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Hatton, Mayweather Sr. mesh nicelyLAS VEGAS -- Boxing sure can make for strange bedfellows, can't it? Take, for example, the case of junior welterweight champion Ricky Hatton and his new trainer, Floyd Mayweather Sr. It was just about a year ago when Hatton was about to challenge his new trainer's son, Floyd Mayweather Jr., for the welterweight title that Mayweather Sr., who is estranged from his son, referred to Hatton as a "human punching bag." Now, they are nearly inseparable as Hatton prepares for his fight under Mayweather's tutelage when he defends the 140-pound world championship against Paulie Malignaggi -- who vacated a sanctioning organization belt to make the fight -- Saturday night (HBO, 10 ET) at the MGM Grand. Opening the telecast, a pair of Austin, Texas, middleweights meet as big puncher James Kirkland (23-0, 20 KOs) steps up in class against third-season "Contender" participant Brian Vera (16-1, 10 KOs), who is coming off an upset knockout of heralded middleweight prospect Andy Lee.
Graham Houston, Kieran Mulvaney, Darius Ortiz and Dan Rafael weigh in with predictions for Saturday's Ricky Hatton-Paulie Malignaggi showdown on HBO
|Hatton will battle his way to a close win by decision. His speed at closing distance and his physical strength on the inside could surprise Malignaggi, whose left hand will score points and win him some rounds but likely won't be enough to win him the fight against a two-handed Hatton. -- Graham Houston, ESPN.com contributor|
|Malignaggi won't be able to hurt Hatton, but he might be able to move enough that Hatton can't hit him. I am less confident than I was but I'm leaning toward a Malignaggi decision. -- Kieran Mulvaney, ESPN.com contributor|
|Now is not the time to be a boxer, Ricky! There's only one way to beat Malignaggi, and it's moving forward. Hatton will probably realize this late in the fight, but by then Paulie will have racked up enough points behind his jab to coast to a decision. -- Darius Ortiz, ESPN.com boxing editor|
|Hatton is tough, but I think he's slowing down a little and it gets harder and harder to take off the weight, especially with how poorly Ricky lives his life between fights by balllooning up in weight. And this one means everything to Malignaggi, who is faster and more skilled. I like Malignaggi on a decision. -- Dan Rafael, ESPN.com boxing writer|
Darchinyan-Arce?Last year, one of the hottest fights possible was Vic Darchinyan vs. Jorge Arce, fighters with action styles and big mouths. But their promoters, Gary Shaw and Top Rank, respectively, which don't get along, postured until both guys eventually lost. Darchinyan was knocked out by Nonito Donaire and Cristian Mijares outboxed Arce with ease, killing the fight. Now, both have revived themselves -- Darchinyan knocked out Mijares to unify three junior bantamweight titles Nov. 1 and Arce has won five in a row and claimed an interim belt -- and the fight is close to being made for Feb. 7 (Showtime) at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., Shaw and Top Rank's Todd duBoef told ESPN.com. DuBoef plans to meet Friday with Arce co-promoter Fernando Beltran to go over the details of the proposal. The fighters are interested in facing each other.
AP Photo/Israel Leal
Back in the saddle: Jorge Arce wants a fight with Vic Darchinyan.
Underdog Holyfield eyes historyThe promotional push for Nikolai Valuev's heavyweight title defense against 46-year-old Evander Holyfield (42-9-2, 27 KOs) on Dec. 20 in Zurich kicked off this week with the fighters appearing together at a news conference.
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Evander Holyfield, left, insists he has enough left in the tank to dethrone Nikolai Valuev.
• Golden Boy's Richard Schaefer told ESPN.com he is talking to HBO about putting heavyweight David Haye on in early 2009. Haye, the former cruiserweight champ who moved up and knocked out Monte Barrett in an exciting fight last week, could have his next fight in the U.S., possibly as soon as late January on a Shane Mosley undercard. Golden Boy co-promotes Haye, who is angling toward a summer fight with one of the Klitschko brothers but wants another fight before then. "We'd like to bring David here to get him some exposure," Schaefer said. Two names mentioned as possible opponents: Eddie Chambers and ex-titlist Oleg Maskaev.
• The proposed fourth fight between junior featherweight champ Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez, which Showtime had been eyeing for February, is dead, Marquez promoter Gary Shaw told ESPN.com. Shaw said he and reps for Vazquez promoter Sycuan Ringside Promotions negotiated the fight, which would have paid each fighter a career-high purse of $1 million, but neither side was in a rush to commit. Showtime's Ken Hershman was tired of waiting and finally withdrew his offer Monday, Shaw said. Marquez was unhappy with his purse, Shaw said. Vazquez, according to manager Frank Espinoza, is recovering from a second surgery for a detached retina in his right eye and his timetable to return is up in the air. "I can't tell you when he's going to come back," Espinoza said. "He's had successful surgery and is looking forward to coming back in 2009, but I can't tell you the exact date." After Showtime, which aired all three classic battles and had a right to No. 4, withdrew its offer, Shaw said Hershman gave him permission to shop it to HBO. Shaw met with HBO's Kery Davis Tuesday, but Shaw said Davis was lukewarm about it, at which point the fight died.
