Rey Vargas vs. Ronny Rios to open Cotto vs. Kamegai on Aug. 26

StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., will play host to two world championship fights on Saturday, August 26 when WBC World Super Bantamweight champion Rey Vargas (29-0, 22 KOs) takes on highly touted contender Ronny Rios (28-1, 13 KOs) in a scheduled 12-round bout. The championship event will be televised live on HBO World Championship Boxing beginning at 9:45 p.m. ET/PT.

Vargas is coming off a majority decision victory over previously undefeated Gavin McDonnell to secure the world championship after racking up scores of wins against top-flight competition.

“I am thrilled to defend my world championship for the first time on such a special night at StubHub Center,” said Vargas, who went on the road from his native Otumba, Mexico to Yorkshire, England to secure his world title. “I know Ronny Rios is an extremely tough challenger, but he has never tasted power like mine, and I am confident I will come away with the victory.”

Rios, a former NABF and WBC Silver Featherweight champion, gets his first world title shot after rolling through prospects and contenders over a 29-fight career with just a single blemish on his record.

"This is a dream come true for any boxer. Now that it's here, I'm ready to capitalize on the journey me and my coach have been on for several years,” said Ronny Rios. “Vargas will provide us with a tough game plan but I've been working my whole life for this opportunity. He has good power and a very good coach with Nacho, but I have a great team as well. I am thankful that GBP has gotten this fight for me – and I expect a tough, tough war from Rey."

The 12-round scrap between Vargas and Rios will be the first of two championship fights, as legendary four-division world champion Miguel Cotto (40-5, 33 KOs) looks to win an incredible sixth world title as he takes on Yoshihiro “El Maestrito” Kamegai (27-3-2, 24 KOs) in the 12-round main event of the evening.

“People who want to see real fights, for real world championships, are in for a real treat on August 26th,” said Oscar De La Hoya, Chairman and CEO of Golden Boy Promotions. “For the last many summers, StubHub Center has played host to the highest action fights in our sport. That tradition will continue at the end of August.”

Podcast: Talking Boxing Photography with Ed Mulholland + Latest News

HBO Boxing Insiders Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney are joined by HBO photographer Ed Mulholland for an in-depth conversation about the art of boxing photography. Plus, they reflect a week later on the Ward vs. Kovalev 2 and Rigondeaux vs. Flores results -- the latter of which was overturned -- and look ahead to a few outstanding cards recently added to the schedule.

Watch Live: Canelo-GGG Los Angeles Q&A

Watch a live Q&A from the Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin media tour as they make their final stop in Los Angeles.

Canelo vs. GGG takes place September 16 at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on HBO Pay-Per-View.

“A Fight For the People”: The Canelo-GGG Press Train Rolls into New York

Photos: Ed Mulholland

By Bradford William Davis

“We’re respecting the fans’ wishes,” Oscar De La Hoya told the appreciative crowd on hand for the latest stop on the Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin press tour. Fans in attendance at The Theater at Madison Square Garden interrupted the Golden Boy promoter’s words with enthusiastic cheers for both fighters, proving his point.

The red carpet event was driven by the passion fans have for Canelo and GGG, and their relief that the fight they longed to see is finally happening. The atmosphere had the feel of a generational rivalry, a “Yankees vs. Red Sox” or “Celtics vs. Lakers” of boxing, with supporters of each elite fighter trying their best to outdo the other.

De La Hoya announced that the September 16th mega-fight at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas will have a fan friendly start time of 8 PM ET/5PM PT.  

In his remarks, De La Hoya was careful to note that Canelo and Golovkin were “two real boxers,” eliciting another roar from the crowd, as he not-so-subtly hinted that this is the biggest fight that boxing has to offer.

After the fighters and their array of handlers and promoters answered questions, De La Hoya tapped the audience once again, selecting four spirited fans to come on stage and give their predictions for the fight. Two fans draped in Mexican-flag ponchos and sombreros seized the opportunity to lead the crowd in a “Canelo” chant. In response, the GGG fans touted their fighter’s technical skill.

After leaving the stage, one of the Golovkin fans, Carlos, told Inside HBO Boxing that he found this fight particularly meaningful because “it’s the fight that fans want.” He added, “When fans want a certain fight, and they get made, it becomes a special occasion.”

