AROUND THE RING
Taylor, Steward dismiss Pavlik
Middleweight champion Jermain Taylor is generally laid-back and polite, a self-described country boy from Arkansas. He rarely has anything negative to say about his opponent, unless, of course, he's provoked.
Taylor's trainer, the renowned Hall of Famer Emanuel Steward, similarly shows great respect for the opponents of his fighters.
So what's gotten into them as Taylor's fifth defense against No. 1 contender Kelly Pavlik grows near? Is it something in the water in their isolated training camp in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains?
Whatever it is, neither Taylor nor Steward have anything nice to say about Pavlik (31-0, 28 KOs) in the buildup to the highly anticipated Taylor-Pavlik showdown Sept. 29 (HBO, 10:15 p.m. ET) at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J.
The bout kicks off a huge fall stretch of significant fights, and while pundits and fans alike view Taylor-Pavlik as one of the most competitive matches of the year, Taylor (27-0-1, 17 KOs) and Steward are quite dismissive of the 25-year-old Pavlik of Youngstown, Ohio, whom Taylor, 29, beat in the 2000 U.S. Olympic trials.
"I've been watching his tapes, and I know I'm supposed to say he's a good fighter and all that, but he's not. I don't see it," Taylor said. "I don't see him doing nothing. The only thing I see that's good is that he's a strong fighter, but other than that, nothing. He's a normal fighter. I don't mean to talk bad about him, I'm just telling you what I see. I'm glad the hype is there, but I just don't see it. I don't see him on my level.
"I'm happy people think it [will be close]. After I whup him, maybe I will get a little credit."
Steward is equally harsh in his assessment of the mandatory challenger, who earned his status with a sensational knockout of Edison Miranda in a May 19 brawl on the undercard of Taylor's struggle with junior middleweight titlist Cory Spinks.
"He's standard, overrated, all of that," Steward said.
Steward said that while Pavlik has been glorified for his win against Miranda, Taylor, despite some admittedly lackluster performances, has not gotten the credit he deserves for two fights and 24 tough rounds with the great Bernard Hopkins, a draw with "one of the most-avoided fighters," southpaw Winky Wright, and wins against two other quick southpaws, Kassim Ouma and Spinks, both among the best junior middleweights in the world.
Steward said Pavlik, a straight-ahead right-hander, would have an even tougher time with those opponents than Taylor did.
"Jermain beat those guys, three awkward southpaws in a row, and is still champion, and people are down on him," Steward said. "But Pavlik beat one fighter, Miranda, who was living off a loss to [Arthur] Abraham. That was his claim to fame. While Jermain was fighting and beating class A fighters, Kelly was fighting class B fighters. He took one risk with a fighter [Miranda] who was never all that anyway. I think Pavlik is overrated and in this fight, we can work on all the things that we could never do with those southpaws."
Pavlik, getting his first title shot, is not fazed by the criticism.
"I love it," said Pavlik, who has one of the highest knockout percentages among active fighters. "That's more of an advantage for me if that's what he thinks. All these guys [overlook me], but I feel I earned my way up to the top, so that stuff just makes it better after I win.
"They just think I'm a slow white kid from the Midwest who comes straight ahead. They're going to be surprised."
The time is a changin'
The much-anticipated Nov. 3 unification fight between super middleweight champions Joe Calzaghe (43-0, 32 KOs) of Wales and Denmark's Mikkel Kessler (39-0, 29 KOs) in Cardiff, Wales, figures to draw an even greater audience in the United States now that the start time has been pushed back four hours.
Instead of HBO airing it live at 5 p.m. ET, the fight will now air live at 9 p.m. ET. The bout, which figures to draw more than 50,000 to Millennium Stadium, will begin at 1 a.m. Cardiff time.
Initially, promoter Frank Warren gave HBO the option to air it live in the afternoon with a prime-time replay for one price or live in prime time for a greater license fee. HBO opted for the less-expensive live afternoon screening.
However, Warren and HBO say the switch this week had nothing to do with money. Warren, who said more than 30,000 tickets already have been sold, decided to make the change because he realized it meant a greater audience in the U.S., where he is trying to raise Calzaghe's profile.
Although HBO says it isn't spending more for the fight to go live in prime time, it will devote more marketing resources to the fight now than if it had remained an afternoon bout.
Warren said the later start time won't impact ticket sales.
"Joe is a hero in Wales and the passionate Welsh fans who follow their national rugby and football teams will turn out and back their man in this monumental fight no matter what time," Warren said.
Mesi signs with Burchfield
Heavyweight Joe Mesi (35-0, 28 KOs), who has fought six times since a two-year layoff following multiple brain bleeds suffered during a decision win against Vassiliy Jirov in 2004 and a subsequent legal battle to get his license back, has signed with promoter Jimmy Burchfield's Classic Entertainment & Sports.
In his first fight with CES, Mesi will face Shannon Miller (15-3, 9 KOs) in a 10-rounder Oct. 12 in Lincoln, R.I.
"I've been interested in signing Joe Mesi since he scored a devastating knockout on one of my undercards in 2000," Burchfield said. "My main concern with all of our fighters is their safety and well being. He has been examined by the top neurosurgeons in the world. I asked them for reports and a new MRI. Joe has been approved for licensing by the state of Rhode Island. My credibility is on the line and I am 100 percent satisfied. Joe is what corporate America can relate to: a gentleman, articulate, handsome and he can box and punch."
Mesi has worked fight to fight with a variety of promoters in his past six fights, but he said it was time to sign with one to help bring more stability to his career.
"We felt that at this point of my career, it was in our best interest to get with a promoter," Mesi said. "After talking with a lot of promoters, we decided that CES and Jimmy Burchfield was our best bet. He is very well-respected, liked and trusted, which are uncommon in boxing. There's something special about him in the community and he has no enemies. Everybody's happy. We've signed with CES and Jimmy so he can assist us in getting back into the top 10 and eventually into a world championship fight."
• Due to a production issue, the debut of the uncut fights from the new episodes of ESPN's "The Contender" has been delayed. The uncut bouts will begin airing in 30-minute blocks Thursday (ESPN2, 12:30 a.m.) and will run each Wednesday night/Thursday morning through the end of the season. Next week's premier will include the first two bouts from the series, Jaidon Codrington-Brian Vera and Sam Soliman-Max Alexander. Unlike bouts on "The Contender" episodes, the fights on ESPN2 will be unedited in the style of "Friday Night Fights" with Joe Tessitore and Teddy Atlas providing commentary. Codrington-Vera is already available to view uncut on ESPN.com's boxing page.
• Top Rank's Bob Arum told ESPN.com that he's planning a Dec. 1 pay-per-view card featuring junior middleweight Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (33-0-1, 26 KOs) and Jorge Arce (47-4-1, 36 KOs) at The Pit (the University of New Mexico's arena) in Albuquerque, N.M. Arum said Chavez will face Albuquerque's Ray Sanchez (20-1, 15 KOs), a hard-punching prospect, in a fight that had been discussed as a part of a Showtime broadcast until the network went in another direction for its December card. Arce, who knocked out Tomas Rojas on Sunday in an exciting bantamweight fight, will face an opponent to be named. Arum said rising junior welterweight prospect Mike Alvarado will also be part of the four-fight televised portion of the show. Top Rank would like to add a world title bout, so Ivan "Iron Boy" Calderon, the former strawweight champ who recently claimed the world junior flyweight title, might also appear. "This is going to be huge for Albuquerque," Arum said. "Chavez-Sanchez is a match they've been talking about there for a year. And Arce always makes exciting fights."
• Wins on the PPV card could propel Chavez and Arce onto an HBO "Boxing After Dark" card in early 2008, possibly March 8, Arum said. Arum and "Contender" promoter Jeff Wald told ESPN.com that they have resumed talks to match Chavez with Alfonso Gomez, a fan favorite in Season 1 of the reality series who is coming off a July knockout of Arturo Gatti. Gomez would also have to win an interim fight Oct. 16 on ESPN. Arum and Wald hope to put the show on at the Nokia Theater, a 7,100-seat arena in downtown Los Angles scheduled to open in October. Arum hopes that Arce will face ex-junior bantamweight titlist Martin Castillo on the same HBO card. It's a fight that has been discussed for awhile and was considered for the Nov. 10 Miguel Cotto-Shane Mosley HBO PPV undercard. However, HBO would like to feature the bout on "BAD," which Arum is open to. He said he'll put Arce on the Dec. 1 PPV and give Castillo a Telefutura fight before the end of the year, and then make the likely all-action match on HBO. "[HBO's Kery Davis] told me he's interested in the card," Arum said. "It will do a great gate, a great rating and the fights will have great action. I'm very pumped about it."
• If HBO has its way, the first "BAD" card of 2008 on Jan. 12 will be headlined by a potential slugfest between lightweight titlist David Diaz and Australian brawler Michael Katsidis. HBO has been talking to Golden Boy, which has an option on Katsidis, about the fight, and Golden Boy has been in touch with Diaz promoter Arum, who's interested in the fight. "Sure, we'll do it. Why not, if the deal is right," he told ESPN.com. Diaz (33-1-1, 17 KOs) and Katsidis are both action fighters. Diaz's Aug. 4 decision against Erik Morales was a bloody battle. Katsidis (23-0, 20 KOs) won in a pair of 2007 fight of the year candidates: a fifth-round TKO of Graham Earl in February and a memorable decision against Czar Amonsot in July.
• A week after middleweight Sergio Mora (19-0, 4 KOs), the winner in Season 1 of "The Contender," agreed to fight on the undercard of Alfonso Gomez's bout with Ben Tackie, his opponent was revealed. He'll face Elvin Ayala (18-2, 8 KOs) Oct. 16 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. Mora was scheduled to face Kassim Ouma Sept. 15 on an HBO PPV card, but it was canceled, so "Contender" promoters offered Mora, idle since August 2006, a spot on Gomez's card. Mora-Ayala will be the first live bout to ever air on ESPN Classic (9 p.m. ET). It will come on just before the main event airs live on ESPN (10 ET). Ayala's only losses were competitive decisions to David Banks, a participant in this season of "The Contender."
• Former undisputed welterweight champ Zab Judah (35-5, 25 KOs) isn't wasting any time getting back in the ring. After gaining his first victory since May 2005, a lopsided decision against Edwin Vazquez on Sept. 7, Judah will face an opponent to be named Nov. 17. Also on the card: the rising contender duo of brothers Anthony Peterson (lightweight) and Lamont Peterson (junior welterweight). Promoter Brian Young of Prize Fight Boxing announced that the card will be the first of a multifight series at the Casablanca Casino & Resort on the Caribbean island of Turks & Caicos.
• Junior flyweight titlist Ulises "Archie" Solis suffered a right shoulder injury, forcing him to withdraw from a mandatory defense against the Philippines' Bert Batawang scheduled for Oct. 4 in Las Vegas. While Solis rests for a few weeks, Mexican countryman and junior bantamweight titleholder Fernando Montiel (34-2-1, 25 KOs) will step into the Versus-televised main event to defend his belt against Colombian southpaw Luis Melendez (25-2-1, 20 KOs), Top Rank announced.
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"I can't wait to get in the ring with Mayweather. I feel I have the perfect style to beat him and to prove that I am the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world today. I heard he's going on 'Dancing With The Stars' this fall, which suits him perfectly because he's always on [his] back foot. He's never faced anybody that has given him the pressure that I am going to give him Dec. 8."
-- Junior welterweight world champion Ricky Hatton, on his upcoming showdown with welterweight champ Floyd Mayweather Jr.