Alex Saucedo sensed familiar regret in Arnold Barboza Jr.’s voice when Barboza called him soon after their grueling, life-altering fight last October 17.

Saucedo felt guilty when he learned Lenny Zappavigna retired following their brutal battle in June 2018, when Saucedo survived severe trouble in the fourth round and knocked out the rugged Australian three rounds later. A 26-year-old Saucedo, who was still processing an abrupt retirement caused by two brain bleeds, knew exactly what Barboza needed to hear from him.

“I felt it when he called me,” Saucedo told “I told him, ‘Sh!t, it’s a sport. It could happen to you. It could happen to anyone. It was a f------ accident.’ That’s what I told him. I tried to make him feel better because I know I would feel horrible if I would fight somebody and I hurt him, if I knew they weren’t good, you know, they were done.

“I feel bad about Lenny, knowing that I retired him. I know he was old and it was time to retire, but when I heard he retired after we fought, it hit me. I felt some type of way. We’re not here to hurt anyone. We’re here to hurt them inside the ring, but not like that. That’s the last thing we wanna do.”

Barboza and Saucedo have spoken by phone many times since that initial conversation nine months ago. They talk more about their families and other things much more than they discuss boxing, but this vicious vocation will bring them together again Saturday night in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

That’s where Barboza (25-0, 10 KOs) is scheduled to fight for the first time since the junior welterweight contender defeated Saucedo (30-2, 19 KOs) by unanimous decision in a 10-rounder on the Teofimo Lopez-Vasiliy Lomachenko undercard at MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas. Saucedo intends to sit ringside at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino to cheer on Barboza during a 10-round fight against Mexican veteran Antonio Moran (26-4-1, 19 KOs).

If Saucedo can arrive in time from the National Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions at the nearby Cox Business Convention Center in Tulsa, he’ll spend time with Barboza before his fight and walk with him to the ring for an encounter ESPN will televise as part of the Joshua Franco-Andrew Moloney undercard (10 p.m. EDT; 7 p.m. PDT).

“He became a good friend of mine because, at the end of the day, he’s a brother in the ring for me, man,” Barboza told “We shared the ring and we both left something in there that we’re never gonna get back. It took me longer to recover as well. I had a headache for a whole week. We both took some shots. It was a war and I have the utmost respect for Saucedo. When you share the ring with someone, it’s a bond that no one out there can understand, you know, because they’ve never been in the ring with somebody.”

Extensive exams on Saucedo’s brain detected two bleeds, 6 millimeters and 10 millimeters, that Saucedo suspects were inflicted when they clashed heads in the first round. Saucedo spent three nights at University Medical Center in Las Vegas after suffering his second professional defeat, but the Oklahoma City native says he feels healthy after almost 10 months out of the ring.

There are days when Saucedo gets down because he believes he had plenty of championship-caliber boxing left in him. Whereas Zappavigna, still just 33, launched a comeback earlier this year, Saucedo realizes that he can never box again.

Helping raise his 8-year-old daughter, Nicole, and his 2-year-old son, Thigago, and training some promising amateurs at the Azteca Boxing Academy in Oklahoma City have constructively helped him deal with the end of his career.

“I’m lucky to be alive and have good health and be with my kids,” Saucedo said. “I’m just very thankful for that.”

The 29-year-old Barboza has drawn even more motivation from Saucedo’s encouraging words regarding what it would mean for the retired fighter to watch Barboza become a world champion.

“Our relationship has been great,” said Barboza, who overcame a seventh-round knockdown to defeat Saucedo on all three scorecards (97-92, 97-92, 96-93). “You know, I got some good closure and he’s rooting for me, just like I rooted for him. It was very unfortunate that it happened, but it’s boxing and anything can happen. This is what we signed up for and it’s dangerous. That’s why they say boxing’s not game. It’s really not. Saucedo knows I wish him the best and I know he wishes me the best.”

If Barboza beats Moran, he’ll move closer toward the 140-pound title shot he hopes to receive at some point in 2022. Barboza, of South El Monte, California, is the WBO’s third-ranked contender and the WBC’s fifth-rated challenger for two of the four championships held by unbeaten Scottish southpaw Josh Taylor (18-0, 13 KOs).

“I wish him the best in his career,” Saucedo said. “Hopefully, I can be there at as many of his fights as I can, like this one, to support him. I wanna see him win all the time because, you know, he’s who beat me. So, I would wanna see him win forever.”

Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.