Golden Boy Promotions CEO Oscar De La Hoya had hoped that a meaningful heavyweight bout between interim titleholder Luis Ortiz and Alexander Ustinov would be the co-feature for the Canelo Alvarez-Liam Smith HBO pay-per-view card on Sept. 17 at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, in Arlington, Texas.
When Ortiz withdrew after agreeing because he wanted more money, De La Hoya turned his attention to featuring middleweight world titleholder Billy Joe Saunders in a defense as a way to showcase him for a potential showdown with Alvarez in December, provided they both win.
Saunders, however, turned down one opponent after another, including Gabriel Rosado and Willie Monroe Jr., both former world title challengers who suffered knockout losses to Gennady Golovkin in world title bouts and would have been major underdogs.
With Saunders also off the card, Golden Boy went back to the drawing board and on Thursday announced that Rosado (23-9, 13 KOs) and Monroe (20-2, 6 KOs), both left hanging by Saunders, would face each other in the scheduled 12-round co-feature of the card (9 p.m. ET).
Golden Boy also announced two other 10-round bouts that will round out the pay-per-view telecast, which does not look strong, especially given that Mexico's Alvarez (47-1-1, 33 KOs) is such a prohibitive favorite to topple Smith (23-0-1,13 KOs), of England, and claim his junior middleweight world title:
Featherweight prospect and 2012 U.S. Olympian Joseph Diaz Jr. (21-0, 12 KOs), of South El Monte, California, will face Andrew Cancio (17-3-2, 13 KOs), of Blythe, California.
Junior featherweight prospect Diego De La Hoya (15-0, 9 KOs) of Mexico, a first cousin of Oscar De La Hoya, will face Puerto Rico's Luis Orlando Del Valle (22-2, 16 KOs).
Oscar De La Hoya attempted to shine a positive light on the undercard.
"This undercard features everything a fight fan could want -- a crossroads fight between two veterans (Rosado-Monroe) battling for a last shot at stardom, a former Olympian on the cusp of a world title and a top prospect making his debut on the biggest scene in boxing," De La Hoya said. "With the biggest star in the sport in Canelo headlining the night and this stacked undercard providing support, fans are in for a top-to-bottom treat on Sept. 17."
Rosado (23-9, 13 KOs), 30, of Philadelphia, twice fought for middleweight world titles in 2013, getting knocked out both times, by Golovkin in the seventh round and by then-titleholder Peter Quillin because of severe cuts in the 10th round. He has also lost to top opponents such as former titleholder David Lemieux and Jermell Charlo, who went on to win a world title, during a rough stretch in which he went 0-4 with a no-decision. But since linking up with trainer Fernando Vargas, he has won two fights in a row, including a strong performance in a 10-round decision against former welterweight titleholder Joshua Clottey in December.
"I'm excited for the opportunity to perform at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys," Rosado said. "Fernando Vargas, my trainer, and I are on a winning streak and getting better as we continue to work together. We have all the confidence we'll be victorious on Sept. 17. Training camp is going great. Despite the change in opponent, we still continue to maintain our focus. Willie Monroe Jr. is a southpaw as well, so the game plan doesn't change much. He's in my way of me gaining a [possible] world title [opportunity], so I'm working harder than ever before to get that chance again.
"This is going to be a great fight for all the fans. I know I am coming in with everything I got and I know Willie Monroe Jr. will do the same. I would like to thank Golden Boy Promotions, AT&T Stadium, and HBO for having me part of such a big event. I promise all boxing fans this is the fight to watch on Sept. 17."
Monroe (20-2, 6 KOs), 29, of Rochester, New York, made a name for himself by winning ESPN's Boxcino middleweight tournament in 2014. He parlayed that into a shot at Golovkin in 2015 but got wiped out in the sixth round. He bounced back to outpoint former junior middleweight title challenger John Thompson, the 2015 Boxcino junior middleweight tournament winner, in June.
"I am happy to be back in championship contention," Monroe said. "Gabriel Rosado is a warrior, and this should make for a great fight. I am looking forward to this opportunity. It is a big venue, but I don't care if I am fighting in front of 200 people or 2 million people. I am always focused, and I plan to put on a great performance on Sept. 17."
Diaz, 23, is on the verge of a world title shot and has looked good in recent fights, including a second-round destruction of Victor Proa on July 30.
"Fighting on HBO Pay-Per-View is a dream come true," Diaz said. "As a young fighter you always dream about being on the big stage doing what you love, and I am very excited to be part of such a big event. I am very motivated and ready to take this step and perform for all the fight fans in the arena and all the fights tuning in.
"Andrew is a tremendous fighter, strong, aggressive; I know he will bring out the best in me. I know he is going to try to take everything away from me, but I am not afraid. I am going out on Sept. 17 in the best shape of my life. I have everything ahead of me and I am ready to defend my [regional] title and give the fight fans a fight they want to see."
Cancio, 27, has won two fights in a row, both by knockout, since a 10-round decision loss to featherweight contender Ronny Rios in 2014.
Diego De La Hoya, 22, turned pro in 2013 and is moving quickly up the ranks. He is coming off an impressive seventh-round knockout of then-undefeated Rocco Santomauro on May 7 on the Alvarez-Amir Khan undercard.
"Every fighter dreams to one day get to this level of their career and be featured on pay-per-view," he said. "With this fight and this stage, I am ready to announce that I have arrived to the elite of this division. Winning this fight will take me to the next level of my career, I am ready for it. I have what it takes to win, and I am looking forward to impressing all the fans."
Del Valle, 29, has won four fights in a row since dropping a lopsided 10-round decision to undefeated Luis Rosa in 2014.
"Being patient paid off," Del Valle said. "This is a great opportunity on one of boxing's biggest stages. Now is the time to deliver, to come out with the win at all cost for my family and for Puerto Rico. Rest assured I will not waste this magnificent occasion. I will rise."