Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley may be grabbing all the headlines leading up to their epic encounter on Saturday night in Las Vegas, but lost in the shuffle is how strong the undercard for the show is.
Top Rank Promotions went out of its way to provide boxing fans with a stellar night of fights leading into the rematch for the WBO welterweight championship. There is a strong mix of young, upcoming talent and established veterans looking to elevate their status.
In anticipation of what's sure to be a great night of fights, we've got a look at all the undercard fights and what you can expect to see when the bell rings.
|Weight Class||Fighter 1||Fighter 2|
|NABO Lightweight Title||Raymundo Beltran (28-6-1)||Arash Usmanee (20-1-1)|
|WBA Super Featherweight Title||Jose Felix Jr. (26-0-1)||Bryan Vasquez (32-1-0)|
|WBA/IBO Light Welterweight Title||Khabib Allakhverdiev (19-0)||Jessie Vargas (23-0)|
WBO Light Welterweight Title: Khabib Allakhverdiev (c) vs. Jessie Vargas
OK, while I did sell the pay-per-view as a must-see event for fans, the opening fight of the night doesn't factor into that equation.
Khabib Allakhverdiev and Jessie Vargas have done what they needed to in order to move up the ranks of the light welterweight division, but their respective styles are problematic when it comes to creating interesting fights.
They are a combined 42-0 with just 18 knockouts. Allakhverdiev has turned on the power in recent fights with three knockouts in his last four bouts, but all of them came against inferior competition.
Even Vargas doesn't buy into the champion's power, saying during a chat with Ring Magazine that there's nothing to Allakhverdiev's punch.
He’s a good fighter. In order to be a world champion you have to have talent, I give him that respect. I wouldn’t say he was a knockout puncher but he looks like he has a respectable punch. It doesn’t matter to me. I’ve been in there with middleweights.
Regardless of how the fight goes, someone has to win. Allakhverdiev has shown a lot more in recent fights to justify picking a decision victory on Saturday night.
Prediction: Allakhverdiev by unanimous decision
Interim WBA Super Featherweight Title: Jose Felix Jr. vs. Bryan Vasquez
Which undercard fighter has the most to gain?
Here's a fight that has all the trimmings of a star-making performance for Jose Felix Jr. The 21-year-old hasn't faced the most difficult competition in amassing a 26-0-1 record with 21 knockouts, but given his age and raw talent, the upside is there for big things.
Bryan Vasquez is trying to rebuild his stock after a 2012 knockout at the hands of Takashi Uchiyama. The 26-year-old has won his last three fights, all by stoppage, and seems poised to take the next step in his career.
But this fight is all about the ascension of Felix. He's taking a step up in competition and needs to prove that his unbeaten streak is a product of something more than just a soft opponent slate.
Prediction: Felix by 10th-round knockout
NABO Lightweight Title: Raymundo Beltran vs. Arash Usmanee
This fight got put together at the last minute when Rocky Martinez was forced to pull out with an illness, according to Dan Rafael of ESPN.com. That opened the door for Arash Usmanee to take the open spot.
Usmanee enters the fight on a downward trajectory. The 32-year-old is 0-1-1 in his last two fights and comes into this battle with Beltran after nearly eight months off.
Beltran isn't exactly setting the world on fire, fighting Ricky Burns to a draw last September, though he did break his opponent's jaw in that fight.
Expect an all-out brawl between these two fighters when the bell rings, as each loves to attack his opponent and make him keep his hands up.
Greg Cohen, who is Usmanee's promoter, loves the potential for this fight, going so far as to tell BoxingScene.com that the first round will be critical.
Neither of these guys take many backwards steps in the ring. It's going to be a war of attrition from the first round. You could easily say this is a battle between the uncrowned IBF Champion and the uncrowned WBO Champion.
Even though it's Cohen's job to pump up a fight, he's right on the money about this contest. Beltran and Usmanee don't possess traditional knockout power, but are methodical enough to batter an opponent for 12 rounds.
Prediction: Beltran by unanimous decision
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