For the second time this year, Top Rank will go head-to-head in a fight with Canelo Alvarez by holding its own boxing show — even though it helped make the Alvarez fight a reality.
Just as Alvarez will be making his light-heavyweight debut in Las Vegas, attempting to win a world title in a fourth weight class against Sergey Kovalev on DAZN, World Boxing Council junior-lightweight champion Miguel Berchelt will look to defend his title for the sixth time when he takes on Jason Sosa on ESPN at the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson on Saturday.
Berchelt (36-1, 32 KOs), from Mexico, and Sosa (23-3-4, 16 KOs), a Puerto Rican from New Jersey, will look to capture a share of the combat sports audience.
“This will be the next classic in the Mexico versus Puerto Rico rivalry,” Berchelt said. “We are two fighters who always bring excitement to the ring. The fans who watch this fight will be the winners. When you have two warriors in the ring, great things happen. I refuse to disappoint the fans. I fight for them.”
Top Rank head Bob Arum is beholden to putting on a show Saturday because its broadcast partner ESPN gave them programming dates months back before the Alvarez fight was a possibility. Adding to the crowded combat schedule, ESPN is also counter-progamming with UFC 244, a pay-per-view featuring Nate Diaz and Jorge Masvidal.
Arum actually was the last remaining piece to the puzzle that made the Alvarez fight a reality, a match the fighter handpicked for a shot at history. Arum had contract options on Kovalev, which tied the Russian fighter to ESPN and future fights with Top Rank’s light-heavyweight stable. After long negotiations with Kovalev promoter Kathy Duva, Arum received a fee of about $2 million, which finally allowed for Kovalev to fight on DAZN.
“Canelo versus Kovalev is a good fight, no question about it. We’re the ones who made that fight happen,” said Arum. “But we have a great fight and a quality product too. The public has a choice on Saturday.”
Arum is no stranger going toe-to-toe with Alvarez, a fighter he has learned to respect and admire. On May 4, when Alvarez decisioned Daniel Jacobs, Top Rank was staging its own show in Stockton with a championship doubleheader featuring champions Artur Beterbiev and Jerwin Ancajas in separate fights.
On Sep. 15, 2012, before Alvarez was a certified commodity beating Josesito Lopez at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Arum had the bigger show on Mexican Independence Day weekend less than two miles away featuring Sergio Martinez’s win over Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
“We have no design or policy to go against Canelo. But there are only so many weeks that you have a year,” Arum said. “Canelo is the biggest draw in boxing, why would we want to go up against him?”
Berchelt wasn’t as generous with his praise toward his countryman.
“A lot of people follow Canelo, and a lot of people don’t like him, either,” Berchelt said. “For whoever is thinking of going to Vegas, come to Los Angeles, because I’m a Mexican fighter that never disappoints.”
Sosa, a former world titlist riding a three-fight winning streak since losing to Vasiliy Lomachenko and Yuriorkis Gamboa, was a bit more diplomatic explaining how he plans on stealing the show this weekend.
“This fight can’t help but be a classic,” Sosa said. “I want the fans to tune in because this is boxing at its best. Berchelt and I are pure fighters, and when you have two fighters like that in the ring, special things happen.… It could be a fight of the year.”