Cotto-Alvarez bout is on for Nov. 21 after tough negotiation

0 Comments

LOS ANGELES (AP) If Miguel Cotto’s fight with Saul “Canelo” Alvarez is anywhere near as difficult as the negotiations to get them in the ring together, boxing fans are in for a treat this fall.

After months of strenuous posturing and painstaking discussions, Cotto and Alvarez appeared together in Hollywood on Monday to formally announce their WBC middleweight title bout, set for Nov. 21 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.

The fight pits two of the sport’s biggest names in a long-awaited chapter of Puerto Rico’s long-standing boxing rivalry with Mexico. They have circled each other for years, and the negotiations dragged on for so long that both boxers took other fights earlier this year.

But both fighters are grateful the contracts are finally signed for a landmark night.

“Like any big fight, the negotiations are going to be hard,” Alvarez said through a translator. “But I’m honored to fight a guy with his accomplishments. This is a big step in my career.”

Alvarez (45-1-1, 32 KOs) had a predictably large fan contingent behind him during their public appearance in Hollywood, and the 25-year-old Mexican star is favored by most oddsmakers against the 34-year-old Cotto (40-4, 33 KOs).

Alvarez’s fans booed Cotto and his camp repeatedly during their news conference. They even jeered beloved trainer Freddie Roach when he predicted Cotto will win by a knockout.

“I don’t know what people say about the fight, and I don’t care,” Cotto said. “I focus on myself, on my training camp. Nothing else matters.”

Tickets go on sale Tuesday morning, but they will be brutally scarce for the smallish Mandalay Bay arena, which doesn’t hold nearly as many fans as the MGM Grand Garden, Madison Square Garden, an outdoor Texas stadium or any other location seriously considered for this bout. Alvarez’s camp wanted the fight in Texas, where Alvarez drew 31,588 Houston fans to watch his stoppage of James Kirkland earlier this year.

Alvarez’s camp was careful not to assign too much public blame for the torturous negotiations to Cotto, a famously deliberate decision-maker, and his new promoters at Roc Nation Sports.

“Let’s put it this way – it was quite interesting, the negotiation,” said Oscar De La Hoya, Alvarez’s promoter at Golden Boy. “But it was fun, because we all wanted the same thing. This is one of the most anticipated matchups in several years, so we all had one goal, and we eventually got there.”

Cotto’s promoters say he’ll be fighting for the biggest purse of a decorated career that includes world titles in four weight classes, a first for a Puerto Rican fighter. He became the WBC’s middleweight champion in June 2014 by beating Sergio Martinez, but is undersized for the weight class.

Alvarez also has never fought as a true middleweight, and they’ll fight each other at a 155-pound catch weight, barely above the super welterweight limit.

Cotto has revitalized his career under Roach, who cut down on Cotto’s heavy cardio work and focused him on workouts designed to keep him fresh.

“Negotiations were tough because you’ve got two fighters who want to be the `A’ side,” Roach said. “We’ve got the title, and he’s got plenty of things on his side. It was a hard negotiation to get through, because everybody wants an edge.”

Still, Roach said he is thrilled the deal got made because “this is the fight I wanted really bad, that I’ve been dreaming about for Miguel.” Roach is confident Cotto’s toughness and veteran skill, coupled with the trainer’s game plan, will allow him to upset Alvarez, whose punching power has been too much for anyone except Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Cotto and Alvarez have both lost fights to Mayweather, and both would welcome a rematch with the pound-for-pound king of boxing in 2016. They also realize the WBC has ordered the winner of their bout to fight the winner of WBC interim middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin’s October pay-per-view showdown with David Lemieux, or be stripped of the title they worked so hard to win.

“I’m only focused on this fight, on this day,” Cotto said. “Everything after that does not matter. It’s a big fight, but it’s just another fight, and I’m going to be the winner.”

After fighting for Ukraine, Lomachenko fights again in ring

Getty Images
0 Comments

NEW YORK – When Ukraine was invaded, the only fight Vasiliy Lomachenko would consider was the one for his home.

Boxing plans were put on hold, even though they appeared set to include a title match. Lomachenko calls being undisputed champion his dream, but his country’s war with Russia is real life.

