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Thursday, January 9, 2014
Alvarez, Angulo set March 8 bout

By Dan Rafael
ESPN.com

Former junior middleweight titleholder Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, whose decision loss to pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr. in September set the all-time pay-per-view revenue record, is ready to return to the ring.

Alvarez will face brawler and Mexican countryman Alfredo "Perro" Angulo on March 8 in the main event of a Showtime PPV card at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Golden Boy chief executive Richard Schaefer told ESPN.com on Thursday, minutes after Angulo signed his contract. Alvarez had already signed for the fight, Schaefer said.

"The fight is done. Signed, sealed and delivered," Schaefer said. "Both guys are excited and ready to put on a show. These are two Mexican warriors and two of the most exciting fighters in the sport and it will be a toe-to-toe battle. That is what we are calling the card, 'Toe to Toe.'"

Alvarez and Golden Boy had already announced March 8 as one of the three dates that Alvarez intends to fight on this year -- the others are July 26 and Nov. 22 -- but they locked in Angulo as the opponent over the other candidates, junior middleweight titlist Carlos Molina (22-5-2, 6 KOs) and interim titlist Erislandy Lara (19-1-2, 12 KOs), who scored a knockout win against Angulo last summer.

There had been heavy discussion in recent days that Angulo would get the fight, mainly because Alvarez told Mexican media members that Angulo was his preferred opponent of the three, but the deal was not finalized until Thursday.

The 23-year-old Alvarez (42-1-1, 30 KOs), Mexico's most popular active fighter, lost a majority decision -- although most viewed the fight as one-sided -- to Mayweather at the MGM Grand on Sept. 14 in the richest fight in boxing history.

Because of Alvarez's popularity with Hispanic fans, he was hugely responsible for the event's success. It sold 2.2 million pay-per-view subscriptions, second-most all time, but raked in an all-time record $150 million in domestic pay-per-view revenue. Among other records the fight set was for the biggest live gate in boxing history, $20,003,150, from the sold-out crowd of 16,146.

That's why, despite the one-sided defeat, Schaefer has no qualms about putting Alvarez back on pay-per-view as a headliner. With the 31-year-old Angulo (22-3, 18 KOs) as the opponent, fans figure to get an action-packed fight.

"Canelo is a huge star, so going on pay-per-view was not an issue," Schaefer said. "You see it when he goes somewhere in Los Angeles or Mexico. He has that charisma where people are drawn to him. I saw that in San Antonio in December when he came to the (Marcos Maidana-Adrien Broner card). The ovation he got was crazy. People embrace him. The fans go nuts, the females love him. You win some and you lose some. He had his first loss against Mayweather, the best fighter in the world, and there is no shame in that.

"But just because you lose to Floyd doesn't mean you lose. He's been exposed to so many people because of it, and that increased exposure is a good thing for Canelo and his career."

Angulo has been in several slugfests, although he lost his last fight, getting stopped in the 10th round by Lara in an interim title fight on June 8 in Carson, Calif. Angulo knocked Lara down twice, in the fourth and ninth rounds, but suffered serious damage to the orbital bone by his left eye and quit because of the injury during the 10th round of the brutal fight.

"His eye is fine. He was cleared about six weeks after the fight with Lara and he didn't need surgery," Michael Miller, Angulo's manager, said. "He's very excited and he's looking forward to fighting Canelo. People know they're going to get a helluva show no matter who wins. Nobody will be a loser that night because it's going to be a memorable fight I believe.

"Angulo is going to hit Canelo and we'll see what he can do when he gets by a big puncher."

Alvarez had hoped for a showdown with Puerto Rican star and former three-division titleholder Miguel Cotto, and Schaefer made him an offer of more than $10 million for the bout. However, Cotto (38-4, 31 KOs) declined the offer, instead electing to fight in New York on June 7, which is on the weekend of the city's annual Puerto Rican Day parade, and pursue a fight with middleweight champion Sergio Martinez, which is being negotiated.

Schaefer said he is working to finalize three other bouts for the "Toe to Toe" pay-per-view broadcast.

If Schaefer get the deal done, junior featherweight titlist Leo Santa Cruz (26-0-1, 15 KOs) would defend his belt in a mandatory defense 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. Santa Cruz then knocked out Terrazas in the third round in his first defense to win the title on Aug. 24.

Schaefer is also hoping to finalize a pair of lightweight bouts. In one fight, interim titlist Omar Figueroa (22-0-1, 17 KOs) would make his first defense against Ricardo Alvarez (23-2-3, 14 KOs), Canelo's older brother.

Figueroa won the vacant interim belt in July by outpointing Nihito Arakawa (24-3-1, 16 KOs) in a savage fight of the year candidate and has not fought since. Neither has Japan's Arawaka, who would return to face former junior lightweight and featherweight titlist Jorge Linares (35-3, 23 KOs) -- a Venezuelan who lives in Japan -- in the opener of the pay-per-view.

"When they have these infomercials on TV and you are ready to dial the phone and buy the product, I want this card to be an infomercial for the sport of boxing," Schaefer said. "You announce the main and people get excited. But you say, 'But wait, there's more.' I don't have all three of these fights done yet, but I am working to get them done.

"It's one of those cards where you can be proud of putting it on because you know when people turn on the TV you know they are going to be entertained."