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Ward recovering, watching OlympicsFour years ago, Andre Ward delivered the only Olympic boxing gold medal for the United States by winning the light heavyweight tournament. Now, as the Beijing Games roll toward a conclusion this weekend, Ward wonders what has happened to the United States. After all, the U.S., once an Olympic powerhouse in boxing, qualified fighters in just nine of the 11 divisions and will exit with only one medal from heavyweight Deontay Wilder, the most inexperienced boxer on the American squad. "I'm a little disappointed in how the U.S. has performed," Ward told ESPN.com. "I really want us to be a force again. I don't know what it's going to take. If you look at the Cuban team, they don't even have their top guys and they have nine guys in the semifinals. I don't know what we have to implement to be a bona fide force again. I've watched pretty much all of the boxing and I think our guys have given all they have. I'm not pointing fingers, but I think there needs to be an adjustment. "If you look at the Cubans, they have nothing else. Boxing is what they do. They know if they are a boxer on the national team, that is everything to them. Their outlet is practicing their craft. They know if they lose, they are going back down the totem pole, so these are hungry individuals." So does Ward mean the Americans aren't as hungry as fighters from other countries? "I think all of our guys want a gold medal, but we have other distractions that other countries don't have," Ward said. "They're putting all their chips in this Olympic basket. We have like four or five baskets. Our guys are talking to managers and promoters and thinking about turning pro." It's been a slow and steady decline for the Americans in the past several Olympics. It's not like Ward's team did all that well either, but his 2004 Athens squad at least claimed two medals: his gold and Andre Dirrell's bronze. Ward said he remembers vividly the feeling he had when he saw Dirrell get eliminated, leaving him as America's lone chance to win gold.
Deontay Wilder, left, will be going home with a bronze medal after losing to Clemente Russo in the semifinals.
Morales eyes returnFormer three-division champion Erik Morales (48-6, 34 KOs), who turns 32 on Sept. 1, says he's coming back to boxing despite losing four fights in a row and five of his last six, including two by knockout. The Mexican great hasn't fought since losing a close decision to David Diaz for a lightweight belt last August, but told Mexican wire service Notimex that he plans to return next summer. Morales said his plan was for a couple of smaller fights followed by a title bout.
John Iacono/SI/Icon SMI
Erik Morales is looking to get back in the ring and into the lightweight title mix.
Big deal for Warren, KhanLightweight contender Amir Khan (18-0, 14 KOs), the rising British star, 2004 Olympic silver medalist and 2007 ESPN.com prospect of the year, doesn't have a regular TV home in the U.S., although he's appeared once on HBO. But he is the centerpiece of the deal promoter Frank Warren made this week with subscription network Sky Sports in the United Kingdom.
Not just pie in the Sky: English hotshot Amir Khan will be moving to Sky Box Office.
King in ChinaPromoter Don King spent part of last week in Beijing, where he attended Olympic boxing matches and held a press conference to announce that he would stage a card Nov. 7 in Chengdu, the largest city in the Sichuan province.
David Martin Warr/Don King Productions
Don King took some time out of his busy schedule to mingle with the locals in Beijing.
• A proposed fight between Sergio Martinez (43-1-1, 23 KOs) and Joel "Love Child" Julio (34-1, 31 KOs), which would have been for an interim junior middleweight belt and taken place as the main event on HBO's Oct. 4 "Boxing After Dark" tripleheader, is off. The winner would have become mandatory for the Sept. 13 Sergio Mora-Vernon Forrest rematch winner, but when neither side would sign a document promising Julio the next shot, his handlers at Main Events and All-Star Boxing rejected the $125,000 offer and ended discussions, fearing the WBC would not enforce Julio as the next title challenger if he won. Instead, they'll pursue a mandatory against alphabet titleholder Sergei Dzindziruk (35-0, 22 KOs), who is based in Germany.