“I couldn’t understand anything about what’s happening militarily,” Lomachenko said through an interpreter, “but inside you, you have a feeling of what you need to do.”

Now he’s resuming his career, starting Saturday night in the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden against unbeaten Jamaine Ortiz in a bout that will stream on ESPN+.

Win, and Lomachenko (16-2, 11 KOs) could move on to another chance to fight for the lightweight titles he once owned. But either way, first he’s headed back to Ukraine, which he believes is secure enough now to allow his family to return home this week after staying with him in California while he trained.

Nobody was sure that would be the case when Russia launched the invasion in February. Lomachenko was in Greece at the time, with an expected fight against then-lightweight champion George Kambosos Jr. being planned for later in the year.

He went back to Ukraine and joined a territorial defense battalion, telling his advisers he would be unavailable to take that fight.

“When this was happening, when this started, nobody really knew anything about anything,” Lomachenko said. “And when you really have no understanding about what’s going on, every normal person, every normal citizen would go and defend his country and that’s what the majority of men do in our country.”

For Lomachenko, that meant being part of a team that enforced a 10 p.m. curfew, patrolling the streets to make sure there were no cars in sight. After about a month of that, he was trained to take part in several other duties.

“No military operations, but certain tasks,” Lomachenko said. “For example, a suburban area in the outskirts of the city that we needed to go out and do some reconnaissance, make sure that no alien people, no one unknown is basically located in that area.”

Lomachenko is one of Ukraine’s greatest athletes, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who compiled a 396-1 record as an amateur. After turning pro, he won a title in his third fight and was a champion in three weight classes after his 12th.

He eventually owned three lightweight belts before losing them to Teofimo Lopez in October 2020. Two straight wins following shoulder surgery had him on the path back toward a title shot before the war.

Lomachenko was given breaks during his service to train, so he doesn’t believe his time away will affect the rhythm and footwork that are among boxing’s best. Ortiz (16-0-1, 8 KOs) doesn’t expect to see slippage from the fighter the Worcester, Massachusetts product has sparred against.

“I think the opponent in front of you brings out the type of fighter you are,” Ortiz said, “and I think Lomachenko is going to bring out the best Jamaine Ortiz, the fighter that everybody around me in the gym and in New England and where I come from knows.”

Lomachenko likely would have been favored to beat Kambosos, who had won the titles from Lopez. With Lomachenko unavailable, the Australian instead fought Devin Haney and dropped them in a lopsided decision, then lost the rematch two weeks ago by another wide margin.

Lomachenko doesn’t fret about the opportunity that was lost, just as he doesn’t wonder what if about the fight with Lopez. That was originally expected to take place in the spring of 2020, perhaps in what would have been a packed Madison Square Garden, where Lomachenko is 5-0. Instead, it was pushed back months because of the coronavirus and held in a mostly empty setting in Las Vegas after a nearly 14-month layoff for Lomachenko. Maybe things would have been different without the pandemic.

“I don’t have any regrets at all,” he said. “Everything happens the way they’re supposed to happen.”

Nor does he worry that the likelihood of regaining the belts will be tougher now that Haney has them. Lomachenko is small for the 135-pound weight class and would have to beat a skilled, naturally bigger man, similar to Lopez.

“The sweeter the victory shall be,” said Lomachenko, with a smile.

 

Tyson, 54, to return for exhibition match against Jones Jr.

AP Photo
0 Comments

CARSON, Calif. — Mike Tyson is coming back to boxing at age 54.

The former heavyweight champion will meet four-division champion Roy Jones Jr. in an eight-round exhibition match on Sept. 12 at Dignity Health Sports Park.

Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion in history when he won the title in 1986 at age 20 and for a time was the most feared fighter in boxing. But his career became littered with distractions and he hasn’t boxed since 2005 after losing his second straight fight.

He has occasionally teased a return with workout videos and it’s finally scheduled to happen.

Jones, 51, won titles in the middleweight, super middleweight and light heavyweight before moving up to win the heavyweight title in 2003, becoming the first former middleweight champion to do so in 106 years.

The event will air on pay-per-view and the social media music platform Triller. Further matches on the card and musical entertainment will be announced in the coming weeks.