The search for an opponent for junior middleweight titlist Saul "Canelo" Alvarez to fight on Sept. 15 is over, but with a caveat.
Alvarez will defend his title against former welterweight titlist Victor Ortiz in the main event of a Showtime PPV card dubbed "Knockout Kings" from the MGM Grand Garden Arena -- but only if he defeats (or draws with) underdog Josesito Lopez on June 23 (Showtime) at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Golden Boy promoters Richard Schaefer and Oscar De La Hoya announced on a teleconference Tuesday.
"These are two young fighters in the prime of their careers fighting each other," Schaefer said of the match.
Schaefer said Golden Boy has an alternate plan in the event Ortiz (29-3-2, 22 KOs) loses to Lopez (29-4, 17 KOs) or suffers an injury that would make him unavailable to fight in September. He declined to go into specifics except to say that the unknown Lopez would be considered.
"We have contingency plans in place, which we have worked out with Showtime, because you never know what will happen," Schaefer said. "Of course, Josesito Lopez would be part of those contingency plans."
Said De La Hoya: "This fight June 23 does concern me because Josesito Lopez is no walk in the park. It's a huge opportunity for him and it puts more pressure on Victor Ortiz to go out there and prove he deserves to be in the same ring with Canelo Alvarez. This June 23 fight is very important and people are expecting a very difficult and tough fight at the Staples Center."
Ortiz, who would move up in weight to for the September bout, is the third opponent picked to face the 21-year-old Alvarez (40-0-1, 29 KOs), a major star in Mexico and one of boxing's youngest titleholders.
Alvarez was supposed to face Paul Williams, but days after the deal was made, Williams' career ended when he was paralyzed from the waist down in a motorcycle crash. Then Golden Boy looked to James Kirkland, but the day after the deal was struck, Kirkland dropped out because of concerns about his surgically repaired right shoulder and his demand for far more money than he had originally accepted.
That paved the way for Ortiz, 25, who has not fought since being knocked out by Floyd Mayweather Jr. in controversial fashion in the fourth round in September. Ortiz is facing Lopez only because former welterweight titlist Andre Berto tested positive for a steroid in a random test a few weeks ago and was dropped from their rematch.
"Victor is the kind of guy who wants to fight everyone," Schaefer said. "He mentioned to us that he wanted to fight Canelo. That was always something on his mind and when the opportunity presented itself he jumped on it and he knows he needs to win (on June 23). Josesito Lopez also knows what's at stake."
Alvarez is coming off a near shutout of faded former champion Shane Mosley on the May 5 Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Miguel Cotto undercard, a fight that sent Mosley into retirement. Now, Alvarez is headlining his first pay-per-view and moving to Showtime. Alvarez had been fighting on HBO and HBO PPV undercards. However, Showtime boxing boss Stephen Espinoza has a very close relationship with Schaefer and De La Hoya -- whom he used to work for as an attorney -- and they struck a deal.
"Canelo Alvarez is one of the most entertaining and charismatic fighters in the sport and there's nobody better to headline the card on Mexican Independence Day," Espinoza said. "Canelo is one of the biggest superstars in Mexico and we have full confidence he will develop into one in the United States."
Espinoza added that he hoped this fight would be the beginning of a long relationship between Alvarez and Showtime. He brought up Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., a longtime regular on Showtime and Showtime PPV during his prime.
"That is the kind of relationship we look forward to developing with Canelo," Espinoza said.
Showtime will produce a four-part "All Access" series to follow the build-up for the bout. The series, which will include an English and Spanish version, will air on Showtime as well as on CBS, Espinoza said.
Schaefer had been planning on the "Knockout Kings" theme for weeks because of the aggressive styles of Alvarez, Williams and then Kirkland. Ortiz fits that profile as well.
Schaefer said he liked the idea of making a potentially explosive fight even more in light of the controversial split decision given to Timothy Bradley Jr. over Manny Pacquiao last Saturday.
"After this weekend, we wanted to put together a fight card where we can leave the judges at home," Schaefer said. "'Knockout Kings' is the perfect title. Every fight we put on TV, even off TV, there should be no judges needed."
Schaefer said he got permission from video game maker EA Sports to use the "Knockout Kings" title, which is the name of its popular boxing video game series. De La Hoya appeared on the cover of one of the editions. Schaefer also said that the audience, watching live and on television, would be able to vote for the best knockout of the night and that the fighter who wins the voting will receive a $100,000 bonus on top of his purse.
"Sept. 15 (I hope) you can leave you're scorecards at home. (I hope) you won't need them," said Schaefer, adding that the card would also be available in movie theaters around the country like most of his company's major pay-per-view cards.
Schaefer also formally announced the co-feature, which has been on the books for a few weeks -- a fight between power punchers Jhonny Gonzalez (52-7, 45 KOs) and Mexican countryman Daniel Ponce De Leon (43-4, 35 KOs) for Gonzalez's featherweight title.
Two other bouts will be added to the pay-per-view telecast, Schaefer said.