But the fight promoters really wanted was unbeaten Mexican middleweight Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., who will meet Michigan's Troy Rowland in the final preliminary of the night.
Bob Arum of Top Rank Boxing, which put the card together, needs to draw a audience that rivals the 1 million pay-per-view buys Floyd Mayweather drew for his September comeback fight with Juan Manual Marquez. Without big numbers, Arum will find it difficult to negotiate the kind of contract he'll be asking for when the winner of Saturday's main event takes on Mayweather next year. Adding Chavez, the son of six-time world champion Julio Cesar Chavez, who is still a legend among Latin boxing fans, figures to help with that.
"Yeah, he'll drive the pay-per-view," said Arum, who is confident Saturday's card will surpass 1 million buys. "I don't care what anybody says. I'm not running an election. I'm trying to do business."
It wasn't good business for Chavez Jr., though, who is getting just $100,000 for the fight, about a quarter of what he gets for fighting in Mexico, Arum said.
"Chavez Jr. pressed us to be on this card because with worldwide attention, he'd have his image all over the world," Arum said.
Plus a win over Rowland (25-2, 7 knockouts) would move Chavez Jr. (40-0-1, 30 KOs) a big step closer to his ultimate goal, a world title fight.
"This is a great opportunity for me," he said in Spanish. "It's a great opportunity to demonstrate that I'm ready for a world championship fight. I think I'm ready to take this next step in my career."
Rowland, who reached across the dais to shake hands with Chavez Jr., during Thursday's news conference, would like nothing better than to trip up those plans.
"He's undefeated, and we've got just one chance to take his zero away. That's what we've been training to do," Rowland said. "I've been reading stuff on the Internet that says, 'Oh, well, he's fighting a nobody' because nobody knows my name. But I've been around a while. I've had some good fights.
"He's a hard fighter and I'm a hard fighter. So we're going to tear it up."
-- Kevin Baxter and Lance Pugmire