Arnold Barboza Jr. is making all the right moves to position himself for a December showdown with Teofimo Lopez Jr.
The Los Angeles native prevailed in his most recent test, a ten-round decision win over fellow undefeated, rising contender Danielito Zorrilla on July 15 in Temecula, California. Prior to and after the fight, Barboza vowed to be in the house for the official junior welterweight debut of Teofimo Lopez Jr., which came Saturday evening.
Barboza was seated ringside next to Hall of Fame promoter Oscar De La Hoya at Resorts World Casino in Las Vegas to get an up-close view of Lopez’s seventh-round knockout of Mexico’s Pedro Campa. Lopez scored a knockdown early in round seven before forcing the stoppage moments later in their ESPN-televised main event.
The performance with its share of praise from industry insiders, though also concern that Lopez isn’t quite ready for the division’s elite. Barboza falls into the latter category.
“I always said that Teofimo Lopez is a great athlete. I always said he has great talent and is a great fighter,” Barboza told ESPN’s Bernardo Osuna while being interviewed post-fight, on air and in the ring. “But I just feel like at 140 it still hasn’t transitioned. He looked a little slow. I pictured myself in the ring. Pedro Campa isn’t me. I just think if it was me, it would have been a whole different fight.
“I saw a lot of flaws that I would expose. I’m happy I came here to experience it right in [front row]. We’re hoping to fight him next.”
Barboza (27-0, 10KOs) was previously mentioned by Lopez’s team as a possible opponent, though the fight never materialized. The 30-year-old contender was actually 29 when he first waited for Lopez to pull the trigger on such a matchup, sitting out since his win over Antonio Moran last August 14 in Tulsa. There reached a point where Barboza simply needed to get back in the ring, instructing manager Rick Mirigian to either get a firm update from Team Lopez or line up the best available challenger.
With that came the eventual win over Puerto Rico’s Zorrilla in July, with Barboza now eyeing the biggest fight he can possibly land as he begins to make a title reign.
Lopez declared that he will next headline a December 10 show in New York City immediately following ESPN’s coverage of the annual Heisman Trophy presentation honoring the top college football player of the year. This time, Barboza isn’t going anywhere until either his name is called or Lopez winds up once again going in another direction.
“I will wait it out. If I know it’s gonna happen, I’ll wait it out,” insisted Barboza. “I waited out last year for I don’t know how long. If he legit really wants to fight, I’ll do it. My manager Rick knows, he’s gonna make the calls. Rick might call him I don’t know how many times. His manager (previously) mentioned my name.
“So, who knows. We’ll wait. If they really want to do it, let’s do it. I’ll sign the contract right away.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox