There was a genuine aura of disappointment when a rib injury suffered by Ivan Baranchyk prevented his planned summer showdown with Jose Zepeda from seeing the light of day.
Fortunately, there was a willingness on both sides to make sure the fight eventually happened.
“I want to make it clear that I am ready for anybody,” Zepeda (32-2, 25KOs; 2NC) told BoxingScene.com of his forthcoming clash with the former titlist. “I think we both need it. We both need to show that we deserve to go straight for the title. This fight is really important and really exciting.”
The two will collide this Saturday, live on ESPN+ from The Bubble at MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada—the same venue where they were set to fight on July 7.
The winner would have been in prime position to next face Jose Ramirez, who recently defended his WBC and WBO 140-pound titles versus mandatory challenger Viktor Postol. That dream is kept alive for whomever prevails in this weekend’s title eliminator, although there has come growing demand for an undisputed clash between Ramirez and Scotland’s Josh Taylor (17-0, 13KOs)—who holds the WBA and IBF belts—to take place first with both coming off of recent mandatory title defenses.
Regardless, a fight with Baranchyk (20-1, 13KOs) was one that remained on Zepeda’s radar, even after being able to keep his summer date. The two-time title challenger from La Puente, California easily outpointed replacement foe Kendo Castaneda live on ESPN this past July. The bout was his third since a hard-fought 12-round majority decision defeat to Ramirez in his February 2019 title bid, one where a case was made for his deserving the nod.
The win over Castaneda came ten months after soundly outpointing former two-division titlist Jose Pedraza last September. Zepeda remains eager to add names to his résumé while remaining in pursuit of another crack at junior welterweight supremacy.
"To be honest, I just want to make it clear that I am the next to go for the title,” insists Zepeda, whose lone other loss came in an injury-induced technical knockout loss to Terry Flanagan in their October 2015 lightweight title fight. “I don’t think that nobody was going to doubt to that. You don’t see too often, two top five guys fighting just to fight. We are fighting without a title at stake.
“Honestly, I’m already there with the best (at junior welterweight). My team and a lot of people in the sport believe that I should be holding two titles right now. One bad accident and another unlucky (break) with the judges, but I’m right there with the best of them and will prove it again on Saturday.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox