- Dan Rafael, Boxing
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Three title bouts have been finalized and were added Friday to the Saul "Canelo" Alvarez-Alfredo Angulo Showtime PPV card on March 8 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Golden Boy Promotions announced.
The co-feature of the "Toe To Toe" pay-per-view card will see junior featherweight titlist Leo Santa Cruz (26-0-1, 15 KOs) make his second defense, a mandatory, against former two-time junior bantamweight titleholder and Mexican countryman Cristian Mijares (49-7-2, 24 KOs), who has won two fights in a row since losing a split decision to Victor Terrazas for a vacant title in April.
Also on the card, interim lightweight titlist Omar Figueroa (22-0-1, 17 KOs) of Weslaco, Texas will make his first defense against Mexico's Ricardo Alvarez (23-2-3, 14 KOs), Canelo's older brother.
In the opening bout of the pay-per-view, junior middleweight titlist Carlos Molina (22-5-2, 6 KOs), of Chicago, who won a vacant world title by outpointing Ishe Smith on the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Alvarez undercard, will make his first defense against Houston's Jermall Charlo (17-0, 13 KOs), a top prospect taking a big step up in competition.
Santa Cruz knocked out Terrazas in the third round of Terrazas' first defense to win the title on Aug. 24 and defended the belt Dec. 14 in a hard-fought unanimous decision against Cesar Seda.
"I've always been a fan of Cristian Mijares, and I know he will give me a tough fight on March 8," Santa Cruz said. "When two Mexicans get into the ring together, it's always a show, and this fight will be no different."
Said Mijares, "Santa Cruz is an impressive young fighter and a worthy champion. I respect him because he fights like I fight, to get the knockout and give the fans a great fight. They will get their money's worth on March 8."
The Alvarez-Angulo main event was signed last week. The fight will be Alvarez's first bout since his junior middleweight title loss to Mayweather in their pay-per-view revenue record-breaking unification fight on Sept. 14, also at the MGM Grand.
Angulo, Alvarez's brawling Mexican countryman, is also seeking to rebound from a defeat.
He scored two knockdowns against Erislandy Lara in a June 8 slugfest in Carson, Calif., but Angulo suffered serious damage to the orbital bone in his left eye and retired during the 10th round because of the injury.
Figueroa won the vacant interim belt in July by outpointing Nihito Arakawa in a savage fight of the year candidate and has not fought since because it was such a grueling fight and because he hurt both of his hands during the bout.
"I can't wait to get back into the ring on March 8. It's been too long and I'm ready to defend my title," Figueroa said. "The fans know what I can do in the ring, and they're going to see the best version of me yet against Alvarez."
Alvarez will be dropping down in weight from the junior welterweight division. He is coming off a difficult majority decision win against Rod Salka on the same Dec. 14 card that also included Santa Cruz-Seda.
"World champions are in the Alvarez bloodline, and we're going to make history when I become the latest champion from our family," said Alvarez, who could follow brothers Canelo and Rigoberto Alvarez by winning a title. "Figueroa is a great young fighter, but I will be the one with his hand raised in victory."
A fourth undercard fight was also finalized, a scheduled 10-round lightweight bout between former junior lightweight and featherweight titlist Jorge Linares (35-3, 23 KOs) -- a Venezuelan who lives in Japan – against Japan's Arakawa (24-3-1, 16 KOs), who has not fought since the brutal July fight with Figueroa.
"This is without a question one of the deepest and most entertaining cards (we have) ever put together," Golden Boy chief executive Richard Schaefer said. "(It's) my strong belief that fight fans who pay for a PPV event want to be able to enjoy entertainment from top to bottom."
While not part of the pay-per-view lineup, Schaefer and Showtime Sports chief Stephen Espinoza both told ESPN.com that the bout would air live on Showtime during a free preview weekend and immediately precede the start of the pay-per-view telecast.
"I've worked hard to get back to the top of the division, and I can't let Arakawa slow me down," Linares said. "He's a tough, rugged fighter who will be in front of me all night, but I am confident that I will be victorious."
Said Arakawa: "The United States fans treated me so well when I fought here against Omar Figueroa, and I'm excited to be back to fight Linares. He is a true warrior and we will put on a memorable fight for sure."
Three title bouts have been finalized and were added Friday to the Saul “Canelo” Alvarez-Alfredo Angulo Showtime PPV card on March 8 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Golden Boy Promotions announced.