Ward vs. Kovalev 2 Postfight Essay: The Puncher and the Thinker

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Photo: Ed Mulholland

By Gordon Marino

Before last Saturday’s fight, Sergey Kovalev was a volcano of vitriol, promising that he was going to destroy light heavyweight champion Andre Ward and end his career. But after suffering an eighth-round stoppage on Saturday night, it may be Kovalev’s career prospects that are in the very position in which he ended this fight, sitting on the ropes.

With lessons to be drawn about pacing, technique and controlling emotions, Saturday night at Mandalay Bay offers an education in the fight game. (The bout will replay on Saturday, June 24 on HBO World Championship Boxing at 10 p.m. ET/PT.)

From the opening bell, it was an intensely physical fray. With the adrenaline surging, the action and movement was more frenzied than in their initial encounter. Ward (32-0, 16 KOs) came out more aggressively than he did in November. Both combatants were pitching fastballs and even though Kovalev (30-2-1, 26 KOs) was planning to avoid the grappling of their first scrap, there was an enough wrestling to satisfy an MMA fan.

Going into the eighth round, two judges had Ward up by a point and the third had Kovalev with a three-point edge. I had Sergey up by two points, but even though his punishing jab was finding its mark, Kovalev was melting down and having his spirits broken.

On the inside, Ward was able to get lower than his lanky rival and rip powerful body shots. Throughout, Kovalev, who has the air of a bully, was moaning to the referee Tony Weeks that Ward’s artillery was landed south of the border. Some of it was, but when blasted on the beltline or below, the tough guy who vowed to destroy Ward would bend over in a fetal position as if to plead for help from the third man in the ring.

There is a reason that boxing is called “the sweet science,” even though few practitioners of the bruising art have the calm self-possession to think of themselves along those lines. Ward has certainly earned that right. Like Floyd Mayweather, Bernard Hopkins and Sugar Ray Leonard, the Bay Area fighter has the attention for detail of a lab-coated investigator and the pugilistic acumen to do something destructive with the knowledge that he is absorbing.

Even in the white heat of battle, Ward is constantly taking reads on the fighter who is doing everything in his considerable power to separate him from his senses. In the post-fight press conference, Ward recalled, “I was breathing, he was breathing, but I’m used to working tired. I’m comfortable being uncomfortable; that’s how we work, that’s how we train. When I saw him put his arms on the ropes in between the rounds – I watch all that stuff – that’s trouble for him.”

That was trouble for Kovalev. After 21 minutes of action, the Russian fighter was sucking wind. As he tired, he began pushing and telegraphing his punches. In the days before the bout, Hopkins warned that neither fighter could afford to be predictable. True to Hopkins’ prescription, Ward was mixing it up, moving in and out, and bringing his punches up and down and up. On the other hand, exhaustion and bad muscle memory had rendered Kovalev slower and easy to calculate. Over and over, it was jab right hand. Half of the time, when Kovalev pawed with his left, Ward instinctively leaned over to avoid the missile of a right that inevitably followed and then Ward would let fly with a flurry of potent body shots.

Kovalev’s head might as well have been a statue. Worse yet, after a few rounds, he was bringing his jab back low. Hall of Fame trainer Eddie Futch used to sneer that anyone who gets nailed with a right-hand lead is a sucker. Now and again, even early on, Ward was able to sucker Kovalev with a quick snapping right. But by the eighth stanza, Ward’s computer had the coup de grace set up.

Midway in the final frame, Kovalev briefly and ineffectively switched to southpaw then back to orthodox. Leaning in, Kovalev tossed a lazy jab, dragged his left back low and Ward, with his legs under him, thundered a right hand on the bull’s eye of Kovalev’s jaw. The man of iron fist and chin wobbled.

Ward, the man known as “S.O.G.,” has always been known as a shark when he has someone hurt and he immediately slipped into finisher mode against Kovalev. Keeping his hands in position, he chased the wounded Krusher around the ring, blasting away with body and head shots while always being careful to keep enough of a cushion to avoid smothering his power.

In the final seconds of the fight, Ward landed low blows that went undetected by the referee. If Kovalev had been a thinker, he would have simply taken a knee and collected himself. But Kovalev is not a thinker and instead just took a seat on the ropes and covered up. Weeks then waved the fight over.  

In the post-fight press conference, Ward made a telling observation. The champ praised his opponent but then said of him, “I felt his biggest mistake was going to be his arrogance. He just couldn’t fathom me hurting him. When they asked him about me having the power to stop him, he laughed at me. He just wasn’t ready for it. Anybody can be hurt, anybody can be stopped. You always gotta have a sober mind when you enter a fight like that.”

Evander Holyfield’s former mentor, Don Turner, was trying to help Kovalev with the X’s and O’s for this fight. After the bout, Turner acknowledged “Ward is good.” As for his charge, he all but sighed, “Kovalev is just a puncher.” In other words, with a few Rocky Marciano-type exceptions, a one-dimensional boxer who banks only on his sleep-inducing capacity will eventually be undone by a martial artist who, like Ward, has the aplomb and physical gifts to make his opponent pay for his boxing sins.

After the fight, Ward was wisely careful not to begin measuring himself against other immortal light heavies, such as that other Bay Area product, Archie Moore. Ward was not, however, demure about comparing himself to contemporaries. Since the proliferation of weight divisions, acknowledgement as the pound-for-pound best has usurped the significance of the heavyweight title. Asked if being the best of the best is important to him, Ward gleefully replied, “Of course it is but I don’t have a vote. When I beat a great fighter like Kovalev hopefully I will get the vote now.”

Though he sometimes keeps it under wraps, “S.O.G.” has an ego, and he has made it plain that more than defend his crown, he wants to do something special – “something that will raise eyebrows” like nabbing a cruiserweight or even heavyweight title belt.

Nevertheless, in this confusing era of 17 weight divisions and the alphabet soup of four sanctioning bodies, it would be refreshing and a boon to boxing to have one undisputed, unified title holder in a traditional weight division. I, for one, fervently hope that before he starts packing on the pounds, Ward sets a showdown date with WBC light heavyweight champion, Adonis Stevenson, and settles the score as to who is the legitimate 175-pound king.

Watch: Berchelt vs. Miura Preview

Watch the preview video for the Miguel Berchelt vs. Takashi Miura super featherweight title showdown. 

Berchelt vs. Miura happens Saturday, July 15 at The Forum in L.A. and airs live at 9:50 p.m. ET/PT on HBO Boxing After Dark.

Sor Rungvisai vs. Chocolatito Rematch to Headline HBO Boxing After Dark Tripleheader

Photo: Ed Mulholland

Photo: Ed Mulholland

LOS ANGELES – WBC Super Flyweight World Champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (43-4-1, 39 KO’s) of Si Sa Ket, Thailand, will defend his title against former champion Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, (46-1-0 38 KO’s) of Managua, Nicaragua, Saturday, September 9 at the StubHub Center in Carson, California. Coming off of their epic battle this past march, Sor Rungvisai vs. Chocolatito headlines a tripleheader that will be televised live on HBO Boxing After Dark beginning at 10:15 p.m. ET/PT.

Co-featured on the outstanding “Superfly” card is the highly anticipated United States debut of Naoya “The Monster” Inoue (13-0-0, 11 KO’s) of Yokohama, Japan defending his WBO Super Flyweight title against top contender Antonio “Carita” Nieves (17-1-2, 9 KO’s) of Cleveland, Ohio. 

Opening the telecast, former WBC Super Flyweight World Champion Carlos “Principe” Cuadras (36-1-1, 27 KO’s) of Mexico City will battle rival countryman and former flyweight world champion Juan Francisco “El Gallo” Estrada (35-2-0, 25 KO’s) of Sonora, Mexico.

Podcast: Ward vs. Kovalev Post-Fight Analysis

HBO Boxing Insiders Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney break down Andre Ward's eighth-round TKO win over Sergey Kovalev, analyzing the timing of referee Tony Weeks' stoppage, Ward's pound-for-pound status and where both boxers go from here. Plus, they dissect the madness of Guillermo Rigondeaux's highly controversial undercard victory.

Watch the replay of Ward vs. Kovalev 2 on Saturday, June 24 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HBO World Championship Boxing.