Teofimo Lopez’s December 10th clash with Jose Pedraza will be on a bigger stage than anticipated, as Top Rank announced today that it would headline a four-fight ESPN show at Madison Square Garden proper instead of Hulu Theater.
Lopez (17-1, 13 KO) presently sits at no. 1 in the WBO rankings and no. 3 in the WBC, though he’ll likely get the top spot there as well once Jose Zepeda and Regis Prograis duke it out for the vacant title. Pedraza (29-4-1, 14 KO) should at the very least show us whether Lopez is back in championship form; “The Sniper” is plenty skilled, plenty seasoned, and plenty gritty.
Lopez said, “It’s Heisman Night at Madison Square Garden. I’m born for this stage. Once I beat Jose Pedraza in front of my hometown fans, I am coming for all the junior welterweight belts in 2023. The Takeback is in full effect, and I am on a mission to become a champion again.”
“I am here to face the elite fighters of the division, and to me, that is what Teofimo represents,” Pedraza said. “I have come to show that I am still one of the best fighters at 140 pounds. I’m still a threat to everyone in the division, and on December 10, I’m going to prove it. For me, the goal doesn’t change. I want to be crowned world champion in a third division, and I know I’m going to achieve it.”
Also official is the previously revealed heavyweight tussle between Jared Anderson (12-0, 12 KO) and Jerry Forrest (26-5-2, 20 KO). As I said before, it’s a very good test for Anderson, and if he can truck Forrest the way he has all prior comers, we can safely say he’s for real.
“I’m happy to finally be getting a step-up fight,” Anderson said. “Hopefully, this solidifies my place as a contender and confirms that I’m not a prospect anymore.”
“I’m in camp now. I’m excited and motivated to make a big statement. Jared is the up-and-coming fighter, and all the pressure is on him,” Forrest said. “After my last performance, I feel everyone has forgotten how good I am. I’ve been in the ring against top fighters, and I know that I can compete at the top level. The question is, what can he do against an experienced veteran like me? I am coming to send the ‘Big Baby’ home crying after his first loss. This will be a great fight for the fans in attendance at Madison Square Garden and those watching nationally on ESPN.”
Down at 154, 20-year-old Xander Zayas (14-0, 10 KO) faces Alexis Salazar (24-4, 9 KO). Salazar is a blatant can crusher, having lasted less than three rounds against Carlos Adames in his sole meaningful bout, but at least he’s experienced.
Zayas said, “I am very happy to be part of another amazing card at the legendary Madison Square Garden, and as always, I’m grateful to Top Rank for giving me these opportunities to showcase my skills on such a big stage. Salazar is a strong Mexican veteran, and with this performance, I’m looking to close the year strong and set the tone for a big 2023.
The main card opener pits Tokyo silver medalist Keyshawn Davis (6-0, 5 KO) against Juan Carlos Burgos (35-6-3, 21 KO) at lightweight. Burgos was a player at 130 in the mid-aughts and would have been a champion had his title shot against Rocky Martinez been judged properly, but he’s settled into the role of “opponent” these last few years. He did fight Angel Fierro to a draw in March, though, so he’s got that going for him.
Bruce Carrington (5-0, 3 KO) and Jahi Tucker (9-0, 5 KO) lead the ESPN+ prelims.