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Friday, September 14, 2012
Updated: October 30, 3:42 PM ET
Experts' picks: Saturday's fights

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN

Two of boxing's brightest young stars will headline separate cards in the same city Saturday in Las Vegas. Mexican stars Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Saul "Canelo" Alvarez enter different tests under entirely different circumstances. Chavez (46-0-1, 32 KOs) brings his middleweight title and unbeaten record into a showdown against lineal champion Sergio Martinez (49-2-2, 28 KOs) at Thomas & Mack Center. Meanwhile, just two miles away at the MGM Grand, Alvarez (40-0-1, 29 KOs) defends his junior middleweight title against upset-minded Josesito Lopez (30-4, 18 KOs), fresh off a shocking June victory over Victor Ortiz.

Below, our ESPN.com boxing experts pick the winners of the main events, along with the undercard fighter most likely to steal the show Saturday.

Dan Rafael's analysis

Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.-Sergio Martinez: In the past 18 months, the gap between these guys has closed somewhat. Chavez has gotten better and looked good against his recent opponents, including his handling of southpaw Andy Lee. Martinez, although still winning by knockout, had some struggles with Matthew Macklin and Darren Barker. Chavez is bigger and younger, but Martinez is still the faster, more skilled and smarter fighter. I also think, for one punch, he has more power. I won't believe in Chavez until he shows it to me for real against a fighter the caliber of Martinez. I'm picking Martinez to stop Chavez in about 10 rounds.

Saul Alvarez-Josesito Lopez: Alvarez has looked good against several B-level opponents and a washed-up Shane Mosley. Lopez is a hard worker, a helluva nice guy and a great story, but he's also a B-level fighter and one who is essentially moving up two weight classes for the title shot. Alvarez is no Victor Ortiz. He will adjust better than Ortiz did and ultimately the size, power and determination are going to be too much for Lopez, who is a good junior welterweight, not a top junior middleweight. I expect a good rumble while it lasts with Alvarez stopping Lopez in the mid-rounds.

Undercard fighter who steals the show: There's been so much drama surrounding Guillermo Rigondeaux's appearance on the Chavez-Martinez card because of the contractual issues with the promoters and managers. But it was settled at the last minute and the junior featherweight titlist has a chance to shine against Robert Marroquin, a good prospect but one I don't believe is quite ready for a fighter of Rigondeaux's pedigree (a two-time Olympic gold medalist and pro titleholder). Rigondeaux wants a big fight and I think he'll move himself closer with an explosive performance. Marroquin doesn't have enough speed or defense to deal with Rigondeaux, who is special.

Kieran Mulvaney's analysis

Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.-Sergio Martinez: It's a real testament to Chavez's improvement that this is a pick 'em fight. Who would have put money on that 18 months ago? Junior's strengths may be Martinez's weaknesses: He is strong, and he can pile on the pressure, to which Martinez can be vulnerable. But even his straight punches are a little wide, and they are much slower than those of Martinez. I see this being a tough, bruising battle, but the faster hand speed and footwork of Martinez ultimately will prove key, and he'll pull out a points win or late stoppage on cuts.

Saul Alvarez-Josesito Lopez: Lopez deserves all of the credit in the world for being in this spot. He wasn't supposed to beat Victor Ortiz, let alone take Ortiz's place against Alvarez. He'll have plenty of opportunities to land against Alvarez, especially in the early going; but Alvarez is bigger, more solid and more well-rounded than Ortiz, and after a lively first three or four rounds, he'll start reeling Lopez in, ultimately dominating him to the body and stopping him late.

Undercard fighter who steals the show: I'm going to cheat slightly and say it's likely to be whoever wins the co-main event on the Martinez-Chavez card between Rocky Martinez and Miguel Beltran Jr. Both of these guys are exciting fighters, and both need a win to make a statement in the 130-pound division. Martinez has been close to the mountaintop, until Ricky Burns kicked him back down; he's only fought once since. Beltran, in contrast, has been active, albeit against not quite as high a caliber of opposition. Ultimately, I think Martinez has the greater upside and likely will prevail, but either way, this promises to be a fun hors d'oeuvre before the main course.

Diego Morilla's analysis

Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.-Sergio Martinez: There hasn't been a fight in recent memory between two with skill sets so far apart. Chavez is young, strong, heavy-handed and iron-chinned. Martinez is older (as in "wiser"), faster, more accurate, more intelligent and far more versatile. But if they're tied in something, that would be pride and hunger. Chavez may find a way to break the tie with his greater physical strength, but the smart money should definitely be on Martinez being able to exploit Chavez's numerous shortcomings to emerge victorious in a terrific, emotional fight.

Saul Alvarez-Josesito Lopez: Much has been said about the weight difference between these two guys, and the subject will continue to make headlines long after the fight is over. But the truth is that the weight difference indeed will be the defining factor in this fight. The bigger Canelo will take Lopez's best punches with ease, and will respond with his usual crushing power to punish, demolish and ultimately stop Lopez within eight rounds in a much-needed KO victory to improve his standing with his demanding Mexican fans in such a special national holiday.

Undercard fighter who steals the show: Guillermo Rigondeaux is the natural choice to grab the spotlight in the undercards, but his last-minute reinsertion on the Martinez-Chavez card may have taken the momentum away from his fight against Robert Marroquin, and they could end up just going through the motions in a boring and excessively cautious performance. But if I had to bet my rent money on this, I'd say the winner of the Jhonny Gonzalez-Daniel Ponce De Leon bout should grab this category easily. Two resilient, heavy punchers fighting for Mexican bragging rights before their compatriots on a PPV televised card during a Mexican holiday? I don't see how this could be anything but a terrific fight, with Ponce De Leon scoring a mild upset.