By Jake Donovan & Nicolas Samuilov, notifight.com
UPDATE (1:32PM ET): The worst case scenario has been averted, as Argentine slugger Diego Chaves has been cleared to travel from Argentina to participate in his highly anticipated showdown with Brandon Rios. The bout is slated to air this weekend on HBO, live from The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Chaves' travel status was confirmed by Top Rank publicist Fred Sternburg, who announced the good news through his Twitter account Wednesday afternoon.
An overwhelming backlog in the U.S. Immigration courts has resulted in severe delays in nearly 400,000 visa applications being processed. However, promoter Bob Arum has been working with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to help move along the process as quickly as possible in order to salvage the fight.
Chaves and his team remained in training camp in Argentina, hoping the issue would get resolved in time to travel to the U.S. to keep the fight intact. As of Wednesday morning, even the fighter himself was under the impression he would have to withdraw.
"Unfortunately I will not be able to travel for the fight with Brandon Rios on Saturday. We were waiting to see if it was going to be solved yesterday and the I would fly over this afternoon, but that failed. The people at Top Rank and HBO were doing their best, but unfortunately they could not do anything. It is a problem that has to do with the visa system in the U.S., which broke down, and not our [system], but ends up affecting us," said Chaves to BoxingScene.com/NotiFight.com.
The good news helps offset a backup plan gone awry. Zepeda (19-0, 16KOs), a hard-hitting super lightweight from Southern California, was currently slated to appear on the non-televised undercard. However, sources have suggested he wasn't not fully receptive to accepting the assignment, which would require a move up in weight.
Such plans are now a moot point, with Chaves back in the mix
The welterweight bout serves as part of a split-site tripleheader, 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.
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.
Calls and emails seeking comment from Top Rank – Rios’ promoter – were not immediately returned.
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. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox