After his victory over Danielito Zorrilla last July, junior welterweight contender, Arnold Barboza, had hoped to face Teofimo Lopez. Instead, after Lopez got past Pedro Campa a month later, it was Jose Pedraza, who got the call to face him in December.
Pedraza came up ill, which meant that Lopez was paired with Sandor Martin at Madison Square Garden.
So it only makes sense (sorta) that Barboza now faces Pedraza (29-4-1, 14 KOs) this Friday night as the ESPN co-main from the Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona.
Mikey Williams/Top Rank
It still mystifies Barboza (27-0, 10 KOs) why Lopez was so reticent to face him. There is footage of the former unified lightweight champion telling Brad Jacobs of Top Rank, while still inside the ring that he was simply wasn't going to face him just a few minutes after he finished off Campa in seven rounds. Barboza just happened to be in attendance at Resorts World in Las Vegas that evening.
"I know for awhile we tried to get it, he didn't want it," Barboza told SNAC.com, earlier this week. "Pedraza if he would've fought Teofimo on the 10th (of December), I think Pedraza would've beaten him."
What's interesting is that Barboza, who is rated sixth by Ring Magazine and 140, presents a much more conventional style than the southpaw Spaniard, who made life difficult for Lopez. While he overcame a trip to the canvas to win a somewhat controversial decision, Lopez failed to impress.
Mikey Williams/Top Rank
Barboza says of Lopez, "I know for sure I'm in his head because to mention my name right after your victory (after Campa), I mean, I was there for a reason. I thought that was going to happen. Obviously, so did Top Rank. But it just didn't happen so for whatever reason, I don't know if he's scared."
So with that said, Barboza, who is rated as high as number four in the WBO, has to continue on with his career. But he's unclear just what a win over the well-established Puerto Rican will lead to.
"I'll be honest, I'm as clueless as you," he stated, bluntly. "Hopefully, it'll be something big, beating Pedraza.''
In 2022, 'the Sniper' lost a 12 round decision to Jose Ramirez, and then battled to a draw versus Richard Commey. This could still be a very tricky outing for Barboza, to corner the switch-hitting boxer.
Mikey Williams/Top Rank
"He's a big name, , but we're confident, especially after this training camp," said Barboza, who spent five weeks in Big Bear at the Summit Gym. "We're very excited, we need to prove ourselves. We feel like people keep doubting us. So just keep winning."
This could be a case of not if you win, but how you do so. The more impressive the better for Barboza, whose progress has been held up by the oft-injured undisputed champion, Josh Taylor, who has since vacated three of his belts. "He's been holding up the line, so to speak," lamented Barboza, who is hoping that this year brings a title shot of some sort.
"That's the plan, but first things, first, getting through this one," cautioned Barboza. "He's a tricky, crafty righty-lefty, it's very hard to prepare for someone like Pedraza. I'm very sharp., I think we've done a very good job in camp."
And yes, he would be willing, unlike some other marquee names in the division who are also promoted by Top Rank, to face WBC belt-holder, Regis Prograis, who is seemingly being avoided like the Bubonic Plague.
"If I get the opportunity, I'm going to take it," he stated the 31 year old native of Los Angeles. "I'm not getting any younger. Whatever opportunity presents itself, I mean, it's for glory."
Meanwhile on DAZN from the Hulu Theater at MSG, the ladies take center stage. In the main event, Amanda Serrano takes on Erika Cruz for all the featherweight titles. The co-main has Alycia Baumgardner defending her undisputed super featherweight championship versus Elham Mekhaled.
Last year was a seminal year for woman's boxing that saw Serrano battle Katie Taylor in the big room at the Garden, and Baumgardner faced Mikaela Mayer at the O2 Arena in the UK on a high-profile all-female card.
Also on this bill on Saturday night are Ramla Ali and Skye Nicolson, who are two highly touted prospects
There is an interesting mens bout as junior welterweight, Richardson Hitchins, taking on John Bauza, in a battle of undefeated junior welterweights.
The ESPN card on Friday night begins at 6:30 pm, ET/3:30 pm, PT on ESPN+, which has coverage of the undercard which features Andres Cortes, Emiliano Vargas and Nico Ali Walsh....The main event on ESPN features Emanuel Navarrete-Liam Walsh for the vacant WBO 130-pound title....Brandon Figueroa will battle Mark Magsayo on March 4 in Ontario, CA, for the WBC interim featherweight title on Showtime. Jarrett Hurd will also be a part of this broadcast....Saw the re-boot of 'Night Court' on NBC. Thumbs down....I can be reached at email@example.com....