The junior welterweight division is starting to really sizzle as some intriguing matchups are getting scheduled, and some of the bigger names from the lightweight division are moving up. But for a while, when that division wasn’t as sexy, thirty-year-old undefeated contender Arnold Barboza Jr. (27-0) was putting in that work.
What’s interesting about Barboza Jr. is that although he has worked hard through the ranks, it seems like he continues to be overlooked. One of these situations played out in public recently when the WBO moved former unified lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez passed Barboza Jr. without having fought once in the division and coming off a loss. This added more fuel to the fire between Barboza Jr. and Teofimo.
But before getting into this past weekend, Barboza Jr. spoke to me in October and ran towards violence by calling out Teofimo Lopez. This was after Teofimo, and his father went on a few different media outlets and had some choice words to say about him. So, Barboza Jr felt the fight would happen soon after, but after a long delay, it didn’t seem like it was going to happen, so Team Barboza Jr. moved on.
Barboza Jr. told NYF, “Initially, we waited for the Teofimo (Lopez) fight because we thought we would get him. We were hearing things that we may get the fight, so we were holding off. Then I got to the point where we couldn’t wait anymore, so we fought (Danielito) Zorilla. We wanted to fight someone that was ranked, and Zorilla was ranked number ten in the WBO at the time. Every fight at this point of my career is value added. We had fights like that our whole careers and just excited for what’s next.”
So fast forward to this past weekend, where Teofimo Lopez fought Pedro Campa at junior welterweight for the first time in his career. Lopez did what he was supposed to and ended up getting the stoppage late in the fight. At ringside, Barboza Jr. was sitting there watching his potential future opponent’s fight while carefully assessing things. As the camera often turned to Barboza Jr., one would think the call-out at the end of the fight would come by Teofimo, but it didn’t. Many wondered why and recently, a video clip caught a conversation Teofimo had with Top Rank COO Brad Jacobs. He basically said he didn’t want the fight with Barboza jr. because he felt it was a waste of time.
What did Barboza Jr. think of what he saw on Saturday night? Barboza said, “Without giving any details, I saw a lot. If anything, it gave me more confidence. At 140, I don’t feel like he (Teofimo) will do anything; I’m not (Pedro) Campa. It would be a whole different story if I were in the ring that night. I know that he doesn’t want to fight me. He said he wants the big fish; well, I am the big fish. The other big fish already have fights lined up. There are no other fights that make sense for him and me. I feel like he needs to grow a pair of balls and man up! He says I’m a bum and a tune-up, so finish me quick. It should be easy money for him, but he doesn’t want to do it for some reason.”
Barboza Jr. continued, “We will keep pushing for the fight. I know my manager Rick (Mirigian) gets shit done. I know it’s frustrating for him, and it is for me too. This kid (Teofimo) says that no one at the top wants to fight him, but you have someone wanting to fight him, and he doesn’t want it.” Those were some fighting words by the Southern California native actively seeking the division’s biggest challenges.
With all the tension surrounding these two fighters, I wondered what would have happened if Barboza Jr. had been allowed to go into the ring and step to Teofimo. Barboza Jr. laughed initially at the question but then got serious and said, “To be honest, it wouldn’t have been pretty. I legit do not like this guy. I don’t say that about a lot of people in this world. Teofimo and his team, it’s a whole different thing; the disrespect they throw out there, and lack of manners makes this personal, so I really want that fight.”
My Three Cents
According to BoxRec, Teofimo Lopez is scheduled to fight on December 10, traditionally The Heisman Trophy Award presentation night. Although Teofimo mentioned ESPN PPV, it will more than likely be just on ESPN, and if they want to follow the Heisman with a fight that has a really good story built into it, then the Barboza Jr. fight makes the most sense. Let’s end the year right and give the fans the type of fight with all the elements of being a fight of the year.