Marco Antonio Barrera and Robbie Peden meet to unify junior lightweight titles at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Saturday night (HBO PPV, 9 ET).
There will be few secrets between them.
When Peden was a rising contender, he served as one of Barrera's chief sparring partners through several of Barrera's training camps from 2000-02.
Peden (25-2, 14 KOs) estimates they sparred upwards of 200 rounds with each other.
"I know what to expect from him, and if the fight is as intense as our sparring was, then the fans are in for a great fight. I've improved a lot since then. I learned a lot from him," said Peden, who will be making the first defense of the vacant title he won in February with an eighth-round TKO of Nate Campbell in their rematch.
Peden only had about 15 or so pro fights when he began working with Barrera (60-4, 42 KOs). He quickly became one of his chief sparring partners because of the excellent work he gave Barrera.
"We had very, very intense sparring, although sparring is way different than an actual fight," said Barrera, who added that Peden earned his respect for the way he handled himself in their sparring sessions.
Maybe it's because Peden left a lasting memory with him. It was Peden who cracked one of Barrera's ribs during a February 2002 sparring session. The injury forced the postponement of Barrera's rematch with rival Erik Morales for three months.
It was the last time Barrera and Peden sparred.
"Yes, it is true that he hurt me to the ribs, and I had to postpone the second fight with Morales because of the injury," Barrera said. "But I will be 100 percent different with Peden than I was in sparring."
Among the other fights Peden helped Barrera prepare for were bouts with Naseem Hamed and Jesus Salud.
"It was very intense," Peden said of the sessions. "We went at it hard and we did four-minute rounds. I'm sure that we can break down each other's styles. But we'll both fight to win. He's been on top of his game and I want my turn. I want to be recognized as the top 130-pounder. But I don't think the sparring will have much of an impact.
"He might not have shown me his whole hand, and I know I've been working on a few things and have improved since we sparred."
Around the ring
Farewell tour: Julio Cesar Chavez, the Mexican icon who won titles in three divisions, continues his farewell tour Saturday night at the America West Arena in Phoenix (Azteca America, 10 ET), four months after winning a decision against Ivan Robinson in Los Angeles on a card titled "Adios."
"These farewell cards are all about the fans," Chavez said. "They want to see me fight one more time, and it's a small way to repay them for the great support they gave me throughout my career."
Once again, junior welterweight prospect Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. will share the bill with his father.
"These nights are special," Chavez Jr. said. "I love the way people respond to him and the way that they are now supporting me. These will be the nights that I will always remember."
Chavez Sr. (107-5-2, 88 KOs) will face Grover Wiley (29-6-1, 13 KOs), an Omaha, Neb., club fighter, in a 10-round welterweight fight. Original opponent Craig Weber arrived in Phoenix this week, but he was paid his purse and sent home for undisclosed reasons.
Chavez Jr. (21-0, 16 KOs) will face Corey Alarcon (12-10, 4 KOs) in a six-round junior welterweight fight. Also on the card: Phoenix middleweight prospect Jesus Gonzales (17-0, 10 KOs) against former Mexican Olympian Jose Luis Zertuche (15-2-2, 12 KOs).
Sensational 'ShoBox': Showtime's "ShoBox: The New Generation" is all about matching prospects in tough fights, but Gordon Hall, the executive responsible for the fights on the series, has taken it to another level with the Nov. 4 card in Tulsa, Okla.
There are two toss-up fights featuring four top-flight prospects from three different promoters:
• In the 10-round main event, junior middleweight Sechew Powell (17-0, 11 KOs), from Lou DiBella's stable, faces Armenian import Archak TerMeliksetian (15-1, 12 KOs), who fights for Main Events.
• In the eight-round co-feature, DiBella's highly touted 21-year-old prospect Jaidon Codrington (9-0, 9 KOs) of Queens makes his national TV debut against Allan Green (17-0, 11 KOs), a 25-year-old who fights for Tony Holden.
"This card is what 'ShoBox' is all about," Hall said. "Most of all, credit goes to the promoters, managers and fighters, who take the fights. It's easy to request good matchups, but it is hard to get them, and Lou has definitely come up big on this one."
Against the grain: While many fighters spar countless rounds to prepare for an important fight, Zahir Raheem did just the opposite during the training camp leading to his upset decision against Morales on Saturday night in Los Angeles.
Don House, who trains Raheem and lightweight contender "Kid Diamond" Almazbek Raiymkulov, doesn't believe in burning his fighters out in the gym.
"I don't believe in a lot of sparring for a fighter who has 20 or more professional fights," House said. "For this fight Zahir sparred maybe 25 to 30 rounds, and I'm not sure if it was that many."
Raheem's next fight could be on the Jan. 21 undercard of Morales' rematch with Manny Pacquiao, which will still go on despite Morales' loss.
