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Boxing
Holt expects big score in Vegas rematch
Lyle Fitzsimmons


By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor


Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - What happens in Barranquilla, stays in Barranquilla.

But as for Las Vegas, Kendall Holt says check back later this weekend.

"I can't wait for this fight," the 27-year-old said, referring to a long- awaited title redux with WBO 140-pound champion Ricardo Torres, set for Saturday night at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino. "No one knows what I have endured. I thought a rematch was not going to happen.

"That is why every fight is important. It didn't matter if it was for a different belt. I wanted to be fighting for a world championship."

Holt's first crack at a championship 10 months ago -- against Torres on the Colombian's home turf -- was as disappointing for the Paterson, N.J. resident as it was memorable for everyone else.


Kendall Holt will face Ricardo Torres, pictured.
Ahead on the scorecards and surging after scoring a sixth-round knockdown, Holt claims to have been hit with a beer can from the crowd amid the tumult of what looked to be Torres' imminent defeat.

The mental impact of the projectile was more serious than the physical, however, with Holt insisting his mindset immediately shifted to thoughts of post-fight safety for he and his handlers, ultimately allowing Torres to survive the round, regain his senses and get back into the fight.

"From that moment on, I was not there mentally," he said. "I was just concerned about me, my entourage, my trainers and everyone from America making it out of there if I did go after Torres and knock him out. Up until that point, I had only seen one security guard. So, all of that went through my mind."

The comeback proved fateful in the 11th, when Torres put together a flurry along the ropes that left Holt wobbly and prompted referee Genaro Rodriguez to step in and end the fight -- eliciting celebration from the partisan crowd, but disgust from Holt and others who found the stoppage premature.

Predictably, Torres dismisses both the complaints and the promises of revenge.

"I'm ready. Let's get it on," he said. "There is no pressure on me to prove anything in this fight.

"Whatever I do, I won't be able to change the minds of anybody who saw the first fight against Holt. I'm very prepared and I am here to win this fight and defend this title. I know Holt is tough, but there is not really anything that he can do that he didn't do before."

The win was Torres' second defense of a vacant title he'd won in November 2006 with a narrow decision over Mike Arnaoutis. He followed up with a unanimous verdict over Arturo Morua in April 2007, but has been inactive since the initial match with Holt.

Holt, meanwhile, had ridden a seven-fight win streak into the first bout, including a TKO defeat of recent PPV punching bag David Diaz in 2005 and a wide scorecard defeat of Arnaoutis in 2007. He's fought one time since the Torres loss, outpointing veteran Ben Tackie over 10 rounds in Las Vegas on Feb. 7.

"It will be sweeter because all the controversy has actually made me a bigger star," Holt said. "It made me a more recognizable name. Hopefully, winning this fight will make me a more recognizable face."

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A dual-title card at Gerry Weber Stadium in Germany was cut in half when WBA heavyweight champion Ruslan Chagaev again scratched a rematch with former belt-holder Nikolai Valuev, this time after tearing the Achilles' tendon in his left leg during the penultimate round of training camp sparring.

Chagaev, who took Valuev's crown by majority decision in April 2007, has pulled out of three subsequent fights while making just one title defense -- a wide points victory over 40-year-old British veteran Matt Skelton in January.

The Valuev rematch was previously postponed due to illness, as was a planned unification fight with then-WBO champion Sultan Ibragimov. Ibragimov eventually defended against former multi-time title claimant Evander Holyfield.

Chagaev has not faced a mandatory No. 1 contender since winning the title.

The WBA is expected to order an immediate interim championship match between Valuev and fellow ex-champion John Ruiz, who hold down the No. 1 and 2 spots in the division in the associations most recent rankings.

The winner of that bout would get an automatic shot at the full-fledged title upon Chagaev's return, or be named champion if Chagaev is inactive through January 2009.

Valuev beat Ruiz by majority decision to win the WBA championship in December 2005.

The 7-foot Russian decisioned Sergei Liakhovich in his most recent fight, a WBA title eliminator on Feb. 16 in Nuremberg, Germany. Ruiz, who lost to Chagaev 11 months after the loss to Valuev, has won two bouts since, including a decision over Jameel McCline on March 8 in Cancun, Mexico.

"How many times is this dude going to pull out of a fight," said Don King, Valuevs co-promoter. "He doesn't really want to fight the giant again. Valuev has trained for this fight twice. I want to see if the WBA will allow him to fight for the interim title immediately."

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Still scheduled for the Saturday card in Germany is yet another rematch, this one between incumbent WBA middleweight champion Felix Sturm and No. 1 challenger Randy Griffin.

The two initially met last October and fought to a split-decision draw, with one judge scoring the bout for Sturm (115-114), one scoring it for Griffin (117-114) and the third seeing it even (114-114).

It's the third defense of Sturm's third title reign at 160 pounds, where he's already held the WBO championship (2003-04) and the WBA crown (2006). He began his third title reign with a unanimous decision defeat of Javier Castillejo in April 2007 and has risked it three times since, including the draw with Griffin and victories over Noe Gonzalez Alcoba (UD 12) and Jamie Pittman (TKO 7).

Nonetheless, he's still best known for a controversial June 2004 loss to Oscar De La Hoya, which cost him the WBO belt one fight before De La Hoya was stopped by Bernard Hopkins.

Griffin, a Philadelphia native now living now living in Louisville, turned pro in 2000 and won his first 11 fights before dropping a six-round decision to then-unbeaten James Lubwama at the Dover Downs race track in May 2002.

He was 13-0-2 over his next 15 bouts, including a title-eliminator win over former WBO champ Maselino Masoe, before the unsatisfying result against Sturm the first time around at the same venue where they'll meet this weekend.

"I feel I'm in very good condition and have prepared myself very well," Griffin said, in a Monday news conference. "I owe Felix for the chance of a rematch. I have closely analyzed the last fight and now I can do better to bring down Felix. I predict the 10th or 11th round. This is my plan. I also think a lot about my family, because my father passed away on Christmas Eve. This is additional motivation for me."

Lyle Fitzsimmons is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He provides 'In The Ring' commentary for Speeding Bullet Network (speedingbulletnetwork.com), is a periodic contributor to 'The Drive with Dave Smith' on KLAA radio (am830klaa.com) and can be contacted via e-mail at fitzbitz@msn.com.

Jabs, hooks or knockouts, Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at fitzbitz@msn.com.

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