• Two of Top Rank's biggest stars, middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik and former welterweight titlist Miguel Cotto, are planning their next fights after coming off losses. Top Rank's Bob Arum told ESPN.com he's planning their returns for Feb. 21 in an unusual split-site pay-per-view card. It would feature Cotto, in his first fight since being stopped by Antonio Margarito in July, at Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall with the three leading candidates to face him being England's Michael Jennings for the welterweight belt Paul Williams vacated last week, ex-titlist Kermit Cintron or fringe contender Jesus Soto Karass. Following Cotto's match, the action would shift to the Chevy Center in Youngstown, Ohio, where Pavlik, coming off a nontitle light heavyweight loss to Bernard Hopkins in October, would make a hometown mandatory defense against Marco Antonio Rubio. Arum said HBO and Showtime passed on the doubleheader, which is why he's planning a PPV. "They have the right to turn down any fight they want and I have the right to do any fight I want," Arum said. A Cotto victory would likely propel him into a summer rematch with Margarito.
• Promoters Gary Shaw and Don King are close to finalizing a Feb. 14 doubleheader on which rising junior middleweight contender Alfredo Angulo will face ex-titlist Ricardo Mayorga in a battle of brawlers, Shaw told ESPN.com. Shaw said he and King have made a deal on the money but King was still going over some details with HBO. "Angulo's Valentine's Day gift for Mayorga will be a kiss goodbye out of boxing," Shaw said. The other bout would be unified lightweight titlist Nate Campbell defending against South African mandatory challenger Ali Funeka, who recently signed with Shaw. King and Campbell have to work things out between them. Funeka is not known in the U.S., but he turned in a devastating fourth-round knockout performance against Zahir Raheem in July to earn the title shot.
• A unification match between middleweight titleholders Felix Sturm and Arthur Abraham, both from Germany, would be a huge event in their country, but they fight for rival promoters, which has made putting the fight together nearly impossible despite sporadic talks in recent years. On Thursday, Sauerland Event, which promotes Abraham, said it offered Sturm, who is promoted by Universum, $2.5 million Euros ($3.1 million U.S.) for the fight. Abraham said it's not a PR gimmick. "The offer is on the table," Abraham said. "It was officially submitted in writing by our managing director [Chris Meyer]. This is as serious as it gets."
• Rising featherweight contender Yuriorkis Gamboa (12-0, 10 KOs), the 2004 Cuban Olympic gold medalist who is one bout away from fighting for a title, will headline the season premier of ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights" on Jan. 9 against an opponent to be named in Primm, Nev., promoter Arena-Box announced. In the co-feature, heavyweight Odlanier Solis (12-0, 8 KOs), also a 2004 Cuban Olympic gold medalist, will make his U.S. debut after having previous visa issues. If Gamboa wins, he'll next face Elio Rojas for an interim belt while titleholder Oscar Larios recovers from cuts.
• In the wake of a one-sided ninth-round knockout loss to Vic Darchinyan Nov. 1, former unified junior bantamweight titlist Cristian Mijares plans to move up to bantamweight. Co-promoter Lou DiBella told ESPN.com that talks are under way to match Mijares with titleholder Anselmo Moreno of Panama in Mexico sometime between February and April. The bout would be televised as a small pay-per-view in the U.S.
• Former welterweight titlist Ike Quartey of Ghana, scheduled to end a two-year layoff Dec. 5 in South Africa, has withdrawn from the junior middleweight bout, Quartey promoter DiBella told ESPN.com. DiBella said he pulled out for personal reasons but he intends to fight in early 2009. Quartey, who has had several long layoffs, hasn't fought since losing a decision to Winky Wright at middleweight in December 2006.
• Top Rank finalized junior featherweight titlist Juan Manuel Lopez's second defense. Puerto Rico's Lopez (23-0, 21 KOs) faces Argentina's Sergio Medina (33-1, 18 KOs) on the Oscar De La Hoya-Manny Pacquiao undercard Dec. 6 (HBO PPV) in Las Vegas. Medina's lone defeat came via decision in May 2007 on the Floyd Mayweather-De La Hoya undercard.
• Golden Boy has the remaining television slot for the De La Hoya-Pacquiao PPV card and it could go to ex-featherweight titlist Robert Guerrero (22-1-1, 15 KOs), who is moving up to junior lightweight. Although Guerrero is training, he hasn't been added to the card yet because he and manager Shelly Finkel are awaiting a ruling from an arbitrator in California. Guerrero, 25, is in arbitration with promoter Dan Goossen in an attempt to break their contract. If the decision goes Guerrero's way, Golden Boy plans to put him on. He hasn't fought since February, when he scored a spectacular eight-round knockout of Jason Litzau and then vacated his title.
• Featherweights Jorge Solis and Monte Meza-Clay will meet in a title eliminator to determined the mandatory challenger for Cristobal Cruz. Top Rank, Solis' promoter, won Tuesday's IBF purse bid for $52,500 to gain control of the fight. The boxers are entitled to 50 percent of the bid. Top Rank has 90 days to put it on. The only other bidder was Meza-Clay co-promoter DiBella Entertainment, which bid $48,500.
"Oscar stated in his media conference call that training to fight Manny has put the fire back in his belly. If he thinks he has a fire in his belly now, wait until Manny starts landing right and left hooks there. Oscar's belly will be a raging inferno. I have never seen Manny look better. He is as close to a complete fighter as he has ever been. His speed, footwork and stamina are supreme. But it's his power that has surpassed anything I could have hoped for." -- Freddie Roach, who trains Manny Pacquiao, on recent comments by Oscar De La Hoya, Roach's former fighter and Pacquiao's opponent Dec. 6.