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No unification fight for Burns


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No unification fight for Burns


by Dan Rafael


Junior lightweight contender Argenis Mendez won the last time he fought in South Africa. If he wins a second consecutive bout there, he will claim a world title.


Mendez, a native of the Dominican Republic who is living in New York, will challenge South Africa's Mzonke Fana for his 130-pound title on June 11 in Johannesburg after their promoters reached a deal a few hours before Tuesday's scheduled purse bid.


The 24-year-old Mendez (18-1, 9 KOs) scored a first-round knockdown and went on to outpoint former titleholder Cassius Baloyi in South Africa on Jan. 29 in the eliminator that earned him the title shot against Fana.


"I'm glad he had that last fight in South Africa," Lou DiBella, Mendez's promoter, told ESPN.com. "It was very good experience to have fought there before going into this fight. He won the decision there and did very well. He will be comfortable fighting there again. I am very confident he can win the title there.


"Fana is still a good fighter, but [Mendez] has a lot of advantages going for him and he will be well-served by having fought there before. He is excited about the opportunity to win a title."


The 37-year-old Fana (30-4, 12 KOs) won a title for the second time in September when he claimed a vacant belt by outpointing Baloyi. It was a rematch of their 2008 fight in which Baloyi won the decision to end Fana's first title reign.


Fana was hoping to meet Scotland's Ricky Burns in a summer unification fight after Burns and his promoter, Frank Warren, called him out. However, they were unable to make a deal.


Had they been able to reach an agreement, Fana would have been able to delay the mandatory defense against Mendez because the IBF's rules allow unification bouts to take precedence over mandatories.


"The offer Frank made for us to come to the U.K. for a unification was just a little bit more money than a normal challenger would get," Branco Milenkovic, Fana's promoter, said. "I doubled the offer and up to this moment they can't make up their mind. No disrespect, but I think they didn't want the fight to happen. The easiest way to kill the fight is to offer too little money.


"After I doubled up, they still were not prepared to come to South Africa. Maybe Burns wanted the fight, but Frank doesn't. I understand. But don't go three months telling me you want to make a deal. We were really looking forward to a unification fight in South Africa, but we couldn't get it made, so I decided to go with DiBella because I saw Warren is not interested and I have a good working relationship with Lou. So we were able to make a deal. Mendez fought well when he was in South Africa."




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