Jackson Marinez didn’t hesitate when he was presented with an opportunity late last year to fight Richard Commey.

Ghana’s Commey hasn’t boxed since Teofimo Lopez knocked him out in the second round almost 14 months ago to take the IBF lightweight title from him at Madison Square Garden. Commey can punch, though, and before Lopez stopped him the former champion had lost only a pair of 12-round split decisions to Robert Easter Jr. and Denis Shafikov in back-to-back bouts in 2016.

Marinez lost a controversial unanimous decision to Rolando Romero in his last bout, a 12-rounder August 15 that was contested for the WBA interim lightweight title. The Dominican contender considers Commey well worth the risk because Marinez believes beating the ex-champion Saturday night in Las Vegas will lead him toward another championship match later this year.

“That’s the reason why we took this fight, because we know that Richard Commey is a big challenge,” Marinez said Monday during a virtual press conference. “Right now, he’s gonna be the biggest fight of my career. But I took the risk because I know by beating him, it will catapult me to a world title opportunity. And, you know, and that’s what we’re working hard for.”

The 30-year-old Marinez demonstrated against Las Vegas’ Romero (13-0, 11 KOs) that he can take a punch. Marinez (19-1, 7 KOs) isn’t a huge puncher himself, which was among the reasons that Commey’s handlers accepted what still could become a difficult fight against a capable boxer.

All three judges scored Romero the winner over Marinez, who landed 17 more punches according to CompuBox’s unofficial statistics (103-of-629 to 86-of-509). Judge Frank Lombardi oddly scored 10 rounds for Romero (118-110), whereas Glenn Feldman (116-112) and Don Trella (115-113) had it closer.

Marinez wanted an immediate rematch, but he told BoxingScene.com that Romero’s handlers didn’t offer him an opportunity to avenge that debatable defeat until after he had already committed to facing the 33-year-old Commey (29-3, 26 KOs).

“I’m very grateful for this opportunity,” Marinez said. “Things didn’t go as planned in my last fight. But, you know, I know that Richard Commey is gonna bring the best out of me and I’m ready for him to do that, and get the win on Saturday against Commey.”

ESPN will televise Commey-Marinez as the main event of a three-fight telecast from MGM Grand Conference Center (10 p.m. EST; 7 p.m. PST). Joe Smith Jr. (26-3, 21 KOs), of Mastic, New York, and Maxim Vlasov (45-3, 26 KOs), of Samara, Russia, were supposed to meet in the main event, but their 12-round fight for the vacant WBO light heavyweight title was postponed Thursday because Vlasov tested positive for COVID-19.

The broadcast still will open with a six-round heavyweight bout between Jared Anderson (7-0, 7 KOs), of Toledo, Ohio, and Kingsley Ibeh (5-1-1, 4 KOs), a native Nigerian who resides in Phoenix. A 10-round featherweight fight in which Adam Lopez (14-2, 6 KOs), of Glendale, California, will battle Albuquerque’s Jason Sanchez (15-2, 8 KOs) has been elevated from the ESPN+ portion of the undercard into the co-feature position Commey-Marinez occupied prior to the postponement of Smith-Vlasov. 

Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.