Following an upset loss to Cornelius White on December 17 (also check out the full fight video) on the Ward vs Froch undercard, Cuban light heavyweight Yordanis Despagine says he's "not mentally ready" for his scheduled February 3 rematch with Edison Miranda, which was to air on ESPN's Friday Night Fights, and has pulled out of the fight.
Replacing Despaigne is Isaac Chilemba of South Africa which actually makes for a better fight at this point. To put it kindly, with Despaigne losing his last time out and never really being all that impressive, this was sort of a "Repeat or Who Cares?" rematch that wasn't going to ignite much interest even among the diehard Friday Night Fights crowd.
Leon Margules, who promotes Miranda with Warriors Boxing, says this is a tougher fight for the veteran Colombian.
"With Despaigne pulling out we lost what could have been a good fight, but Chilemba is actually a much tougher opponent for Edison. Miranda was able to hit Despaigne fairly often, that's not a guarantee with Chilemba. He's very tricky and has a long reach. It's going to be an intriguing fight."
Miranda (35-6, 30 KO) is a one-trick pony of a fighter and he's campaigning well above his ideal weight as a light heavyweight, as he continues on with a career at age 31 that probably isn't going anywhere. What keeps Miranda relevant is his reputation as an action fighter, his Mayorga-like mouth, and the fact that he's not exactly tough to defeat for truly good fighters. He always, always comes to fight, and he'll always get TV spots because of that. Also, he's inexpensive.
(That doesn't really explain BoxRec's secret scientific formula figuring that Miranda is the 10th-best light heavyweight in the world, but then nothing really could.)
Chilemba (18-1-1, 9 KO) hasn't lost since 2007, and took hyped super middleweight countryman Thomas Oosthuizen to a 12-round draw in Kempton Park back in November 2010. Since that fight, Chilemba has been seen once on American TV, gaining a disputed 10-round decision win over Maxim Vlasov on Friday Night Fights last February.
It's a terrific replacement opponent, really, and all in all a much stronger, more interesting fight than the Despaigne rematch would have been. Instead of finding out which stalled veteran with no upside could win this time around, we get a chance to see if Chilemba, 24, is for real, or at least for real enough to defeat Miranda.
In the televised co-feature, 21-year-old lightweight Hylon Williams Jr (15-0, 3 KO) of Las Vegas will face 25-year-old Cuban Rances Barthelemy (14-0, 11 KO) in a prospect vs prospect battle.