Notebook: Mayweather set for sixth exhibition bout, this one in England
IBF orders Hrgovic-Ruiz for interim heavyweight title; Taylor-Catterall II postponed again; Vargas-Foster Showtime undercard set; Jarrell Miller-Lucas Browne on tap; Quick hits; Show and tell
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Hall of Famer Floyd Mayweather, whose last official fight was a knockout of Conor McGregor in their mega pay-per-view event in August 2017, will take part in another exhibition bout.
Mayweather, the former longtime pound-for-pound king and a five-division champion, will face MMA fighter Aaron Chalmers, who is also a star of the British reality series “Geordie Shore”, on Feb. 25 at The O2 in London, organizers announced on Monday.
A weight limit, the number of rounds and broadcast information was not announced.
It was previously announced on social media that Mayweather (50-0, 27 KOs), 45, of Las Vegas, would face Muay Thai star Liam Harrison, but Harrison never made the fight official and was forced out due to a knee injury and replaced by Chalmers.
“I was originally supposed to face a different opponent, but injuries happen and I’m glad that Aaron Chalmers could step up so that we could give the fans what they want,” Mayweather said. “The fans in the U.K. have always been great to me and supported me throughout my career, so an event like this has been a long time coming. I’m excited to add more history to the O2 Arena in London.”
Chalmers is 5-2 as an MMA fighter, including four bouts with Bellator.
“I’ve been training with Adam Booth in the boxing gym and I’m eager to make a name for myself in the boxing world,” Chalmers said. “I jumped on this opportunity immediately. It’s an honor to share the ring with one of the greatest fighters of all time and I’m definitely going to take advantage of it.”
The bout against Chalmers will be Mayweather’s sixth exhibition since retiring and his first since he weighed 154 pounds in a sixth-round knockout of YouTube personality-turned-boxer Deji Olantunji, who weighed 175 pounds, in November in Dubai.
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IBF orders Hrgovic-Ruiz
The IBF has ordered an interim heavyweight title bout between Filip Hrgovic and former unified titlist Andy Ruiz, although it would seem unlikely to happen. They have 30 days to make a deal but if thy do not make a deal, the IBF said it does not order purse bids for interim title bouts.
The IBF typically only utilizes an interim title if a reigning titlist is injured and will be sidelined for an extended period. However, with Hrgovic having won a final eliminator by decision against Zhang Zhilei in August but a shot at three-belt titlist Oleksandr Usyk far off due to the prospect of an undisputed title fight against Tyson Fury and the WBA being positioned as the organization up for the next mandatory defense, the IBF made an exception.
“We don’t typically order Interim titles unless the champion is injured. In the divisions where there are unified or undisputed champions, the mandatory contender may have to wait more than a year in some cases depending on the rotation,” IBF president Daryl Peoples told Fight Freaks Unite. “We don’t think someone in the mandatory position should be forced to wait for such a long period especially if we order them to fight in eliminators.”
Hrgovic (15-0, 12 KOs), 30, of Croatia, and Ruiz (35-2, 22 KOs), 33, of Imperial, California, are unlikely to meet, however. That is because Ruiz has been tied to a final WBC title eliminator with former titleholder and fellow PBC fighter Deontay Wilder.
Ruiz and Wilder are both coming off fall wins in WBC semifinal eliminators. Ruiz scored three knockdowns in a decision against Luis Ortiz on Sept. 4 and Wilder knocked out Robert Helenius in the first round on Oct. 15.
A Wilder-Ruiz pairing for the right to become Fury’s mandatory challenger would be a far higher profile and certainly more lucrative fight than one between Ruiz and Hrgovic. Wilder-Ruiz is supposedly going to headline an early summer PBC pay-per-view.
Taylor-Catterall II postponed again
The rematch between WBO junior welterweight champion Josh Taylor and Jack Catterall has been postponed for the third time. This time it is because Taylor suffered a foot injury.
The announcement was made on Saturday and the kickoff news conference scheduled for Monday was cancelled.
