By Jake Donovan
It mattered little that Diego Chaves was unable to attend the final pre-fight presser for his upcoming showdown with Brandon Rios this Saturday at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas. All that matters is that the Argentine brawler is in fact in town and will be ready for fight night.
The bout is paired up with a matchup of unbeaten super lightweights, as Jessie Vargas defends his 140 lb. belt versus Anton Novikov. Both fights serve as part of a split-site tripleheader, with Sergey Kovalev facing Australia’s Blake Caparello some 3,000 miles east in Atlantic City.
Already a mouthwatering weltweight matchup without a sidebar, the remarkable story behind how it was finalized forces the fight to take on an entirely new dynamic.
“A number of months ago when we put this card together, we knew we'd put together an event that would be truly spectacular,” noted Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum during Thursday’s press conference in Las Vegas. “What we didn't know was that–for some bizarre reason–the computers at the State Department would go down. Hundreds of thousands of people who want to come into the United States couldn't get in.”
The government computer malfunction left the U.S. Immigration courts virtually handcuffed as upwards of 400,000 cases have been delayed. Among them was Chaves (23-1, 19KOs), whose visa application was actually approved, but unable to process due to the system bug.
As recent as Wednesday morning, Chaves himself was under the impression that his fight with Rios (31-2-1, 23KOs) would be canceled and forced to reschedule at another time once he was able to more easily enter the United States. Top Rank wasn’t having it, however, insisting that the show must go on.
“We are very fortunate here in Nevada to have the Majority Senate Leader, Harry Reid who is a tremendous boxing fan,” Arum recognized of the political figure who was key in pushing through the fighter’s case to help salvage the fight, which airs live on HBO. “Chaves was approved for a visa, but the computer wouldn't spit out.
“As days went by, it became doubtful that he would be able to get his visa in time. I'm happy to report that the show is on.”
A 15-hour journey concluded with Chaves touching down and directed straight to the medical labs, to have all of his pre-fight tests conducted. The exhausting trek was well-reflected on Chaves’ team, who attended the press conference in his absence.
“I hope you all understand that Diego is resting,” noted manager Sebastian Rivero, who unnecessarily apologized for his own appearance. “We’ve been flying for 15 hours, went straight to testing and then here to the press conference. We haven’t even had time to shower. We will be bring you a very good show on Saturday, I promise.”
The bout is Chaves’ second since a hard-fought 10th round knockout loss to Keith Thurman last summer, his lone loss to date. Neither fighter gains much of an edge in activity; Rios is coming off of a 12-round loss to Manny Pacquiao last November.
As Chaves continues to rest up and shake off any lingering jet lag, all involved in the promotion–after taking a collective sigh of relief–anxiously await Saturday evening.
“Believe me, Brandon Rios and Diego Chaves is going to be one of the great fights of the year, an all-action brawl,” Arum insists.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as the Records Keeper for the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and a member of Boxing Writers Association of America.