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Canelo vs Yildirim: Zhang Zhilei, Diego Pacheco, Alexis Espino among February 27th undercard

Julio Cesar Martinez meets McWilliams Arroyo in the co-feature

Matchroom Boxing has officially unveiled the supporting cast for Canelo Alvarez’s February 27th mandatory title defense against Avni Yildirim. In addition to the previously revealed clash between WBC flyweight champ Julio Cesar Martinez and McWilliams Arroyo, the DAZN card will feature unbeaten heavyweight Zhilei Zhang and a number of Matchroom’s young standouts.

Before we get into that, some press release quotes from the co-feature:

“I am so happy to be back in the ring again, and I promise you a war with Arroyo in Miami,” said Martinez. “With the unification fights ahead of me, it is important to take care of my mandatory challengers, and I expect a tough fight with Arroyo.

I believe that 2021 will see me unify the division and become undisputed, and I can’t wait to put a smile back on boxing fans’ faces.”

Zhang (22-0, 17 KO), a 37-year-old Olympic silver medalist, takes another step sideways against veteran Jerry Forrest (26-4, 20 KO). Forrest, whom you may recall as the guy Jarrell Miller was supposed to face before “Big Baby” flunked another drug test, is coming off a gritty loss to Carlos Takam and doesn’t figure to pose more of a threat to “Big Bang” than Devin Vargas did.

“I’m very excited about this fight,” said Zhang. “February 27 is the highest-profile card of the first quarter of 2021, and it will be an honor to be part of it. I can’t wait to get in the ring and wish the best of luck to my opponent Jerry Forrest. I am training full force. I will be ready.”

“Zhang is a good fighter with great size and technique, but I’ll be ready for this fight,” said Forrest. “2021 is a new beginning for me. Covid has made training difficult, with many gyms shut down, but I’ve stayed in shape since my last fight. I’m now up at my manager’s gym in Ashburn, Virginia, and my trainers have been creating a game plan while bringing in sparring partners to match Zhang’s size and style. I’m excited about this opportunity and am looking forward to ending Zhang’s unbeaten streak.”

Towering 19-year-old super middleweight Diego Pacheco (10-0, 8 KO) fights Rodolfo Gomez (14-4-1, 10 KO), who ended a nearly two-year layoff last March with a decision in his current hometown of Laredo.

“I am excited to be back under the bright lights,” said Pacheco. “2021, it’s time to show everyone I’m here, and I’m a problem for anyone at 168 lbs.”

Fellow 168-pound youngster Alexis Espino (6-0, 4 KO), who saw two late-2020 fights fall through, returns to action for the first time in 12 months opposite Ashton Sykes (5-3, 1 KO), who’s won three straight.

“I am more than ready to fight on this amazing card and show what I been working on aside from the time I spent away,” said Espino. “it was a frustrating time for me at the end of 2020, but I am itching to finally show how much work I have been putting into this since I haven’t been in the ring due to recent cancellations.”

Finally, amateur ace Marc Castro (1-0, 1 KO) makes his sophomore pro appearance against Lester Brown (4-2-3, 1 KO) and 19-year-old Miami super lightweight Aaron Aponte (1-0, 1 KO) meets TBA.

“I am ready to get back in the ring, and I want to thank God and my team for making it possible to be a part of the pound-for-pound king Canelo’s undercard once again,” said Castro.

“I’m super excited to be fighting at the Hard Rock Stadium on February 27 on the undercard of boxing superstar Canelo Alvarez,” said Aponte. “It’s an honor to fight on such a massive event in my hometown, and I’m very grateful to Matchroom and DAZN along with my manager Peter Kahn and the Fight Game Advisors Team for this opportunity. Stay tuned for the rise of Aaron ‘Alien King’ Aponte!!”

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