There was a time when Arnold Barboza expected to see Teofimo Lopez Jr. in the opposite corner this weekend.
That fight didn’t quite pan out but is one that the unbeaten junior welterweight contender believes is still within reach.
“Of course, I still see him as a priority,” Barboza told BoxingScene.com. “I think everybody at 140 should, especially if he wins his next fight.
“For sure, he’s gonna look stronger. I think everyone in the 140 division will see him as a priority.”
Lopez (16-1, 12KOs) and more so his father and head trainer Teofimo Lopez Sr. name dropped Barboza (26-0, 10KOs) as a desired opponent for his first fight since his lightweight title reign came to an end last November. The matchup never advanced beyond the speculation stage, with Barboza playing his role in waiting out the process before instructing his team—manager Rick Mirigian and promoter Top Rank—to move forward with his own career.
That very demand led to a far more dangerous showdown than most would expect of a budding contender awaiting a more lucrative and marketable opportunity. Barboza agreed without hesitation to a showdown with Puerto Rico’s Danielito Zorrilla (16-0, 12KOs) in a scheduled ten-round battle of unbeaten 140-pound contenders this Friday on ESPN (9:00 p.m. ET/6:00 p.m. PT) from Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, California.
“This is no easy fight,” notes Barboza, who last fought in a ten-round win over Antonio Moran last August 14. “He’s ranked as well. He’s a good fighter, a strong fighter. We gotta come prepared with everything we got.”
A win by Barboza will help advance his standing in a junior welterweight division that is on the verge of becoming wide open at the top level. Lineal champion Josh Taylor (19-0, 13KOs) began the year as the division’s undisputed king but has since vacated the WBA and WBC titles. There is a chance that he will completely sever all ties to the division within his next fight or two, which leaves room for a new king to claim the throne.
It adds to the appeal of a noted talent such as Brooklyn’s Lopez—the 2020 Fighter of the Year—entering the division. The moment comes next month, when he clashes with Mexico’s Pedro Campa on an August 13 ESPN show from Resorts World Las Vegas. Should all go well for Barboza on Friday, the 30-year-old Long Beach, California native will be among the more interested observers for Lopez’s divisional arrival.
“I wish him the best,” insisted Barboza. “Hopefully me winning my fight and him winning his fight, we can do something.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox