Joet Gonzalez realizes his third title fight Friday night could very well be the last such chance of his boxing career if he doesn’t defeat Luis Alberto Lopez.
After losing 12-round unanimous decisions to Shakur Stevenson and Emanuel Navarrete in his first two championship clashes, Gonzalez is more determined than ever to capitalize on this third title shot. Gonzalez (26-3, 15 KOs) will challenge Lopez (28-2, 16 KOs) in a 12-round main event ESPN will broadcast from American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, Texas.
“This is it,” Gonzalez told BoxingScene.com. “This is a do-or-die fight for me. Even my last fight was a do-or-die, but I came out victorious. I’ve gotta get it done.”
Gonzalez, 29, wasn’t sure he’d receive a third championship chance after he lost a closely contested WBO elimination match to Isaac Dogboe by split decision in July 2022. The Glendora, California native defeated Mexican veteran Enrique Vivas (22-3, 11 KOs) in his last fight, though, and that 10-round, unanimous-decision victory April 1 led to this shot at Lopez’s IBF belt.
This is an optional title defense for Mexico’s Lopez, as Gonzalez is the IBF’s 12-ranked contender in the 126-pound division.
Gonzalez sees similarities in him and Lopez because Lopez lost two bouts by decision before he traveled to Leeds, England and upset hometown hero Josh Warrington (31-2-1, 8 KOs) by majority decision last December 10 to become a world champion. Lopez later traveled to the hometown of another opponent, mandatory challenger Michael Conlan (18-2, 9 KOs), whom Lopez stopped in the fifth round of his first title defense May 27 at The SSE Arena in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
“He’s just a guy who’s not scared to lose,” Gonzalez said. “He went to enemy territory to win the belt, he went to enemy territory to defend the belt, and he came out victorious both times. You know, he’s a tough guy, a tough fighter, tough world champion, and, you know, I trained really hard. I’m ready for whatever he brings to the table.”
Lopez, 30, has repeatedly stated that he wants to become the first fighter to knock out Gonzalez, whom Lopez suggested might be “might not be the same” after enduring physically grueling fights against Navarrete (38-1, 31 KOs), Dogboe (24-3, 15 KOs) and Stevenson (20-0, 10 KOs).
“That’s the way he’s supposed to think,” Gonzalez said. “You know, he’s trying to make a statement, just like I am. But he said it, so it’s easier said than done. He has to come get it. He’s gonna find out real quick it won’t be that easy. But the ball is in his court. He wants to knock me out, show me.”
Most sportsbooks list Lopez as at least a 7-1 favorite to successfully defend his title against Gonzalez.
ESPN will broadcast two bouts before Lopez opposes Gonzalez in their main event.
In the 10-round co-feature, Puerto Rican junior middleweight Xander Zayas (16-0, 10 KOs) will meet Mexico’s Roberto Valenzuela Jr. (21-4, 20 KOs). A six-round lightweight bout between Las Vegas’ Emiliano Vargas (6-0, 5 KOs), a son of former junior middleweight champ Fernando Vargas, and Spain’s Alejandro Guardado (5-0, 1 KO) will be televised as well.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.