Featherweight titlist Miguel Angel “Mikey” Garcia will make the first defense of his belt against former titleholder Juan Manuel Lopez on June 15 at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti told ESPN.com on Thursday.
Moretti said the fighters agreed to terms on Wednesday night and that they are finalizing paperwork for the fight, which will headline an HBO “Boxing After Dark” telecast.
“Any way you look at it, it’s a great matchup — experience [Lopez] versus youth [Garcia], righty [Garcia] versus lefty [Lopez] and Mexican [Garcia] versus Puerto Rican [Lopez],” Moretti said. “Can’t thank HBO execs enough for their help in making this true crossroads bout.”
Garcia (31-0, 26 KOs), 25, of Oxnard, Calif., is the fighter on the rise. He won his world title in dominant fashion on Jan. 19 in New York, dropping Orlando Salido — who owns two knockout wins against Lopez — four times in an eighth-round technical decision win. The fight was cut short when Salido broke Garcia’s nose with an accidental head butt and he was unable to continue, but was way ahead on the scorecards.
Lopez (33-2, 30 KOs), 29, was once considered one of boxing’s best fighters before his upset knockout losses to Salido. Lopez made five junior featherweight title defenses before moving up to featherweight in 2010 and immediately winning a world title with a seventh-round knockout of Steven Luevano. After two defenses, Lopez was knocked out by Salido in the eighth round of a 2011 slugfest in Puerto Rico.
Lopez rebounded with a win in a tuneup fight but then was stopped in the 10th round of a March 2012 rematch with Salido, also in Puerto Rico, in another barn burner. Immediately after the second fight, when Lopez was still concussed, he accused referee Roberto Ramirez Jr. of stopping the fight because he had wagered on the outcome, which drew a $10,000 fine and a year suspension from the Puerto Rico boxing commission.
The commission lifted the suspension a little early, and Lopez returned in February and has won two fights in a row at 128 pounds against low-level opponents. He knocked out Aldimar Silva Santos in the ninth round in Puerto Rico on Feb. 23 and knocked out Eugenio Lopez in Mexico City on April 20.
“‘Juanma’ has plenty left to give Mikey all he can handle, especially after getting two tuneups since the [second]loss to Salido,” Moretti said. “He’s very, very confident and [making]the weight is no issue at all.”
Moretti said that Omaha, Neb., prospect Terence Crawford (20-0, 15 KOs), 25, who easily outpointed perennial junior welterweight contender Breidis Prescott on March 30 as a late substitute on the Mike Alvarado-Brandon Rios II undercard, will fight in the HBO-televised co-feature against an opponent to be determined.
Crawford fought Prescott at junior welterweight, but he is likely to go down to lightweight, where he has fought most of his career.
Top Rank considered bringing the card to Puerto Rico or San Antonio but instead decided on Dallas, which hasn’t hosted a significant card since Manny Pacquiao defeated Antonio Margarito in the second of his two fights at Cowboys Stadium in November 2010.
“That metroplex is a great fight scene and somewhat untapped,” Moretti said, adding that Top Rank chairman Bob Arum spoke with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban about the card on Wednesday and “he’s pumped.”
The fight card will be the first significant one at American Airlines Center.
“You can’t be afraid to try something new,” Moretti said. “Remember — amateurs built the ark, professionals built the Titanic.”
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