Arnold Barboza continues to wait for his opportunity to fight for a world title belt. The junior welterweight contender does not mind doing so.
Barboza does hold out hope a shot at the world title will eventually come, sooner than later. In the meantime, he does not mind facing worthy challengers.
The unbeaten Barboza will face Jose Pedraza, a former world titleholder in two weight divisions, tonight at the Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona. The 10-round bout will precede the main event bout between Emanuel Navarrete and Liam Wilson for the vacant WBO world junior lightweight title belt.
Both fights will air live on ESPN (10 p.m. ET/ 7 p.m. PT).
Barboza (27-0, 10 knockouts), who resides in Los Angeles, California, last fought on July 15, defeating Danielito Zorrilla by unanimous decision. The win over Zorrilla took place almost a year after Barboza defeated fringe contender Antonio Moran.
The 31-year-old will now face a stiff test tonight in Pedraza, who is coming off a split-decision draw against Richard Commey, who also held a world lightweight title, on August 22 and a close decision loss to Jose Ramiez on March 4.
Despite Pedraza having won three of his last six fights, Barboza is not overlooking him.
“He’s a very experienced fighter,” Barboza told BoxingScene earlier this week. “I finished watching him fight Richard Commey. He tends to fight lefty, then from the right. He’s a crafty fighter. Camp was great though. We worked hard up there (in Big Bear, California). I’m ready to prove I’m at the top of my game.”
Barboza sparred several times with top prospect Abduallah Mason in preparation for his fight against Pedraza.
He has been frustrated over the last several months not being able to land a fight against a boxer in the upper echelon of the division. There was talk of Barboza fighting Teofimo Lopez in Lopez’s first fight at 140 pounds after campaigning as a lightweight. Sources have told Boxingscene Lopez reportedly turned down fights against Barboza on multiple occasions.
Barboza moves forward, believing a fight against Lopez, Ramirez, or another top junior welterweight will be made.
“It’s frustrating,” said Barboza, who has fought under the Top Rank banner since December 2014. “I feel like we’ve proved we belong at the top (of the division). There’s nothing we can do other than just move forward. We’re focused on Pedraza. It’s a tough fight for us.”
Even as Barboza is a seasoned pro and knows his way around the ring, he still believes he has not hit his ceiling.
“I feel like I haven’t hit my peak.” said Barboza. “I’m still improving in the gym. I showed I could brawl against (Alex) Saucedo and that I can box in the Zorrilla fight. I try to get better in the gym. I never stop learning.”
Prior to signing with Top Rank, Barboza had a brief stint with promoter Gary Shaw. Before dedicating himself full-time to boxing, Barboza worked for a distribution company, transporting wine to different businesses throughout Southern California.
Barboza always felt a purpose towards boxing, taking a risk by quitting his job. Despite difficulties he may have encountered, Barboza does not have any regrets in the choices he has made, in and out of boxing.
“It was a lonely time back then. I used to work the night shift. It was just the beginning of the journey. I was told not to quit my job because I wouldn’t make it in boxing. I took the chance in boxing. I’ve gotten great joy from the sport, especially over the last several months.”
In hopes of securing a world title fight or a clash against a top contender later this year, Barboza believes he has proven he is one of the best fighters at 140 pounds.
“Without a doubt, I believe I am the best fighter in the division. I’m looked at as a high-risk, low-reward type of fighter to others in the division. I bring versatility and I can adjust in fights. If Plan A does not work, I have Plan B and C. I can box and brawl. One thing that gets overlooked is that I do everything right in the ring.”
Barboza credits his father with his success in the ring. Barboza has told Boxingscene on previous occasions that the strong bond between and his father, Arnold, Sr. is simple: In the gym, Arnold, Sr. is his trainer. Outside the gym, he is his father.
With most father-son relationships could turn tumultuous, Barboza is glad his relationship with his father strengthened over the years.
“It’s great. Not a lot of relationships, that I’ve seen, get to have that strong bond between fathers and sons. A lot of times you hear stories of disrespect in the gym between the two. They bring family problems to the gym.
“Boxing has brought my Dad and I closer. He will always be there for me and take care of me. That’s a huge advantage for us. That’s a strong bond we have.”
Francisco A. Salazar has written for BoxingScene since September 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (California) Star newspaper. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing