In their best days, Devon Alexander and Victor Ortiz were dynamic fighters who both won welterweight world titles and were involved in major fights.
Neither has been a factor near the top of boxing for the past few years, but both still hope to land at least one more big opportunity in the talent-rich welterweight division and show that, at age 31, they are not finished writing their final chapters.
They know it would behoove them to win or risk falling into irrelevance when they meet in the main event of a Premier Boxing Champions card in prime time on Saturday (Fox/Fox Deportes, 8 p.m. ET) at the Don Haskins Center on the UTEP campus in El Paso, Texas.
"Our main event is a true crossroads fight," said Tom Brown of TGB Promotions, which is promoting the card. "Victor Ortiz and Devon Alexander are battle-tested in one of the toughest and deepest divisions in boxing. The winner of this fight will be back on the path to a world title."
Alexander, of St. Louis, is closer to his best days than Ortiz. His biggest problem was an addiction to painkillers. He lost back-to-back decisions to former world titleholder Amir Khan in December 2014 and journeyman Aaron Martinez in October 2015.
Alexander (27-4, 14 KOs) then took time off to get help and to get his life in order, and after a 25-month layoff, he returned in November and looked good in a one-sided, 10-round decision victory against fringe contender Walter Castillo. He's happy to be back in the ring and feeling good again and would like a shot at world titleholder Errol Spence Jr.
"I'm excited about this fight, and I know Victor is too. It's an awesome feeling to be able to showcase my talent. This is what I've been working hard for. I'm an all-around good fighter, and I think my speed and quickness will be the difference. No one can hit me when I'm at the top of my game." Devon Alexander
"Boxing is what I love to do," said Alexander, who also unified two world titles at junior welterweight and owns wins against Lucas Matthysse, Marcos Maidana, Juan Urango and Randall Bailey. "This is what I was born to do. I'm so thankful to my coach, Kevin Cunningham, for sticking by me these last few years and helping get me back to this point.
"I'm excited about this fight, and I know Victor is too. It's an awesome feeling to be able to showcase my talent. This is what I've been working hard for. I'm an all-around good fighter, and I think my speed and quickness will be the difference. No one can hit me when I'm at the top of my game."
Cunningham has trained Alexander for his entire career and helped get him off the streets when he was a kid. He knows Alexander's career could be at stake in the fight with Ortiz.
"This is definitely a crossroads fight for both guys. We've known Victor since he was like 9 years old, fighting in the same region as him [as amateurs]," Cunningham said. "This is business because this is a crossroads fight for both guys in their careers and their lives.
"The winner of this fight will go on to bigger and better things, and the loser has to get back at the end of the line. That's not the plan for Devon, and Victor is in the way right now. Devon is going to be well-prepared, and I expect it will be an action-packed fight."
Ortiz (32-6-2, 25 KOs), of Ventura, California, has a lot more to prove than Alexander. His shining moment was a unanimous decision against Andre Berto to win a welterweight world title in 2011 fight of the year contender. Ortiz lost the belt in his next fight when Floyd Mayweather knocked him out in the fourth round in what was the first of three knockout losses in a row.
Ortiz has constantly battled questions about his heart, dedication to boxing and injuries. He has had several long layoffs in recent years, and when he met Berto in a rematch in April 2016, he got knocked out in the fourth round. A 15-month layoff followed until he returned to stop journeyman Saul Corral in the fourth round in July.
"I'm going to keep coming forward until my hand is raised in victory. One day I will be the champion again, and it starts [Saturday] in El Paso." Victor Ortiz
Ortiz, 3-4 in his past seven bouts, has heard the critics for years but says he is not paying attention. He says he is concerned only with defeating Alexander.
"I've been counted out many times in this sport," he said. "I'm not [taking] any shortcuts in training. I'm just going to keep listening to what my coach wants me to do so I can be at my best. Being on this stage is very significant for me. Thankfully, I have people who don't stop believing in me. I've seen both sides and been in the middle. At this point, the only place I'm focused on going is up. It's all in front of me.
"I'm going to keep coming forward until my hand is raised in victory. One day I will be the champion again, and it starts [Saturday] in El Paso."
Said Joseph Janik, Ortiz's trainer, "One of these fighters is about to take a big step forward in their career, but it doesn't happen without a win on [Saturday]."
Plant steps up vs. Medina
In the co-feature, Caleb Plant (16-0, 10 KOs), 25, an Ashland, Tennessee, native who recently relocated to live and train in Las Vegas, will step up in competition to face former world title challenger Rogelio "Porky" Medina (38-8, 32 KOs), 29, of Mexico, in a title elimination bout.
"Medina is a rough, tough competitor who comes to win every time. He puts it all on the line, so I expect it to be a great fight," Plant said. "He's going to fight to the very end, so I have to be ready. My team has done a great job putting me in a position to be at my best on fight night. We're going to keep working so that everything finishes with me putting on a great performance in El Paso.
"This is going to be a fun USA versus Mexico fight, and I'm looking to represent for my country. I think the competitiveness will be extremely high on fight night."
The winner of the fight will move a step closer to a mandatory shot at the 168-pound belt currently held by Caleb Truax, who won it in a massive upset of James DeGale, whom he outpointed on Dec. 9 in DeGale's hometown of London.
"Caleb Truax just won the IBF title, and after this fight, I'll be No. 2 in that division [in the IBF rankings]," Plant said. "That's definitely a fight that we want and will look to make happen after this one. [WBC titleholder] David Benavidez is the fight I would want first after I win the IBF title."
The telecast will also include 21-year-old lightweight prospect Karlos Balderas (3-0, 3 KOs), a 2016 U.S. Olympian from Santa Maria, California, taking on Jorge Rojas (4-2-1, 2 KOs), 27, of Mexico, in a six-round bout.