Teofimo Lopez and Sandor Martin might fight after all.
The WBC ordered Lopez-Martin as a final elimination match Wednesday during that sanctioning organization’s annual convention for an eventual shot at its vacant super lightweight title. Powerful southpaws Regis Prograis and Jose Zepeda will fight for the WBC’s unclaimed 140-pound championship November 26 at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.
The Prograis-Zepeda winner must make a mandatory defense of that WBC belt against Jose Ramirez in his subsequent bout. In accordance with WBC rules, whoever wins that vacant championship would be obligated to make two mandatory defenses.
If Ramirez were to beat Prograis or Zepeda, he would inherit that obligation and then be required to make that second mandated defense against the Lopez-Martin winner if that WBC eliminator materializes.
Representatives for Spain’s Martin negotiated with Lopez’s handlers for them to fight December 10 at Madison Square Garden in New York. A deal eventually was completed for the former IBF/WBA/WBO lightweight champion to oppose Puerto Rico’s Jose Pedraza in ESPN’s main event that night.
Lopez and Pedraza are both promoted by Bob Arum’s Top Rank Inc., which made their deal easier to finalize. Pedraza (29-4-1, 14 KOs) isn’t an optimal opponent for Lopez because he settled for a 10-round split draw with fellow former lightweight champ Richard Commey (30-4-1, 27 KOs) in his most recent bout, a 10-rounder August 27 at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Martin (40-2, 13 KOs) upset former four-division champion Mikey Garcia two fights ago and has won 11 straight bouts since Sweden’s Anthony Yigit beat him unanimously in a 10-rounder five years ago. Garcia (40-2, 30 KOs) retired rather than securing an attempt to avenge his 10-round, majority-decision defeat to Martin in October 2021 at Chukchansi Park in Fresno, California.
The 29-year-old Martin’s only outing since he upset Garcia resulted in a 10-round, unanimous-decision victory over Mexican veteran Jose Felix (39-6-1, 30 KOs) on April 1 in Barcelona.
Brooklyn’s Lopez posted on Twitter after learning of the WBC’s order Wednesday that Martin “easily priced himself out to not fight” him December 10. Nevertheless, Top Rank’s representative at the WBC’s convention in Acapulco, Mexico assured WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman that Lopez will be available to meet Martin in its elimination match if he defeats Pedraza next month.
The 25-year-old Lopez (17-1, 13 KOs) is ranked third among the WBC’s 140-pound contenders, one spot atop the fourth-rated Martin.
Zepeda (35-2, 27 KOs, 2 NC), of La Puente, California, is ranked first in the super lightweight division by the WBC. Prograis (27-1, 23 KOs), a New Orleans native, is rated second.
Ramirez (27-1, 17 KOs) is ranked sixth, but he is a former WBC champion who passed on a chance to fight Zepeda again for the vacant championship because he had planned to get married last month and couldn’t train for a fight at that time. The Avenal, California native edged Zepeda by split decision in their 12-round title fight in February 2019 at Save Mart Arena in Fresno.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.