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Juarez off Saturday's Staples card

Featherweight contender Rocky Juarez was removed from Saturday night's HBO card at the Staples Center in Los Angeles after a suitable replacement for titleholder Chris John could not be agreed upon Tuesday.

John, who fought to a draw with Juarez in a Feb. 28 slugfest, was supposed to make his 12th title defense in a rematch, but he withdrew Sunday because of an undisclosed blood disorder.

Golden Boy Promotions and HBO hoped to keep the Houston contender on the card, which is headlined by 2008 ESPN.com prospect of the year Victor Ortiz against Marcos Maidana of Argentina for a vacant interim junior welterweight title.

Golden Boy had come up with a replacement for John in Mario Santiago, a top-10 contender from Puerto Rico who fought to a draw with titleholder Steven Luevano in an all-action fight last summer. When Top Rank, which promotes Santiago, heard that John had withdrawn from the fight, it offered Santiago to Golden Boy, Top Rank president Todd duBoef said. HBO said it would have accepted Santiago as a replacement.

According to Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer, Golden Boy's matchmakers, Juarez manager Shelly Finkel and trainer Ronnie Shields all accepted Santiago. However, Juarez (28-4-1, 20 KOs) rejected the fight because Santiago is a southpaw and he did not want to make the adjustment on such short notice after training for the right-handed John, Schaefer said.

"Rocky would have been OK fighting anyone but a lefty," Schaefer said.

Santiago appeared to be an ideal opponent because he was already scheduled to fight on the untelevised portion of Saturday's Top Rank pay-per-view card in Atlantic City, N.J. Now, Santiago will remain on the Top Rank card.

"It looks like it will be just Victor Ortiz and Marcos Maidana on HBO. We are going to go with one fight," Schaefer said. "Rocky won't fight at all. There was an opponent [Santiago] which Rocky turned down. It's not so easy to find someone everyone can agree on at the last minute.

"Rocky Juarez-Chris John was a terrific fight and a lot of people were looking forward to the rematch, and Chris John really wanted to fight, but he contracted some sort of blood illness and he couldn't work through it. It was apparent he couldn't fight. Are we disappointed? Yes, but the safety of the fighter comes first. HBO has very high standards, so it is not like you can just pick somebody for Rocky to fight. It has to be somebody who is up to the level of an HBO fight, and that is hard to find on a few days' notice. But the show goes on. We have a terrific undercard still, so it will be a good night of boxing for the live audience."

Two other opponents were discussed for Juarez: Juan Carlos Salgado and Eloy Perez. Neither bout could be worked out and neither would have been approved by HBO anyway.

Schaefer said the Staples Center is set up for about 10,000 and that close to 8,000 tickets had been sold.

"Hopefully Chris John is going to be OK," Schaefer said. "Who knows? Maybe that fight can be rescheduled for a later date."

Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com.