Canelo Alvarez headlines this Saturday night’s HBO pay-per-view (9 pm ET) event against Liam Smith, but before those two take to the ring at AT&T Stadium, we’ll have three pay-per-view undercard bouts to watch.
Here’s a look at those matchups.
Gabriel Rosado vs Willie Monroe Jr
Record: 23-9 (13 KO) ... Streak: W2 ... Last 5: 2-3 ... Last 10: 5-4 (1 NC) ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'11½" / 71½" ... Age: 30
Thoughts: Rosado is a tough fighter. He also generally loses his fights against better opposition. He could easily have a better record, mind you. His first few losses came back when he was seen as no more than a stepping stone for guys like Fernando Guerrero and Alfredo Angulo, but around that same time he started beating guys like Kassim Ouma and Saul Roman, too. There were signs he was improving, having learned on the job. He was never a protected prospect, and considering he started with a loss in his sixth pro fight and another in his eighth, both to club fighter types, it’s not hard to understand why.
But he’s made a career for himself, battling and hanging around. He’s appeared on HBO multiple times, had a role in Creed, and now is the main co-feature for a "big" pay-per-view event, with a possible shot at Canelo Alvarez in December if both win their fights on Saturday.
Rosado does nothing special, he’s just a hard-nosed scrapper. Well, that’s not true. He does have some skills, but not really on the world class level. He’s taken some beatings in recent years, notably against Gennady Golovkin and David Lemieux, two punishing punchers, but he’s won two straight against Joshua Clottey and Antonio Gutierrez. One figures that as he’s now 30, Rosado’s time to stay relevant is probably drawing short. 30 isn’t old, but this is a fighter whose style and talent mix were never going to age particularly well. Maybe he’ll prove that wrong, though. He’s done that sort of thing before.
Willie Monroe Jr
Record: 20-2 (6 KO) ... Streak: W1 ... Last 5: 4-1 ... Last 10: 9-1 ... Stance: Southpaw ... Height/Reach: 5'10" / 74" ... Age: 29
Thoughts: A clever boxer, slick to a degree, but himself not a world class fighter. In terms of level, Rosado and Monroe are about the same, just with drastically different fighting styles.
Last time we saw Monroe, it had been a year since he was trucked by Golovkin in Los Angeles. On June 11, he returned to outpoint John Thompson on a Showtime prelim broadcast, and it was anything but an inspiring performance. Monroe received criticism for getting on his bike in the fight, for avoiding action, and there was some thought given to the fact that that sort of negative showing would stop him from getting more TV dates.
Now, of course that was bullshit. Just wishful fan thinking, like it really matters if you’re boring or not. What matters most is how credible you are combined with how affordable you are. Monroe is both of those things. The fact that he might bore a small audience to tears is not going to stop him from getting TV dates. I mean, clearly. Here we are.
If this is a boxing match, Monroe will have the upper hand, and Rosado is going to have to force a fight. Rosado is a bit tougher to combat than Thompson, and he may see a chance to bring pressure and test Monroe’s resolve, maybe give him flashbacks to Golovkin.
Matchup Grade: C+. It’s an evenly matched fight and could be an interesting tactical battle, pressure versus skill and all that, if all goes well. But there’s also a good chance this will stink out the joint if Monroe has his way, and furthermore, it’s only really relevant because the winner is somewhat ridiculously being considered for a shot at Canelo Alvarez. Take that out of the equation, and you’ve got a good Estrella TV main event.
Joseph Diaz Jr vs Andrew Cancio
Joseph Diaz Jr
Record: 21-0 (12 KO) ... Streak: W21 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Southpaw ... Height/Reach: 5’6" / 64" ... Age: 23
Thoughts: As for the colossal Olympics failure of the 2012 men’s U.S. squad, we’ve been over that enough in four years. We’ve also noted that the team has produced a bevy of good prospects. Errol Spence is the undisputed top dog of the group. Joseph Diaz Jr might be number two.
The race for that slot really comes down to Diaz and Jose Ramirez. Featherweight Diaz has scored some nice wins already this year, dominating former title challenger Jayson Velez in March, when Diaz made his HBO debut, and following that up with a second round knockout of Victor Proa, though Proa’s record is far better on paper than in reality.
The Velez fight, though, matters. Velez is not an elite fighter, but he’s game and competent. He drew with Evgeny Gradovich in a 2014 IBF title fight, and a mild upset loss to a comebacking Ronny Rios in November 2015 was a competitive fight, too. Diaz pretty much dominated, winning eight or nine of the 10 rounds on the judges’ scorecards.
