Luis Alberto “El Venado” Lopez will defend his IBF world title against former two-time world title challenger Joet Gonzalez on Friday, September 15 at American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, Texas. Lopez returns stateside after back-to-back championship showdowns abroad.
In the 10-round junior middleweight co-feature, rising Puerto Rican sensation Xander Zayas takes on Mexico’s Roberto Valenzuela Jr.
Lopez-Gonzalez and Zayas-Valenzuela will be broadcast live on ESPN, ESPN Deportes and ESPN+ at 10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. PT
“The fight fans in Corpus Christi and everyone watching on ESPN are in for a real treat. Luis Alberto Lopez is one of Mexico’s emerging champions, and Joet Gonzalez is a seasoned pro who is a difficult night at the office for anyone,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “I am also pleased to see Puerto Rico’s next superstar, Xander Zayas, back in the ring against a step-up opponent in Valenzuela.”
Lopez (28-2, 16 KOs) overcame numerous challenges in his quest to become a world champion. After early-career losses to Abraham Montoya and Ruben Villa, he defeated Andy Vences via split decision in July 2020 and dominated then-unbeaten junior lightweight prospect Gabriel Flores Jr. over 10 rounds in September 2021. Lopez then moved down to featherweight and stopped another undefeated foe, Isaac Lowe, in seven rounds at London’s York Hall. After two stay-busy wins, he earned his shot at the IBF title, dethroning Josh Warrington in his hometown of Leeds, England. In his first defense, the 29-year-old once again traveled to enemy territory and beat Michael Conlan via fifth-round TKO with a dazzling right uppercut in Belfast.
“We’re going to bring a memorable all-Mexican war to Corpus Christi on Mexican Independence Day Weekend,” Lopez said. “Nothing but respect to Joet, but he’s not leaving Texas with my belt. I guarantee an exciting fight, but the IBF world title will still be wrapped around my waist.”
Gonzalez (26-3, 15 KOs) debuted in the pro ranks in 2012 and was 23-0 before facing Shakur Stevenson for the vacant WBO featherweight title in 2019. He dominated veteran Miguel Marriaga in his September 2020 return before losing his second attempt at the WBO strap in a 2021 Fight of the Year contender against Emanuel Navarrete. Gonzalez then stopped Jeo Santisima via ninth-round TKO in March 2022 before dropping a split decision to Isaac Dogboe in July of that year. The 29-year-old will have his third opportunity at a world title after defeating Enrique Vivas via 10-round unanimous decision in April.
Gonzalez said, “I am thankful to Top Rank that I am receiving another shot at the world title. I plan on taking full advantage of this opportunity and fulfilling my dream. Lopez is an excellent champion, but I’m coming to Texas with every intention on hearing the words, ‘And NEW!’”
Zayas (16-0, 10 KOs) has been on a rapid trajectory to super stardom since signing with Top Rank at 16. He has maintained an unblemished record since debuting as a pro in October 2019. In 2022, he scored eight-round decision wins over Quincy LaVallais and Alexis Salazar, along with a fifth-round TKO against Elias Espadas. The 20-year-old will make his second 2023 appearance after a 10-round unanimous decision win over Ronald Cruz during Puerto Rican Day Parade weekend in June. Valenzuela (21-4, 20 KOs) is a six-year pro who has given stiff tests to Alexis Rocha, Souleymane Cissokho and Bakhram Murtazaliev. The 24-year-old Mexican is coming off a third-round TKO victory against Daniel Vega in April.
Xayas said, “I am excited for the next big step in my career that will take place on September 15 in Corpus Christi, Texas, against a Mexican warrior that I know will come prepared to give his best and will bring out the best in me. I am training hard to continue showing Puerto Rico and all of Latin America what I am capable inside the ring.”
The ESPN+-streamed undercard includes an all-Mexico showdown, a U.S. Olympian, and the return of three of Top Rank’s top contenders.
Mexican standouts Omar Aguilar (25-1, 24 KOs) and Julio Luna (20-1-2, 11 KOs) will collide in an eight-round welterweight battle. Both are on the comeback trail following losses to two of Top Rank’s finest. Aguilar suffered his first career setback against Lindolfo Delgado last August and returned with a second-round TKO win over Cristian Sonora Soltero in May. Luna dropped a 10-round decision to Giovani Santillan last August, but he bounced back with a third-round knockout win against Hassam Valenzuela in March.
Lightweight contender Jamaine Ortiz (16-1-1, 8 KOs) returns in a 10-rounder. Last October, the 27-year-old took an early lead against former lightweight champion Vasiliy “Loma” Lomachenko before losing the tightly contested battle via unanimous decision.
Brazilian Olympic gold medalist and former two-time title challenger Robson Conceicao (17-2, 8 KOs) will see action in an eight-round junior lightweight tilt. Conceicao heads to the ring for the second time this year following a no contest against Nicolas Polanco in June.
Former world title challenger Ruben Villa (20-1, 7 KOs) returns in an eight-round featherweight clash against Colombia’s Brandon Valdes (15-3, 7 KOs). Villa dominated Maickol Lopez Villagrana en route to a fifth-round KO in May.
U.S. Olympian Tiger Johnson (9-0, 5 KOs) makes his third appearance of 2023 in an eight-round junior welterweight fight against an opponent to be named. He scored a dominant decision win over Jonathan Montrel in July.