By Francisco Salazar
Unbeaten Egidijus Kavaliauskas has been pushed towards the deeper end of the pool that is the deep welterweight division with each fight. He has passed each test thus far towards the possibility of fighting for a world title belt in 2019.
The fighter known as 'Mean Machine' will face another test against a fellow unbeaten foe who also has explosive power in each hand.
Kavaliauskas will square off against Roberto Arriaza Friday night at the Chesepeake Bay Arena in Oklahoma City. The 10-round bout will precede the world title fight between WBO junior welterweight titleholder Maurice Hooker and challenger Alex Saucedo.
The Kavaliauskas-Arriaza fight will air live on ESPN + (11 p.m. ET/ 8 p.m. PT).
Kavaliauskas (20-0, 16 knockouts) last fought on July 7, outpointing Juan Carlos Abreu over 10 rounds to win by unanimous decision. The fight occurred almost five months after Kavaliauskas scored an impressive sixth-round stoppage win over former interim titleholder David Avanesyan.
Originally from Lithuania and now residing in the boxing hotbed of Oxnard, California, Kavaliauskas is ranked amongst the top five in three of boxing's sanctioning bodies, including a number two ranking by the WBO.
The 30-year-old Kavaliauskas has faced adversity before, having to overcome getting hurt and a late rally by gatekeeper Cameron Kreal two years ago. It makes Friday's fight compelling as Arriaza has demonstrated devastating punching power as well.
Arriaza (17-0, 13 KOs) scored an explosive first round knockout of Sammy Valentin on Mar. 16. The fight, which aired on Telemundo, was stopped at 20 seconds.
Arriaza, who resides in Masaya, Nicaragua, is ranked number eight by the WBO.
With a lot on the line, Top Rank Vice President Carl Moretti believes the clash between the two unbeaten fighters is a can't miss for boxing fans.
"(Kavaliauskas-Arriaza) should be a very highly, competitive fight," Moretti told BoxingScene.com. "Both fighters have had excellent training camps and plenty of notice and time to study each other."
Kavaliauskas, who is managed by Egis Klimas, was mentioned as a possible opponent for WBO titleholder Terence Crawford earlier this year before Crawford ended up fighting Jose Benavides on Oct. 13.
An impressive win by Kavaliauskas could put him in line for the running to face Crawford or any of the other top welterweights in boxing.
Arriaza, who is promoted by Thompson Boxing, wants that opportunity as well. In his last bout on May 11, Arriaza defeated fringe contender Juan Ruiz by unanimous decision over 10 rounds.
"This fight will go a long way in determining what exactly is next (for both fighters)," said Moretti.
Francisco covers boxing for the Ventura County (Calif.) Star newspaper, Boxingscene.com. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing