AROUND THE RING
$250,000 on the line
Tarver put up $250,000 that he'll stop Bernard Hopkins within six rounds. (AP/Mary Godleski)
Besides the desire to retain the light heavyweight title, Antonio Tarver has another incentive to win, and to win quickly.
The contract for the fight between Tarver and Bernard Hopkins contains a clause saying that if Tarver does not stop Hopkins before the sixth round, he must give Hopkins $250,000, which is to go to his charitable Make a Way Foundation.
Before the fight was made, Tarver promised he would stop Hopkins inside six rounds if they fought. When they negotiated the contract, Hopkins insisted that he keep his word and that it go in the deal.
"Tarver is so confident that he's going to win this fight that part of the deal put together for this fight is that he put up $250,000 in the contract that I won't get past five rounds," said Hopkins, who has never been stopped in an 18-year career. Hopkins has never even been cut and only been knocked down twice, during his first fight with Segundo Mercado.
"So that means that Tarver, who's not known to knock anybody about but Roy Jones, put up a quarter million dollars. A guy that's come out of bankruptcy a year-and-a-half ago puts up a quarter million dollars? You've got to take him seriously, or he's maybe a fool. But I'll take it and I will use it well. There's a lot of kids in my Make a Way Foundation in Philadelphia that can use that money, and I will thank him after the press conference for that money and I will go about my business."
Tarver said he didn't remember making the remarks about stopping Hopkins in the first half of the fight, but is so confident that he will win that he allowed the clause to be put in the contract.
"I'm a man of my word," Tarver said. "If he sees the sixth round, he gets a check. It goes to charity and I will present it to him. I can use the tax break."
Hopkins said the bet shows just how serious the fight is.
"When a man puts up that kind of money, believe me, he's serious," Hopkins said. "He's not only going to lose, he's going to lose $250,000 and get his ass kicked. That's a hell of a way to lose -- short a quarter of a million dollars and with a lot of lumps."
The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, the 3-year-old Atlantic City resort with a Las Vegas feel, could have a major impact on boxing, especially on the East Coast.
The Borgata is the sponsoring site of Saturday's Tarver-Hopkins fight, its first major card.
Casino president and COO Larry Mullin said he hopes it is only the beginning of its involvement in big-time boxing. He hopes to bring more major fights to the New Jersey shore.
An accidental meeting between Mullin and Hopkins at a Philadelphia Eagles game led to a multi-fight agreement under which the Borgata would host a series of Golden Boy cards in its grand ballroom, which seats about 3,000.
So far, the casino has played host to three of those smaller cards and packed the room each time, including Wednesday night's ESPN2-televised show headlined by Demetrius Hopkins, Bernard's nephew.
Boxing fans have a choice Saturday night. They can either buy the four-bout Tarver-Hopkins HBO PPV card for $49.95 or buy Top Rank's six-fight PPV card headlined by junior welterweight titlist Miguel Cotto defending against brash Paulie Malignaggi for $39.95.
Cotto (26-0, 22 KOs) and Malignaggi (21-0, 5 KOs) will fight in front of a sellout crowd at New York's Madison Square Garden in something of a turf war. Cotto is from Puerto Rico and the fight is on the eve of New York's annual Puerto Rican Day parade, while Malignaggi is an Italian-American from New York with a loyal following.
Also on the card is the massively hyped professional debut of heavyweight Tommy Zbikowski, the Notre Dame college football star, who faces Robert Bell. Zbikowski will have legendary trainer Angelo Dundee in his corner.
A victory for Cotto figures to propel him into a major fall fight, perhaps against Ricky Hatton or possibly the winner of the July 22 Carlos Baldomir-Arturo Gatti welterweight championship fight.
"I know how important this fight is," Cotto said. "Once I get the win, we can talk about anyone who would be next."
While Cotto is an aggressive puncher with a sensational left hook, Malignaggi is a defensive whiz with a lot of speed but little power.
Both fighters have been doing a lot of talking heading into the fight.
"I plan on shocking everybody," Malignaggi said. "I plan on spoiling the show for a lot of the people [who] are expecting me to get stopped and a lot of people [who] think I'm going to be exposed as a fraud. The only thing that's going to be exposed is the fact I'm a world class fighter."
Said Cotto: "I think here he doesn't have the power nor the courage to really go try to knock me out. I think it is one of the many lies he's been saying. I do have to commend him for selling himself as a viable opponent for me. He's been saying a lot of stuff. He's been making up all this stuff that he's going to do to me. I think a lot of people want to see if he can really do that to me and I think that's good for the fight."
Indeed, Malignaggi talked his way into the fight, calling reporters before the fight was even close to being made and making his case that he should get the opportunity to fight Cotto. A few weeks later, the deal was done.
"Cotto is a one-dimensional fighter who, besides knowing how to punch, doesn't know how to fight," Malignaggi said. "So I'm going to expose him for what he is. Cotto looks the same every fight. He's a one-dimensional fighter. He knows to do nothing but the same thing every time out. He's like a mummy."
