Gilbert heading to Iraq | NevadaAppeal.com

Gilbert heading to Iraq

Mike Houser
Appeal Staff Writer

News and views on the world of boxing:

• After what will be a nine-month absence, professional boxing will return to Northern Nevada on Aug. 5, when Gary Shaw Productions will present a card featuring IBF bantamweight champion Rafael Marquez and his brother and former featherweight titlist Juan Manuel Marquez.

The bouts will be televised on Showtime, beginning at 9 p.m. EST/PST (delayed on the West Coast), from Montbleu Resort Casino and Spa (formerly Caesars Tahoe) in Stateline.

Chris Middendorf, matchmaker for Shaw, said Monday the undercard is still being worked out but that Rafael Marquez, 35-3 with 31 knockouts, of Mexico City, will defend his belt in a rematch with Silence Mabuza, 19-1 (15), of South Africa, in the 12-round main event.

It will be the seventh title defense for the 31-year-old Marquez, who stopped the 28-year-old Mabuza on cuts Nov. 5 at Caesars Tahoe in his last fight.

Mabuza scored a 12-round unanimous decision over Ricardo Vargas on April 20 in an IBF title eliminator to earn the rematch with Marquez, who also knocked down the then-unbeaten Mabuza.

In the co-main event, Juan Manuel Marquez, 44-3-1 (33), also of Mexico City, will meet Terdsak Jandaeng, 24-1 (15), of Bangkok, Thailand, for the WBO interim featherweight title.

WBO featherweight beltholder Scott Harrison, who has defended his title nine times, has been inactive since his victory over Nedal Hussein in November. He is said to be suffering from physical and mental health issues and would most likely be forced to face the winner of Marquez-Jandaeng in his next match.

While the 24-year-old Jandaeng is a relative unknown, he has been active this year – he’s had three fights – and his only loss came at the hands of Joan Guzman in a WBO featherweight title eliminator in August 2005.

For his part, the 32-year-old Juan Manuel Marquez defeated Manuel Medina for the vacant IBF featherweight title in February 2003 and later took the WBA featherweight strap from Chris Gainer in a 2003 unification bout.

Marquez subsequently managed a draw with featherweight phenom Manny Pacquiao, after surviving three first-round knockdowns. Following victories over Orlando Salido and Victor Polo, he had a falling out with Top Rank Promotions and was stripped of his belts by the IBF and WBA.

In his last bout, Marquez lost a surprising decision to WBA featherweight beltholder Chris John.

Fred Sternburg, Shaw’s publicist, said Monday that Shaw had signed Rafael, who also had a falling out with Top Rank, but had not yet signed Juan Manuel.

• Reno boxer Joey Gilbert is heading to Iraq – as a motivational speaker, that is.

Mark Schopper, chief strategist for Team Gilbert, said Monday that the former University of Nevada boxer had made a good impression during his two previous visits to Afghanistan.

“The reaction to his fitness and motivational speeches was extraordinary,” Schopper said. “The troops loved him and he was asked to go to Iraq. He agreed and is looking forward to that.”

Schopper said the 29-year-old NABO middleweight titlist is currently training in Las Vegas, helping to prepare Winky Wright for his challenge of world middleweight champion Jermain Taylor, which will be televised by HBO on Saturday from Memphis, Tenn., along with the repeat of last Saturday’s Bernard Hopkins-Antonio Tarver fight.

Gilbert, 11-1 (8), now ranked No. 10 by the WBO, last fought on Feb. 18, when he claimed the NABO belt with a third-round knockout of Jimmy Lange in Fairfax, Va.

“We’re looking at a number of potential fights and are hoping for one to take place in the summer or early fall,” Schopper said. “We have a lot of interest from overseas promoters. There’s significant interest because (the NBC reality series) ‘The Contender’ aired in those countries. They’re inquiring on what it would take to bring him to those countries to fight.”

Gilbert rose from a popular local amateur and professional boxer to a celebrity after appearing on The Contender, where he eventually lost on a technical decision to Peter Manfedo Jr., who was defeated in the finals by Sergio Mora.

Gilbert also beat Lange when the pair first fought on the show.

• Whether or not he keeps his word and retires, Hopkins nevertheless deserves praise for his upset decision over Tarver on Saturday. “The Executioner” did just that – executed a perfect game plan against the “Magic Man.”

Known for his slow starts, Hopkins immediately assumed control of the distance between him and Tarver and smothered any rallies from the now former world light heavyweight champion with effective counterpunches and timely aggression.

The 41-year-old Hopkins, 47-4-1 (32) with 1 no-contest, was successful in not only befuddling Tarver, 24-4 (18), but in skipping entirely the super middleweight division.

• Take nothing away from Hopkins, but the 37-year-old Tarver is as much to blame for his defeat as is Hopkins. Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward told me last week that he wasn’t as concerned with what Hopkins was going to bring as he was with what Tarver would offer.

Steward’s concerns proved prophetic as Tarver was not in the fight mentally from the outset. He made the mistake of underestimating Hopkins and then failed to adjust his style once The Executioner began to dictate the action.

In his last fight with Roy Jones and in both fights with Glencoffe Johnson, Tarver showed a disturbing tendency to show fatigue and listlessness when the going got rough. If nothing else, it casts doubt on his future.

Forget Tarver going to heavyweight, which he has on more than one occasion claimed he would do. Tarver doesn’t even belong at cruiserweight. His best bet, whether or not Hopkins retires, is a rubber match with Johnson. Should he win that fight, he can get in the ring with one of the four light heavyweight titlists and work toward luring super middleweight champion Joe Calzaghe up to 175.

• Based on his performance, Hopkins proved he could hang around and pad his wallet without risking his health. Should Jones get past Prince Badi Ajamu, 25-2-1 (14) – which he should – he would provide a viable, high-dollar opportunity for Hopkins to gain revenge for his 1993 loss to his longtime nemesis.

Short of a good payday against the unbeaten Calzaghe, there’s really not much of a reason for Hopkins to stick around. He can get on with co-promoting with Oscar De La Hoya, stay out of trouble and remain the poster boy for reformed criminals.

• WBO junior welterweight champion Miguel Cotto found out in his 12-round unanimous decision over Paulie Malignaggi on Saturday that it’s indeed time to move north to 147 pounds.

A lot of Cotto’s problems were due to the tough, smart and slick Malignaggi, who may need surgery to repair a fractured left cheekbone, but a lot of it had to do with Cotto’s continuing struggle to make 140.

Unfortunately for Cotto, the fight also provided visual proof that he doesn’t stand a very good chance if he ever steps in the ring against Floyd Mayweather, the sport’s top pound-for-pound boxer.

Cotto has good power and speed and he even showed the ability to dig deep in the final round and take it to his frustrating opponent, but Mayweather is an entirely different proposition all together.

• Who should be next for Cotto, 27-0 (22)? Unless Ricky Hatton decides to throw out his WBA welterweight belt and pass up facing Oktay Urkal, Cotto would be best served facing the winner of Carlos Baldomir-Arturo Gatti, who meet July 22 on HBO.

Cotto shouldn’t consider stepping in with WBO titlist Antonio Margarito, 33-4 (24). At nearly 6-foot, the powerful Margarito is a – pardon the expression – tall order for any welterweight, including Mayweather, the IBF beltholder and the division’s de facto champion.

• Quick pick for Saturday’s Taylor-Wright fight: I’m picking Taylor by unanimous decision.

Taylor, 25-0 (17), will be making the second defense of the world middleweight championship he won from and defended against Hopkins. Wright, 50-3 (25), is a frustrating southpaw who can punch, but he spends a lot of time covering up and countering.

Taylor is younger, more powerful and quicker and should be able to use his hand speed and footwork to score and get back out of range. He’ll also benefit from the expertise of Steward, who will be co-training him for this fight.

Steward told me on Friday that he was pleasantly surprised by Taylor’s power and instead of throwing one-twos, is punching in combinations, something he’ll need to do in order to beat Wright.

•Contact Mike Houser at mhouser@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1220