By Jake Donovan
A conference call held by Golden Boy Promotions on Tuesday afternoon confirmed the news that most had already begun to whisper – Saul Alvarez’ opponent on September 15 will be Victor Ortiz.
In order for Ortiz to keep the date alive, he first needs to survive his currently scheduled June 23 fight with Josesito Lopez, which airs live on Showtime from the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles.
Lopez was in the gym preparing for next week’s fight – which he accepted in a replacement capacity after Andre Berto tested positive for traces of nandrolone in his system - when he heard about the September 15 plans.
The news was… well, news to Lopez, who didn’t understand the urgency in making the announcement while Ortiz still has a dangerous test in front of him.
“I think it’s a screw up by Golden Boy for making the announcement,” Lopez believes. “It’s not only disrespectful to me, but something that can wait.”
Neither Lopez nor anyone in his camp took much offense to the news and in fact initially joked about the announcement shortly after learning of the future plans in place.
“When Jose walked into the gym today, I asked him what he was doing on September 15,” commented Henry Ramirez, Lopez’ trainer. “He asked why and I told him that we should go check out Canelo fight Victor. We both laughed about, but his focus remains on June 23 and I’m sure Victor Ortiz is training hard for the fight as well.”
Both Lopez and Ortiz enter the June 23 fight on the heels of a nine-month layoff. In fact, both last fought on the same card last September. Lopez dropped a controversial decision to Jessie Vargas in the opening bout of a pay-per-view broadcast capped by Ortiz’ 4th round knockout loss to Floyd Mayweather.
Ortiz was scheduled to face Berto this past February in a highly anticipated rematch to their thriller last April. Meanwhile, Lopez saw a couple of fights fall through before settling on a fight to take place in late June.
Those plans changed after Berto was forced to withdraw from the rescheduled rematch, leaving an opportunity for Lopez which he quickly grabbed.
“We didn’t think twice about it,” Ramirez recalls of the day he received the call. “I didn’t even hear the financial offer. All I asked was that as long as they take care of us, we’ll be ready even though it meant moving up to 147.”
Lopez actually enjoys carrying around the extra weight. At 5’10”, the last few days of training camp can be taxing while attempting to squeeze down to the 140 lb. limit. Heading into the biggest fight of his career, Lopez actually feels refreshed after having already prepared for another fight.
“I was in training early, so training and conditioning wise, I’m not worried about next week,” Lopez says. “We just had to switch preparation from a right-handed fighter to a lefty. I usually have to keep my weight down, so keeping it on is a nice change. I feel a lot stronger at 147.”
Whether he feels strong enough to pull off the upset remains to be seen. While Lopez is the underdog, he’s never been dominated in a fight, which makes it that much more of a risk for an opponent to book in advance.
“I’ve never counted my chickens before they hatch. I don’t even plan an after party for my fights,” Lopez insists. “My focus is on Victor Ortiz. I’m not even looking an hour past the main event on June 23. I just focus on the fight. Anything else, I can just plan afterward. I’m not going in as a replacement, I’m going in there to shock the world. I know what Victor brings to the table. It’s less about what Victor can do and more about what I need to do to win.”
Golden Boy revealed on the call that Lopez is an possible alternate for the Alvarez fight should he win next Saturday, but wouldn’t say more than that. Lopez’ handlers actually bring up another possibility.
“We have a rematch clause, so I guess whether it’s an Ortiz fight again or a fight with Alvarez, we should plan on sticking around at 147 or higher,” Ramirez joked. “But seriously, we can’t wait for June 23. We’re grateful for the opportunity and can’t wait to upset the odds.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]