- Dan Rafael, Boxing
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Former lightweight world title challenger Raymundo Beltran and former two-time junior lightweight titlist Roman "Rocky" Martinez will fight in a lightweight title eliminator in one of the featured bouts on the Timothy Bradley Jr.-Manny Pacquiao undercard on April 12 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum told ESPN.com on Thursday.
The fight will be one of four bouts on the HBO PPV telecast, including the main event and two other bouts that have been agreed to: Khabib Allakhverdiev defending his junior welterweight belt against Jessie Vargas and Bryan Vasquez defending his interim junior lightweight title against Jose Felix Jr.
Arum said he had not yet decided which of the three undercard bouts would serve as the co-feature.
"All three of them are competitive fights," Arum said. "So I guess whichever fight the press and the fans seem like most is the one we'll make the semifinal. I think they're all good fights. Beltran-Martinez is the one I want to see more than the others, so we'll see if the press and the fans agree with me. But overall, I think we're looking at some good, entertaining fights on the card."
Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti told ESPN.com that Beltran-Martinez and Allakhverdiev-Vargas are signed while the Vazquez-Felix fight has been agreed to and both sides are in the process of signing the paperwork.
Beltran (28-6-1, 17 KOs), 32, a Mexico native living in Los Angeles, who has served as a top sparring partner for Pacquiao, finally got a shot at a lightweight world title in September. He went to Ricky Burns' home base in Glasgow, Scotland, and fought the fight of his life. He broke Burns' jaw in the second round, dropped him in the eighth round and seemed to clearly win but was the victim of a heavily disputed draw.
Now Beltran will face Martinez for the right to become the mandatory challenger for the winner of the March 1 title fight between Burns and Terence Crawford.
Martinez (27-2-2, 16 KOs), 30, of Puerto Rico, is surprisingly getting an opportunity to fight in a title eliminator in a new weight class despite having lost his last fight. In November, Martinez lost his junior lightweight title when Mikey Garcia knocked him out in the eighth round.
Burns outpointed Martinez to end his first 130-pound title reign in September 2010.
"This is a really interesting crossroads fight," Moretti said. "Both guys have had wars with Burns. Neither guy has ever been in a bad fight. Beltran is a strong puncher who makes good fights. Rocky has been in a lot of good fights. I expect fireworks. I wouldn't be shocked if both guys hit the canvas."
Allakhverdiev (19-0, 9 KOs), a 31-year-old Russian southpaw, will be making his second title defense in his first fight since signing with Top Rank last year. He was supposed to appear on the undercard of the Mike Alvarado-Brandon Rios rematch on March 30, but suffered an elbow injury and withdrew. Then Allakhverdiev had a mandatory defense to take care of, which he did in Monte Carlo by stopping Souleymane M'baye in the 11th round of a one-sided fight that Top Rank was not involved in.
"This is the first chance we've had to expose Khabib in the United States since we signed him because of the injury and the mandatory, and he's in with Jessie, who is dropping back down to 140 pounds," Moretti said. "It's an interesting matchup. The winner is probably going to get a big payday after this fight."
Vargas (23-0, 9 KOs), 24, of Las Vegas, has had his last several fights in the 147-pound welterweight division but is dropping down to 140 for the shot at the belt.
"I've seen Khabib on tape. He's a very competent fighter and [Top Rank matchmaker] Brad [Goodman] has watched Vargas train in the gym and thinks he is doing marvelously," Arum said. "We could see an upset."
Vasquez (32-1, 17 KOs), 26, of Costa Rica, won a vacant interim 130-pound belt in October via fifth-round technical decision against Rene Gonzalez, Vasquez's second stint with the interim title.
He will be making his first defense when faces 21-year-old Felix (26-0-1, 12 KOs), of Mexico, a fighter Top Rank is quite high on.
"We believe Jose Felix's stock is on the rise," Moretti said. "Hopefully, the card on April 12 will provide him a platform to show what he has against a more experienced, action fighter in Bryan Vasquez."
Raymundo Beltran and Roman "Rocky" Martinez will fight in a lightweight title eliminator in one of the featured bouts on the Timothy Bradley Jr.-Manny Pacquiao undercard on April 12, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum told ESPN.com on Thursday.