NEW YORK (Aug. 9, 2005) – World Boxing Organization (WBO) junior middleweight champion Daniel Santos will seek to extend his unbeaten streak in world title bouts to ten (with one no-contest) when he defends his title against former World Boxing Association (WBA) welterweight champion Jose Antonio Rivera in the main event on SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING, Saturday, Sept. 3, 2005, at 9 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the west coast).
In a must-win fight for a pair of talented, once-beaten heavyweights who aspire to box for a world title, World Boxing Council (WBC) No. 7/WBA No. 9/International Boxing Federation (IBF) No. 12 contender Owen “What the Heck” Beck will face IBF No. 8 contender Sergei “The White Wolf” Liakhovich in the 10-round co-feature. Don King Productions will promote the explosive doubleheader from Gund Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.
Santos (29-2-1, 20 KOs), of Bayamon, Puerto Rico, will make his first start in nearly a year and fifth defense of the WBO 154-pound belt he won with a come-from-behind eleventh-round TKO over Luis Ramon “Yory Boy” Campas on March 16, 2002, in Las Vegas.
In his last outing on Sept. 11, 2004, Santos retained his title when he won a rematch against Antonio Margarito on a ninth-round split technical decision in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico. The rough, hard-fought, hotly contested battle was stopped due to a Margarito cut caused by Santos. The defending champion kept his belt by the narrow margin of 87-85, 86-85 and 85-86. Their first fight, which SHOWTIME televised on July 21, 2001, from Bayamon, occurred when Santos was WBO welterweight champion. It ended in a no contest after a clash of heads at 2:11 of the first round.
“Margarito is a great fighter and that was a tough fight,” Santos said. “But I was better. There are a lot of great fights at 154 pounds. I am willing to defend against anybody.”
Santos captured the WBO 147-pound crown by scoring an impressive fifth-round knockout over Ahmed Katejev in a rematch on May 6, 2000, in Neuss, Germany. On Nov. 27 in Lubeck, Germany, Santos was on the wrong end of a controversial 12-round split decision.
Rivera (37-4-1, 24 KOs), of Worcester, Mass. by way of Philadelphia, claimed the vacant WBA welterweight crown with a 12-round decision over Michel Trabant on Sept. 13, 2003, in Berlin, Germany.
“It was an amazing feeling,” said Rivera after winning by the scores of 116-111, 116-114 and 114-114. “I still get goose bumps thinking about it. I remember training for that fight, and having tears coming out of my eyes while doing roadwork because I was finally fighting for a world title. The whole plane ride home I was like, ‘Wow, I did it.’
“Honestly, I never expected to be fighting for the 154-pound title so soon. I had planned to defend my welterweight title a few times. But I sure appreciate this opportunity and plan to make the best of it.’’
After winning the WBA belt, Rivera did not defend his crown for one-and-one-half years. He was inactive, but not by choice. Rivera was slated to meet Thomas Damgaard, but Damgaard lost his father and did not fight. Rivera was then matched against Ricardo Mayorga, but Mayorga did not make weight.
Rivera was set to face Damgaard again, this time on April 2, 2005, before the hometown fans in Worcester. But when the Dane pulled out again, Brooklyn’s Luis Collazo stepped in as a late replacement. In a major upset, Collazo outpointed Rivera by the scores 115-113 twice and 113-115 in a tremendous, crowd-pleasing slugfest that featured numerous, nonstop exchanges round after round.
“I pushed the whole fight,” Rivera said. “I do not know how Collazo got the split decision.”
Beck (24-1, 18 KOs), of Nashville, Tenn. by way of Kingstown, Jamaica, will make his first start since suffering his lone defeat on a ninth-round TKO to the more experienced Monte Barrett on Feb. 5, 2005, on SHOWTIME. Beck fought hard in the IBF eliminator and landed many solid shots. After going down in the second round, he rallied to perform exceedingly well to make the battle of top-10 fighters a close one. However, Beck began to falter down the stretch and got floored twice in the ninth. The bout was stopped at 2:52.
“That fight was a great learning experience,” Beck said. “I learned more in that one loss than in my 24 wins combined. I have worked harder since that fight than I ever have worked before. This will be a good fight with Liakhovich, but I am ready to go. I will be a legitimate force in the division.
“My goal and dream is still to win the heavyweight championship of the world.”
Beck compiled a 73-5 amateur record. A natural middleweight, he won the Caribbean Championship three times and was the national champion six times. He also captured the Central American & Caribbean silver medal and earned a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games in Malaysia as a super heavyweight in 1998. It was in Jamaica that Beck picked up his nickname.
“‘What the Heck’ was mentioned as a possible nickname, so my brothers and I took a vote and it won,” Beck said. “It was not my choice. I did not like the name. I did not think it was tough enough.”
Liakhovich (22-1, 14 KOs), of Phoenix, Ariz. by way of Minsk, Byelorussia, will make his 2005 debut. The latest heavyweight from Eastern Europe to make a strong impression on United States soil, Liakhovich is coming off of a 10-round unanimous decision over Dominick Guinn on Dec. 3, 2004, in Atlantic City, N.J. In an impressive outing, Liakhovich got off first, consistently outworked Guinn and triumphed by the scores of 97-93 and 96-94 twice.
“I like being the underdog,” said Liakhovich, a winner of six consecutive bouts. “If a fighter wants to look past me, fine, but there is no looking past my fists once I am in the ring. Guinn was supposed to be too good for me, but I showed him.
“Beck is a big talker, but I will silence him once and for all on Sept. 3.”
In one of his toughest tests, Liakhovich captured the North American Boxing Association (NABA) heavyweight title with a hard-fought 12-round decision over previously undefeated Friday Ahunanya on Nov. 17, 2001, in Las Vegas.
SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING’s Steve Albert and Al Bernstein will call the action from ringside with Jim Gray serving as roving reporter. The executive producer of the SHOWTIME telecast will be Jay Larkin, with David Dinkins Jr. producing and Bob Dunphy directing.
Tickets priced at $100, $50 and $25 are on sale at the Gund Arena ticket office (where there is no service fee), all TicketMaster locations or online at www.ticketmaster.com. Fans also can charge tickets by phone in Cleveland at (216) 241-2121 and in Akron at (330) 945-9400. For more information, log on to www.GundArena.com or call the Gund Arena event information line at (216) 420-2200.
For information on SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING and “ShoBox: The New Generation” telecasts, including complete fighter bios and records, related stories and more, please go to the SHOWTIME website at http://www.sho.com/boxing.