(OK, there will be plenty of time to kvetch about the cancellation of Manny Pacquiao-Errol Spence in the near future. This edition of K9's Corner will be dedicated to fights that will be taking place -- knock on wood -- this weekend. Now, onto our regularly scheduled programming...)
Josh Taylor is currently the undisputed junior welterweight champion of the world. 'The Tartan Tornado' earned the designation by defeating Jose Ramirez back on May 22nd to consolidate all four of the major belts.
Which is great news for him, and other pundits and critics who care about such things.
However, it complicates things for boxers like Arnold Barboza, who currently is rated third by the WBO, and now patiently awaits his crack at a title. Barboza (25-0, 10 KOs) is facing Antonio Moran this Saturday night in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as part of the ESPN (10 pm, ET/7 pm, PT) broadcast, as he bides his time.
"One of the good things and bad things in boxing -- and I know the list is long and distinguished - is when you have a unified champion, the titles get 'held up', for awhile," explained Carl Moretti, the VP of Boxing Operations for Top Rank.
"So while everyone aims to unify the titles, it also keeps the titles on hold because not that many are available to fight for. So any top three contender is in the same position as Arnold, where you work yourself up to that ranking, and you continue to play that waiting game."
Barboza, who began his career on the club circuit in Southern California, has forged himself into a legitimate contender. He is now rated number 5 at 140 by Ring Magazine. While not having a sparkling KO percentage, he is certainly not feather fisted, and he has an active style inside the ring that is television-friendly.
Photo Credit: Mike Williams/Top Rank
"I think I'm one of the best in there for sure, top five, top three. We just have to keep proving it," said Barboza on August 5th, at the Fundamentals19 gym in Bell Gardens, California before his afternoon workout. "We literally started from the bottom, and we're going to keep proving it."
This is his first outing of 2021. Barboza was last seen back in October where he had a bruising 10 round battle with former title challenger, Alex Saucedo, inside 'the Bubble' at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
"I remember training camp," recalled Barboza, "the whole thing was we weren't going to let him push us back because he's a fighter that's good when he pushes you back. So we decided to make the fight different. Everyone thought I was going to come out and box, we decided to stay there more. I knew it was going to be a physical fight.''
It was more than that, while Barboza celebrated a hard-fought victory, Saucedo, was sent to the hospital where it was discovered he had two brain bleeds. He would soon announce his retirement from the ring at age 26.
"I felt a little responsibility for it, of course,'' admitted Barboza. "I had a talk with him, called him right away. We had a really good conversation, we still talk till this day. It gave me a lot of closure, and it gave me motivation to keep going to push even harder."
Fast forward to late May, Barboza was more than just an interested observer when Taylor faced Ramirez. He admitted that he preferred a win from Ramirez (with whom he shares the same manager in Rick Mirigian) because he believed that the Central Valley star would be moving up to 147 if he won this bout.
"It was a great fight, and hats off to Taylor," said Barboza, who was in attendance that night at the Virgin Hotels in Las Vegas. "He deserved the win, and deserves everything he's got. So congratulations to him."
Taylor is now scheduled to face his WBO mandatory, Jack Catterall, in December. After that, it's not clear just how long Taylor will continue to campaign as a junior welterweight. "We don't know what Taylor's going to do. We're kind of waiting on that," admitted Barboza.
What could grease the skids for a Taylor-Barboza match-up is that both are under the Top Rank banner.
Barboza says he has no issues about having to fight for a vacant title. For him, it's about landing that notable fight, preferably for a title.
"There's a lot of rumors of Teofimo (Lopez) moving up," he said of the current undisputed lightweight champion. "I would like to fight him. If he wants to move up, I would welcome him with open arms. I definitely want a big name, him, or anyone else in the top five."
Meanwhile on DAZN (8 pm, ET/ 5 pm, PT) from Frisco, Texas at 'the Star', rising welterweight contender, Vergil Ortiz, faces 'Mean Machine' Kavaliauskas.
Ortiz, who hails from nearby Grand Prairie, is an anomaly in today's game: a young prizefighter who has no issues, doesn't stir up any drama, just shows up and does his job with aplomb. He's a reliable as the sunrise.
Which has lead me to give him the moniker 'Low Maintenance' because, well, that's what he is, unlike other Golden Boy Promotion clients.
"Yeah, I've seen the tweets," he said with a chuckle, while getting his hands wrapped a couple of weeks ago by his father. "I just think I'm to myself. I just worry about me. I don't think I've cause a lot of problems."
Vergil Sr. said of his son, "He's always been that way. He's just naturally like that, and only because he's very mature. He's not like this new wave of kids where they seek attention. He's an old-school throwback fighter."
Showtime and PBC goes back to the 'War Grounds' (no, it's not 'the Punch Bowl', and never will be) in Carson, California.This broadcast is headlined by WBO bantamweight titlist, John Riel Casimero, who while facing the accomplished Guillermo Rigondeaux, still has what was supposed to be his original foe on his mind.
Casimero stated, “I want to show that I’m strong and can beat any tough opponent. A win over Rigondeaux will solidify me as one of, if not the best, fighter in the bantamweight division. My goal is to take care of business on Saturday night, then go after the scared Nonito Donaire.”
In addition to these three televised cards, Thompson Boxing is staging it's first fight card since the pandemic with a live audience at Omega Products International in Corona, California, featuring bright prospect, Ruben 'Ace' Torres. They understand there is an overflow of boxing this night.
Alex Camponovo, their GM and matchmaker explained to SNAC.com, "We wanted to go on a Saturday to come back a little bit stronger. We usually do our shows on Friday, and here in California you have to deal with traffic and all that stuff. So we wanted to do it on a Saturday and try to go out with a bang."
First bell will be at 7 pm, with doors opening two hours prior. Camponovo says they are expecting a capacity crowd of just over a thousand people at their outdoor venue. This card will be streamed on their YouTube and Facebook pages, along with ThompsonBoxing.com.
Barboza is a dedicated to his SNAC products. Every day as he gets to the gym, inside his gym bag is a pill box filled with SNAC supplements like Vitalyze and Aerobitine.
But what's his favorite?
"I've got to go with Xpedite," he answered. "I love the Xpedite. It gives me that motivation, that extra push."
You may have heard by now, but Yordenis Ugas will step in to replace Spence versus 'the Pac Man'....ESPN and Mike Coppinger was the first to report that David Benavidez has tested positive for Covid, so his August 28 bout against Jose Uzcategui has been scrapped...Triller Fight Club has announced a few undercard bouts for the De La Hoya-Belfort fight on September 11. They include Anderson Silva-Tito Ortiz (yes, in a boxing match), David Haye-Joe Fournier and Andy Vences-Jono Carroll....I'm counting down the days till the return of 'Succession' on HBO....Was 'A Different World' a better show without Lisa Bonet?....I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org....