Rising lightweight star Ryan Garcia, a world title elimination fight and a women’s interim title bout will highlight the undercard of the Canelo Alvarez-Sergey Kovalev light heavyweight world title showdown.
Golden Boy Promotions and Main Events on Tuesday laid out the undercard for the show, which will take place on Nov. 2 (DAZN) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
“Kingry” Garcia (18-0, 15 KOs), the 2017 ESPN prospect of the year, will take on “Ruthless” Romero Duno (21-1, 16 KOs) in the 12-round co-feature, a fight Golden Boy previously said would happen on the card but is now signed.
“This event will feature some of our brightest talents taking on the toughest fights of their careers,” Golden Boy CEO Oscar De La Hoya said. “With Ryan Garcia, we have a huge star in the making, but he’ll need to get past a tough, hard-hitting contender in Romero Duno to secure his path for a world title.”
Garcia had been scheduled to meet Avery Sparrow on Sept. 14, but the fight was canceled the previous day when Sparrow was arrested on an outstanding warrant due to a gun charge.
Golden Boy wanted Garcia to instead fight Duno, who was in another undercard fight, but they could not come to a deal even though Duno was willing to take the fight.
Garcia, 21, of Victorville, California, was angry with Golden Boy over how the situation was handled and it looked like their relationship would end, but they patched things up and Garcia signed a lucrative contract extension with the company and agreed to fight Duno on the Nov. 2 card.
“This is a big moment for me,” said Garcia, who shares trainer Eddy Reynoso with Alvarez and is part of his camp. “These opportunities don’t come often. It’s my chance to show what I’m capable of on the biggest stage in boxing. I’m not going to let this opportunity slip. I’m fighting against Romero Duno, the opponent I wanted since the beginning, so I’m going show that I’ve reached another level on Nov. 2.”
Duno (21-1, 16 KOs), 23, of the Philippines, won his Sept. 14 undercard fight by seventh-round knockout of Ivan Delgado and quickly accepted the fight with Garcia.
“This is the opportunity I’ve been waiting for,” Duno said. “I’m so excited to be part of such a big night as the co-main event of Canelo versus Kovalev. This fight has been building up for some time. I’ve had my eye on Ryan Garcia for a while now. I promise to do everything it takes to beat him on Nov. 2 and take home a big victory for the Philippines!”
In one of the bouts being put on the main card by Main Events, Kovalev’s promoter, Bakhram Murtazaliev (16-0, 13 KOs), 26, a Russian prospect fighting out of Oxnard, California, will take on Jorge Fortea (20-1-1, 6 KOs), 28, of Spain, in a junior middleweight world title elimination bout. The winner will become one of the mandatory challengers for unified 154-pound titlist Julian “J Rock” Williams.
“I have been waiting a long time for this opportunity. I am excited for my first fight with my new trainer, Virgil Hunter,” Murtazaliev said. “We will be ready on Nov. 2nd to face Fortea and become mandatory challenger.”
Murtazaliev was originally supposed to fight Jeison Rosario in a Sept. 21 eliminator but Rosario withdrew because of a shoulder injury.
Fortea has won seven fights in a row since an eighth-round knockout loss to Kelvin Dotel in 2015.
“It’s a moment I have been waiting for whole my life,” Fortea said. “To be part of the undercard of Canelo versus Kovalev for my U.S. debut is like a dream. I trained 15 years for this. I want to thank [promoter] Sampson Lewkowicz for making it true, Main Events and Golden Boy for hosting the eliminator. Murtazaliev is indeed a strong and dangerous boxer, but I will be ready for that and my skills will prevail. I won’t waste the opportunity to fight for a world title.”
Also, “Superbad” Seniesa Estrada (17-0, 7 KOs), 27, of East Los Angeles, and Marlen Esparza (7-0, 1 KO), 30, a 2012 U.S. Olympic bronze medalist from Houston, will meet for a women’s interim flyweight world title.
“I’m happy to give the fans the fight they’ve been wanting to see,” Estrada said. “I’m looking forward to representing women’s boxing in a positive way. I’m going to put on a great show and demonstrate my skills, showing things that people have not yet seen from me.”
Estrada and Esparza have no love for each other and have exchanged words over the past two years in anticipation of eventually settling their differences in the ring.
“My team and I have been pushing for this fight,” Esparza said. “I know this is what the fans want. Now I’m forcing her to back up everything she has ever said. She knows it’s going to be a long night for her.”
In other undercard bouts:
Welterweight Blair Cobbs (12-0-1, 8 KOs), 29, of Philadelphia, will fight Carlos Ortiz (11-4, 11 KOs), 35, of Mexico, in a 10-rounder for a vacant regional welterweight belt. Ortiz has lost three fights in a row.
Cruiserweight Tristan Kalkreuth (2-0, 2 KOs), 17, of Duncanville, Texas, who signed with Golden Boy and turned pro in August, will face an opponent to be determined in a four-round fight.
Middleweight Meiirim Nursultanov (12-0, 8 KOs), 26, a Kazakhstan native fighting out of Oxnard, California, will face Cristian Olivas (16-5, 13 KOs), 27, of San Ysidro, California, in a 10-rounder for a regional belt.
Junior middleweight Evan Holyfield, 21, the son of legendary Hall of Fame former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield, will make his much-anticipated professional debut against Nick Winstead (0-1), 21, of Abita Springs, Louisiana, in a four-round bout.