No Ann vs. Man: Female super middleweight star Ann Wolfe (22-1, 15 KOs) has had so much trouble finding a worthy female opponent -- Laila Ali refuses to fight her -- that she agreed to face male fighter Bo Skipper (11-3-2, 7 KOs) in Biloxi, Miss., on Oct. 15 in an eight-round bout dubbed "Ann vs. Man."
However, with the massive damage inflicted by Hurricane Katrina to the Gulf Coast, including hard-hit Biloxi and the Mississippi Coast Coliseum, where the controversial bout was to have been held, Brian Young of Prize Fight Promotions told ESPN.com that he is canceling the pay-per-view card and not considering moving it to another location.
"There is so much damage there and so many things going on, I'm just going to cancel it," he said. "I'm just not going to do it. They're using the arena as a shelter. It's really bad. There are more important things than a fight."
Kessler challenges Lacy: Super middleweight titlist Mikkel Kessler of Denmark issued an open letter challenging fellow champion Jeff Lacy on Nov. 5.
Kessler said he would be happy to give Lacy the unification fight he openly desires. Lacy was supposed to face Joe Calzaghe in a unification bout on Showtime, but Calzaghe broke his left hand last week in an ill-advised tune-up win against Evans Ashira.
"Hello, Mr. Lacy," Kessler wrote. "Although we have never met, we have much in common. For starters, you are an undefeated world super middleweight boxing champion and so am I. Like me, you are not afraid to take your gloves on the road if it means facing the toughest competition you can find. For example, I recently went Down Under to defend my world title against Anthony Mundine and you are willing to go to the United Kingdom to fight Joe Calzaghe."
Kessler went on to write, "Another thing we have in common right now is that we both need an attractive opponent for our next fight. My dance card looks limited and so does yours. So I think you know where I am going with this. Lacy vs. Kessler. Kessler vs. Lacy. Tampa-St. Petersburg [Lacy's home area] or Copenhagen. The location does not matter much. But you must admit, our two names linked together do have a sweet ring to [them]. You bring your world-title belt and I will bring mine."
Kessler said his handlers have told Lacy promoter Gary Shaw and Showtime that he is available for the November fight "assuming that proper conditions and terms can be agreed to by the parties."
That, of course, could be the sticking point. Word is Kessler's team is asking for a financial package worth more than Showtime is willing to pay for the entire fight.
Mundine-Green: The showdown Australian fans have been looking forward to for several years is finally set. Super middleweights Anthony Mundine (24-3, 19 KOs), a former champion, and longtime contender Danny Green (20-2, 19 KOs), who have bashed each other in the press for years, are slated to meet in early 2006.
However, before the showdown, they will appear on the same card in tune-up fights in Perth on Dec. 11. They will square off only if they both win. Their meeting would be one of the biggest fights in Australian history, joining such bouts as the 1992 junior lightweight title fight between Australian Jeff Fenech and champion Azumah Nelson and the junior welterweight title fight between Kostya Tszyu and James Leija in 2003.
Holt auditions: Kendall Holt (19-1, 12 KOs) of Patterson, N.J. -- who was considered as an opponent to challenge junior welterweight titlist Miguel Cotto on Sept. 24 after original opponent Gianluca Branco suffered an injury -- will headline the untelevised portion of the undercard at Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall.
Heavyweight Wladimir Klitschko meets Samuel Peter in a title eliminator in the main event, and Cotto faces Ricardo Torres in the co-feature.
Holt, 24, will face Vladimir Khodokovski (12-7-2, 4 KOs) of Ukraine in a 10-rounder. Holt knows the fight is more or less an audition for an eventual shot at Cotto.
"[Promoter] Dino [Duva] told me that Top Rank gave him an assurance that if Cotto defeats Torres and I keep winning, I will get my shot at him," Holt said.
"I'll be focusing on two things on Sept. 24: One, looking my best in front of all my hometown fans in attendance and the TV executives. And two, hoping Cotto defeats Torres. The first one will be easy, but the second one will not -- I know Cotto is in for a tough fight."
Punching for charity: Boxing folks are lining up to help victims of Hurricane Katrina. CompuBox president Bob Canobbio started the ball rolling when he announced he would put his punch-counting system to use to help. For every punch landed during the five fights CompuBox will track on Saturday and on Sept. 24, the company will donate $1 to the American Red Cross to aid in hurricane relief.
The fights that will encompass the tally are from the Saturday's HBO PPV card featuring Barrera vs. Peden, Shane Mosley vs. Jose Luis Cruz and Leavander Johnson vs. Jesus Chavez; and the Sept. 24 HBO card featuring Klitschko vs. Peter and Cotto vs. Torres.
After Canobbio's announcement, promoters Bob Arum, Oscar De La Hoya, DiBella and Dino Diva also announced contributions.
Arum said that Top Rank will donate $10,000 to the Hurricane Katrina relief fund being administered by former Presidents Bush and Clinton.
