By Lem Satterfield
Josesito Lopez called himself “the perfect opponent” for WBA welterweight champion Keith Thurman following his unanimous decision over previously unbeaten Miguel Cruz in a FOX-televised main event at The Don Haskins Center in El Paso, Texas, in April.
The 34-year-old “Riverside Rocky” (36-7, 19 KOs) will get his chance against “One Time” Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs) on January 26 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, in another FOX broadcast (8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT.).
A former title challenger, Lopez earned his third straight victory with the win over Cruz in as many consecutive bouts under trainer Robert Garcia.
“I’m the perfect opponent for Thurman. I’d love to get a world title fight against him. That’s a dream fight for me,” said Lopez, after beating Cruz.
“I’m confident that I’d make it exciting and give him a run for his money. I’m a fan-friendly fighter and a great match if you put me in with any of the top guys in the division.”
Before going on his three-fight win streak, Lopez lost to two-time 147-pound champion Andre Berto in 2015, getting dropped twice in the sixth and final round before getting stopped. At the time of the stoppage Lopez was ahead on two of the three judges’ cards.
Former welterweight champion Victor Ortiz is Lopez’s biggest victory to date. He broke Ortiz’s jaw and stopped him in the ninth round in 2012. A southpaw, Ortiz was a player in the 147-pound division at the time, having handed Berto the first loss of his career the year before in a 12-round unanimous decision during which each fighter hit the deck, twice.
The welterweight landscape is very different six years later. Since they first met, Berto is 4-4 with three knockouts, including a fourth-round KO of Ortiz in a rematch in 2016 and a ninth-round TKO loss to two-time champion Shawn Porter in 2017. Ortiz is coming off a majority draw with Devon Alexander in February.
Due to injuries, Thurman will have been out of action since winning his last two fights – each of which was at Barclays -- by close unanimous decision over Porter in June 2016 and split-decision over two-division title winner Danny Garcia in March 2017, adding Garcia’s WBC crown to his WBA version.
Thurman, who turns 30 on November 23, is 7-0 with three knockouts in title defenses, and 3-0 at Barclays. He was ringside in September when Porter won a clash of former welterweight titleholders by split-decision over Garcia for the WBC crown Thurman previously owned.
“Welterweight has a lot of good fighters,” said Lopez. “But I know I can compete with them. I…always going to leave it all in the ring.”