Oscar De La Hoya – Manny Pacquiao: The Undercard

(We continue our daily De La Hoya/Pacquiao coverage, leading up to a live blog Saturday night. See here and here for “Keys To The Fight, Parts I And II” and here for a little about the fight’s high stakes. Tomorrow: the official prediction.)

I fear no reprisals, so I must go against the grain and say that I think the undercard for Saturday’s Oscar De La Hoya-Manny Pacquiao fight ain’t half bad. It may be that my vision is distorted by the fact that there have been, in my opinion, far more horrid undercards of late. And it helps considerably in my view that two future young stars are on display against fairly credible opposition. By undercard standards, anyway.

I heart Juan Manuel Lopez big time. The newly-minted junior featherweight (122 lbs.) belt-holder has both boxing skill and major, major power, as he showed by knocking out Daniel Ponce De Leon in the 1st round. Nobody’d even hardly buzzed De Leon prior to that, and he’d been the one knocking dudes out in the 1st. I’m sure there are some who would find fault with Lopez’ caliber of opponent for Saturday night, Sergio Manuel Medina, and they would have a point. By the transitive property, Medina loses to Lopez because: Medina got beat by Rey Bautista; Rey Bautista got knocked out by De Leon in one round; Lopez knocked out Medina. I, too, expect Medina to lose. But think of it this way: Lopez recently headlined a small pay-per-view card where his opponent was Cesar Figueroa, who had been knocked out in two of his four previous fights. Medina, with just one loss on his record, may have fought a lower level of opposition, but he only has one loss and he handled Bautista’s own considerable power pretty well.

I’ve got a larger point to make about this in a second, and it’s the same point I want to make about the other biggest fight on the undercard.

The other main supporting bout features Victor Ortiz, a rising junior welterweight (140 lbs.) for whom the Lopez description also fits: has boxing skill, can seriously punch. His biggest win came last last year when he smashed former titlist Carlos Maussa to bits in his own 1st round knockout. He’s so good that when rumors surfaced that he gave De La Hoya trouble in sparring — rumors that he hasn’t, apparently, denied — I said to myself, “If that’s true, I’m not surprised.” So there are some people who are outraged that he’s fighting Jeffrey Resto, a former hot prospect himself who lost to a less-faded Maussa in 2003 and began to have a rough go of his career after that. This ESPN article raises the possibility that Resto has a chance in this fight because he’s revitalized. I’m not totally convinced, but I’m also not offended by the choice of opponent. Resto may not be Ortiz’ best opposition, but he’s far from one of his worst. Resto has lost twice. Ortiz’ last two opponents have lost a combined 25 times.

The point here is that yes, Resto and Medina are there to lose, but I don’t expect them to be pushovers, given Resto’s motivation and Medina’s ability to withstand big shots. They are credible opponents for Ortiz, 21, and Lopez, 25, at this point in their careers. I also expect them to be entertaining bouts as long as they last. Most importantly, putting Lopez and Ortiz on an undercard where a lot of eyes are going to be seeing two fighters who have the look of potential pound-for-pound top fighters, and in a sport that seriously needs an influx of young blood, it is inherently a good thing for these two guys to build their audience. Throw in young super middleweight (168 lbs.) Daniel Jacobs and this undercard could be a lot, lot worse.

Could it be better? Absolutely. I wouldn’t mind seeing Ortiz and Lopez in against stiffer opposition, and it would be great if a good mid-career fighter who’s nearing the big time and needs an additional popularity boost was on the undercard and in against a very tough opponent. Ultimately, this undercard is a step in the right direction compared to some recent undercards, in my opinion.

Now, we conclude with some video hotness. The first two are Lopez’ sensational knockouts; the second one is one of Ortiz’ sensational knockouts; and the third is a stunning sequence in Resto’s career from a couple years ago. (Apologies for the quality of the first video — it was either this version of the fight, or one of those annoying music remixes of a boxing match. Why do people DO that?)

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (http://www.tbrb.org). He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.