Diego Chaves finally gets visa, fight will continue

Brandon Rios, trainer Robert Garcia and other members of their team left their training camp in Oxnard, California, on Tuesday night to make the four-hour drive to Las Vegas in anticipation of Rios' fight on Saturday night.

They were just not quite sure who Rios would be in the ring with because his opponent, Diego Chaves, was stuck in Argentina, just one of the thousands of people around the world unable to secure a visa to enter the United States because of a computer crash at the State Department last week that seriously backlogged applications.

But after some anxious days with the fight in jeopardy, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said Wednesday that Chaves' visa had finally been taken care of and that he was expected in Las Vegas on Thursday.

Rios, a former lightweight titleholder, and Chaves, a former interim welterweight titlist, are scheduled to meet in the 10-round welterweight main event of an HBO-televised card on Saturday night at The Cosmopolitan.

Arum said Nevada Sen. Harry Reid was instrumental in assisting Chaves to obtain his visa.

"We had Harry Reid's office helping us with the consulate in Buenos Aires," Arum said. "The computer couldn't spit out the visa that had already been approved. It wasn't a boxing problem or a problem with Chaves, like the kid did anything wrong or anything. It was a computer problem that is affecting thousands of people waiting for visas. It's costing businesses in the United States a lot of money."

Arum said he was informed Wednesday morning that Chaves' visa was finally ready.

"We got a call from Sen. Reid's office that the visa was cleared," Arum said. "We're contacting Chaves to pick up the visa and he will be on plane later [Wednesday] to Las Vegas. The fight is on and I have to commend Sen. Reid and his staff, especially Christina Martinez, who is one of his aides. She pulled a miracle.

"Sen. Reid knows this is an important event for Las Vegas and his office went to bat on it and accomplished a miracle. It shows you how invested he is in Las Vegas and Nevada. Without him and Christina Martinez we would not have a fight."

Had Chaves been unable to make it to the United States in time for Friday's weigh-in, Arum, Team Rios and HBO were discussing potential replacement opponents. Talks had centered on Jose Zepeda (19-0, 16 KOs), a 25-year-old from Long Beach, California, who was already scheduled to fight on the undercard.

Rios (31-2-1, 23 KOs), 28, of Oxnard, California, has not fought since suffering a one-sided decision loss to Manny Pacquiao in November in Macau, after which he served a five-month suspension for testing positive for the banned stimulant Methylhexanamine after the fight.

Rios is looking to end a two-fight losing streak after having also dropped a unanimous decision in a rematch with Mike Alvarado for an interim junior welterweight belt in March 2013.

Chaves (23-1, 19 KOs), 28, of Argentina, is a powerful puncher coming off a third-round knockout of Juan Alberto Godoy in February. He lost his interim belt in the previous fight when Keith Thurman knocked him out in the 10th round last July in San Antonio.

Junior welterweight titlist Jessie Vargas (24-0, 9 KOs), 25, of Las Vegas, will make his first defense on the undercard of the spit-site tripleheader when he faces Anton Novikov (29-0, 10 KOs), a 26-year-old southpaw from Russia.

While Rios-Chaves and Vargas-Novikov will take place in Las Vegas, the HBO telecast will also include live coverage of light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev (24-0-1, 22 KOs), 31, of Russia, making his third defense when he faces 27-year-old Australian southpaw Blake Caparello (19-0-1, 6 KOs) at the Revel Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

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