Celestino Caballero still wants Juan Manuel Lopez, and even though Lopez has said he wants to fight Caballero in January, Caballero isn't letting anyone forget that he's the one seeking the fight.
In a press release from Seminole Warriors Boxing, Caballero had this to say:
"Juanma Lopez can keep running from me, but I'm not going to stop chasing him. The fans know who the true champion is, and as a true champion, I am willing to put my two belts up against his one belt and even travel to Puerto Rico to fight him. He knows in his heart what I bring to the ring, and that's why he's hiding. But I'll get him."
This is nice trash talk, and Caballero is proving to be one of the best smack talkers in the business, but it's worth being totally unbiased about this. Caballero (33-2, 23 KO) just fought Francisco Leal, which was a joke of a defense, even worse than Lopez's upcoming fight with Rogers Mtagwa. Leal (14-5-2, 9 KO) has never beaten a quality opponent and was 2-2-2 in his last six fights coming in. That's a pathetic title challenger, and Caballero calling him "very game" doesn't excuse it. It was a world class fighter taking on a guy whose last two wins came over fighters that came in with records of 5-18-2 and 10-12-1. Give me a break.
Lopez himself has dumped on his upcoming defense against Mtagwa (26-12-2, 18 KO). Lopez (26-0, 24 KO) burst onto the major title scene last year with a first round stoppage of Daniel Ponce de Leon, but since then he's faced iffy competition at best. Cesar Figueroa was done in 47 seconds, Sergio Medina clearly had no interest in being there (let's not even get started on that farce), Gerry Penalosa was tough but just too small, and Olivier Lontchi just didn't deserve the shot, although he gave Lopez at least a small amount of resistance.
Both Lopez and Caballero need the fight with each other, because there's nobody left at 122 that provides interest otherwise. Lopez is going to head up to 126 next year, and Bob Arum wants to match him with Yuriorkis Gamboa. But it would feel like Juanma left without taking the only real challenge if he moves up without fighting Caballero. If his body can handle the weight (and that hasn't been a real problem, apparently, it's just that there's money higher up), he has to do it.
But don't let Caballero fool you: He needs the fight just as bad, probably even worse. Caballero doesn't have Top Rank behind him, planning his move up to 126. If Caballero goes up, he'd face the same problems he does now finding quality opponents.