By Jake Donovan
After weeks of grinding in training camp, Diego Chaves is ready for Brandon Rios. The battle for which he remains at the mercy of his opponent, however, is one that has put his August 2 fight in jeopardy.
A severe backlog in the United States Immigrations courts has resulted in the delay of nearly 400,000 visa applications. The issue, caused by a computer malfunction extending from earlier this year, has kept Chaves stuck in his native Argentina awaiting clearance to travel abroad to the United States, and specifically to Las Vegas, where the HBO-televised welterweight battle is scheduled to take place.
Similar issues resulted in the cancellation of an intended showcase appearance for unbeaten Ivan Morales last weekend in California. The younger brother of former four-division champ Erik Morales could not make it out of his native Mexico due to visa issues, resulting in his scheduled bout with Sergio Frias – which was to air live on Fox Sports 1 from Indio, California – being pulled from the card barely 24 hours before the opening bell.
Greater warning comes with this week’s show, giving event handlers enough time to prepare for the worst case scenario. Efforts seeking comment from Top Rank, Rios’ promoter were not yet returned, although sources have indicated that contingency plans are already being sought in the event Chaves is unable to arrive to the United States in time.
The welterweight bout is part of a split-site tripleheader. Rios-Chaves is scheduled to air from The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, along with a 140 lb. title fight between recently crowned titlist Jessie Vargas and unbeaten challenger Anton Novikov. On the other side of the United States, undefeated light heavyweight knockout artist Sergey Kovalev defends his alphabet title against light-hitting unbeaten Aussie contender Blake Caparello in Atlantic City, New Jersey in the evening’s headlining act.
Chaves (23-1-1, 19KOs) earned the respect of many stateside fans for a brave effort in an eventual knockout loss to Keith Thurman in a matchup of unbeaten welterweights last summer. Ten rounds of warfare thrilled the crowd in San Antonio, as Chaves fought on even terms for much of the bout was dropped in the 9th and 10th round en route to the lone loss of his career, which also came in just his second pro fight outside of his native Argentina.
That status threatens to remain true through this weekend should his visa issues not get cleared up in time.
Rios (31-2-1, 23KOs) hasn’t fought since a lopsided 12-round points loss to Manny Pacquiao last November. The former 135 lb. titlist hasn’t won since a 7th round stoppage of Mike Alvarado in their Oct. ’12 thriller, a bout many considered high among the list of the best fights that year. He has since lost two straight, including a points loss to Alvarado in their rematch last March, followed by the aforementioned defeat to Pacquiao.
The latter loss proved doubly damaging, as Rios was also popped for a banned substance during post-fight drug testing as conducted by Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency (VADA). The failed test resulted in a suspension that has kept the 28-year old on the sidelines through the first half of 2014 before entering training camp for this weekend’s ring return.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox