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Canelo vs Jacobs preview: Undercard features prospects and interim title fight

Saturday’s Canelo-Jacobs undercard isn’t a blockbuster lineup, but there are some names to watch.

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Vergil Ortiz v Cesar Valenzuela Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Saturday night’s main event between Canelo Alvarez and Daniel Jacobs is good enough to get most people to tune in to DAZN without much effort put into the undercard, basically the same idea behind pretty much every modern pay-per-view main event.

And, well, this stacks up as pretty similar to the April 20 ESPN PPV card headlined by Terence Crawford and Amir Khan, except that Canelo-Jacobs is a much, much, much, much, much, much better fight on paper than Crawford-Khan. Undercard-wise, things are about the same, with a couple prospects against veteran names, some young fighters staying busy, and then there is one interim WBA super middlweight title fight.

It wasn’t always meant to be quite like this, though. The original card included former middleweight titleholder David Lemieux in the co-feature, but Lemieux was injured and had to withdraw. Pablo Cesar Cano, like Lemieux always good for some entertainment, also got hurt and had to pull out of a fight with Michael Perez.

So here’s what precedes Canelo-Jacobs on Saturday.

Vergil Ortiz Jr vs Mauricio Herrera

The new co-feature for the show. The 21-year-old Ortiz (12-0, 12 KO) is a terrific 140-pound prospect, 5’10” and can really bang, plus he has skills. That should be tested here, though. Ortiz has gotten everyone out inside the scheduled distance — he’s never gone past five rounds, in fact — but Herrera, 38, is exactly the type of guy to test a prospect like this.

Herrera (24-8, 7 KO) is better than his record might lead you to think. Don’t mistake that for me saying he’s exciting to watch, because he usually isn’t, really. He’s not Easter-Barthelemy dull, but he’s not a brawler. What he is is a truly crafty, truly tricky veteran fighter. He was a guy who had “crafty vet” skills even when he was young.

Herrera has never been stopped, and in more than one of his losses has had a good argument for a win, most notably against Danny Garcia back in 2014. Judges hate his guts — even in some of his losses that sure, maybe he legitimately lost the fight, he often gets almost no credit, including last time out against Sadam Ali, a competitive fight that judges had wide for Ali.

People say “crossroads fight” a lot, but this actually is one.

Lamont Roach Jr vs Jonathan Oquendo

130-pound prospect Roach (18-0-1, 7 KO) is 23 years old and has seemingly stagnated a bit after a draw with Orlando Cruz in April 2018. In his last two, he’s beaten Deivi Julio Bassa and Alberto Mercado, and this will be his first fight of 2019.

Oquendo (30-5, 19 KO) is a 35-year-old Puerto Rican veteran, a natural super bantamweight who is small at super featherweight, but has fought at this weight since 2015, and with some decent success. He beat Jhonny Gonzalez in 2015 at this weight, and has wins over Orlando Rizo, Daulis Prescott, Jose Lopez, and the aforementioned Bassa. His last loss came in Dec. 2015 at featherweight to Jesus Cuellar in a WBA title fight.

Joseph Diaz Jr vs Freddy Fonseca

Diaz (28-1, 14 KO) is no longer a prospect, really, at 26 and having challenged for a featherweight title last year, a loss to Gary Russell Jr, who may be the most risk-averse top fighter of his generation, but can really fight.

Now at super featherweight, Diaz is set to face Nicargua’s Fonseca (26-2-1, 17 KO). Fonseca has never beaten anyone and will be making his U.S. debut in this fight.

Sadam Ali vs Anthony Young

Former 154-pound titleholder Ali (27-2, 14 KO) got physically dominated by Jaime Munguia about a year ago and decided that 154 isn’t really for him, so in December he moved back to welterweight and got a decision win over Mauricio Herrera.

Here, the 30-year-old “World Kid” from Brooklyn faces Atlantic City’s Young (20-2, 7 KO), a 31-year-old opponent who has never beaten anyone, never even really fought anyone.

John Ryder vs Bilal Akkawy

Boxing at Copper Box Arena Photo by James Chance/Getty Images

This might be the best fight on the undercard. Ryder (27-4, 15 KO) was originally meant to face Lemieux, but stays on the card to take on Akkawy (20-0-1, 16 KO), a 25-year-old Australian who has worked with Canelo Alvarez in camp.

This fight will be for an interim WBA super middleweight title, but more important it has potential to be really entertaining. Ryder, 30, always comes to fight, and has been on a nice run, stopping Patrick Nielsen, Jamie Cox, and Andrey Sirotkin in his last three.

Akkawy is taking a pretty damn big step up here on paper. Ryder is no superstar, but he’s a tougher opponent than the guys Akkawy has been matched with thus far. It’s a big opportunity for him to make a mark, and for Ryder to keep himself in the mix for an eventual shot at Callum Smith.

Alexis Espino vs Billy Wagner

A four-round opener, with prospect Espino (1-0, 1 KO) out for just the second time as a pro, after debuting on Feb. 23 in Tijuana. The 19-year-old Las Vegas fighter will settle in at either 160 or 168 in time; at 6’1” he’d be a tall middleweight, and still plenty tall enough at 168. Wagner (1-0, 0 KO) made his pro debut last October in Worley, Idaho. I’m not being mean, but there aren’t a lot of boxing success stories coming out of pro debuts in Worley, Idaho, and if the matchmakers thought he was a threat to Espino, he wouldn’t be fighting Espino.

The Canelo-Jacobs card goes live this Saturday, May 4, on DAZN, beginning at 7:30 pm ET. Bad Left Hook will have full live coverage.