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Future stars of boxing showcased on "The Event" undercard


Grapevine, Texas--Casual boxing fans may not know their names now, but after March 13, they will. That was the central message of the lively press conference for "The Event" undercard bouts held Thursday, March 11, here at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center. 

The confab featured some good-natured smack-talking, a $30,000 challenge, and an a cappella rap performance. That's right: one of the fighters rapped. In Spanish.

But let's return to that in a moment.

The real story here is the quality of the undercard bouts Top Rank has lined up for the battle royale between pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao and former champ Joshua Clottey March 13 at Cowboys Stadium. And one need look no further than the title fight featuring Mexico's Humberto Soto and Chicago's David Diaz.

By their own admission, the two fighters are close friends, and the tongue-in-cheek, on-stage back-and-forth they engaged in proved it.

Top Rank CEO and founder Bob Arum stunned the crowd by announcing that more than anyone Diaz was responsible for "The Event." Why? Because the former lightweight champ agreed to allow Pacquiao to challenge him for the title, which resulted in Pacquiao earning one of his record-breaking seven belts in as many divisions.

But Diaz, who is hungry to win back the belt he lost to Pacquiao, had a startling announcement of his own: "We might just steal the show," he said of the match-up between him and Soto.

After hugging his friend, Soto, the current champ, said through a translator that the two would necessarily have to forget their friendship for the length of the fight. Soto added that he would leave his belt here until after he beats Diaz. "I'm gonna pick it up on Saturday," Soto said.

The other match-up that has fans excited features Mexican welterweights Alfonso Gomez and Jose Louis Castillo, both of whom are eager to enter the ring.

Initially, Gomez's speech to the press was fairly standard stuff. He said he'd been training hard, et cetera. But things quickly took a turn for the surreal when Gomez, who's in a hip-hop group, launched into a rap presumably about Castillo, though this non-Spanish-speaking writer can't say anything beyond that it featured an apparent reference to Freddy Krueger. Still, Gomez made his point even to the English-only folks in the crowd: He's a showman, and he's ready.

The veteran Castillo, however, wasn't going to let the affront slide. So, he issued a challenge to Gomez: Castillo said he'd bet Gomez $30,000 that Castillo would beat him. No word yet on whether Gomez accepted.

The other fighters to watch out for include superstar prospect--and Dallas native--Roberto Marroquin, Irish slugger John Duddy, and Salvador Sanchez, who showed up late but made up for it by dressing like a disco king. Between Sanchez's attire and all of the other antics, flamboyancy never had it so good.

"This is such a big event...that we felt we should have a great undercard," said legendary promoter Arum. "We want to show everybody...what a great sport boxing is," adding, "Boxing is back!"

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