LAS VEGAS – Jose Zepeda’s promoters at Top Rank Inc. encouraged him to take more time off.
The top-rated junior welterweight contender endured such a brutal battle versus Ivan Baranchyk on October 9, no one would’ve blamed Zepeda for staying out of the ring for several more months. The 31-year-old Zepeda, a southpaw from La Puente, California, insisted on returning to the ring sooner, thus he’ll face Philadelphia’s Hank Lundy on Saturday night.
Even after getting up from four knockdowns to knock Baranchyk unconscious in the fifth round seven months ago, handicappers have made Zepeda (33-2, 26 KOs, 2 NC) at least a 25-1 favorite over the 37-year-old Lundy (31-8-1, 14 KOs). But Zepeda already is the WBC’s number one contender for winner of the main event Saturday night, the 12-round, 140-pound title unification bout between WBC/WBO champ Jose Ramirez and IBF/WBA champ Josh Taylor.
Zepeda therefore could’ve skipped this fight Saturday night and been guaranteed another title shot next. If Zepeda defeats Lundy, he’ll be one of the most interested observers in the venue when Ramirez (26-0, 17 KOs), of Avenal, California, and Taylor (17-0, 13 KOs), of Prestonpans, Scotland, square off.
“Honestly, I believe it’s a 50-50 fight,” Zepeda told BoxingScene.com. “It’s really hard to say who’s gonna win. I see it 50-50. In my honest opinion, I would like Ramirez to win because I was already in there with him, I fought him. I see it as he gave me an opportunity to get well known here in the United States. I want Ramirez to win. I believe it’s a 50-50 fight. It’s really hard to tell.”
It's even harder for Zepeda to accept his 12-round, majority-decision defeat to Ramirez in February 2019.
Judge Rey Danesco scored their fight a draw, 114-114, but he was overruled by judges Chris Tellez (116-112) and Glenn Trowbridge (115-113), who scored Ramirez the winner. Zepeda challenged Ramirez for his WBC super lightweight title at Save Mart Center in Fresno, California, Ramirez’s proverbial backyard.
Taylor told BoxingScene.com that he believes Zepeda won eight rounds that night, which would’ve given him a 116-112 victory over the unbeaten champion Taylor will encounter Saturday night.
“[Ramirez] knows and a lot of people know that it was a controversial decision,” Zepeda said. “So, if he wins and he can give me the rematch, that would be awesome for not only me and him, but for boxing in general. I think a lot of people want to see it again.”
ESPN will televise the Ramirez-Taylor and Zepeda-Lundy fights from The Theater at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas. The network’s tripleheader will begin at 8 p.m. EDT with an eight-round battle between Dominican junior welterweight prospect Elvis Rodriguez (11-0-1, 10 KOs) and Chicago’s Kenneth Sims Jr. (15-2-1, 5 KOs).
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.