• Even without Julio as his opponent, Martinez will see action on the Oct. 4 HBO card. He'll face Alex Bunema (30-5-2, 16 KOs) for an interim title in a fight promoter Lou DiBella finalized with Don King on Thursday. Bunema has scored impressive back-to-back knockout wins against Walter Matthysse and Roman Karmazin. After Julio rejected the fight, DiBella offered the bout to Joe Greene (20-0, 14 KOs), who stunningly turned down a six-figure payday and the opportunity over the objection of his promoter, Seminole Warriors Boxing. Then there was some discussion of Martinez facing Deandre Latimore (19-1, 16 KOs), who scored an upset June 11 when he stopped Sechew Powell in the seventh round of an ESPN2 main event. But Bunema was rated higher than Latimore and accepted the fight.
• Although Top Rank's Bob Arum still plans for welterweight titleholder Antonio Margarito to headline a Nov. 1 card (possibly a rematch/unification bout with Joshua Clottey), he said the card won't take place at Dodger Stadium, where he wanted to stage it. Arum has been infatuated in recent years with the idea of doing a show at a major stadium, but once again, he didn't pull the trigger. The reason this time? "The costs are so prohibitive. I was floored with the costs," he said. Arum said he would likely stage the card at the Honda Center in Anaheim.
• Promoter Dan Goossen and HBO continue working on a Nov. 29 card that will feature welterweight titlist Paul Williams in the main event and rising heavyweight contender Cristobal Arreola in the co-feature. Goossen told ESPN.com his first choice is to match Williams with ex-titleholder Luis Collazo, and that he is talking to Don King, Collazo's promoter. Money is tight on the lower-budget show, so it remains to be seen if Collazo will take the fight. Goossen attempted to match Arreola with ex-champ Hasim Rahman, but "that's not happening. It was just too much money to make it. They were looking for an unrealistic number."
• Heavyweight prospect Chazz Witherspoon (23-1, 15 KOs), who suffered his first defeat to Arreola on June 21, returns Nov. 15 on the Jermain Taylor-Jeff Lacy undercard, promoter Lou DiBella said. Witherspoon will face Adam "The Swamp Donkey" Richards (21-1, 14 KOs) on a card that will also feature the comeback of ex-welterweight titleholder Kermit Cintron. DiBella hasn't finalized a venue, but said he's talking to officials at Indianapolis' Conseco Fieldhouse, which hasn't hosted boxing since Vernon Forrest defeated Shane Mosley in their 2002 rematch.
• Faded former junior middleweight titleholder Yory Boy Campas (92-12, 74 KOs) will meet Julio "Baby Face" Garcia (41-3, 35 KOs), who is just 21 despite 44 pro bouts, in a 162-pound fight on the Sept. 13 (HBO PPV) Joel Casamayor-Juan Manuel Marquez undercard, Golden Boy matchmaker Eric Gomez said. Although Campas -- who has been medically cleared to fight by Nevada officials after undergoing a rigorous medical exam because of his age (37) and the fact that he has boxed more than 300 professional rounds -- has lost two of three, he knocked out ex-junior middleweight titleholder Alejandro "Terra" Garcia in the first round June 21.
Ponce De Leon
• Gomez said that ex-junior featherweight titlist Daniel Ponce De Leon (34-2, 30 KOs), who lost his title via first-round knockout to Juan Manuel Lopez in June, will return Oct. 24 (Telefutura) at the Morongo resort in Cabazon, Calif. "We're still behind him 100 percent," Gomez said. "Lopez caught him. Now we'll try to get him back in position for another title fight. He's training for the comeback." Gomez said Golden Boy is in the process of signing him to a new promotional contract.
• Hot junior middleweight prospect James Kirkland (22-0, 19 KOs), who scored an electrifying first-round knockout of Eromosele Albert in his HBO debut May 17, returns to action Sept. 5 in his hometown of Austin, Texas, as the headliner on the season finale of "Friday Night Fights" (ESPN2). Kirkland, 24, will fight despite litigation with promoter Gary Shaw, with whom he split this summer. Kirkland will face Ricardo Cortes (22-2-1, 15 KOs).
• Nikolai Valuev, who faces John Ruiz in a rematch for a vacant heavyweight belt Aug. 30 in Germany, tidied up some business ahead of the fight by extending his promotional contract with Sauerland Event and Don King through 2011, Sauerland announced. "I am happy we got everything sorted out," Valuev said. "I am glad I just missed one day of practice. Five years ago I joined Sauerland Event, and ever since then my career has taken a much more professional and organized course." Said Chris Meyer, managing director of Sauerland: "Nikolai's signature is a very important part of our future plans. Everybody was convinced that it would be best to sign the contract before the next fight."
• Former middleweight contender Howard Eastman (43-6, 35 KOs) and ex-welterweight titlist Andrew "Six Heads" Lewis (23-3-2, 20 KOs), natives of Guyana, have agreed to face each other for Eastman's national title Oct. 5 at Guyana's national stadium, according to media reports out of the South American nation. Eastman, 37, whose career has been on a steady decline, has lost five of eight but captured his birth country's national title July 5. Since losing his world title via fifth-round knockout to Ricardo Mayorga in March 2002, Lewis, 37, has fought sporadically, going 2-2-1 since, including a second-round knockout loss to Antonio Margarito in a 2003 title bout.
• Junior welterweight Dmitriy Salita (28-0-1, 16 KOs) will appear on the Nov. 8 HBO PPV card headlined by the Joe Calzaghe-Roy Jones light heavyweight championship fight at Madison Square Garden in Salita's adopted hometown of New York. If all goes well, Salita, born in Ukraine, will challenge Ukraine's Andreas Kotelnik (29-2-1, 13 KOs) for his junior welterweight title, Salita announced. However, the fight is contingent on Kotelnik making a successful first defense against Japan's Norio Kimura (34-5-2, 18 KOs) Sept. 13.
• Jorge Linares, whose featherweight title reign was sidetracked by ankle and shoulder injuries, is moving up in weight. The 22-year-old Japan-based Venezuelan relinquished his alphabet belt and plans to campaign at 130 pounds, where his countryman, stablemate and friend Edwin Valero holds a title. Linares won a vacant belt via 10th-round destruction of Oscar Larios last summer and made just one defense, a spectacular eighth-round knockout of Gamaliel Diaz in December. While Linares was sidelined, Larios, suspended in the U.S. because of a brain injury suffered in the loss to Linares, claimed the interim belt and has been elevated to the WBC's full titleholder. Larios (62-6-1, 39 KOs) defends Oct. 16 in Tokyo against Takahiro Aoh (16-0-1, 8 KOs).
• Canada's Eric Lucas (38-7-3, 14 KOs), a former super middleweight titlist who now runs promotional company InterBox in Montreal, is considering a comeback. Lucas said he'll undergo medical testing and then spar to test his reflexes before making a final decision. "I still have the fire inside me to compete and the desire to win," Lucas, 37, said. "I have been training more seriously now for three months and feel like I am in great shape. If everything goes according to plan, then my return will be for a significant fight." Lucas, who held a title from 2001 to 2003, hasn't fought since being stopped in a January 2006 title challenge against Mikkel Kessler.
• Promoter Tuto Zabala Jr. of All-Star Boxing announced that he has signed featherweight Luis Valero, the brother of junior lightweight titlist Edwin Valero. Luis Valero, who will be co-promoted by Japan's Teiken Promotions, which also promotes his brother, will make his professional debut Sept. 12 (Telemundo) in Kissimmee, Fla. Zabala said Valero will fight in both countries. He's in the Las Vegas training camp of his brother helping him get ready for his next defense.
"I've always fought well at Madison Square Garden. After all, it's the Mecca of sports arenas, which has as much history and tradition as Yankee Stadium or Chicago's Wrigley Field. It's an honor to fight in the same building as many other greats have, including Sugar Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Floyd Patterson, Joe Louis, Max Baer, Jake LaMotta, Joe Frazier, George Foreman and so many others. I'm looking forward to fighting in a historic place that I'm very comfortable in and have never lost. The fans that come to these fights are not only knowledgeable; they create a lot of noise. It's the best venue for my fight with Calzaghe." -- Roy Jones Jr., on the historic venue in which he'll challenge Wales' Joe Calzaghe for the light heavyweight championship Nov. 8.