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Staples Center Card Is the Latest From Arum

Main event isn't until 10 p.m., but promoter is confident the program will play (and sell) well on the West Coast.

October 04, 2003|Paul Gutierrez | Times Staff Writer

World Boxing Council featherweight champion Erik Morales, from Tijuana, revels in his rough-around-the-edges persona.

So his off-the-cuff response to a question about why fight fans should purchase the Latino-tinged, seven-bout card he's headlining tonight at Staples Center, as opposed to the Evander Holyfield-James Toney show a couple of hours earlier from Las Vegas, was no real surprise.

"Because you're going to see two Mexicans going strong, fighting hard," said Morales (44-1, 33 knockouts), who is making the jump from 126 pounds to 130 for a WBC super-featherweight elimination bout, a rematch with Guty Espadas (37-5, 23) of Merida. "Not two black guys

Top Rank chairman Bob Arum is counting on nonstop action from the late-starting card -- the pay-per-view portion does not begin until 9 p.m. with the main event an hour later -- to solidify his promotion with area Latino fight fans.

That's why Arum says his card is not competing with the Las Vegas show.

"The only effect it has on our market, and we have to see whether it's a benefit or a detriment, is that we are a different starting time from the usual," Arum said. "The people on the West Coast are used to watching the shows starting at 6 p.m.

"It seems to me that it's a better starting time for the West. ... It's certainly not a better time for the East, it starts at midnight. But we don't do much business with these kinds of shows in the East. So what are we losing, if anything?"

In the ring, championship belts can be lost; the card features three title matches.

Carlos Hernandez (39-3-1, 24) of Bellflower will defend his International Boxing Federation super-featherweight title against Steve Forbes (23-1, 6) of Portland, Ore.; IBF bantamweight champ Rafael Marquez (29-3, 27) of Mexico City defends against Mauricio Pastrana (30-3-1, 20) of Colombia; and IBF strawweight champion Edgar Cardenas (30-10-2, 16) of Mexico City will meet Daniel Reyes (32-1-1, 27) of Colombia.

Other fighters on the card include super-welterweight prospect Jesus Gonzalez (1-0, 1) of Phoenix and lightweights Christian Bejarano (9-0, 5) of Mexico and Zahami Gracia (6-0, 6) of Anaheim.

Having so many Latinos on the card is by design; Arum hopes the show launches a Latino-themed series in the Southland.

Should Morales and Hernandez win their bouts, Arum hopes to match them in a mid-February title bout on HBO at either Staples Center, the Home Depot Center's tennis stadium or the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim.

The winner would meet WBC 130-pound titlist Jesus Chavez in a unification bout in June and then -- particularly if Morales emerges with the belts -- fight Marco Antonio Barrera in September.

Standing in Morales' way, though, is Espadas, who many believe won their first fight on Feb. 17, 2001.

Espadas said it took him more than a year to get over losing his title to Morales on a unanimous decision.

"I think I need revenge for the result, the decision that was handed down after the fight," Espadas said. "But I don't think I need revenge against Erik Morales because I think I took advantage of the opportunity back then."

*

The Facts

The scheduled fights tonight at Staples Center. The undercard begins at 6:45 p.m. TV: Pay-per-view, begins at 9.

* Erik Morales, Mexico, vs. Guty Espadas, Mexico, 12 rounds, WBC super-featherweight elimination bout.

* Carlos Hernandez, Bellflower vs. Steve Forbes, Portland, Ore., 12 rounds, for Hernandez's IBF junior-lightweight title.

* Rafael Marquez, Mexico, vs. Mauricio Pastrana, Colombia, 12 rounds, for Marquez's IBF bantamweight title.

* Edgar Cardenas, Mexico, vs. Daniel Reyes, Colombia, 12 rounds, for Cardenas' IBF light-flyweight title.

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