By Keith Idec
Glen Tapia’s co-managers confirmed Friday morning that France’s Salim Larbi has agreed to replace injured Boyd Melson as Tapia’s opponent July 26 at Madison Square Garden.
Nelson (14-1-1, 4 KOs), a southpaw from White Plains, N.Y., withdrew from the eight-round fight on the Gennady Golovkin-Daniel Geale undercard Thursday due to a shoulder injury. The 27-year-old Larbi (19-5-2, 7 KOs) was one of Nelson’s sparring partners. When Nelson got hurt, Larbi quickly volunteered for the assignment.
Sal Alessi and Pat Lynch, Tapia’s co-managers, also afforded Larbi two extra pounds in their contract weight because he took the fight on such short notice. Tapia-Melson was contracted for 155 pounds, but Tapia and Larbi must meet a 157-pound limit next week in New York.
Larbi lost his last fight to Germany’s Jack Culcay (17-1, 10 KOs) on April 4 in Rostock, Germany. That 12-round unanimous-decision defeat dropped Larbi to 3-4 in his last seven bouts. He has been tested, however, against a higher level of opposition than Melson, who has been matched very carefully since making his pro debut 3½ years ago.
The 24-year-old Tapia (21-1, 13 KOs), of Passaic, N.J., will fight for the second time in six weeks when he battles Larbi. The junior middleweight contender needed just one minute and 22 seconds to demolish overmatched journeyman Keenan Collins (15-9-3, 10 KOs), of York, Pa., on June 14 at Bally’s in Atlantic City.
That short technical knockout win marked Tapia’s first fight since suffering his first professional defeat six months earlier in Atlantic City. Heavy-handed James Kirkland (32-1, 28 KOs) stopped Tapia in the sixth round of Tapia’s HBO debut, a mostly one-sided yet fan-friendly slugfest that was commonly considered one of the best action fights of 2013.
Tapia hired Freddie Roach as his trainer three months after the Kirkland defeat and has prepared for his past two fights at Roach’s famed Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood. Roach was unable to work Tapia’s corner for the Collins bout because Ruslan Provodnikov fought Chris Algieri the same night at Barclays Center, but Roach will work his corner next week.
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.