By Jake Donovan
Houston, TX - The HBO cameras will only be rolling for Saturday night’s main event, when Julio Cesar Chavez Jr defends his middleweight belt against Peter Manfredo Jr at the Reliant Arena in Houston, Texas. The HBO Boxing After Dark headliner is paired up with the exclusive rebroadcast of Manny Pacquiao’s close, controversial points win over Juan Manuel Marquez last Saturday in their third fight, with the entire show preceded by the premiere of ‘24/7 Cotto/Margarito.’
While fans at home are taking in the aforementioned events, an eight-fight undercard will be taking place at the Reliant Arena. Standing out among the lot is comebacking former welterweight titlist Joshua Clottey and unbeaten welterweight prospect Wale ‘Lucky Boy’ Omotoso.
Saturday night will mark the first time in more than 18 months since Clottey (35-4, 21KO) has last been spotted in the ring. The 34-year old Bronx resident – by way of Accra, Ghana – took a long break from the sport following his near shutout loss to Manny Pacquiao in their March ’10 encounter.
His return to the ring makes for a considerable fall from grace. From serving in the headlining act at Cowboys Stadium to now appearing off-camera, Clottey takes on local (Baytown, TX) journeyman Calvin Green – who has lost three of his last four – in an eight-round super welterweight contest that’s listed as the third bout of the evening on the official run sheet.
In a bout that appears much closer to the main event, yet another attraction comes out of Freddie Roach’s famed Wild Card Gym in Hollywood as unbeaten Australian welterweight Wale Omotoso (19-0, 17KO) serves in a supporting capacity to Chavez Jr, his training stablemate.
Omotoso – Nigerian-born but raised in Australia – made his US debut two months ago on the undercard of Yuriorkis Gamboa’s technical decision win over Daniel Ponce de Leon in Atlantic City. The thickly-muscled prospect now appears in H-Town, where awaiting him will be his toughest test to date as he takes on divisional spoiler Lanardo Tyner.
A former Kronk fighter now based locally in Houston, Tyner (25-4-1, 15KO) accepted the last minute assignment but relishes in the underdog role. The 36-year old scored a major upset last year when he stopped streaking prospect Antwone Smith in the 9th round of their Shobox-televised bout and has also given a good account of himself – albeit in losing efforts – against Saul Alvarez and Lamont Peterson, the later whom he cites as the toughest opponent of his career.
That may change after Saturday, but the welterweight is fully prepared for his eight-round supporting bout against Omotoso, who has been taken beyond six rounds just twice through five years as a pro.
Mexican super welterweight Jose Pinzon remains in search of respectability as he continues to recover from the heartbreaking 7th round knockout loss suffered at the hands of Pawel Wolak a year ago. The 24-year old faces Dallas journeyman Larry Smith in an eight-round swing bout.
Pinzon accepted the assignment against Wolak as a late replacement for Chavez Jr, who suffered a severe fever during fight week and was forced to withdraw. Despite the short notice, Pinzon gave a good account of himself, even flooring the fringe contender early. He wound up awaking a sleeping giant, as Wolak brawled his way back and battered Pinzon into submission late in the seventh round.
Saturday’s undercard slot will serve as his second fight back since then, topping Edvan dos Santos Barros via 10-round decision in the Yucatan this past June.
Also featured on the undercard:
Local light heavyweight Marcus Johnson, who returns to the ring following the first loss of his career earlier this year as he takes on William Bailey in a six-round attraction.
Highly touted unbeaten lightweight prospect Mickey Bey (17-0-1, 9KO) appears in the opening bout of the eveving against Hector Velazquez of Mexico. Velaszquez (51-16-3, 35KO) is best known as the first fighter of Manny Pacquiao’s current 15-fight win streak.
Local featherweight prospect Ivan Otero (6-0, 1KO) faces Gino Escamilla in a four-round bout.
A pair of recent Top Rank signees are showcased in preliminary bouts. Fresh off of his pro debut just three weeks ago, Edinburg’s own Luis Zarazua takes on Ricardo Avila of San Antonio. His managerial stablemate Alex Saucedo of Oklahoma City makes his own pro debut as he takes on Austin welterweight Cedric Sheppard.
Zarazua and Saucedo are both guided by local manager Lou Messarana, whose other clients include – among many others - unbeaten Dallas prospect Robert Marroquin and former super featherweight champ Jesus Chavez.
Doors open at 5:00pm, with the first bell scheduled for 6:15pm local time. Remaining tickets, priced at $300, $200, $100, $50 and $25 can be purchased at all Ticketmaster outlets, including the Reliant Park box office (M-F 10:00am-5:00pm; Saturday 10:00am-2:00pm), online at www.ticketmaster.com and charge-by-phone lines at (800) 745-3000.
Friday’s weigh-in will be held at PlazaAmerica’s in downtown Houston and is open to the public. The weigh-in festivities kick off at 1:00pm local time, with fighters due to hit the scales by 2:00pm.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to JakeNDaBox@gmail.com