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Pacquiao-Hatton undercard packs a punch or two

Text and photos by Chris Cozzone

If nothing else, no one will be able to accuse promoters Top Rank and Golden Boy Promotions of a garbage (“rubbish,” if you’re a Brit) undercard Saturday night.

In ten bouts totaling 70 rounds, should they all go the distance, which isn’t likely, ten potential stars will be featured, in bouts ranging from potential wars to “showcase” standing.

A press conference hosted by Bob Arum and Oscar De La Hoya, who introduced the fighters, was held today at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The lead promoters had two televised fights apiece, to support the main event headlining Manny Pacquiao vs. Ricky Hatton.

In the co-main event – the only title fight on the undercard – Humberto Soto (47-7-2, 30 KOs), of Los Mochis, Mexico, will defend his WBC super featherweight belt against Benoit Gaudet (20-1, 7 KOs), of Quebec, Canada.

Originally, Steven Luevano had been scheduled to defend his title against Bernabe Concepcion in the co-main, but an injury sidelined him.

“There we were, stuck in Tijuana, when we heard Luevano couldn’t fight,” said Arum. “We didn’t know what to do—but Soto, who’d just defeated Antonio Davis that night, jumped right in.

“’When can you be ready?’ we asked him. ‘Tomorrow,’ he answered.”

Matched up with Soto is Canadian Gaudet, whose sole loss – a first-round kayo loss to Henry Arjona in 2006 – was avenged five months later.

“I know I’ve been named as the underdog,” said Gaudet. “But I’m going to bring the WBC belt back home to Canada, where snow falls from the sky.”

Defending his belt for the second time in five weeks, Soto plans on taking his belt south, back to Mexico.

“I know my opponent very well,” he said. “I know his style is to box. But I hope he will fight me in the ring.

“People pay good money to see this type of fight. I hope he will fight.”

Following Soto’s short-notice substitution policy, Daniel “The Golden Child” Jacobs (15-0, 14 KOs), of Brooklyn, will enter the ring for the second time in just eight days. Coming off an explosive kayo over Jose Varela on April 24, Jacobs will take an even bigger step up Saturday night, in an eight-round middleweight bout against Chicago’s Michael Walker (19-1-2, 12 KOs).

“This isn’t about what you did in the past,” said Walker, unintimidated by Jacobs. “This is about what we do Saturday night in the ring.”

Walker’s only loss is a decision loss to David Lopez, last June; He also holds a draw, and a win, over Antwun Echols.

“It’s gonna be fight,” said Jacobs. “I just hope he brings his ‘A game,’ because I’m bringing mine.”

Two televised four-rounders will round off the PPV-telecast.

In a four-round middleweight bout, Russian Matt Korobov (4-0, 4 KOs) looks to keep his record clean against a much more experienced foe, Anthony Bartinelli (15-12-2, 13 KOs), of Phoenix, Ariz.

Arum called Korobov a “future superstar,” but Bartinelli, a 34-bout veteran who’s been matched up tough his entire career, should provide the classic acid test.

In another four-rounder, Cuban jr. middleweight, Erislandy Lara (4-0, 3 KOs) will also get a test in Chris Gray (11-7, 1 KO), of Baton Rouge, La.

De La Hoya called Lara “the real deal,” and the match an “even fight,” saying his new fighter is hoping to beat his own record of having won a world title in 11 bouts.

“Lara says he’s going to do it in seven,” said De La Hoya.

Gray, on a three-bout win streak, one of which was over a 9-0 fighter, said he, “Basically came to destroy what he [Lara] is trying to create.

Off-TV bouts

Six bouts comprise the off-TV portion of the card.

In an eight-round welterweight bout, Matthew Hatton (35-4-1, 13 KOs), brother to Ricky, of Manchester, England, takes on Ernesto Zepeda (39-11-4, 34 KOs), of Tijuana, Mexico.

Hatton, stuck on “fantastic” and “massive” adjectives, told the media that he was one fight away from a world title, should he get by Zepeda.

Zepeda, coming off a two-year layoff and three losses, has won his last two, though they are against a pro debuter and an 0-2 set-up.

In a ten-rounder at jr. welterweight, and also on the title path, Denver’s undefeated Mike Alvarado (25-0, 18 KOs), of Denver, will mix it with veteran Joaquin Gallardo (18-7-1, 5 KOs), of Oakland, Calif.

Returning to the ring for the first time in a year, undefeated bantamweight Abner Mares (17-0, 10 KOs), of Montebello, Calif., will go eight with Colombian Jonathan Perez (14-5, 11 KOs).

Having to settle for an off-TV fight after Luevano pulled out with an injury, Filipino Bernabe Concepcion (28-1-1, 17 KOs) is scheduled for eight rounds against Yogli Herrera (21-8, 15 KOs), of Columbia.

Two four-rounders will open the show:

In a featherweight bout, Manchester’s Joe Murray (1-0) takes on Missael Nunez (4-7-2) of Los Angeles; and, at jr. welterweight, son of legend Julio Cesar Chavez, Sr., Omar Chavez (14-0-1, 10 KOs) picks up a tune-up against Tyler Ziolowski (11-6, 6 KOs).


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