The rematch was initially supposed to be in December, followed by plans for February and then March 4 at OVO Hydro in Glasgow, Scotland, the site of their first bout. It was supposed to headline an ESPN+ card in the United States and a Sky Box Office pay-per-view in the United Kingdom.
Scotland’s Taylor (19-0, 13 KOs), 31, won a very controversial decision over Catterall (26-1, 13 KOs), 29, a southpaw from England, in defense of the undisputed 140-pound title last February. Stung by intense criticism, he opted to pursue the rematch rather than make mandatory defenses, which resulted in him vacating or being stripped of the other three belts.
On Monday, the WBO sent a letter to Top Rank chairman Bob Arum, Taylor’s promoter, ordering Taylor to submit within five days “a detailed medical explanation of his injury, findings, recovery prognosis, and his orthopedic specialist’s opinion as to when will he be physically and medically cleared to compete and return to active competition.”
Although the fight is postponed, Taylor and Catterall both attended the Chris Eubank Jr.-Liam Smith fight on Saturday at AO Arena in Manchester, England. They were seated two seats apart and eventually got into it verbally before they stood up and looked like they were going to fight right there but they were separated by security personnel.
PBC on Monday made the televised undercard for its Feb. 11 card (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET) at the Alamodome in San Antonio official and it will include hometown fighter Mario Barrios in the co-feature as he looks to get back on track after back-to-back losses.
Barrios (26-2, 17 KOs), 27, under the guidance of new trainer Bob Santos, will face Jovanie Santiago in a 10-round welterweight fight.
In the opening bout, Cuban heavyweight Lenier Pero will face Ukraine’s Viktor Faust in a 10-rounder.
The card is headlined by the previously announced vacant WBC junior lightweight title bout between WBC featherweight titlist Rey Vargas (36-0, 22 KOs), 32, of Mexico, who is moving up in weight and looking for a title in a third division, and WBC No. 1 contender O’Shaquie Foster (19-2, 11 KOs), 29, of Houston.
Barrios, a former WBA secondary junior welterweight titlist, lost the belt in his second defense by 11th-round knockout to Gervonta Davis in June 2021. Then Barrios moved up to welterweight and lost a lopsided decision to former unified titleholder Keith Thurman in last February.
“Everyone knows I come with everything I got when I step into the ring, and I’m excited to be back for this big opportunity on Showtime,” Barrios said. “I’m even more motivated knowing that I get to fight back at home in San Antonio and give my people a great fight. Everyone is going to see pure boxing entertainment as I’ll be putting my skills on display with bad intentions. I’ve proven that I’m a warrior every time I get into the ring and I’m bringing that same energy for Santiago.”
Puerto Rico’s Santiago (14-2-1, 10 KOs), 31, has lost two fights in a row. He dropped a heavily disputed 12-round decision to Adrien Broner in February 2021 and then suffered a one-sided sixth-round knockout to Gary Antuanne Russell in May 2021.
“I’m ready to go in there and throw a lot of punches,” Santiago said. “Barrios and I are both looking to bounce back from losses and show that we’re elite fighters. That’s going to make this an action-packed fight and I know that I have everything it takes to leave with my hand raised.”
Pero (8-0, 5 KOs), 30, a 2016 Cuban Olympian fighting out of Miami, was a vastly experienced amateur with multiple wins over Frank Sanchez and bouts against Oleksandr Usyk, Filip Hrgovic and Bakhodir Jalolov, so he is being moved fairly quickly as a pro.
“I’m really looking forward to making my Showtime debut,” Pero said. “Ever since I started boxing, I’ve been working toward my goal of becoming the first Cuban heavyweight world champion. Faust is a good opponent, and this is by far the biggest fight of my career.”
Faust (11-0, 7 KOs), 30, had three fights in 2022 but it was his first one of the year that was memorable. He stopped Iago Kiladze in the second round on New Year’s Day in a wild slugfest in which Faust was down twice and Kiladze was down three times.
“This is a great opportunity for me to show off my talents in the U.S.,” Faust said. “I’m especially happy to be back against a great opponent like Pero. He was a good amateur, and I know we’ll both be very confident heading into this fight.”
