SAN DIEGO, Calif., September 11, 2020 – Many Americans believe Cinco De Mayo is the Mexican equivalent of Independence Day in the U.S., but the actual Mexican Independence Day is September 16. It is traditionally a huge boxing weekend, but the pandemic and the collapse of fight negotiations with Canelo Alvarez leave 2020 without a major championship fight.
But there is a single card this weekend in Las Vegas courtesy of Top Rank, airing on Saturday, September 12 starting at 7:30 p.m. ET/4:30 p.m. PT on ESPN+ with several young Mexican-American fighters who hope to make a big impression.
Absence of Canelo Alvarez in a pandemic year
Boxing’s place as a major sport in Mexico generated the tradition in the modern era of great Mexican champions headlining major fight cards on the weekend closest to Mexican Independence Day. In 1984, Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. won his first championship on Mexican Independence Day and continued through the 1990s. Oscar De La Hoya picked up the banner after Chavez Sr. Since then, Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, and Juan Manual Marquez have all stepped into the holiday spotlight.
For a short time, Floyd Mayweather took over, and he played a big role in making the city of Las Vegas prosper in September. Half of all charter flights into Las Vegas from Mexico every year happen in September. Hotel occupancy rates peak in September.
Canelo Alvarez made his first Mexican Independence Day fight in his seventh pro fight in 2006. He’s been in the ring on this weekend in 2009, 2010. 2011, 2012, in 2013 in his only loss to Mayweather, 2016 against Liam Smith, and twice against Gennadiy Golovkin in 2017 and 2018. When a third fight fell through in 2019, British heavyweight champion Tyson Fury seized the moment and entered the ring wearing the red, green, and white to traditional Mexican music.
This year? Carrying the banner in a 10-round featherweight fight is Joet Gonzalez of Los Angeles (23-1, 14 KOs) against Miguel Marriaga of Colombia (29-3, 25 KOs). Gonzalez is coming off a loss to Shakur Stevenson while Marriaga is still rebounding after a vicious beatdown by Vasiliy Lomachenko in 2017.
When we asked Gonzalez about the significance of the date, he said it didn’t escape his attention. “I noticed it was Mexican Independence Day weekend. I’m more excited. It’s my first time fighting on Mexican Independence weekend, and first time ever in September. I have family in Mexico, in Guadalajara, so they’ll be watching and supporting me. I’m excited to get in there and have a great fight.”
Gonzalez knows he’s got to show up after his loss to Stevenson. “I told my team that after the world title loss against Shakur, I wanted to get right back in … I want to show everyone that I’m a real contender and a top guy in the division.”
Marriaga has tried and failed three times in championship fights. He needs a win Saturday to get another chance and he knows it. “On Saturday night, Joet Gonzalez will face a very strong Miguel Marriaga. I have a great hunger for triumph. The motivation has always been there. I will not rest until I am champion. We will give everything on Saturday to get a big win for Colombian boxing.”
Both hope their next bout comes against the winner of the fight between Emanuel Navarrete and Ruben Villa with a win on Saturday.
Crossroads contest: Machine vz Zewski
Saturday’s main event features fighters in another crossroads bout – one from Lithuania in Egidijus “Mean Machine” Kavaliauskas (21-1-1, 17 KOs) and Mikael Zewski of Quebec (34-1, 23 KOs) in a 10 round welterweight contest.
Kavaliauskas performed well but came up short against WBO World Welterweight champion Terence Crawford last December, and he wants another shot at Bud. “I want to face him again. I know he is beatable. Everyone is. I like how that fight started, but not how it ended,” said Kavaliauskas, admitting he lost focus midway through the fight. “At the end of the day, that fight gave me more confidence. I was definitely in the fight. It made me a better fighter.”
Not many American fans know much about Zewski. His resume is uninspiring. The two biggest names are Mexican journeymen Abner Lopez and Aaron Herrera. His last fight in the U.S. in Omaha in 2015 on the Crawford vs. DIerry Jean card. (Trivia: Andy Ruiz Jr. was also on the undercard). He is an offense-minded fighter and promises a proper guerra.
“I’m not looking at the future. Mean Machine is the present and I’m going to beat him,” said Zewski. “This will be a great fight. This is a fight that could get ugly, and it could be a war, for sure.”
The Machine says bring it on. “Zewski is also a pressure fighter like me. I think we have similar styles, and I really believe we will make a very entertaining fight on Saturday. I know the fireworks will begin in the very first round. This will be an action fight.”
Top Rank spokesman Evan Korn promised ESPN and Top Rank “does have something planned to pay homage to Mexican Independence Day weekend.” Get out the guacamole, and stay tuned.
The four-fight undercard features several young Mexican-American prospects:
Aleem Jumakhonov (8-3-2, 4 KOs) of Tajisktan vs Jorge Ramos of Laredo, Texas (7-2-1, 4 KOs), six rounds at featherweight;
Anthony Chavez (8-1, 3 KOs) of Redlands, California vs Adan Gonzalez of Denver (5-3-2, 2 KOs), six rounds at super featherweight;
Manual Flores of Coachella, California (8-0, 5 KOs) vs Puerto Rican native Jonathan Rodriguez of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (8-0, 3 KOs), six rounds at bantamweight;
Eric Puente of Vista, California (3-0) in a four-round lightweight bout with an opponent TBA.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal is an award-winning boxing journalist covering the Sweet Science for Communities and for boxing fans worldwide. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
Copyright © 2020 by Falcon Valley Group