Friday, April 30, 2010 | 2:05 a.m.
A few years ago, Leonard Ellerbe, CEO of Mayweather Promotions, recruited veteran boxer Said Ouali to help Floyd Mayweather, Jr., prepare for an upcoming fight.
Mayweather quickly found out that Ouali, a native of Morocco, was no ordinary sparring partner.
"All it took was one sparring session before Floyd said to me, 'We've got to sign him the next day,'" Ellerbe said. "It just goes to show you the kind of talent this guy brings to the table."
Mayweather Promotions has represented Ouali ever since. Ouali (26-3, 18 KOs) will face one of the biggest tests of his career Saturday night when he takes on Argentina's Hector Saldivia (31-1, 24 KO's) in a 10-round welterweight bout.
Ouali is one of two Las Vegas-based fighters who will fight on the Mayweather vs. Mosley undercard Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
The other is Jessie Vargas, who is considered a top prospect in the welterweight division. Vargas (9-0, 4 KO's) will fight Arturo Morua (25-13-1, 14 KO's) in an 8-round fight.
"Hopefully, it will give him a chance to gain his crown," said Roger Mayweather, Vargas' trainer. "He's one of the great fighters of modern times."
As far as experience goes, Vargas will be at a disadvantage. Morua, from Guadalajara, Mexico, is a 31-year old boxing veteran.
Vargas hasn't even turned 21 yet.
"I have a good opponent," Vargas said. "It's going to be a great fight."
Surprisingly, Vargas is not the youngest fighter on the card. That distinction goes to 19-year old Saul Alvarez, who will compete in the featured undercard bout directly before the main event.
Alvarez (31-0-1, 23 KO's), one of the top boxers in Mexico, will take on Jose Miguel Cotto (31-1-1, 23 KO's), older brother of former world champion Miguel Angel Cotto.
"The only thing Jose Miguel has good is his last name and we are going to make sure of that," said Edy Reynoso, Alvarez's trainer. "It's better for him to remain in the corner and help his brother."
Cotto scoffed at that notion. Although he said he would not be fighting in his preferred weight class for the welterweight bout, Cotto predicted the upset.
Cotto said his training with Jose Santiago would prove to be the difference.
"They should have picked their opponent better if they think Saul Alvarez is the next big boxing star in Mexico," Santiago said. "We came here to have a big win for Puerto Rico and Jose Miguel Cotto."
The undercard will start at 2:30 Saturday afternoon and contains eight total fights, three of which will be televised as part of the pay-per-view package.
The televised bouts will be Alvarez vs. Cotto, Saldivia vs. Ouali and a WBC Latino Featherweight title fight between Daniel Ponce De Leon and Cornelius Lock.