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Lopez, Gonzalez expect fireworks in featherweight title bout
Both motivated by fighting on Mexican Independence Day weekend
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IBF featherweight titleholder Luis Alberto Lopez has earned his reputation as a road warrior.
He won the title eliminator by seventh-round knockout of Isaac Lowe on Lowe’s turf in London in 2021. When he got the title shot in December 2022, Lopez traveled to Josh Warrington’s hometown of Leeds, England and dethroned him by well-deserved majority decision.
And when Lopez made his first defense he was back on the road in Belfast, Northern Ireland — the hometown of challenger Michael Conlan — in May. All Lopez did was dominate and knock Conlan out in the fifth round.
Now, at last, Mexico’s Lopez will find himself in front of a more welcoming crowd when he makes his second defense against Mexican-American Joet Gonzalez in the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN main event on Friday (ESPN, ESPN Deportes, ESPN+, 10 p.m. ET) at American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Fighting on Mexican Independence Day weekend, Lopez (28-2, 16 KOs), 30, and Gonzalez, who are both come-forward fighters with fan friendly styles, expect an old fashioned slugfest on the significant date.
“I am happy to fight on an important date for Mexico where Joet Gonzalez and I will be representing our country,” Lopez said through an interpreter at this week’s news conference. “We are going to present a real war that night.
“It’s going to be a total war. When there are two hungry Mexicans in the ring, they always go at it with everything. We know that Joet Gonzalez is tough. And my goal, as I’ve said, is to knock him out.”
Gonzalez has been in many hard-hitting fights and is excited to get a third title shot, especially on the Mexican holiday weekend.
“I’m expecting a great fight,” Gonzalez said. “It’s a big day for Mexico. All I have to do is win and become the new IBF world champion. Plain and simple. I can’t go home empty-handed. I’m bringing that belt back home.”
Gonzalez (26-3, 15 KOs), 29, of Los Angeles, has had the heartbreak of past losses in title fights. In 2019, he faced bitter rival Shakur Stevenson for the vacant WBO title and was toyed with in a near-shutout loss to a far superior technical boxer.
When he came up against fellow brawler Emanuel Navarrete in an attempt to wrest the WBO belt from him in 2021, he lost another decision in a gallant effort in an all-out brawl.
After a disputed 10-round split decision loss to former junior featherweight titlist Isaac Dogboe in July 2022, Gonzalez bounced back with a clear 10-round decision over Enrique Vivas in April to put himself in position to face Lopez.
Lopez said he wants to not only retain his title but become the first man to knock Gonzalez out.
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“I’m going for the knockout. It’s a personal challenge that I have,” Lopez said. “Joet Gonzalez has faced great fighters like Shakur Stevenson, Emanuel Navarrete and Isaac Dogboe, and he has never been knocked out. Knocking out a tough fighter like him is a huge goal for me.
“I respect him because he has had great fights. He has done a great job in his career. But you know that when we get in the ring there is no respect. I am going to take this belt home for my family and for Mexico. I am a fighter who knows how to give exciting fights. I am a warrior who goes forward. They know that when ‘El Venado’ gets in the ring, there will be a great show.”
It very may be a great show, but Gonzalez is aiming for a different outcome than his past shots at glory.
“This is my third (world title) opportunity. I’m truly grateful,” Gonzalez said. “I’ve worked really hard every single time. And every time I step into the ring, I give it my all. I’ve got to win.
“I’ve always trained hard. I’ve never taken any shortcuts. I’ve always put in the hard work in the gym. But sometimes it’s not your night. It is what it is. But I’m still here, and I’m going to give it my all every time.”
Zayas in co-feature
Junior middleweight top prospect Xander Zayas (16-0, 10 KOs), 21, a Puerto Rican fighting out of Sunrise, Florida, will face Roberto Valenzuela Jr. (21-4, 20 KOs), 24, of Mexico, in the co-feature.
“It’s been a great journey. I’m 16 fights in. I’ve been growing. I’ve been learning. I’ve been getting better in and outside of the ring,” Zayas said. “And I’m excited to put on a show.”
The fight will be his first scheduled 10-rounder, something Zayas has been waiting for.
“We’ve been training for the last three or four fights for a 10-rounder. Now I get the opportunity, and I’m going to take advantage of it,” Zayas said. “I’m facing a Mexican warrior who is ready to put on a show.
“He has a lot of things behind him. Mexican Independence Day is the day after. His family is here with him. He’s probably going to have the crowd behind him. But I’m excited to put on a show and win over the crowd.”
Valenzuela, who is 2-2 in his last four but a step up for Zayas, is motivated because he is fighting on the Mexican holiday against a Puerto Rican rival.
“It is a very important date for me and for Mexico. So, we will do our best to get a good result,” Valenzuela said through an interpreter. “This is my opportunity to let everyone know who Roberto Valenzuela is. We have been studying him. He is a great boxer. He actually doesn't have many flaws. But I believe that my hunger to win and move forward in my career is going to be the difference. I know that if I win this fight, we will be on the path to very big fights.”
In the opener, lightweight Emiliano Vargas (6-0, 5 KOs), 19, of Las Vegas, who is the son of former junior middleweight titleholder Fernando Vargas, will face Alejandro Guardado (5-0, 1 KO), 29, of Spain, in a six-rounder.
There will also be preliminary bouts streaming on ESPN+ beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET.
BetUS Boxing Show
If you missed the BetUS Boxing Show live at 1 p.m. ET on Friday on YouTube, please check out the replay (and also subscribe to the YouTube channel). We previewed and picked the two top fights of the weekend: Luis Alberto Lopez’s IBF featherweight title defense against Joet Gonzalez that headlines the Top Rank/ESPN card on Friday (10 p.m. ET) and lightweight contender William Zepeda’s fight with Mercito Gesta that tops the Golden Boy/DAZN card on Saturday (8 p.m. ET). We also took viewer questions and comments and discussed the latest boxing news! Please check out the show here:
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Photos: Mikey Williams/Top Rank
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