"We must help those in need. This is a terrible tragedy," Arum said.
De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions, which is promoting Saturday night's show, will donate $10 to the American Red Cross for every punch landed during the three TV fights.
DiBella will donate $1 per punch thrown when his fighter, Johnson, faces Chavez. Duva, promoting the Sept. 24 card, will contribute $1 per punch landed in those two TV fights.
Classic replays: In an effort to promote the "Parade of Champions" pay-per-view card Saturday featuring Barrera and Mosley, HBO is again putting its HBO2 channel to work. HBO2 will replay two significant bouts featuring Barrera and Mosley on Friday night (11 ET/PT).
The special, which also will air Saturday (HBO2, 9 a.m. ET/PT), includes Barrera's third battle with Morales and Mosley's first fight with De La Hoya. Barrera outpointed Morales to win the junior lightweight title in the November 2004 bout that was later voted fight of the year by the Boxing Writers Association of America. Mosley defeated De La Hoya on a split decision to win the welterweight title in June 2000 in an all-action fight.
Spinks stabbed: The wife of former undisputed welterweight champ Cory Spinks has been charged with stabbing her husband two weeks ago during a domestic dispute, according to St. Louis TV station KSDK. The station reported that Spinks, who is already back training, was stabbed in the shoulder and abdomen, and was taken to the hospital to treat minor wounds. Kimberly Calvin, 25, was charged with first-degree domestic assault and armed criminal action. She faces an Oct. 13 court date.
Spinks, the son of former heavyweight champ Leon Spinks and nephew of Hall of Famer Michael Spinks, lost the title in St. Louis when Zab Judah knocked him out in February.
Quick hits: Former three-division champ Johnny Tapia (55-4-2, 28 KOs), who saw a summer shot at junior featherweight titlist Israel Vazquez fall apart a couple of months ago, returns to action Friday night in Chicago. He headlines on Telefutura (9 ET) against Sandro Marcos (26-13-2, 21 KOs) in a 12-round junior featherweight fight.
The Vitali Klitschko-Hasim Rahman heavyweight championship fight dubbed "Seek and Destroy" and set for Nov. 12 in Las Vegas officially will be announced Monday morning in Los Angeles. The co-feature on the HBO PPV card -- welterweight titlist Antonio Margarito vs. Manny Gomez -- also will be made official.
According to veteran trainer/manager Willie Savannah, former four-time heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield has been training in Savannah's Houston gym. There has been talk of Holyfield going to Dubai for a fight in March. Also training in Savannah's gym: former junior middleweight titlist Kassim Ouma, who is preparing for his comeback fight on Oct. 13 (HBO Latino) against Freddie Cuevas.
Riddick Bowe, who has fought twice during his controversial comeback, has parted ways with manager Jimmy Adams, who helped engineer Bowe's ring return.
HBO will air "Countdown to Tarver-Jones III" immediately following the Sept. 24 Klitschko-Peter card. The half-hour special previews the Oct. 1 rubber match between light heavyweight king Antonio Tarver and former champ Roy Jones. HBO2 will air replays of the special all week leading to the fight.
Former two-time heavyweight champ George Foreman, who left HBO as expert commentator in 2004, returns to the network for a one-night stand to work the Klitschko-Peter telecast. Emanuel Steward, the regular expert analyst on "Boxing After Dark," will be otherwise occupied that night. He's Klitschko's trainer. Jones, who replaced Foreman on "World Championship Boxing," also was unavailable because he is training for the Tarver fight.
Heavyweight contender Calvin Brock (26-0, 21 KOs), ready to fight again after his summer wedding, will fight in his hometown of Charlotte on Nov. 19 when he faces David Bostice (34-9-1, 15 KOs). Brock emerged as a contender this year with an impressive victory against Jameel McCline in April. Promoter Main Events hopes that early next year it can line up another significant bout for Brock, the 2000 U.S. Olympic super heavyweight. Main Events is also hoping to add cruiserweight Kendall Gill to the card. Gill spent four seasons playing for the NBA's Charlotte Hornets in the early 1990s.
Former middleweight titlist William Joppy, who was wanted on a first-degree assault charge stemming from a Sept. 8 incident, turned himself in to police on Wednesday, according to the Maryland Gazette. According to the newspaper, Joppy was charged with first-degree assault and is being held at the Prince George's County jail without bond. Joppy allegedly argued with an unidentified acquaintance and then reached into the person's car and began choking the person. When the person drove away, Joppy allegedly followed in his car and struck the person's car several times before leaving the scene.
Quotable: "I believe you'll see a replay of Castillo and Corrales a few weeks earlier than their own rematch." — Peden, comparing his expectation for action in Saturday night's unification fight with Barrera to the highly anticipated Oct. 1 Diego Corrales-Jose Luis Castillo lightweight title rematch.
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.