Top Rank's Bob Arum, who is promoting the show, has put together a strong broadcast team: veteran CBS blow-by-blow man Tim Ryan, former HBO analyst and two-time heavyweight champ George Foreman and longtime New York boxing columnist Wallace Matthews.
Valuev on HBO?
Heavyweight titlist Nicolay Valuev, the 7-foot, 320-plus pound heavyweight titlist from Russia, appears headed for the United States and HBO.
Don King, who co-promotes the German-based Valuev with powerful German promoter Wilfried Sauerland, met with HBO executives this week in New York to make a deal for a Valuev fight. Valuev, the biggest heavyweight champion in history, is a curiosity to many boxing fans given his enormous size and limited exposure in the U.S.
HBO is making plans with King to feature Valuev on its Sept. 9 edition of "World Championship Boxing," possibly from New York's Madison Square Garden.
No opponent is set, but King is pushing a match with Ireland's Kevin McBride, whose TKO victory against Mike Tyson last summer sent the former champ into retirement.
HBO would prefer a stronger opponent for Valuev (44-0, 32 KOs), who outpointed John Ruiz to win a belt in December and made his first title defense last week with a highlight-reel third-round knockout of Owen Beck.
If a deal is completed with HBO for a Valuev fight, King would like to put New Yorker Luis Collazo on in the co-feature. Collazo lost his welterweight belt to Hatton in a very close fight May 13 in Boston.
King would like to match Collazo with titlist Antonio Margartito and contacted his promoter, Top Rank, about the fight. However, they are so far apart on money that the fight is a non-starter.
Williams wants Valuev
Heavyweight Danny Williams has never feared anyone in the ring. He faced down and knocked out Tyson. He went toe-to-toe with then-heavyweight champ Vitali Klitschko in a valiant defeat. And he knocked British rival Matt Skelton from the undefeated ranks in a bruising battle.
Williams faces Skelton in a rematch July 8 in Cardiff, Wales, but hopes a victory will propel him into another title shot, this time against Valuev.
"I know Valuev looked good [in knocking out Owen Beck last week], better than he has done before, but that doesn't bother me," Williams said. "I wasn't impressed with him when he beat Larry Donald, but getting the heavyweight title boosts your confidence, and that's obviously what's happened to him. But he doesn't intimidate me, and once I knock out Skelton, I'm going to get down to business against Valuev and bring the heavyweight title home to Britain."
As expected, the Nevada Athletic Commission filed a formal complaint against former lightweight champion Jose Luis Castillo this week for his failure to make weight last week, which led to the stunning cancellation of his third fight with lightweight champion Diego Corrales.
Castillo has 20 days to respond to the complaint and will have a hearing in front of the commission. He is looking at a severe penalty. The commission can fine him up to $250,000 as well as revoke his boxing license.
It was the second time that Castillo had failed to make weight. He also missed 135 pounds for his rematch with Corrales in October 2005, but Corrales opted to go through with the fight anyway and was knocked out in the fourth round.
The words "boxing" and "loyalty" rarely go together, but they do in the case of welterweight star Arturo Gatti, manager Pat Lynch and promoter Main Events.
Saturday marks the 15th anniversary of Gatti's pro debut. He has been with Lynch and Main Events for every single fight, and they never have come close to breaking up.
"I don't believe I'll ever have this again," said Main Events' Carl Moretti, who is very close to Gatti and Lynch. "It will be very difficult to have this type of relationship-partnership with a fighter ever again."
Gatti turned pro as a featherweight in Secaucus, N.J., scoring a third-round TKO of Jose Gonzalez on the undercard of a show headlined by his brother, Joe Gatti, who was also with Lynch and Main Events.
Gatti went on to win junior lightweight and junior welterweight titles and engage in some of the greatest fights in recent boxing history. He fights Carlos Baldomir for the welterweight title July 22 (HBO) in Atlantic City.
"It's an amazing feat that Arturo is still around and fighting at the level he is after all these years and all the tough fights," Moretti said. "He's special."
Mosley-Vargas II card
Sugar Shane Mosley and Fernando Vargas meet in a junior middleweight rematch July 15 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, and co-promoters Golden Boy and Main Events are busy putting together the HBO PPV undercard.
Main Events' televised fight is set -- a mandatory rematch between lightweight titlist Juan Diaz and former titlist Lakva Sim.
Golden Boy, however, continues to work on the third televised bout while running through several possible fights.
First, it hoped to shine the spotlight on junior welterweight contender Juan Lazcano against Joel Casamayor (or any other top opponent), but Lazcano says he won't be ready to fight by then.
So Golden Boy looked to feature junior lightweight contender Joan Guzman instead. However, Guzman, who defeated Javier Jauregui on the May 6 Oscar De La Hoya-Ricardo Mayorga undercard, still has tender hands from giving Jauregui a beating and is unavailable.
Plan C was to feature former junior middleweight champ Kassim Ouma, possibly against Bronco McKart. However, like Guzman, Ouma fought May 6 and told Golden Boy he can't be ready.
With all of those bouts falling through, Golden Boy's latest plan is to reschedule junior featherweight titlist Daniel Ponce de Leon's defense against Alejandro Barrera.
