Adam Lopez knew that he was on borrowed time in the featherweight division.

The move up in weight comes right on time for the 26-year-old Glendale, California native, who enters the junior lightweight division with plans of a second act to the only fight he’s had thus far at the weight.

“I definitely want a rematch with Oscar Valdez after this one,” Lopez told ahead of his clash with Abraham Nova this Saturday on ESPN+. “So, I got business to take care of this weekend. But once I get this win on Saturday night, I’m definitely gonna start calling out his name. We need to run that back for sure.”

The desire for a repeat showdown with the former two-division champion serves as motivation for Lopez’s forthcoming clash with Nova (21-1, 15KOs), a Puerto Rico-born boxer to Dominican parents, who now lives in Albany, New York. Their ten-round junior lightweight clash is billed as the main event of an ESPN+ preliminary undercard preceding an ESPN doubleheader this Saturday from Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, New York.

Lopez (16-3, 6KOs) has largely campaigned at featherweight throughout his six-plus year career. The one fight above the weight was not by design. He agreed on less than 24 hours’ notice to face then-unbeaten Valdez (30-1, 23KOs), who was left without an opponent for his November 2019 junior lightweight debut after Andres Gutierrez arrived at a beefy 141 pounds for their scheduled 130-pound fight.

Valdez was five months removed from his last fight as a WBO featherweight titlist and was a massive favorite to prevail versus Lopez. It didn’t come easy, as Lopez floored the unbeaten two-time Mexican Olympian in round two and was ahead on two scorecards through six rounds before suffering a knockdown and controversial stoppage in the seventh round of their ESPN-aired thriller.

The defeat did not come in vain. Lopez has fought five times since then on Top Rank/ESPN undercards. A win over former title challenger Jason Sanchez was followed by a narrow defeat to former WBO 122-pound titlist and current featherweight contender Isaac Dogboe. Lopez’s last fight came last May 21, when he scored an eight-round points win over William Encarnacion. By then, Valdez claimed the WBC junior lightweight title and has since lost in a twelve-round decision to Shakur Stevenson in their WBC/WBO unification bout last April 30 in Las Vegas.

Valdez was in line to face Emanuel Navarrete (36-1, 30KOs) for the vacant WBO 130-pound title, only to withdraw from their February 3 clash due to a lingering injury which has not yet fully healed.

“I was disappointed when Valdez pulled out, I guess he got injured or whatever,” noted Lopez. “I was really looking forward to fighting that winner.”

Navarrete will now face Australia’s Liam Wilson for the vacant title. Lopez would love a shot at the winner, though would need at least a win over Nova to enter the WBO rankings. He is perfectly fine with taking at least one more fight prior to that point—in fact, willing to take a higher profile fight in lieu of what would be his first career title fight.  

“Fighting Valdez again is the priority to me, even if a belt isn’t at stake,” insisted Lopez. “Valdez has the much bigger name, he’s the bigger payday and it’s a much bigger fight.

“I know if Navarrete wins this next fight, he has the WBO belt. That’s nice and all, if he wanted to fight me, of course I’d take the opportunity. But these days, the way the sport is – the belts mean something but not too much at the same time. People want to see those big fights more than just another title fight. I gotta run that one back for sure.”

Lopez-Nova is part of a ten-fight show headlined by a scheduled ten-round heavyweight clash between Efe Ajagba (16-1, 13KOs) and Stephan Shaw (18-0, 13KOs).

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for Twitter: @JakeNDaBox