Holt gears up for unexpected fight with Hopkins

Updated: December 12, 2008

Tom Casino/Showtime

Switching gears: Kendall Holt, above, will face slick Demetrius Hopkins instead of hard-charging Ricardo Torres on Saturday.

Holt ready for replacement Hopkins

Junior welterweight titleholder Kendall Holt thought he'd be facing rival and former titlist Ricardo Torres for the third time. Instead, he'll make his first defense against another fighter, Demetrius Hopkins, with whom he is also familiar.

Holt and Torres had split a pair of exciting fights, both of which were tinged with controversy. In their July rematch, Holt went down twice in the first round before rallying to knock Torres cold following a brutal accidental head butt. That all happened in 61 seconds, in what is likely the round of the year.

But earlier this week, Torres, ill with a virus and unable to make weight because he had taken so much fluid, withdrew from the bout.

Valuev, Ruiz

Tom Casino/Showtime

Demetrius Hopkins, right, had little time to prepare for his crack at a title.

In stepped contender Hopkins, who was already scheduled to fight Germaine Sanders on the undercard.

Now, Holt (24-2, 13 KOs) will defend against Hopkins (28-0, 11 KOs) on Saturday night at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., on a special edition of "ShoBox: The New Generation (Showtime, 11 ET/PT).

In the televised opener, New York-based junior middleweights Yuri Foreman (26-0, 8 KOs) and James Moore will meet in a 10-rounder.

It won't be the first time Holt and Hopkins will be facing each other. Hopkins, the nephew of Bernard Hopkins, defeated Holt in the 1999 national Golden Gloves quarterfinals on the way to winning the tournament. They've also sparred numerous rounds back in the days when they were both promoted by Duva Boxing in the early part of the decade.

Their previous experience with each other won't play much of a role in their fight, however, they both said.

"The only thing I remember is it was the quarterfinals and he beat me, bottom line," said Holt, of Paterson, N.J. "I remember it being a close fight. He was the better man that night. Come Saturday night, it will be a whole different story. We [are] both men now."

Said Philadelphia's Hopkins: "We was amateurs then. We got 8-ounce gloves now, we men now."

Holt had been preparing for Torres, a straight ahead brawler, instead of the slicker Hopkins. The change in opponents, however, won't be an issue, Holt said.

"Demetrius is a good fighter, rangy, gets good leverage on his punches, but I am prepared," Holt said. "He wasn't preparing for me and I wasn't preparing for him, so I look forward to seeing how this plays out."

Hopkins echoed the sentiment.

"I took the fight on a week's notice," Hopkins said. "It's a challenge and I love challenges. That's what makes champions and what makes good fighters. This type of stuff happens in boxing."

Besides the opponent change, Holt is also dealing with another big issue. His manager, Henry Cortes, was arrested last week on charges of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and is jailed with bail set at $500,000.

"I am holding up really well," Holt said. "That's all mental. When you get inside the ring and you have a person throwing punches at you, those events kind of fade from your memory. That's mental to deal with."

Hopkins, of course, was thrilled to get the title shot out of the blue. He plans to make the most of it.

"It's a good opportunity," said Hopkins, who hasn't fought since last November because of a falling out with Golden Boy Promotions before signing with Top Rank; his next fight was canceled when he couldn't make weight. "I've been waiting 10 years for this and I know I will be champion. I feel good, I feel strong, I feel well conditioned. I'm excited. I'm ready for this. I want to show Kendall something that he ain't seen in the 140-pound division. He's got fast hands and power. I got that too. He met his match.

"This is a shot of a lifetime. I'm on a new journey now, a new chapter. It's a good opportunity to fight for a world title."

There's a lot on the line for the winner. Titleholder Timothy Bradley Jr. (23-0, 11 KOs) will be ringside with a contract to fight the winner on Showtime in April.

"I have a lot of respect for Holt and Hopkins, which is why I'm getting an up-close-and-personal look at both men from a ringside seat," Bradley said. "I think an even better fight would be for the winner of our fight to defend the title against Manny Pacquiao."

Funny Bradley should mention Pacquiao because Top Rank's Bob Arum, who promotes Holt, Hopkins and Pacquiao, said the winner of Bradley and Saturday's winner could very well land a shot at boxing's money man, who plans to go down to junior welterweight after brutalizing Oscar De La Hoya at welterweight last Saturday.

"Right now, I think the 140-pound division is the hottest in boxing," Arum said. "The reason to say that is because with the great victory of Manny Pacquiao over De La Hoya, Pacquiao made it clear he will campaign in the 140-pound division. It brings attention to the division and a lot of money for the guys competing in the division. … The winner of this fight will fight Bradley and, hopefully, the winner of that fight I will be able to put in with Manny Pacquiao. So there is great, great action in the 140-pound division."

Caballero might move up

Unified junior featherweight titleholder Celestino Caballero (31-2, 22 KOs), fresh from a dominant fourth-round TKO of Steve Molitor to unify belts Nov. 21, says he is ready to fight any of the top 122-pounders.

"Israel Vazquez, Juan Manuel Lopez and Rafael Marquez are the ones I want to fight," he said. "I don't care what order they come in, but I won't stop calling for them until they step up and prove themselves to be the warriors they say they are."

The problem, however, is that none of them seem interested in facing Panama's 5-foot-11 "Towering Inferno."

Celestino Caballero

Chris Cozzone/FightWireImages

"OK, who's next?" Celestino Caballero wants to unify the belts at 122 pounds.

"In an era where world class fighters run away from unification bouts, Celestino is running to unify, and he should be commended for such a stance," said Leon Margules of Caballero co-promoter Seminole Warriors Boxing. "Then again, I'm not surprised that the other beltholders don't want to fight the biggest, strongest, and best 122-pounder in the world -- Celestino Caballero. I welcome the representatives of Vazquez, Lopez, and Marquez, to help us unify the title, and give the fans the fights they want to see."

Since those bouts appear unlikely in the near future, Margules told ESPN.com that Caballero might take his next fight at featherweight against Yuriorkis Gamboa, the electrifying 2004 Cuban Olympic gold medalist who has moved quickly up the ranks as a professional.

Margules said he has a deal for Caballero to fight Gamboa pending a television network buying the fight. Margules said Showtime, which televised Caballero's victory against Molitor, is interested in Caballero against Lopez or Marquez (Vazquez is on the shelf for several months with an eye injury), but is also considering Gamboa, who has appeared on HBO in two of his last three bouts, for a possible March or May fight.

Margules said Gamboa would have to win his ESPN2 fight against Roger Gonzalez on Jan. 9 in the "Friday Night Fights" season premier.

Foreign flavor on FSN

Fox Sports Net, which has had sporadic boxing coverage since the demise of the live "Sunday Night Fights" a few years ago, will begin airing notable overseas title bouts on a tape-delay basis about once per month as part of "Best Damn Sports Show Period."

Carl Froch, Jean Pascal

AP Photo/PA, Nick Potts

Want to catch a glimpse of Carl Froch's impressive showing against Jean Pascal? FSN has you covered.

The first bout to be part of the series should excite fans as FSN will replay the Dec. 6 bout between Carl Froch and Jean Pascal. Froch won the all-action slugfest to claim a vacant super middleweight belt in his hometown of Nottingham, England. The air date has not yet been set, but it will be before the end of the year.

In January, FSN will likely air at least one of the bouts from a Jan. 10 card in Germany featuring light heavyweight titleholder Zsolt Erdei's defense against Yuri Barashian and super middleweight titleholder Denis Inkin's mandatory defense against Karoly Balzsay.

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.


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• Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer moved a step closer to putting together a fight between lightweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez and former titleholder Juan Diaz on HBO for Feb. 28 or in March. "Marquez has accepted the fight and Diaz has accepted the fight," Schaefer told ESPN.com. "Now, it's a matter of finding the money. Assuming they each get paid X, they have agreed to fight. Now, I need to find X." Schaefer is working with HBO, but they are a bit off on the money. If the fight happens, it won't be in Diaz's hometown of Houston, where he drew a big crowd for his September win against Michael Katsidis. Schaefer said part of his deal with Marquez is that the fight won't be there.


• Featherweight titlist Steven Luevano (36-1, 15 KOs), who has spent his entire nine-year professional career with Top Rank, has signed a five-year contract extension, manager Cameron Dunkin told ESPN.com. Dunkin said Luevano received an undisclosed signing bonus and that Top Rank is negotiating his mandatory defense against Golden Boy's Rocky Juarez, a bout HBO is interested in. "Steven said he wanted to stay with Top Rank, so great," Dunkin said. "He's very happy and just wants to fight, and Top Rank is keeping him busy." Next up for Dunkin is negotiating an extension with Top Rank for middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik, who has also been with the company since turning pro the day before Luevano did in 2000. Pavlik's contract still has time remaining, but Dunkin said they've begun discussing a new deal.


• When Nikolai Valuev (49-1, 34 KOs) defends his version of the heavyweight title Dec. 20 in Zurich, Switzerland, against the long-faded ex-champion Evander Holyfield (42-9-2, 27 KOs), the bout will be available in the United States as a $24.95 Integrated Sports PPV after a last-minute deal between the company and Sauerland Event. The PPV begins at 3 p.m. ET.


• The winner of Valuev-Holyfield will owe Ruslan Chagaev, the WBA's so-called "heavyweight champion in recess," a mandatory fight. Chagaev (24-0-1, 17 KOs), who pulled out of a July 5 fight with Valuev because of an Achilles tendon tear in his left ankle, was stripped of the title and named "champion in recess" because of the injury. Now, he's ready to return before facing the Valuev-Holyfield winner, although whether the belt will be at stake is unclear. Chagaev will face Carl Davis Drummond (26-0, 20 KOs) on Feb. 7 in Germany after the sides made a deal this week. However, the WBA has not yet approved the bout as a 10-round special attraction or as a title bout.


