Undercard Overview: Morales, Alvarez Offer Early Action

By Eric Raskin

Photos left to right: Ed Mulholland, Jan Sanders, Hoganphotos.com

Two themes carry across the televised undercard of the Floyd Mayweather-Victor Ortiz event: (1) A plethora of top Mexican and Mexican-American attractions are featured, this being Mexican Independence Day weekend; (2) Generation gaps are on display, with young prospects facing hardened veterans in all three fights. Here’s a glimpse at the matchups and what’s at stake:

Saul Alvarez (37-0-1, 27 KOs) vs. Alfonso Gomez (23-4-2, 12 KOs), 12 Rounds, Junior Middleweights

“Canelo” Alvarez is the burgeoning mega-attraction in North American boxing. With skills that seem to improve with every fight and power that’s been there from the start, the 21-year-old Mexican is the favorite over the 30-year-old Mexican-American Gomez, best known for capturing viewers’ hearts as the plucky underdog on the first season of the reality show The Contender.

Gomez is not just some reality-TV fabrication. Since losing to the much larger Peter Manfredo in the semifinals of the Contender tourney back in 2004, Gomez has gone 11-1-1 with the lone defeat coming against Miguel Cotto. He beat Jesse Brinkley, Jesus Soto-Karass, and Jose Luis Castillo and ended the career of Arturo Gatti.

But if Alvarez is what he’s billed to be, Gomez might be in over his head here. Fresh off a thorough destruction of Ryan Rhodes, Alvarez is regarded already as one of the top three or four 154-pounders in the world and should be ready to fight for the top spot by 2012.

Erik Morales (51-7, 35 KOs) vs. Pablo Cesar Cano (22-0-1, 17 KOs), 12 Rounds, Junior Welterweights

Morales has seen it all in his 18-year pro career, so he wasn’t particularly rattled by having to endure three opponent switches for this fight. What he ended up with is a bout against someone who was all of three years old when “El Terrible” turned pro. The 35-year-old Morales meets the 21-year-old Cano in a fight where the action is assured but the competitiveness is uncertain because, well, everything about Cano is uncertain.

Here’s what we know: Cano likes to slug it out, he’s undefeated but has faced nobody close to Morales’ level, and he’s trained by Rudy Perez, who just happens to be the longtime trainer of a guy named Marco Antonio Barrera. As you may recall, Morales and Barrera aren’t best buddies. So that plotline should be fun. And of course, regardless of the opponent, there’s the ongoing intrigue over just how far Morales can take this unlikely career comeback.

Jessie Vargas (16-0, 9 KOs) vs. Josesito Lopez (29-3, 17 KOs), 10 Rounds, Junior Welterweights

This one smells like a show-stealer. Vargas is the 22-year-old hot prospect, Lopez the 27-year-old veteran who’s spent much of his career bumping off hot prospects. Both will be looking to make a statement—and there’s some pressure on Vargas because he’s a Mayweather protégé who has been propped up by “Money May” as the guy Amir Khan needs to defeat in order to “earn” a fight with Mayweather.

In the last two years, Lopez has beaten Mike Dallas Jr., Martin Cordova Jr., and Patrick Lopez, three up-and-comers with a combined record of 53-2-2. His bid to add the gifted Vargas to that list looks like a 50-50 proposition.