the finale airing the night before the fight. In addition to airing on HBO, "24/7" will replay on sister network CNN as did episodes leading up to the Sept. 17 Mayweather-Ortiz bout. Each episode of the Pacquiao-Marquez series will air at midnight on CNN, just hours after it premieres on HBO.
• Junior middleweight Austin Trout, a virtual unknown despite being an American titleholder from New Mexico, will finally get some much-needed U.S. television exposure when he defends his belt on Showtime's "ShoBox: The New Generation" on Nov. 11 in El Paso, Texas. The 26-year-old Trout (23-0, 13 KOs) will face Australia's Frank LoPorto (15-4-2, 7 KOs), who has faced soft opposition throughout his career. "I am very happy that Austin is getting on 'ShoBox,' and I'm sure he will perform," said Greg Cohen, Trout's promoter. "The guy he is fighting is no pushover, very tough, very determined and is a pressure fighter. The styles should make for a very entertaining bout. I believe Austin will prove to be too skilled for LoPorto and hopefully become the first person to ever stop him."
• James Toney, who is dropping down from heavyweight to cruiserweight at age 43 for his first bout in that division since he won the title in 2003, left for Russia this week. On Nov. 4 in Moscow, he will face top contender Denis Lebedev (22-1, 17 KOs), who knocked out the faded Roy Jones Jr. in the 10th round of his last bout in May. Toney (73-6-3, 44 KOs), who has won titles in three weight classes, was his usual boastful self before leaving. "You ain't gonna see no lay down like Bernard Hopkins did," Toney said. "I will be there to kick his a-- right in front of his people. He likes to wait until fighters from my generation get old, and that's made him feel like he can fight, but I'm going to show him what a big mistake he made thinking he can pull that with me." Toney fought at a career-heavy 257 pounds in his most recent fight in February, but the bout with Lebedev is at 200 pounds.
• Cruiserweight titlist Marco Huck (33-1, 24 KOs) of Germany will make his eighth title defense against southpaw Rogelio Rossi (17-2-1, 11 KOs) of Argentina on Saturday in Ludwigsburg, Germany. Unlike many fighters, Huck isn't making any bold knockout predictions, although Rossi has been stopped once -- in the third round of his second professional bout, all the way back in 2007. "He will go down," Huck said. "I enter the ring to win and to please my fans, and they can again expect an explosive performance. I have trained for 12 rounds. I think the fight will last long because, as you say, the guys from Argentina really come to fight. I will give everything from the first second onwards and it will be an exciting clash."
• Light heavyweight titlist Nathan Cleverly of Wales, who made his second successful defense in a memorable, all-action fight (and likely U.K. fight of the year) against England's Tony Bellew last week, has Chad Dawson in his sights. "I would fancy taking on Dawson at the Millennium Stadium [in Wales] next year," said Cleverly, who watched Hopkins-Dawson on TV. "Hopkins will probably want an immediate rematch with Dawson after that ending, so that will hold things up for a while, but a Dawson fight is one I'd be confident in winning. My name's in the mix with these guys as well as Tavoris Cloud, and I'm confident my promoter, Frank Warren, can get one of them over here. Ideally, I would like Shumenov next, but I've got lots of options. I'm still only 24, and there are plenty of big fights out there for me. I've just come off the best win of my career. Full respect to Tony -- he made me dig really deep to win, and you saw the best of me."
• The PR Best Boxing Promotions card set for Oct. 29 in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, being put on in conjunction with the 24th annual WBO convention, has undergone some major changes this week. Puerto Rico's Ivan "Iron Boy" Calderon, the longtime strawweight champion making his return to the division after a stint at junior flyweight (where he was also champion), was supposed to face former titlist Raul Garcia for an interim belt, but Garcia suffered a hand injury and withdrew from the fight. Instead, Calderon (34-2-1, 6 KOs) will face Mexico's Felipe Rivas (11-8-1, 5 KOs) for a regional belt. Also, former welterweight titlist Carlos Quintana (28-3, 22 KOs), slated to face Jorge Melendez (20-2-1, 20 KOs), withdrew from the card because of a nose injury suffered during sparring. Melendez will face a replacement opponent to be announced. The card also features the return of former junior featherweight titleholder Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. (20-1-1, 17 KOs) against an opponent to be named. It will be Vazquez's first bout since he lost his title to Jorge Arce via 12th-round knockout in May in a major upset.
• Hot welterweight prospect Thomas Dulorme (12-0, 10 KOs), 21, will return to action Saturday night in Panama on the WBA's charity "KO to Drugs" card. Dulorme will face Charlie Jose Navarro (20-4, 15 KOs) in a scheduled 10-rounder. Stablemate and Puerto Rican countryman Kenny Galarza (15-1, 14 KOs) will also be on the show, facing Johan Perez (13-0-1, 10 KOs) in a 10-rounder. In his previous fight, Dulorme stepped up in competition and dominated former titlist DeMarcus "Chop Chop" Corley on "Friday Night Fights" in June. "We are ready to bring home a victory for Puerto Rico," said Dulorme, who was already on weight when he left for Panama on Tuesday. "This fight is at 147 pounds, but [Tuesday] I already made weight, and I'm ready for the challenge against Navarro."
• European middleweight champion Grzegorz Proksa (26-0, 19 KOs), who made a splash with a third-round TKO of former world titlist Sebastian Sylvester in an upset on Oct. 1 in Germany, has signed a contract extension with British promoter Barry Hearn's Matchroom Sport. Proksa, 26, of Poland, is based in England. "I believe with Matchroom behind me, I can go on to win a world title next year," Proksa said. Said Hearn: "Grzegorz was fantastic against Sylvester. He went into the lion's den and dominated a world-class fighter on his home patch. He is aggressive and relentless in the ring, and ambitious out of it. The desire he has shown has impressed me greatly, and we will be looking to get a well-deserved world title shot next year."
"I want to fight him again because he deserves it. He's a great champion. If this is what the people want, we'll give it to them."
-- Bantamweight titlist Abner Mares, at a news conference last Saturday in Los Angeles announcing his rematch with former titleholder Joseph Agbeko on Dec. 3 (Showtime)
"I am not looking for the knockout on Dec. 3. I'm looking forward to a war. There will be no more low blows this time, because the world is watching. I will prove to the world that I deserved to win the last fight, and I will be victorious on Dec. 3."
-- Agbeko, at the news conference announcing the rematch with Mares, who repeatedly hit Agbeko below the belt in their first fight but was not penalized, leading to Mares' controversial majority decision win
"I feel like a monster at lightweight, and I'll be the strongest and fastest I've ever been when I step into the ring against him on the night."
-- Ricky Burns, who gave up a junior lightweight title to move up to lightweight, where he will face Michael Katsidis for an interim belt on Nov. 5 in London
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter at danrafaelespn.