Ricardo Espinoza has been here before, though he vows to be a new and improved version this time around.
It was just two years ago when the Tijuana knockout artist appeared at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California for the first time in his pro career. The moment in an interim bantamweight title fight versus John Riel Casimero, against whom Espinoza was dangerously competitive for much of the night before suffering a heartbreaking 12th round stoppage.
Casimero has since emerged as a three-division and reigning WBO bantamweight titlist, while Espinoza searches for his first shot at a major belt. A win this weekend will help get him there, though it will require his getting past former unified WBA/IBF junior featherweight titlist Danny Roman (28-3-1, 10KOs).
“I proved (against Casimero) that I belong among the best fighters in the world,” Espinoza told BoxingScene.com. “I was stopped while still (standing) but thought I was on my way to winning the fight. I feel a lot stronger now, with more experience and am eager to prove against (Roman) that I deserve to be considered among the best at 122 pounds.”
The bout airs at the war-friendly venue as part of a Showtime tripleheader this Saturday beginning 10:00 p.m. ET/7:00 p.m. PT. Headlining the show is a title unification bout between WBA “World” junior featherweight titlist Brandon Figueroa (21-0-1, 16KOs) and two-division and reigning WBC 122-pound champ Luis Nery (31-0, 24KOs). Roman is the mandatory challenger to Nery’s WBC title, a spot that Espinoza (25-3, 21KOs) hopes to occupy. Two years have passed since his loss to Casimero, with the 23-year-old contender having since moved up in weight where he has won his past two starts. In his most recent bout, Espinoza shut down previously unbeaten Brandon Valdes to post a lopsided decision win last August in Kissimmee, Florida.
Roman represents a considerable leap in competition, more comparable to Casimero than to anyone who Espinoza has defeated thus far as a pro.
“Danny Roman has fought several quality opponents, no question,” acknowledges Espinoza. “But he had his time at the top. This is my time.
“I chose to step up in competition. It’s my chance to show that I belong with the best in the division.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox