DSH Boxing Notebook: Cotto-Canelo countdown, Ward vacates belt, and Rigo returns

November 17, 2015

This week's version of The Daily Sports Herald's Boxing Notebook examines the return of Cuban star Guillermo Rigondeaux to the ring, and welcomes the big Cotto-Canelo showdown this weekend. Take a look below at the latest news in the sweet science:

Andre Ward vacates WBA Super Middleweight belt

Any thoughts that Andre Ward (28-0, 15 KO’s) was simply planning to moonlight at light heavyweight for a quick payday should be put to rest, as his move up in weight appears to be long term in nature because he has chosen to vacate his WBA Super Middleweight title.

Ward originally claimed the belt in November 2009 with a victory over long-time champion Mikkel Kessler in his opening fight of the Super Six tournament.

“I won the WBA belt for my first world title in 2009 and have defended it six times and it’s been a wonderful ride with the WBA,” Ward said. “Gilberto Mendoza and his team have shown me nothing but respect and I’m looking forward to moving up and hopefully winning the WBA light heavyweight belt.”

With Ward getting older and with a big fight against light heavyweight champ Sergey Kovalev looming on the horizon, the relinquishing of Ward's belt was bound to happen at some point.

Ward’s six successful WBA title defenses came in victories over Allan Green, Sakio Bika, Arthur Abraham, Carl Froch, Chad Dawson and Edwin Rodriguez.

“Andre Ward has been one of the finest champions in the WBA super middleweight division’s history,” said WBA President Gilberto Mendoza Jr. “We have always been honored to be represented by such a great athlete, gentleman and incredible role model. We wish him the best success in the future and hope we can facilitate the path to him becoming a two-division world champion at light heavyweight.”

Rigondeaux returns to ring on Cotto-Canelo undercard

The Cotto-Canelo card just became a lot more interesting, as former WBA and WBO Super Bantamweight World Champion Guillermo Rigondeaux (15-0, 10 KOs) of Cuba, will take on Filipino Drian Francisco (28-1-3, 22 KOs) in a 10-round super bantamweight bout.

“This is a great platform to take my career to the next level, and to showcase my talents on the big stage," said Rigondeaux.  "While I've been sidelined for the past year, I am grateful for the opportunity to deliver a show to all the boxing fans that have supported me throughout this journey, and I look forward to delivering my best come fight night.”

Despite being one of the world's top ten boxers, Rigondeaux cannot seem to land a big fight.  After his dismantling of Nonito Donaire, Rigondeaux's elite boxing skills and defensive talents made other top boxers reluctant to fight the talented southpaw.  Throw in the fact that some casual fans consider him to be a boring fighter, and Rigondeaux's lack of big money drawing power made it even more convenient for other fighters to avoid him.

Eventually however, talent needs to face talent, and Rigondeaux's superior gifts mandate that he should get a big matchup sometime soon.  This bout could start him down that path.

Widely considered to have been one the best amateur fighters of all time, Rigondeaux's amateur career includes two Olympic Gold Medals (2000 and 2004 Olympics), seven Cuban National Championships, and an astounding amateur record of nearly 475 fights with only 12 losses.

In just his seventh pro fight, Rigondeaux challenged Ricardo Cordoba for the vacant WBA Interim Super Bantamweight World Championship and left the ring with the belt after scoring a split decision victory. Four successful title defenses followed which included three knockouts.

On April 3, 2013, Rigondeaux took on WBO and Ring Magazine World Champion Nonito Donaire in a unification fight and came away with the victory by unanimous decision.  In his last bout on Dec. 31, 2014, Rigondeaux traveled to Japan to face Hisashi Amagasa. After getting knocked down in the seventh round, Rigondeaux scored a knockdown of his own in the ninth before scoring a technical knockout victory in the eleventh round.

“I’m elated to be able to fight in Las Vegas once more and against a great champion like Rigo,” said Francisco. “I want to make a statement and steal the show. I was prepared to fight this month and when the call came, I didn’t think twice about it."

Francisco, 33, is known for his powerful punches and aggressive style.  Francisco won the vacant WBA International Super Flyweight title on Oct. 3, 2009 against Roberto Vasquez with a tenth round TKO. On Nov. 30, 2010 he faced Duangpetch Kokietgym for the WBA Interim Super Flyweight World Championship and came away with an impressive tenth round knockout victory.

Since that fight, Francisco has won eight of 11 bouts, including his last outing on September 6 in which he scored a first round knockout win over Jilo Merlin.

Nicholas Walters to fight on December 19

Undefeated former WBA featherweight world champion Nicholas Walters will return to the ring to take on Top-10 contender Jason Sosa in a 10-round junior lightweight rumble on Saturday, December 19, at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, NY.  Walters and Sosa boast a combined record of 44-1-3 (35 KOs) -- a winning percentage of 92% -- with 80% of their victories coming by way of knockout.

"I am training hard in Panama," said Walters.  "I know how important this fight is and I will be in optimum physical condition.  My team has been studying video of my opponent Sosa.  I cannot wait to leave Panama, get into Verona, New York and get inside the ring.  Boxing is my passion."

Walters (26-0, 21 KOs), from Montego Bay, Jamaica, has won 11 of his last 13 fights by stoppage.  He captured the vacant WBA featherweight title on December 12, 2012, knocking out Daulis Presscott (26-1, 19 KOs) in the seventh round.  He successfully defended the title three times during his three year reign -- all by knockout -- stopping Alberto Garza, former two-division world champion Vic Darchinyan, and 2012 Fighter of the Year and former four-division world champion Nonito Donaire in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds, respectively.

A former amateur standout who collected gold medals at the 2007 Pan American Games Qualifier III and the  2005 and 2007 Caribbean Championships, Walters is known for his expert boxing skills and movement and two-fisted punching power that are at a caliber of a much higher weight class.

In his last fight, on June 13 at Madison Square Garden, Walters was forced to vacate the title when he failed to make the weight limit by one pound.  However, he emerged victorious, winning a unanimous decision over the previously undefeated Top-10 contender Miguel Marriaga.

The fight will be televised live on HBO Boxing After Dark, and will also feature a 12-round heavyweight battle for the WBA Interim Title between Bryant Jennings and Luis "The Real King Kong" Ortiz.

"I would also like to thank Nicholas Walters for giving me the opportunity to fight on December 19th," said Sosa.  "He is a very strong fighter and the toughest opponent that I have faced.  But I am up for the challenge.  I have a great team and they are getting me in the best shape of my life and making sure that I am mentally and physically ready to come away with the win.  I am sure we are both ready for war and fans are not going to want to miss this."

Sosa (18-1-3, 14 KOs), from Camden, NJ, enters this fight riding a four-year, 17-bout unbeaten streak which includes 13 consecutive knockout victories dating back to 2012.  Sosa's been a fan favorite since turning pro in 2009 because of his exciting and aggressive style, strong punching power, and an average length of bouts of under four rounds.  He is currently world rated No. 8 by the IBF and No. 13 by the WBO.

Hurd stops Galarza on ShoBox

 Undefeated super welterweight prospect Jarrett Hurd handed Frank Galarza the first loss of his career with a sixth round TKO in the main event of ShoBox: The New Generation on Saturday from The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

“It’s a crushing blow to Galarza’s career,” said ShoBox analyst Steve Farhood.  “Because of his late start in boxing and his age, he can’t afford a loss like this.  After the first round, he didn’t show any adjustment and lost every subsequent round."

Galarza (17-1-2, 11 KOs), who was favored against the relatively unknown Hurd, became the 136th fighter to suffer his first loss on ShoBox.

“I knew he was an experienced, tough fighter, but I stuck to my game plan, listened to my corner and came out victorious,” Hurd said.  “Once I was able to set up my counter shots, I knew I could hurt him."

Hurd (17-0, 11 KOs) was the sharper, more accurate fighter from the opening bell against the largely stationary Galarza.  Hurd floored Galarza with a huge right uppercut – his favorite weapon – with less than 30 seconds left in the fourth, knocking Galarza down for the first time in his career.  Galarza made it to the bell, but was clearly hurt and never recovered.

Hurd blasted Galarza with another big uppercut in the sixth, forcing a clearly finished Galarza to turn his body away in defeat.  Referee Russell Mora had seen enough and stepped in to stop the bout at :59.

Galarza promised to be back after the crushing defeat.

“I tip my hat off to Hurd, he was the better man tonight,” Galarza said.  “I didn't fight my fight and he did. This type of stuff happens in our sport.  I'm disappointed in my performance, but mark my words I'll be back, better and stronger than ever.”

In the ShoBox co-feature, blue-chip prospect Sergiy Derevyanchenko defeated Jessie Nicklow with an impressive diet of body shots and uppercuts in a dominating, third round TKO.

“This was a great performance by me,” Derevyanchenko said.  “Jessie was a very tough opponent.  I feel like I showed another element to my game tonight.  No one has done to Jessie what I did to him tonight."

Derevyanchenko (7-0, 5 KOs) attacked Nicklow from the outset, landing an astonishing 72 percent of power punches and 56 percent of his total shots.  The durable Nicklow, who took the fight on short notice, could do nothing against the former Ukrainian amateur standout.

In the third, Derevyanchenko backed Nicklow (25-8-3, 8 KOs) against the ropes and unleashed a series of punishing shots against a defenseless opponent, forcing referee Jay Nady to step in and halt the contest at 2:18 of the third.

In the opening bout of the telecast, undefeated light heavyweight prospect David Benavidez scored three knockdowns en route to a first round TKO (2:00) of veteran Felipe Romero.

Benavidez (11-0, 10 KOs) had no trouble facing his most experienced opponent to date, knocking Romero (15-10-1, 9 KOs) down with a series of lefts to the body and head with less than a minute into the fight.

"I know how strong my body shots are and I knew they would be effective,” Benavidez said.  “I wanted to make a great impression in my first nationally televised fight.  I'm ready to get back in the ring gain as soon as possible."

Romero got up, but Benavidez continued to pepper Romero and floored him again with a left hook to the body.  Ramirez again beat the count, but only lasted a few seconds before Benavidez finished him off with this third knockdown in just two minutes.

Heavyweight Stiverne gets win

In a non-televised bout on the same ShoBox card mentioned above, former WBC Heavyweight World Champion Bermane Stiverne (25-2-1, 21 KOs) defeated Derric Rossy (30-11, 14 KOs) via unanimous decision (95-94, 96-93, 96-93) in his first fight since losing the title to Deontay Wilder last January.

"I feel good—it was great to be back in the ring again,” Stiverne said.  "I wasn't rusty, but maybe I sparred too much in the gym.  He was a tough guy.  The knockdown was more of a flash knockdown.  It was a good punch, but I was a little off balance, too."

Stiverne was knocked down with 10 seconds left in the first round.

“I'm ready to get back in the ring soon and work my way back to become a world champion again," said Stiverne.

Nonito Donaire to fight on December 11 in Puerto Rico

Undefeated top-five lightweight contender Felix Verdejo and former five-division world champion and 2012 Fighter of the Year Nonito Donaire will headline -- in separate title bouts -- a card on Friday, December 11, in Puerto Rico.  Both fights will be televised on truTV.

"Fighting as a headliner at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum and in front of my people is a dream that I have always had since I was a little kid," said Verdejo. "And now,  thanks to all the love and support Puerto Rico has given my career, on December 11, I'm going to be able to fulfill that dream.  I hope to give all that love back with a big win that unifies my people in a sentiment of happiness and brotherhood."

Verdejo will be making a 10-round defense of his WBO Latino lightweight title against Josenilson Dos Santos.

Verdejo (18-0, 13 KOs) is looking to conclude this year as a bona fide world title contender.  He returns to the ring having won seven of his last nine fights inside the distance, including his first fight of the year, a fifth round knockout of Marco Lopez, on April, 25, for the vacant WBO Latino lightweight title.  

Already world-rated No. 4 by the WBA and No. 5 by the WBO, Verdejo, 22, continues to develop into a major gate attraction, producing standing room only crowds every time he fights.  A former amateur standout who represented Puerto Rico in the 2012 Olympics, Verdejo has been mentored by Puerto Rican boxing icon and Hall of Fame inductee Felix Trinidad.

Dos Santos (25-3, 15 KOs), of Sao Paulo, Brasil, is a two-time WBO Latino junior lightweight champion.  This will be just the fifth time Dos Santos, 28, has fought outside his native Brasil.

Donaire will be challenging WBO International junior featherweight champion and No. 1 world-rated contender Cesar Juarez in a 12-round rumble.

"My goal is to get back on top," said Donaire.  "I am refocused for what I must do in the ring.  That's why this fight in Puerto Rico is so important for me and my boxing career. I am reading a book called The Power of Habits. It is about getting rid of bad habits and instead using good habits each and every day.  It all restarts for me on December 11."

Donaire (35-3, 23 KOs) is a former five-division world champion on the comeback trail for another world title shot. His banner year in 2012 featured four world championship victories.

Donaire returns to the ring having won both his 2015 fights -- capturing the vacant NABF super bantamweight title via a second-round knockout victory of William Prado on March 28, and scoring another second-round knockout win over Anthony Settoul on July 18.  Donaire, 32, is currently world-rated No. 2 and No. 5 by the WBO and the WBA, respectively.

Juarez (17-3, 13 KOs), of Mexico City, will be fighting outside Mexico for only the second time.  He returns to the ring riding a two-year winning streak which has included victories over Francisco Leal, Octavio Hernandez, Cesar Seda, and in his most recent fight, on July 25, Juan Sanchez, Jr., where he captured the WBO International junior featherweight title via a 12-round unanimous decision.  Juarez, 24, is world-rated No. 1 by the WBO.

Cotto-Canelo chatter

Miguel Cotto and Canelo Alvarez recently conducted media conference calls to discuss their upcoming bout.  Here is a small taste of what the fighters and their camps had to say:

CANELO ALVAREZ: Styles make fights. He may have done better -- Cotto might have done better against Mayweather; however, I did better against Austin Trout, and Cotto didn't do that good against Austin Trout. All fights are different, all styles are different, so that's not going to affect me at all.

FREDDIE ROACH: I think this is the best fighter [Canelo has] ever fought, and I think he's handpicked opponents. Mayweather was a tough fighter but not a big puncher, and this is the first heavy puncher he's going against, and Miguel has looked great in his last three fights, and his punching power is improving, and he's using every bit of his body weight to do that, and it's something we have been working on, and he's punching very well.  I feel that this guy gets hit too much, and I think Miguel will knock him out somewhere along the way.

CANELO ALVAREZ: All of my fights I learned something. There are some important fights, there are some difficult fights, but with all these combined fights you gain experience, and with that experience I'm going to display that on November 21st.

OSCAR DE LA HOYA: Yes, Freddie Roach is going to have Miguel Cotto in tip-top shape. Freddie Roach is going to have Cotto probably stay on his toes. The question is, how long can Cotto stay on the toes? That's the million dollar question. One thing for sure is that Freddie Roach is a great trainer, and he's going to have Cotto in tip-top shape to go the distance, and we obviously expect a Miguel Cotto that's going to come in strong and be ready.

FREDDIE ROACH: We have had a great training camp. We have gone through about eight sparring partners, and sparring has worked out well for us. We have maybe two more spars to go, and he's 100% ready for this fight. It's going to be a great fight, and we are looking for a knock out in this fight, and we will be the first person to knock out Alvarez, and I can't wait to get this one on its way. Don't miss this fight. It will be great.

CANELO ALVAREZ: We are not impressed by Cotto's team and we do not take this personally. We don't listen to our rivals. We are a very serious team and do our job. I cannot fail. He is a great world champion, and we are prepared for him.

MIGUEL COTTO: The best way to beat a guy is in the smartest way. I know I can punch, and I can hit hard, but now at this moment I'm looking for the perfect occasion, and I'm creating the perfect opportunity just to hit my opponent. You know, that's the thing only time can bring you -- experience. That's all that is different for me right now. Now I understand that I have 36 minutes to finish my opponent, and I use every second of it.

OSCAR DE LA HOYA: Sales for this event are excellent so far, better than expected and I feel 99% confident about this fight. In my opinion, this is the most anticipated fight of the year and we are expecting great numbers, 1.5 million or more. We will wait and see.

