HBO finally finalizes Saturday while Showtime celebrates No. 200

By Lyle Fitzsimmons | CBSSports.com

It's a tale of two networks.

While one premium cable boxing provider basks in the glow of the 200th episode of a now 13-year-old prospects series, another had to leap initernational hurdles before finalizing a card this weekend for a fighter who not that long ago was a rising prospect himself.

Former 135-pound champion Brandon Rios, who was 31-0-1 before a two-fight losing streak, will return to the ring this Saturday night atop a two-venue card to be broadcast by HBO with a 9:45 p.m. start.

What he didn't have until 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, however, was a firm opponent.

Inactive since a one-sided scorecard loss to Manny Pacquiao eight months ago, Rios was initially scheduled to meet fringe welterweight contender Diego Chaves in a 10-round bout at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. However, Chaves was dogged by delays getting a visa to travel to the United States from his home in Argentina, which initially left his side of Saturday night's equation unsolved.

Several boxing outlets on Twitter reported shortly after noon that the fight was being scrapped and that a replacement would step in, but a spokesman for the card's promoter, Top Rank, confirmed to CBSSports.com about 90 minutes later that the issues had been cleared up and the initial matchup was a go.

"Heard from Bob (Arum) 10 minutes ago," said Fred Sternburg, who works with Top Rank. "Chaves' visa cleared. He is on his way to embassy to pick it up."

If Chaves had been unable to make the trip, Top Rank's Lee Samuels said that unbeaten California-based prospect Jose Zepeda was available to step in to face Rios. The 25-year-old Zepeda is 19-0 with 16 knockouts in a pro career that began in 2009 and had been scheduled to appear on the undercard in an eight-round bout.

Rios is the No. 18 welterweight in the world according to the Independent World Boxing Rankings, while Chaves, who's 23-1 in a six-year career, is 10 spots down at No. 28.

Zepeda is ranked No. 33 one weight class down, at 140 pounds.

The HBO card will have the Rios-Chaves bout as the main event of a show that will also include a 12-round junior welterweight bout between Jessie Vargas and Anton Novikov from Las Vegas. In between, from the Revel Resort in Atlantic City, N.J., the broadcast will include a title defense by World Boxing Organization (WBO) light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev against No. 10 WBO contender Blake Caparello.

Meanwhile, across the dial on Showtime, the celebration continues.

The network's milestone broadcast of ShoBox: The New Generation took place last Friday night from the Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, N.Y., and ringside analyst Steve Farhood -- who's worked all 200 shows since July 2001 -- said the mission statement hasn't changed since day one.

“I believe ShoBox is a worthwhile watch today for the same reason it's always been a worthwhile watch. If you want to see tomorrow's champions, this is the place to do so,” he said. “In the beginning of their careers, prospects are often fed subpar opposition. I don't have a problem with that, especially in the first 10 fights or so. But in most cases you're going to see ShoBox prospects matched reasonably tough. And that in itself makes the fights a good watch.

“If you're a baseball fan, how cool would it have been to watch Mike Trout rising through the minor leagues? With ShoBox, dedicated viewers have gotten to do that with fighters like Timothy Bradley, Shawn Porter, Robert Guerrero, Andre Ward, etc.”

In fact, 54 fighters who've appeared on ShoBox have gone on to win world championships, but Farhood conceded that some appeared far less than a sure thing at the time they'd appeared on the show.

“Kermit Cintron was so nervous in his ShoBox debut that I thought he'd freeze when fighting for the highest stakes, but he made it all the way to a title,” Farhood said. “(Cornelius) K-9 Bundrage and Luis Collazo were both stopped in their ShoBox debuts, so their ultimate success was a bit of a surprise. But the best surprise of all was Ishe Smith, who overcame so much before winning his world title. He's my personal favorite of all the ShoBox fighters, and the poster boy for the series.”

Weekend Watch List

ESPN2 -- Friday 9 p.m.

Thomas Williams Jr. vs. Gabriel Campillo -- 12 rounds, light heavyweights

Andre Dirrell vs. Vladine Biosse -- 10 rounds, super middleweights

Telemundo -- Friday, 11:35 p.m.

Daniel Lozano vs. Antonio Garcia -- 10 rounds, junior bantamweights

Andrey Klimov vs. Guillermo Avila -- 10 rounds, junior lightweights

HBO -- Saturday, 9:45 p.m.

Brandon Rios vs. TBA -- 10 rounds, welterweights

Sergey Kovalev vs. Blake Caparello -- WBO light heavyweight title

Jessie Vargas vs. Anton Novikov -- 12 rounds, junior welterweights

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