• James Toney (70-6-3, 43 KOs), coming off a dominating third-round no contest against Hasim Rahman in July, returns to action Saturday night (Versus, 9 ET) at the Morongo Casino Resort & Spa in Cabazon, Calif., against Fres Oquendo (29-4, 18 KOs), a two-time title challenger. Toney was supposed to face Tony Thompson, but he withdrew last week because of bronchitis. "I was training for a fight that was recently cancelled, and when I was informed that I had the chance to fight Toney, there was zero hesitation," Oquendo said. "This was the opportunity I was looking for. It gets me right back into a position to challenge for a world title." Also on the card: Super middleweight and 2004 U.S. Olympic gold medalist Andre Ward (16-0, 11 KOs) returns to action against Esteban Camou (23-4, 19 KOs), Ward's first bout since knee surgery earlier this year. Promoter Dan Goossen believes Ward is poised for a breakout year and has pitched fights against Edison Miranda and Allan Green to Showtime, which turned them both down.


• Andre Berto's mandatory welterweight title defense against ex-titleholder Luis Collazo came together when Berto promoter Lou DiBella won a purse bid for $675,000, beating Collazo promoter Don King's bid of $427,000. They'll meet Jan. 17 on HBO. DiBella said the likely site is Vancouver if HBO approves. The telecast will open with interim junior middleweight titleholder Sergio Martinez (44-1-1, 24 KOs), so impressive in his dismantling of Alex Bunema in an eighth-round knockout in his October HBO debut, against prospect Joe Greene (20-0, 14 KOs). Martinez-Greene wound up on the card after a proposed fight between junior middleweight John Duddy and Ronald Hearns imploded because of Duddy's falling out with his handlers. When that fight fell apart, DiBella moved the card out of New York.


• Promoter Gary Shaw, who handles junior middleweight titleholder Vernon Forrest, has talked to German promoter Universum about Forrest moving up to middleweight to challenge titleholder Felix Sturm in early 2009. But Universum, which is looking for a potential unification bout against Kelly Pavlik, declined.


• Rising lightweight prospect Antonio DeMarco (19-1-1, 13 KOs) will battle the more established "Kid Diamond" Almazbek Raiymkulov (27-1-1, 15 KOs) in a 12-round bout Feb. 7, DeMarco promoter Shaw told ESPN.com. The bout will open Showtime's telecast headlined by Vic Darchinyan's junior bantamweight title defense against Jorge Arce in Anaheim, Calif. Both fights pit Shaw fighters against Top Rank boxers. DeMarco was scheduled to face Wes Ferguson Jan. 16 on "ShoBox," but with DeMarco moving to the new date, Shaw will fill the "ShoBox" card with another headliner.


• Frank Warren, the biggest promoter in the United Kingdom, has signed a trio of fighters from Britain's strong 2008 Olympic team. Joining the Sports Network stable are middleweight gold medalist James DeGale, welterweight Billy Joe Saunders and lightweight Frankie Gavin, a 2007 amateur world champion. "These guys are the future of British boxing. James, Billy and Frankie are all fantastic lads, determined to prove themselves in the professional boxing arena," Warren said. "They all have a great pedigree at amateur level and are under no illusions of the hard work and commitment required to succeed. Their amateur records are second to none and I have no doubt that these boys are British world champion boxers in the making." They're slated to make their pro debuts on the same card in February.


• With Winky Wright's left hand injury forcing him to withdraw from a Dec. 4 Versus bout, which would have been his first since a loss to Bernard Hopkins in July 2007, he won't return to action until early next year, either Feb. 28 or March 14 on HBO. Golden Boy says it is talking with three potential opponents, all of which are notable: middleweight titleholder Arthur Abraham, super middleweight titlist Mikkel Kessler and interim junior middleweight belt holder Paul Williams. If it's Williams, the bout could be pushed into April because Williams is healing from a severe cut suffered in his Nov. 29 win against Verno Phillips.


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"I have being looking for the biggest fights for a long time, and this one against Mosley is one of them. As I proved with Miguel Cotto, I have never ducked anyone in my career and I'm looking forward to showing the fans again why I am the best welterweight in the world. I fear no one. This fight will be my moment to shine and I will not let it pass by." -- welterweight titleholder Antonio Margarito, at a news conference this week announcing his defense against former champion Shane Mosley at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Jan. 24 (HBO).



"I'm glad Margarito decided to step up to the plate and fight me. If Margarito thinks he is the bigger puncher than I, he is delusional. I will definitely win this fight, especially with the type of fighter he is. He is going to end up getting knocked out because he'll come right at me and I'll catch him." -- Mosley, on Margarito at this week's news conference announcing their bout.