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Boxing Notebook: Teófimo And More…

Image Credit: Mikey Williams/Top Rank

NEW YORK — Begin with Teófimo López, he of course the former unified lightweight champion and now testing another takeover in a hotly contested junior welterweight division. Boxing has a history of those moving up in weight and going in the record books as multiple division champions.

López, (Honduras) Brooklyn, NY, and residing in Las Vegas, though, has had obstacles to achieve what eight-division champion Manny Pacquiao accomplished, or what Miguel Cotto achieved as the first four-division champion from Puerto Rico, Hall of Famers and rightfully so in the modern era.

Now in the four-division belt era, and with televised networks backing the promoters, fighters have more opportunity despite hearing otherwise. The sport is healthy in a lucrative position for promoters and networks to satisfy fighters that deliver mega fights to the fans.

The obstacles for López are two fold, this after a controversial and difficult lightweight title reign. He lost the belts to George Kambosos Jr. in a controversial 12-round split decision in November of 2021. Seeking that new hurdle as the undisputed at 140, a weight he prefers, López has never denied a challenge,

Debut at 140, and López looked strong with a 10-round TKO, disposing and wearing down Pedro Campa (Sonora, Mexico) in the 7th round, a successful return to his promoters at Top Rank Boxing. At Madison Square Garden in December, López appeared to lose steam and won a 10-round split decision, though the unheralded Sandor Martin of Spain to many got their points on the scorecards, another controversial ending.

The aftermath of questions about Teófimo López, once the top five fighter and not impressive against Martin, an opponent who came to fight. And once a sellout draw, López as the main event in the Garden, 10,000 and many empty seats. They booed López, he was in uncharted territory, skipped the post fight press conference, perhaps no longer with popularity that can sell out venues as the main event fighter.

Image Credit: Top Rank Boxing/ESPN

So the questions will continue when López (18-1-0,13 KO’s) main events at the Garden again, though this time in the adjacent Hulu Theatre that seats a little more than 5,500. He opposes former undisputed champion Josh Taylor, the WBO title holder in a showdown with those implications.

The 12-round bout takes place Saturday evening June 10, eve of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City and televised on ESPN. López will be looking to make a statement, needed if this new takeover is going further.

In the mix, is a possible meeting with WBC title holder Regis Prograis, ranked first in the division and also seeking to unify all the titles. López, leaves no doubts about winning in the Garden, though this presents that test to get at Prograis. Both have called out each other after their latest wins.

And does López return to popularity? The Hulu Theatre should be sold out, Top Rank always hits capacity with their annual event at Garden venues a day before the parade. And will fans boo López, unexpected the last time. Regardless, a major fight that tops the boxing calendar in June.

Will his new takeover continue? That is the prevailing question to be determined soon.

On the same card, Junior middleweight phenom Xander Zayas is set to return in a 10-round re-scheduled battle against Ronald “Diablo” Cruz.

Image Credit: Top Rank Boxing

Zayas (15-0, 10 KOs), from San Juan, Puerto Rico, is on the fast track to super stardom. He signed with Top Rank at 16 and has maintained an unblemished record. He is coming off an impressive 2022 that included eight-round decision wins over Quincy LaVallais and Alexis Salazar, along with a fifth-round TKO against Elias Espadas.

The 20-year-old was originally scheduled to face Cruz in the April 1 co-feature to the Robeisy Ramirez-Isaac Dogboe main event, but a training injury forced him to withdraw. Zayas is ready to settle unfinished business on the eve of the Puerto Rican Day Parade atop an undercard that will feature several of his countrymen.

“I cannot wait to fight at Madison Square Garden in front of my people on the eve of the Puerto Rican Day Parade. This is a dream come true,” Zayas said. “Ronald Cruz is a tough, durable fighter, and I expect the best version of him on June 10.”

Image Credit: Top Rank Boxing

THROWING THE PUNCHES: Another former Top Rank prospect, Edgar Berlanga, the super middleweight who commenced his career with 16 consecutive knockouts, and now with Matchroom Boxing, makes his DAZN debut June 24 also at the Garden Hulu Theatre.

With his pride of Puerto Rico, and with a tremendous fanbase, Berlanga opposes Jason Quigley in a main event, adding to the busy boxing calendar in New York City. Berlanga also has much to prove to become a viable contender and threat to dethrone Canelo Alvarez and his unified 168-pound titles.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MARCH 19: Edgar Berlanga is victorious as he defeats Steve Rolls for the NABO Super Middleweight championship title at The Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden on March 19, 2022 in New York, New York. (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

Berlanga and Top Rank parted ways late last year, differences of opinion pertaining to his movement and quest to take on top contenders in the division. However when the knockout streak concluded, they did not come as quickly. ESPN tabbed Berlanga as a top prospect and there was much hype on their telecast about breaking the all-time knockout record to start a career.

At 25-years old, Berlanga (20-0,16 KO’s) was a sought after free agent. Oscar de La Hoya, the Hall of Fame champion and promoter of Golden Boy made his pitch to sign him. But a multi-fight deal was enticing and came with a fight at the Garden where Berlanga has a huge following of Puerto Rican fans.

Though, he has much to prove in a quest to meet Alvarez or David Benavidez, the number one contender. Those 16 first round knockouts are in the past, and in some ways has to be considered a tough challenge to get a championship opportunity.

“I’m looking for the big fights and I know signing with Matchroom was the right choice to get me to where I want to go,” he said ‘I’m humbled by this opportunity, and I will dedicate myself into becoming the best 168-pounder in the world. My main goal is to land the Canelo [Alvarez] fight and renew the greatest rivalry in boxing , Mexico vs. Puerto Rico.”

Hype continues for the anticipated fight of the year, next Saturday in Las Vegas. Ryan Garcia (Mexican-American) and Gervonta Davis for lightweight supremacy, at least for now both undefeated, have decided to fight at a catchweight of 136 on the Showtime Pay-Per-View card that is expected to equal or surpass record numbers of purchases…

Ryan Garcia – Image Credit: DAZN

Luis Rodriguez, a perfect 11 wins in 11 fights with 11 stoppages, makes his first defense of his World Boxing Association (WBA) Continental Americas Super Middleweight title against Ecuadoran Roger Guerrero on Friday, April 14 at Coliseo do Combates, Panama City, Panama and streamed live on ESPN+ beginning at 8 pm.

Image Credit: Top Rank Boxing

Rodriguez (11-0, 11 KOs) from Toa Alto, Puerto Rico, made his pro debut on June 11, 2021. His knockouts have come in rounds 2, 1, 4, 1, 2, 2, 1, 4, 3, 2 and 2 and looks to keep not only his undefeated record intact…

Finally, note about Sebastian “Towering Inferno” Fundora the Mexican-American phenom who sustained a seventh round knockout to Brian Mendoza. The upset and knockout of the year and first time going down to defeat.

Sebastian Fundora vs Brian Mendoza

It’s not the end for Fundora, the lean and strong super welterweight. But the uppercuts from Mendoza, something 20 other opponents could not achieve, were hard to handle. Mendoza won the WBC interim 154-title and a title fight with champion Jermell Charlo.

It was a good punch,” said Fundora. “I didn’t recognize that moment, but I’m fine. I’m healthy now, and I’ll be back. I’ll be back to take over the division.”

Though, a title shot that disappeared as quick as that punch.

Rich Mancuso: Co-editor and senior writer Twitter@Ring786 Mancuso.

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