Undercard Overview: Rising Prospects and Skilled Veterans Face Off in High-Stakes Bouts

Gabriel Rosado, center, has exchanged heated words with Willie Monroe Jr. leading up to their fight on Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Gabriel Rosado, center, has exchanged heated words with Willie Monroe Jr. leading up to their fight on Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Photo: Will Hart

By Eric Raskin

The typical boxing career goes through numerous stages, and a variety of those stages will be on display during Saturday’s Canelo Alvarez-Liam Smith pay-per-view undercard (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT). We’ll see a pure prospect against a former prospect, a prospect turning the corner toward contender status matched against a dangerous journeyman, and two veteran former title challengers meeting in a must-win showdown.

Here’s a look at the three bouts that will warm up television viewers and the AT&T Stadium crowd in Arlington, Texas, before the Alvarez-Smith main event:

Gabriel Rosado vs. Willie Monroe Jr. | 12 rounds | Middleweights

Both of these fighters are probably best known to HBO audiences for their gutsy TKO losses to Gennady Golovkin, and now they’re angling for a shot at an even bigger money fight against Canelo Alvarez. The winner between tattooed tough guy Rosado (23-9, 13 KOs) and slick southpaw Monroe (20-2, 6 KOs) will reportedly earn consideration for that opportunity in December, while for the loser, there might not be another shot at the big time.

So the stakes are high. And the trash talk reflects that. On a recent media conference call, Rosado lobbed the first grenade: “You ain’t special. You fought a bunch of ESPN fighters.” Monroe returned fire expertly: “And I’m about to fight another one.” Words like “bum” and “quitter” were also thrown around. If the punches fly like the insults have, then fight fans will get their money’s worth. And if that happens, it’s probably good news for Rosado, an action-oriented scrapper, whereas Monroe would be best served taking emotion out of the equation and trying to let his skill carry the day.

Joseph Diaz Jr. vs. Andrew Cancio | 10 rounds | Featherweights

Six months ago, Diaz was just a face in the crowd, hanging out in the middle of the pack of the 2012 Olympic class. But then he dazzled in his HBO debut against Jayson Velez and followed that up with a two-round blastout of Victor Proa -- and now “JoJo” is one of boxing’s hottest prospects and the second-most intriguing member of his Olympic team, behind only the skyrocketing Errol Spence.

The fast-handed 23-year-old southpaw isn’t in soft against Cancio (17-3-2, 13 KOs), who has a four-inch reach advantage, hard punch and has come through as an underdog against the likes of Rocky Juarez and Jerry Belmontes. Diaz (21-0, 12 KOs) is widely expected to prevail in this battle of Californians, but Cancio is more than capable of telling us a thing or two about himself along the way.

Diego De La Hoya vs. Luis Del Valle | 10 rounds | Junior Featherweights

While the star attraction of the Golden Boy Promotions stable headlines the show, a 22-year-old with the surname to someday be Oscar De La Hoya’s main attraction opens it up. Though relatively untested, Oscar’s Mexican-born cousin Diego is coming along nicely, having run his record to 15-0 with 9 KOs, including a seventh-round stoppage of previously unbeaten Rocco Santomauro on the Canelo-Amir Khan undercard in May.

In Del Valle (22-2, 16 KOs), De La Hoya faces a former highly regarded prospect who lost some luster when his perfect record had a hole poked in it by ex-champ Vic Darchinyan in 2012. The Puerto Rican has suffered one more defeat in eight fights since (Luis Rosa in 2014), and is teetering in that zone where he hasn’t been written off but can’t really afford another loss. If De La Hoya is the skilled prospect he appears to be, however, that third loss for Del Valle is coming on Saturday night.