Miller-Browne on again
Heavyweights Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller and Lucas Browne, who had agreed in August to a November bout only to see it delayed for various reasons, are back on the schedule.
They are due to meet in a 10-rounder on March 18 in Dubai, Miller co-promoter Greg Cohen told Fight Freaks Unite.
He said the card will also include a 10-rounder between junior lightweights Jono Carroll (23-2-1, 7 KOs), 30, of Ireland, and fellow former world title challenger Miguel Marriaga (30-6, 26 KOs), 36, of Colombia.
Miller (25-0-1, 20 KOs), 34, of Brooklyn, New York, won two fights last summer after returning from a 3½-year layoff. He had not boxed since November 2018 because of several positive tests for performance-enhancing drugs that caused multiple bouts to be canceled, including a multi-million dollar shot at then-unified heavyweight titlist Anthony Joshua in December 2019, and a suspension by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
Miller had an Oct. 3 bout in Almaty, Kazakhstan, canceled when the card was called off because there were several Russian fighters scheduled to be on the who were unable to leave Russia due to Vladimir Putin ordering a mobilization of men for military service in its war against Ukraine.
Browne (31-3, 27 KOs), 43, of Australia, who has his own sorted history with PEDs, rejuvenated his career with an upset first-round knockout of Junior Fa in June on the George Kambosos-Devin Haney I undercard.
Former super middleweight champion Callum Smith, who is the WBC’s light heavyweight mandatory challenger and at the head of the line to challenge the winner of Saturday’s fight between three-belt champion Artur Beterbiev and WBO mandatory challenger Anthony Yarde, will be back in action against an opponent to be named in the main event of a Matchroom Boxing card on DAZN on March 11 in his hometown of Liverpool, England, according to Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn. Smith (29-1, 21 KOs), 32, has won both of his fights at 175 pounds since losing his super middleweight title to Canelo Alvarez by one-sided rout in December 2020.
Another fight Hearn is planning is between IBF junior lightweight titlist Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (17-0-1, 14 KOs), 28, a southpaw from Tajikistan, and mandatory challenger and former titlist Joe Cordina to headline a DAZN card on April 22. Cordina (15-0, 9 KOs), 31, scored a spectacular second-round KO of Japan’s Kenichi Ogawa to win the title in front of a hometown crowd in Cardiff, Wales in June but when he could not make a mandatory defense against Rakhimov before it was due because of a serious hand injury, he was stripped. Rakhimov rallied from a third-round knockdown and stopped England’s Zelfa Barrett in the ninth round to win the vacant title in November with Cordina due a shot when he was healthy enough to return.
Jamal James is slated to return Feb. 25 at The Armory in his hometown of Minneapolis on a Showtime card that has not been officially announced but an event for which tickets went on sale last week. According to The Armory website — and long expected — the card will also include Subriel Matias against Jeremias Ponce for the vacant IBF junior welterweight title. James is due to face southpaw Alberto Palmetta (18-1, 13 KOs), 32, a 2016 Olympian from Argentina, in a 10-round undercard bout. James (27-2, 12 KOs), 34, has been idle since losing the WBA “regular” welterweight title by ninth-round knockout to Radzhab Butaev on Showtime in October 2021 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
Show and tell
Joe Frazier had beaten Muhammad Ali in their epic “Fight of the Century” first fight to leave no doubt that he was the true heavyweight champion. Nearly two years later he defended against undefeated No. 1 challenger George Foreman in “The Sunshine Showdown” in Kingston, Jamaica. It was the first fight on HBO in what would be a glorious 45-year-run of televising boxing at the highest level.
Rather than a competitive bout, Foreman absolutely demolished the smaller Frazier. He knocked Frazier down three times in the first round, eliciting Howard Cosell’s ultra-famous “Down goes Frazier!” call on the ABC version of the broadcast, and three more times in the second round for the devastating knockout to win the undisputed title. The fight was on Jan. 22, 1973 — 50 years ago on Sunday. Here is an extremely scarce high-grade program from the fight in my collection. These are tough to find even in ratty condition.
Ruiz photo: Ryan Hafey/PBC; Taylor photo: Lawrence Lustig/Boxxer
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