Top Rank Eyes October 3 Fight Date for Teofimo Lopez Jr. vs. Vasiliy Lomachenko

The biggest fight of Teofimo Lopez Jr.’s career could be happening soon…

The lightweight unification title fight between the 22-year-old Honduran-American professional boxer, who has held the IBF lightweight title since 2019 and Vasiliy Lomachenko might now take place on October 3 in Las Vegas, Top Rank president Todd duBoef confirmed to ESPN.

Teofimo Lopez

Recently, Top Rank chairman Bob Arum suggested September 19 as a potential date for the fight, after a spring date was moved because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

DuBoef said “it’s still too early to determine everything” regarding the bout and that he is uncertain as to whether it will be closed to the public.

“I’m not sure that fight happens with fans,” duBoef told ESPN.

Top Rank, which promotes Lomachenko (14-1, 10 KOs) and Lopez (15-0, 12 KOs), has held several cards inside an enclosed area at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. DuBoef said the fight could be a potential pay-per-view bout at the MGM.

Arum told Boxingscene.com he is hopeful to have perhaps 2,000 to 2,500 people in attendance. But those plans could be altered as the pandemic worsens around the United States.

Like many other states, Nevada is experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases. According to the most recent numbers posted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the state has seen an increase of 5,889 cases over the past seven days, which is nearly a quarter of the state’s total cases since the pandemic started.

The October 3 date was originally reserved for the third bout between heavyweights Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder, duBoef told ESPN. That was pushed to December 19, leaving a potential PPV slot available.

Lomachenko is ESPN’s top pound-for-pound fighter, while Lopez won the IBF’s lightweight belt in December, when he stopped Richard Commey in the second round for his first major professional championship.

Teofimo Lopez to Fight Vasiliy Lomachenko in September

Teofimo Lopez is taking on a goliath

The 22-year-old Honduran American boxer, one of the sport’s rising stars, is set to fight lightweight titlist Vasiliy LomachenkoESPN‘s top pound-for-pound fighter.

Teofimo Lopez

Lopez will fight Lomachenko in a unification bout on September 19, announced Top Rank chief Bob Arum.

Lomachenko, who holds the WBO and WBA lightweight belts, was initially scheduled to face Lopez, who holds the IBF belt, on May 30 at Madison Square Garden. But that fight was scrapped because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lomachenko (14-1, 10 KOs) hasn’t been in the ring since October 2019, when he won a unanimous decision over Luke Campbell. It was only the second time since 2014 that he didn’t win via stoppage.

Lopez (15-0, 12 KOs) earned one of the four major belts in the 130-pound division when he stopped Richard Commey in December 2019. The Brooklyn native, who was ESPN’s 2018 prospect of the year, fought four times last year as he ramped up toward a belt.

The undefeated titleholder had previously complained about the negotiations with Lomachenko, who went back to his home country of Ukraine during the pandemic.

“I try to make these fights happen for the fans, the fans are the ones that win at the end of the day. But honestly, we’re not going to wait on this guy,” Lopez said in March. “We gave him everything he needs and everything he wants, and now he’s complaining about New York, he wants it in Vegas, he wants it in Cali. It’s been annoying.”

Both fighters are represented by Top Rank. In May, Arum told ESPN both fighters were adamant about a showdown in 2020, even if the circumstances were atypical because of the pandemic.

“In talking with Lomachenko and Lopez, neither of them want an interim fight,” Arum said. “So we would plan to do that in September, with or without an audience.”

Arum previously suggested that the fight would be a pay-per-view bout that could still be an event in Las Vegas that adheres to current safety protocols. Since early June, Top Rank has hosted multiple cards per week in the city.

Jorge Linares to Fight Javier Fortuna in August

Jorge Linaresis heading back to the ring this summer…

The 34-year-old Venezuelan professional boxer and three-time world champion will fight Javier Fortuna (35-2-1, 24 KOs) on August 28 at the Fantasy Springs Resort and Casinoin Indio, California.

Jorge Linares

After Linares (47-5, 29 KOs) dispatched Carlos Morales in four rounds on February 14, a showdown with the undefeated Ryan Garcia was heavily rumored for the summer. That fight never materialized, and Linares and his representatives shifted their focus to another fight.

“We wanted that fight [with Garcia], Jorge wanted that fight more than anybody,” said Jose de la Cruz, who manages Linares. “I guess their camp is not being reasonable with Golden Boy.”

In regard to the potential July 4 fight, Garcia representative Lupe Valencia said, “What they offered Ryan was not acceptable. We can’t just accept it if we know it’s not reasonable.”

Eric Gomez, the president of Golden Boy Promotions, told ESPN, “Fortuna was willing to fight pretty much anybody, he was available. So we made the offer to Linares, and he took it right away.”

Gomez said there is a chance that this bout could be contested for the WBC interim lightweight title.

“It was a no-brainer,” said de la Cruz. “I think it’s the right time for Jorge to fight for a world title, and to stay active, number one. He’ll be 35 by the time he fights. How many fights does he have left? We all want to know.”

Linares, who is ESPN’s No. 6 lightweight, has had a memorable career, filled with substantial victories and mind-boggling defeats. 

He’s captured world titles at 126, 130 and 135, but never had a long title run with any of those belts. Linares has victories over the likes of Oscar LariosKevin MitchellAnthony Crolla and Luke Campbell, and gave Vasiliy Lomachenko his toughest test to date as a professional. 

But Linares has also been knocked out in all five of his losses, the latest of which was when he was stopped in the first round by Pablo Cesar Cano in an ill-fated experiment at 140 at the beginning of 2019.

The 31-year-old Fortuna, who is ESPN’s No. 8 lightweight, once held the WBA 130-pound title and had a strong showing as he knocked out a faded Jesus Cuellar in two rounds last November. 

Fortuna, a southpaw from the Dominican Republic presents a formidable challenge for Linares with his above-average power. Should Linares overcome the challenge of Fortuna, he’ll be in line for even bigger fights.

“There’s [DevinHaney,” said De La Cruz, mentioning the current WBC lightweight titleholder as one option. ”If Golden Boy can make the Ryan Garcia fight, if the virus doesn’t affect us late in the year, everything goes well, we want a championship fight or a big fight at the Staples Center. That’s what Golden Boy wants.”

The August 28 Golden Boy card is scheduled to be the promotion’s second of the summer, following a July 24 show headlined by Vergil Ortiz and Samuel Vargas.

Jose Zepeda Defeats Jose “Sniper” Pedraza in Biggest Win of His Career

Jose Zepedahas scored the biggest win of his career…

The 34-year-old Mexican American professional boxer and junior welterweight contender earned a unanimous decision against former lightweight and junior lightweight world titlist Jose “Sniper” Pedraza, who was moving up to 140 pounds.

Jose Zepeda

Zepeda, a southpaw, outworked and outfought Pedraza in an entertaining fight and won 97-93 on all three scorecards.

“It’s probably one of the best days of my life. It’s Mexican Independence Day. I was giving everything for Mexico,” Zepeda said. “I guess persistence (was the key to victory). The people here were giving me excitement to go get him, to go after this guy. We knew that he was a hell of a boxer.”

Both of Zepeda’s losses came in world title bouts, a second-round stoppage due to a shoulder injury for a vacant lightweight belt to Terry Flanagan in 2015 and a disputed majority decision to Jose Ramirezfor a junior welterweight title in February. But with a strong performance against Pedraza (26-3, 13 KOs), 30, of Puerto Rico, Zepeda has put himself back in the title hunt and called for a rematch with Ramirez.

“There were talks that maybe the winner of this fight would go after Ramirez,” Zepeda said. “For me, the rematch, I would like that. It was a very close fight. A lot of people thought I won, a lot of people thought he won. I would love a rematch. I think the people would love it, too.”

It took a couple of rounds for the fight to settle into a rhythm, with Pedraza coming forward and Zepeda (31-2, 25 KOs),, looking to counter and relying heavily on his jab.

Zepeda’s rapid-fire left hands landed often in the fifth round, but his jab also proved difficult for Pedraza to handle. In the sixth round, Pedraza began to go more to the body and landed a few shots that were audible at ringside, but Zepeda took the shots well and continued to fire jabs down the middle as Pedraza’s face began to show the wear from the shots.

Pedraza, his right eye closing and perhaps believing he was down, came out strong in the eighth round and landed a hard left hand in the opening seconds and then began to stick his jab in Zepeda’s face over and over, forcing him to back up.

According to CompuBox statistics, Zepeda landed 167 of 470 punches (36 percent) and Pedraza connected with 141 of 439 blows (32 percent).

Pedraza remained aggressive in the 10th round and cut Zepeda over his left eye in the best action round of the fight, one that closed with them in a toe-to-toe exchange.

Pedraza dropped to 1-2 in his past three fights, having lost his lightweight belt by decision to Vasiliy Lomachenko in a unification fight in December before bouncing back with a ninth-round knockout of Antonio Lozadain May, before he elected to move up to junior welterweight.

“It was a very good fight. He looked very well, and I just couldn’t do any of the things I wanted to do,” Pedraza said. “Nothing came out the way I wanted. The instruction from my corner was to throw more punches, but nothing was going my way.

“This was my debut at 140. I felt good. I will meet with my team to evaluate if we stay at 140, or if we move down in weight.”

Julio Cesar Martinez to Fight Flyweight World Titleholder Charlie Edwards

Julio Cesar Martinez is ready to take on the champ…

The 24-year-old Mexican boxer is set to fight flyweight world titleholder Charlie Edwards on August 31 at the O2 Arena in London, as Edwards makes his mandatory title defense, according to Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn.

Julio Cesar Martinez

The bout, Edwards’ second title defense, will be part of the card headlined by pound-for-pound king Vasiliy Lomachenkodefending his unified lightweight world title — and an attempt to claim a vacant belt as well — against England’s Luke Campbell.

Martinez (14-1, 11 KOs) earned the title shot by knocking out then-undefeated Andrew Selby, of Wales, in the fifth round on March 23 in Mexico.

“He’s a very tough Mexican who can bang with both hands,” Edwards said of Martinez. “His record shows that he’s a massive puncher and we saw that in his last fight against Andrew Selby. He got him out of there in the fifth round and was hurting him on a number of occasions. He’s coming to bring it and he’s going to try and rip that WBC title off me. This is his World Cupfinal.

“He’s going to put it all on the line. He’s going to be coming hard and fast from early to try and put me under pressure, but I believe my boxing skills and the experience that I’ve gained throughout my short pro career will see me through. I expect to have a punch-perfect performance. I believe that he will bring out the very best in me.

“Timing is everything. I believe this is my era. I have arrived at my destination at the right time and I’m loving the journey. To fight your mandatory challenger on one of the biggest cards in British boxing this year is brilliant because it showcases my skills around the world.”

Edwards (15-1, 6 KOs) took a 112-pound world title by unanimous decision from Nicaragua’s Cristofer Rosalesin London in December and made his first defense, also in London, by unanimous decision against Spain’s Angel Morenoon March 23.

“I can’t wait to challenge for the WBC flyweight world title in London,” Martinez said. “I’ll be taking that famous green-and-gold belt back to Mexico with me. I have already knocked out one Brit and on August 31 I will make it two.”

The card also will include a heavyweight fight between contenderHughie Furyand former secondary titlist Alexander Povetkin, a bout that Hearn announced Wednesday.