Sergey Kovalev makes second defense of title, knocks out Cedric Agnew in 7th

Sergey Kovalev of Russia retained his light heavyweight championship by knocking out Cedric Agnew of Chicago in the seventh round Saturday at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.

Kovalev (24-0-1, 22 KOs) made the second defense of his belt. He scored knockdowns of Agnew (26-1) in the second, sixth and seventh rounds. Kovalev sustained a cut over his left eyelid from a head-butt.

The fight was televised by HBO.


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Freddie Roach vows Manny Pacquiao will leave no doubt in Timothy Bradley rematch

Freddie Roach, like just about everyone else, thought Manny Pacquiao defeated Timothy Bradley in their June 2012 welterweight title fight at MGM Grand in Las Vegas. But Bradley was judged the split-decision winner.

Not surprisingly, C.J. Ross was one of two judges who gave the fight to Bradley by a 115-113 count; Duane Ford was the other. (You might remember that Ross was the judge who had the September 2013 fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez a draw; that says it all.)

Pacquiao is currently at Roach’s Wild Card gym in Hollywood, where Roach is preparing him for the April 12 rematch with Bradley at MGM Grand (on HBO pay-per-view). Roach remains peeved about the scoring in the first fight, to be sure. He vows to make sure Pacquiao leaves no doubt this time.

“We are training for big game in this fight,” Roach said Tuesday. “Manny knows he is going to have to hunt Bradley down and close the show this time. The first fight with Bradley was so easy for Manny that after six rounds he just took it easy on him. Not this time. Our mantra is ‘Close the show.  No mercy.’  You don’t have to be a groundhog to know that Bradley’s days as welterweight champ are numbered.  It’s last call for Bradley on April 12.

Bradley, of Palm Springs, is 31-0 with 12 knockouts. Pacquiao, of the Philippines, is 55-5-2 with 38 knockouts.

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Miguel Cotto, Sergio Martinez in Los Angeles to formally announce June title fight

Miguel Cotto of Puerto Rico and Sergio Martinez of Argentina on Wednesday will play host to a Los Angeles-area news conference to formally announce their middleweight title fight slated for June 7 at Madison Square Garden in New York City (on HBO pay-per-view).

Cotto (38-4, 31 KOs), who is 33, has won titles in the junior welterweight, welterweight and junior middleweight divisions. If he takes Martinez’s middleweight belt, Cotto becomes the first Puerto Rican to win titles in four weight classes.

Martinez, 39, is 51.2-2 with 28 knockouts.

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Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. promises to be different fighter in March 1 rematch with Bryan Vera

Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. has the reputation of being a talented fighter not willing to train hard enough to be all he can be in the ring. His most recent fight was a classic example.

That was Sept. 28 at StubHub Center in Carson against Bryan Vera. Chavez told his promoter – Bob Arum – the week of the fight that he would not be able to make the 168-pound super middleweight limit contracted for the fight. Since Arum is Arum and Chavez is the son of the legend, they proposed to Vera and his team that the fight take place at 173 pounds.

Vera (23-7, 14 KOs), of Austin, Texas, was not about to say no. Arum and Chavez had to know that, because then the little-known Vera would not get the chance to upset Chavez, who is world-renowned whether he deserves to be or not.

Vera gave Chavez (47-1-1, 32 KOs) all he could handle over 10 rounds, with the majority of fans in the stands believing he won the fight, based on their reaction when it was announced Chavez was the winner by two, four and eight points. Those last two scores – by judges Marty Denkin and Gwen Adair – were out of line, and an uproar ensued.

Fast forward to present day. Chavez, the 28-year-old former middleweight world champion from Mexico, is preparing to take on Vera in a March 1 rematch at the Alamodome in San Antonio (on HBO). This week, he vowed things will be different.

“I owe the fans a great performance and that is what they will get on March 1 at the Alamodome,” he said Wednesday from his training camp in Mexico. “I have had a lot of success in San Antonio and I look forward to going there and putting on a good show for them.”

There will be no weight issues this time, Chavez said, and he believes that will help him show what he can really do.

“I will make the 168-pound limit with no problem and I will be able to do the things I could not do in the first fight,” Chavez said. “I will have better movement, I will be more consistent and I will fight 12 hard rounds if that is what it takes to win this second fight.”


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Abel Sanchez: Cuban heavyweight Mike Perez didn’t have same fire for Carlos Takam

Heavyweight contender Mike Perez of Cuba this past Saturday fought to a 10-round majority draw with Carlos Takam of Cameroon in Montreal (on HBO). He was expected to defeat Takam, but his trainer – Abel Sanchez – said Perez didn’t seem to have the same fire he had in his previous fight. Perhaps, for good reason.

On Nov. 2, Perez won a 10-round decision over Magomed Abdusalamov, who afterward was hospitalized with a serious brain injury. Abdusalamov survived, but he will never fight again.

According to Sanchez, Perez (20-0-1, 12 KOs) answered way more questions about Abdusalamov and his injury ahead of Saturday’s fight with Takam, than he did about the fight with Takam. Sanchez said that in one interview with ESPN that was centered heavily on the fight with Abdusalamov, Perez became teary-eyed and had to ask for a break.

“All those things that kept it fresh in his mind,” Sanchez said Wednesday. “Being that preoccupied, he wasn’t focused on the task at hand, which was Carlos Takam.”

Sanchez said that before his fight with Abdusalamov, Perez was chomping at the bit to get in the ring.

“When we were warming up, he was animated, pounding the gloves,” Sanchez said.

Not Saturday, though.

“He just seemed to be dead in the dressing room,” Sanchez said. “And at the weigh-in, he seemed so far out.”


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Darren Barker takes Daniel Geale’s middleweight belt via split decision

Daniel Geale decked Darren Barker in the sixth round with a body punch, with Barker just beating the count. Geale also appared to have Barker hurt in the 12th round of their fight Saturday at Revel Resort in Atlantic City. But Barker did enough in between to come away with a split-decision victory and Geale’s middleweight world championship.

Two judges seemed to be in the ballpark. Alan Rubenstein had Geale ahead 114-113, and Carlos Ortiz Jr. gave it to Barker by that same 114-113 count. Barbara Perez also had Barker winning, but her 116-111 score for him seemed a bit out of whack as this appeared to be a rather close fight.

One thing’s certain, there can be no question as to the courage of Barker, who just did rise at the count of 9 after absorbing that wicked body punch to the liver. It was the type of punch from which many have not risen, or even tried.

Geale (29-2), of Australia, loses his title in his fifth defense. Barker, of London, is 26-1.He is a world champion for the first time.

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Spoiler arert: Result of tonight’s HBO tape-delayed Cleverly-Kovalev fight

Sergey Kovalev of Russia on Saturday went to the backyard of Nathan Cleverly and stopped the Welshman in the fourth round. Kovalev took Cleverly’s light heavyweight title in the fight held at Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff, Wales.

Kovalev (22-0-1, 20 KOs) decked Cleverly (26-1) twice in the third round, according to the Assoicated Press. Kovalev was pummeling Cleverly when the referee stepped in to halt the bout in the fourth.

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Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios square off at Beverly Hills Hotel

Mark Taffet, an HBO executive, on Thursday said it best when he declared that the Nov. 23 welterweight showdown between Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios “has to be a great fight.”

Seriously, there is almost no chance this won’t be a terrific fight when the two square off at the Venetian Resort in Macao, China on HBO pay-per-view.

The interested parties were on hand Thursday at a news conference at the Beverly Hills Hotel. It was a respectful event, with the fighters doling out praise to one another. Robert Garcia, Rios’ trainer, noted how well everyone treated each other during a long press tour that culminated with the stop in Beverly Hills.

But, Garcia said, “On Nov. 23, inside the ring, Brandon Rios and Manny Pacquiao will not be friends. I guarantee that. They are going to beat each other up. Brandon is going to be trying like he’s never tried before.”

Rios, of Oxnard, knows he has a tough task ahead.

“Fighting someone like Manny Pacquiao, he’s one of the best pound-for-pound fighters out there,” Rios said. “He ain’t no joke.”

Rios, a former lightweight world champion, is 31-1-1 with 23 knockouts. He can crack with the best. As can Pacquiao, who is 54-5-2 with 38 knockouts. Pacquiao loves that combination.

“This is going to be an exciting fight,” Pacquiao said. “I know he (Rios) can give a good fight.”

Pacquiao, 34, has lost his past two fights. At least according to the judges. In June 2012 he had obviously defeated Timothy Bradley at MGM Grand in Las Vegas, only to have the judges somehow score Bradley the winner via split decision. Six months later, in December at MGM Grand, Pacquiao was knocked cold in the sixth round by Juan Manuel Marquez.

Rios’ past two fights have been against Mike Alvarado. Rios, 27, stopped Alvarado in the seventh round of a hard-hitting thriller in October at Home Depot Center in Carson. Alvarado boxed more in the rematch and took a unanimous decision over Rios in March at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

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Manny Pacquiao agrees to do Olympic-style testing with VADA, but …

According to Fred Sternberg, a spokesman working the Nov. 23 fight in China between Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios (on HBO pay-per-view), the two fighters agreed months ago to do Olympic-style drug-testing under the umbrella of the Volunteer Anti-Doping Association.

A story that appeared Wednesday on reported that Pacquiao signed the contract for that testing Wednesday.

When Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Pacquiao first began negotiations for a fight between themselves some 3 1/2 years ago – a fight that has not happened – this is the type of random testing Mayweather wanted Pacquiao to do as it is considered more extensive than the basic testing typically done by boxing commissions.

Although Pacquiao later agreed to do the testing, his initial refusal put a cloud of suspicion over him regarding possible steroid use because he had moved up so many weight classes and still retained his power.

The testing for this fight is a good thing, but even if all his tests return clean, there will still be those out there wondering if Pacquiao was clean three years ago.

Pacquiao has never tested positive for steroids.

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