They were supposed to fight May 27 but Barrera had visa issues and could not get into the U.S. De Leon instead fought late replacement Gerson Guerrero, knocking him out in the second round.
As long as Barrera's visa situation can be ironed out, Golden Boy believes that is the fight that will be made for the pay-per-view card.
Mesi on ESPN2
Heavyweight Joe Mesi is returning to ESPN2 on June 23 in Montreal to face Daniel Frank (17-11-1, 17 KOs) in the main event of "Friday Night Fights." It will be Mesi's second bout since sitting out for two years because of a head injury and subsequent court battle to regain his boxing license.
Mesi returned in April to win an eight-round decision against Ronald Bellamy in Puerto Rico. Mesi's was suspended indefinitely by the Nevada commission after suffering multiple brain bleeds in a 2004 decision victory against Vassiliy Jirov. Because medical suspensions are honored nationwide, Mesi, 32, was unable to fight anywhere while suspended in Nevada. He went to court and won, forcing Nevada to lift the suspension in December. Since then, Mesi (30-0, 25 KOs) has been licensed in Puerto Rico and Quebec.
• The date for the rubber match between junior lightweight stars Manny Pacquiao and Erik Morales has shifted again. Promoter Top Rank's new target date for the HBO PPV fight is Nov. 18 in Las Vegas. Originally, it was penciled in for Sept. 16 and then moved to Oct. 7. Now it has moved again because Pacquiao believes he will need more time to prepare for the fight following a July 2 interim bout against former junior featherweight champ Oscar Larios, which initially was slated for June.
• Larios certainly appears to be taking his showdown with Pacquiao seriously. Larios is sparring with bantamweight titlist Hozumi Hasegawa, who is a southpaw like Pacquiao. Larios is already in Asia to adjust to the time change. He is staying in Tokyo for three weeks before heading to Manila for the fight. The sparring is good for Hasegawa, too, because he is preparing to defend his title against Genaro Garcia July 15.
• Junior featherweight Abner Mares (8-0, 5 KOs), one of Golden Boy's prized prospects, will be out of action until at least August. The 20-year-old former Mexican Olympian is recovering from having his appendix taken out. He was supposed to fight on Golden Boy's May 12 Telefutura card in Chicago when he felt ill. According to Golden Boy matchmaker Eric Gomez, Mares woke up in the middle of the night complaining of a stomach ache. Mares' handlers thought it was just nerves the day before the fight, but when he still felt ill several hours later, they took him to the hospital. He was diagnosed with appendicitis and rushed into surgery.
• European junior welterweight champion Junior Witter (31-1-2, 19 KOs) of England was honored as the European Boxing Union's champion of the year at the organization's recent convention. Witter beat out junior lightweight Alex Arthur, junior featherweight Michael Hunter and cruiserweight David Haye. Witter, whose only loss came on a decision to Zab Judah in a 2000 title fight, is now in line for a world title fight. He is supposed to face DeMarcus "Chop Chop" Corley for the belt that Floyd Mayweather Jr. vacated in order to move up to welterweight.
• Former heavyweight champion Oliver McCall has signed with co-promoters Warriors Boxing and Chris Webb Promotions. McCall's first fight under the deal is expected to come June 30 on the ESPN2 card headlined by Juan Urango-Ben Rabah in a fight for a vacant junior welterweight belt. At 41, McCall is hoping for another opportunity for a significant fight. He's won five in a row since a decision loss to DaVarryl Williamson in 2004. In addition, McCall (46-8, 33 KOs) has a no contest with Juan Carlos Gomez because of Gomez's failed drug test. "Right now I have the peace of mind and strong self confidence. I am ready to fight any heavyweight in the world," said McCall, who has battled drug addiction for years. McCall pulled a major upset in 1994, knocking out Lennox Lewis in the second round to win the title.
• Jesse Feliciano (14-5-3, 8 KOs) doesn't know when to take a break. The all-action welterweight beat former junior welterweight champ Vince Phillips in March in a blazing 10-rounder. In May, Feliciano and former "Contender" star Alfonso Gomez battled to an eight-round draw in a fight-of-the-year candidate. Now, Feliciano is returning to the ring July 5 to headline on "Wednesday Night Fights" (ESPN2) against Neil Sinclair (28-4, 23 KOs) of Ireland in Colorado Springs, Colo. Feliciano defeated Phillips as a late substitute for Sinclair, who had suffered a cut in training.
• Exciting featherweight prospect Jason Litzau (18-0, 16 KOs) faces fellow undefeated prospect Marcos Ramirez (21-0, 15 KOs) – who has eight first-round knockouts -- July 14 in the headline fight of ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights" at Valley City, Calif.
• Super middleweight contender Carl Froch, 28, the British and Commonwealth champion, had successful surgery on the right hand he injured in the second round of his recent 11th-round knockout victory against Brian Magee. Froch won't be able to train for about six weeks.
"Tell him to keep talking. I'm going to break his face on Saturday night."
-- New Yorker Paulie Malignaggi, referring to junior welterweight titlist Miguel Cotto, whom he faces Saturday night on pay-per-view at Madison Square Garden