FREDDIE ROACH: You know, I think we're much faster; I think Canelo is a little bit slower. He tends to box, and punch, lets you know when he's going to throw, and he tucks and ducks and so forth. But, you know, he's a good fighter right now, but we're in really, really good shape and had a great training camp, and coming off three good wins, and we have momentum going for us. It's the winner of the fight that counts, and that's what we're going to do. We're here to win the fight, whatever it takes.

If we have to box this guy, we will box him. If he wants to slug with us, that's no problem, we're ready for that, also. We have had, like, eight sparring partners so far, we have had punchers, boxers, everybody is at the table and ready for it, and I think Miguel is the more intelligent and the smarter fighter, and I think that's who's going to win the fight.

CANELO ALVAREZ: Age is not my focus. My focus is my great preparation for "Cotto and Canelo." Age is not an issue.

Joshua Clottey to face Gabriel Rosado on December 19

Golden Boy Promotions in association with Star Boxing plans to feature a full card on HBO Latino Boxing ahead of its previously announced HBO Boxing After Dark card on Saturday, December 19, to end the year with a full night of exciting matchups from Turning Stone Resort Casino, in Verona, New York.

In the featured main event of the HBO Latino Boxing card, Yunieski Gonzalez (16-1, 12 KOs) will take on undefeated Vyacheslav Shabranskyy (14-0, 12 KOs) of Los Angeles in a 10-round light heavyweight attraction.

Originally from Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Yunieski Gonzalez has been a feared contender in the light heavyweight division. Having suffered his first loss in a controversial decision to world title contender Jean Pascal in July, Gonzalez is eager to prove he has what it takes to be considered in the world title contention.

Former world title contender Gabriel Rosado (21-9, 13 KOs) of Philadelphia will face former IBF Welterweight World Champion Joshua Clottey (39-4, 22 KOs) of Ghana, in an exhilarating 10-round junior middleweight co-main event.

"I am very excited to be on HBO again and am very grateful to my promoter Joe DeGuardia and HBO and Golden Boy for the opportunity," said Joshua Clottey. "I am looking forward to fighting Gabe Rosado who I know is a very tough fighter.  I know it will be a very good fight which I am confident I will win."

Currently ranked as one of the top junior middleweights in world by the WBC, WBA and IBF, Clottey is a Ghanaian powerhouse closing in on title shot. A former IBF welterweight champion who owns wins over Zab Judah, Diego Corrales, and Jose Luis Cruz, the 37-year-old has four straight wins since his decision losses to boxing greats Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto. He most notably won the WBA International Super Welterweight title with a 12-round victory over Anthony Mundine in April 2014 and since then delivered a great performance against Jorge Silva on May 9, 2015.

"I have been eager to get back in the ring," said Gabriel Rosado. "I have been training and staying in shape and my last few fights on BKB have given me the confidence to return with a vengeance. I plan to show everyone that I have what it takes to become a world champion. Fernando Vargas my new trainer believes in me, and I feel he's the trainer that's going to take me to the next level. We're having a great camp, I'm learning a lot of new things that will show Dec. 19. 

Jay Z and Oscar De La Hoya place friendly bet on Cotto-Canelo

On the heels of one of the most anticipated nights in boxing this year, Roc Nation Sports’ founder Jay Z and Golden Boy Promotions’ chairman and CEO Oscar De Lay Hoya have entered into a friendly wager with one another claiming that their respective boxer will capture the win when Miguel Cotto faces Canelo Alvarez.

The bet started taking shape when both co-promotors visited their boxers’ camps prior to fight week, boasting confidently about their fighters’ ability to come out victorious on November 21.

The terms?  Jay Z and Oscar decided to place a $100,000 bet, with the winner’s earnings going towards their philanthropic endeavors.

If Cotto and Jay Z come out on top, Oscar will donate $100,000 to the Shawn Carter Foundation. In similar fashion, if Canelo beats Cotto, Jay Z will donate $100,000 to Oscar’s efforts at the White Memorial Medical Center’s cancer unit.

By Staff of TheDailySportsHerald.com and news services

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