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IBF Orders New Round of Negotiations For Molitor-Ndlovu

By Jake Donovan

Less than 24 hours after the announcement of the third fight between 122 lb. titlist Steve Molitor and mandatory challenger Takalani Ndlovu receiving quality airtime on Showtime, a loophole has momentarily placed the bout in jeopardy.

A failure to comply with the terms of IBF’s championship purse bid policy has forced promoters Top Rank Inc (who represents Molitor) and Branco Sports Promotions (representing Ndlovu) to once again engage in a 30-day negotiation period.

American promoter Top Rank, Inc., who signed Molitor late last year, submitted the winning purse bid on November 30, 2010 for the right to promote the title fight between familiar foes. The bout was scheduled to appear in the televised co-feature slot of a March 19 Showtime telecast from Montreal, headlined by undefeated super middleweight titlist Lucian Bute.

However, the terms of the purse bid called for the bout to take place no more than 90 days, in accordance with rule 10.F.1 of the IBF Championship policy:

“The boxing event must be scheduled to take place within ninety (90) days of the bidding procedure. The winning promoter shall promptly make travel arrangements for the participants and inform them and the IBF of these arrangements.”

Under such rules, the bout was to be scheduled no later than February 28, 2011. The March 19 scheduling misses the cutoff by nearly three weeks.

The IBF rules also state that failure to comply with the terms would result not only in the cancellation of the bid, but that they then turn to the next highest bidder. In some instances, the IBF can choose to bar the defaulting bidder from purse bids for up to six months.

No such actions were required in this instance, since Top Rank did not default on the bid, but rather scheduled the bout beyond the deadline. Because of that, the IBF has ordered a new round of negotiations to begin. Top Rank will now have a period of 30 days to negotiate with Ndlovu’s promoter, Branco Sports Promotions.

A new purse bid will be ordered if a deal is not reached by February 5.

Top Rank won the rights to the fight with a purse bid of $215,000. Under the terms of the IBF that call for a 75/25 split between champion and challenger, Molitor stood to make $161,250, while Ndlovu’s side would clear $53,750.

It’s possible that Branco Sports can use the fresh batch of negotiations to put a little more cash its fighter’s pocket. But of greater concern to the South African promotional company than economics, is geography, if in fact it should come to a second purse bid.

“I will do the best I can to bring the fight to South Africa,” states Branco Milenkovic, pointing out that the first two contests between the divisional rivals both took place in Canada.

In order to gain promotional control of the fight, Branco Sports will of course have to win the purse bid. While Top Rank has arguably the deepest pockets in the industry and television dates galore between American networks and their in-house pay-per-view shows, there is precedence for their being outbid, primarily in this particular relationship.

“This will be the third time that we go to purse bid with Top Rank,” Milenkovic points out. “The first time was Nonito Donaire and Moruti Mthalane in 2008 – they won that bid and put the fight in the United States. I won the second bid, which was the IBF (105 lb.) title fight between Nkosinathi Joyi and Raul Garcia, and staged the fight in South Africa.

“If we do not get what we are looking for, we are not afraid to go to purse bid with Top Rank once again. If we can not reach an agreement in the next 30 days, then we will do everything we can to bring the fight to South Africa.”

Top Rank hopes that it doesn’t have to come to that.

“The goal is to try make a deal beforehand,” states Carl Moretti, Top Rank Vice President in charge of boxing operations. “It was unfortunate that we lost the original purse bid on a technicality, but would like to get on with this fight so we can look to the future for (Molitor).”

When rescheduled, the bout will mark the second defense of his second tour as 122 lb. titlist for Molitor (33-1, 12KO), having picked up vacant belts each time and with Ndlovu (31-6, 18KO) playing a significant role each time.

Molitor’s first reign began in November 2006 and lasted two years before suffering a fourth round stoppage against Celestino Caballero in their November 2008 unification match. His first title defense came against Ndlovu, scoring a ninth round stoppage at Casino Rama in Rama, Ontario, Canada.

The bout served as the first of 10 straight appearances in the venue for Molitor, including a March 2010 rematch with Ndlovu, in which the Canadian this time won by unanimous decision in a fight for the then-vacant title which he currently possesses.

Ndlovu is hoping that the third time will be the charm, although all three title shots will have come against the same fighter. The South African remains a favorite with the IBF, having fought in final eliminators in each of the past two years.

A points win over Kiko Martinez in September 2009 set up the rematch with Molitor six months later. Despite losing to Molitor for the second time in as many tries, the IBF elected to give him one more opportunity, which paved the way for a September win over Jeffrey Mathebula.

Though Top Rank no longer owns the rights to the fight, it’s not to say that it still can’t happen on the same date and show as presently scheduled. The date would no longer be an issue since a new round of negotiations has been ordered, thus further pushing back the deadline.

Of course it also opens up other opportunities.

“Naturally, we’d like to keep the date, with (Showtime) involved,” Moretti states. “But the new deadline allows us to move around the fight if it comes to that, since we have several more dates coming up that would’ve exceeded the original 90-day window.”

While it’s imperative for Branco Sports to get the most for their fighter, who may be facing his last strike in the title picture, Top Rank views this bout as something that Molitor merely needs to get through.

That they won the purse bid for this particular fight was considered an investment on the part of the Las Vegas-based promotional company.

Among Top Rank’s rich stable of fighters includes a surplus of top-shelf talent in and around Molitor’s 122 lb. division, including the likes of Nonito Donaire, Yuriorkis Gamboa, Juan Manuel Lopez, Fernando Montiel and Guillermo Rigondeaux.

“We have a marketable kid with a world title in a great weight division,” Moretti acknowledges. “You have great fighters at 118, fighters at 122, and then the possibility for Molitor to move up to 126. We just want to get this fight past us and then never hear this guy’s name again.”

Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected] .

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