Luis Alberto Lopez is on the clock for a mandatory title defense.
The hope is to delay the process, if not the ordered fight altogether, for a desired unification bout versus WBO featherweight titlist Robeisy Ramirez.
BoxingScene.com has confirmed that the IBF featherweight titlist was ordered to begin negotiations to next face streaking contender Reiya Abe. Letters were submitted to representatives for both parties earlier this week, just days after Lopez outpointed California’s Joet Gonzalez (26-4, 15KOs) atop a September 15 ESPN show from Corpus Christi, Texas.
A response was offered by the defending titleholder through his management alerting the sanctioning body of their preferred plans and for a little leniency on the matter.
“We know that after successfully defending the title vs Joet Gonzalez this past Saturday we fully understand we have to fulfill our obligations and fight the Mandatory Challenger,” Hector Fernandez, Lopez’s manager and head of FerCo Management noted to IBF president Daryl Peoples in a letter obtained by BoxingScene.com. “We would like to ask for a special permission since we are very interested in unifying the belts with current WBO world champion Robeisy Ramirez, if you guys grant us permission we would start negotiating [ASAP].”
Lopez (29-2, 16KOs) and Ramirez (13-1, 8KOs) are both promoted by Top Rank.
Mexicali’s Lopez was the mandatory challenger when he faced then-reigning IBF featherweight titlist Josh Warrington last December 10 on the road in Leeds, England. Lopez prevailed via majority decision has made two successful title defenses, including a fifth-round knockout of Michael Conlan on May 27 in Belfast.
Both the wins over Conlan and Gonzalez were voluntary defenses and Lopez is now past due on his mandatory.
Japan’s Abe (25-3-1, 10KOs) has won his last six starts. The most notable of the lot came in a twelve-round, unanimous decision over former two-division titlist Kiko Martinez in their April 8 IBF title eliminator in Tokyo.
While unification bouts are the primary exception normally granted by the sanctioning body, Lopez has two things working against him at the moment.
Ramirez is currently due to make the second defense of his WBO featherweight title atop a November 4 ESPN+ show from Lake Tahoe, Nevada. An opponent is still being finalized, though Boxing Scene’s Keith Idec reported earlier this week that Mexico’s Rafael Espinoza is the likely candidate to land the assignment once the next WBO rankings are published as he is currently unranked by the sanctioning body.
The timing of the planned fight raises curiosity as to whether the IBF would be willing to park negotiations for its ordered mandatory for at least another six weeks.
Additionally, fighters are normally required to commit to the negotiation period once a sanctioning body orders a title fight or eliminator. A filed exception is usually required before the start of that process.
As much is not lost on Lopez and his team.
“Thank you very much and sorry for all the inconvenience this letter may cause you,” noted Fernandez. “We are just looking to make you guys even more proud.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox