Mikkel Kessler is back in title contention at 168 pounds. (Photo by John Gichigi/Getty Images)
Mikkel Kessler Approved as WBO Mandatory
Denmark's Mikkel Kessler (44-2, 33 KO) is back in the hunt for a major title, as the WBO has approved Sauerland Event's request to name the 32-year-old as the mandatory challenger to current super middleweight beltholder Robert Stieglitz (40-2, 23 KO). This seems another obvious step in Sauerland's plan to get a belt on Kessler as quickly as possible, and maybe after that, target the desired fight with Lucian Bute.
You can't really blame Sauerland or Kessler for this, I guess. Being "WBO champion" would give them more leverage in negotiations with Bute, the IBF trinket carrier, and word came out of the Kessler camp that they were unhappy with initial offers to go to Montreal to fight Bute. I don't think it's the going to Montreal that they're worried about as much as a money split, and "champion vs champion" gives them better ground to stand on when trying to cut an even deal with Bute and Interbox. And Stieglitz vs Kessler isn't that bad of a fight itself -- they're both top ten guys in the division, and I think Stieglitz is a bit better than he often gets credit for, too.
Kazuto Ioka vs Juan Hernandez on August 10
Japanese strawweight phenom Kazuto Ioka (7-0, 5 KO) will look to add another solid notch to his belt on August 10, when he faces Mexico's Juan Hernandez (18-1, 13 KO). The 22-year-old Ioka lifted the WBC belt from Oleydong Sithsamerchai in February, stopping the Thai veteran in the fifth round. Hernandez, 24, has gone on a solid run, but is a vulnerable fighter whose best win is a DQ-3 against Denver Cuello.
- Cruiserweight fringe contender BJ Flores (24-1-1, 15 KO) returns to the ring on July 23 against Nicholas Iannuzzi (16-2, 9 KO). Flores hasn't fought since losing convincingly to Danny Green in Australia last November, while Iannuzzi was the fighter who gave Lateef Kayode all he could deal with in February. (Ryan Burton/BoxingScene.com)
- Brian Magee (34-4-1, 24 KO) returns on July 30 against Jaime Barboza (17-4, 8 KO). That fight will take place in Costa Rica. Barboza is 33 and has little by way of quality wins, though he did split a pair of fights with Jose Pinzon.
- Argenis Mendez and Juan Carlos Salgado will meet for the vacant IBF super featherweight title. The belt was stripped from Mzonke Fana when he failed to make his mandatory defense against Mendez, which had been scheduled for this month. There is still not a weaker division in boxing than the super featherweights -- I currently have Fana on top of our rankings, but now it's basically just waiting for him to go inactive on September 1.
- Chris Eubank Jr is going pro with Matchroom Sport.