Diaz is not the puncher his style would like him to be, as he does throw a lot of power shots and tries at times to overwhelm opponents with his output and combination punching. He’s skilled and tough, has shown he can take a few shots, and has thus far looked very good in his pro career. This fight may not be the big step up to prove how legit he is, but it’s not a bad matchup, either.
Record: 17-3-2 (13 KO) ... Streak: W2 ... Last 5: 3-2 ... Last 10: 8-2 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'6" / 68" ... Age: 27
Thoughts: Cancio is intriguing. He’s a power puncher, and he’s never been stopped. His losses have come to Ronny Rios, Roger Gonzalez, and a club fighter named Carlos Vinan back in 2008. He turned pro in March 2006 in México, and has become a staple on Golden Boy b-shows.
Cancio’s last two fights have been wins over Rene Alvarado and Hugo Cazares. He’s also beaten Jerry Belmontes and Rocky Juarez. He is, at his best, a spoiler, not in terms of neutralizing opponents so much as he sometimes just seems to have a better night than opponents are expecting.
He’s going to have a fairly significant four-inch reach advantage here, and if he can use that to keep Diaz at bay and set up long power shots, maybe he’s got a chance. I mean, he does have a chance. It’d be a big upset, but it wouldn’t be a complete shocker, either. Cancio can fight.
Matchup Grade: B-. I’ll be nicer to this one because I, personally, like this matchup more than most do, perhaps. I expect Diaz to win and do so in relative style, but I do truly believe Cancio is dangerous, particularly if Diaz comes in overconfident and maybe looks past this fight to something bigger. At the same time, this is a big card showcase for Diaz, too, so that shouldn’t be the case. Shouldn’t be.
Diego De La Hoya vs Luis Orlando del Valle
Diego De La Hoya
Record: 15-0 (9 KO) ... Streak: W15 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5’6" / 68" ... Age: 22
Thoughts: I’ve gotten to see, I believe, every single fight of Diego De La Hoya’s career. The cousin of his promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, Diego seemed at first to be a kid who would be coasting by on his last name, and would sooner than later get found out.
Maybe that was just a healthy skepticism. Maybe an unhealthy skepticism. Either way, here’s what I know now: Diego De La Hoya can fight. We don’t yet know how good he might be, but he’s not a punchline, either. He’s on this card and in this fight because he’s fought his way here. He’s a legitimate, quality prospect.
Last time out, De La Hoya faced the Shane Mosley-trained Rocco Santomauro on the Canelo-Khan undercard. De La Hoya demolished Santomauro, a game guy who just didn’t have the power or chin to hang in any longer than he did, when Mosley the fight off, quite compassionately and intelligently.
This should be a tougher test. I wouldn’t be surprised, if he keeps winning and taking these incremental steps up in difficulty, to see Diego fight for a world title in 2017. There’s no rush, obviously, as he’s young and still improving, but he really is improving and showing skills I just didn’t think were there early on.
Luis Orlando Del Valle
Record: 22-2 (16 KO) ... Streak: W4 ... Last 5: 4-1 ... Last 10: 7-2 (1 NC) ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'6" / N/A ... Age: 29
Thoughts: Del Valle was once a prospect himself, before he took an Armenian in the face. Del Valle faced a thought-to-be washed up Vic Darchinyan in September 2012 in what was hoped to be a showcase win against a recognizable veteran. Instead, Darchinyan dominated the fight, and handed the Puerto Rican his first pro loss.
Del Valle is one of the many Puerto Rican prospects to fail in steps up in recent years. The Bayamon native won three fights after losing to Darchinyan, then lost to fellow PR prospect Luis Rosa in May 2014. Rosa is still undefeated on the northeast club scene, and that win stands as his best to date.
There have been cases where busted prospects in Del Valle’s position have come in, had a great night, and knocked off another would-be star, like the position Diego De La Hoya is in here. It’s unlikely, but not unthinkable.
Matchup Grade: C. It’s not a bad matchup, it’s just "what it is." I think De La Hoya is a fighter with too much determination to slip up in a matchup like this one. He’ll lose someday, but it’s probably going to come at a higher level than this. Del Valle is not an untalented fighter, but he’s been beaten twice, both times convincingly, and his last four wins are nothing to get excited about, either.