The most anticipated fight of the fall — the Oct. 17 lightweight unification showdown between WBC Franchise/WBA/WBO world champion Vasiliy “Loma” Lomachenko and IBF kingpin Teofimo Lopez from the MGM Grand Las Vegas “Bubble”— now has a two-course televised appetizer befitting the occasion.
In the 10-round junior welterweight co-feature, former world title challenger Alex Saucedo will fight unbeaten contender Arnold Barboza Jr.
The televised opener will see super middleweight knockout sensation Edgar Berlanga test his perfect record against veteran Lanell Bellows in an eight-rounder. Berlanga (14-0, 14 KOs) has won all 14 of his professional fights by first-round stoppage.
Lomachenko-Lopez, Saucedo-Barboza and Berlanga-Bellows will be televised live on ESPN & ESPN Deportes beginning at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.
“Lomachenko-Lopez promises to be a classic, and the rest of the ESPN-televised card will set the table,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “Barboza and Saucedo are players in the deep junior welterweight division, and both men are ferocious competitors. The winner is ready to challenge for a world title. As for Edgar Berlanga, every time he steps in the ring, he impresses me more and more. I haven’t seen a young puncher like him in quite some time.”
Saucedo (30-1, 19 KOs), the thunderous slugger from Oklahoma City, has won a pair of fights since falling short to Maurice Hooker in a November 2018 bid for the WBO junior welterweight world title. He is entering his third bout with head trainer Pedro Neme, a union that has paid dividends thus far. Saucedo knocked out Rod Salka in the first round last November and made his “Bubble” debut June 30 with a one-sided decision over Sonny Fredrickson.
Barboza (24-0, 10 KOs), from South El Monte, Calif., is a seven-year pro who is ranked in the top 10 by the WBO and WBC at 140 pounds. He graduated from prospect to contender with victories over the likes of Mike Reed, Mike Alvarado and William Silva. He last fought Aug. 29 as the co-feature to the Jose Ramirez-Viktor Postol junior welterweight world title bout and cruised to a one-sided decision over Canadian veteran Tony Luis.
“Arnold is a very versatile fighter, so we are preparing for everything,” Saucedo said. “I know it will be hard to steal the show from Lomachenko-Lopez, but I’m coming in to put on a memorable fight for the fans. I feel like people still doubt me from the Maurice Hooker fight, and I can’t wait to show everyone all of my tools.”
“This fight, and fighting on such a significant card, means the world to me,” Barboza said. “It’s time to put the 140-pound division on notice. I respect Saucedo, but he’s in my way as I strive to earn a world title opportunity.”
Berlanga has combined flash with unique power to earn headlines despite not having seen the second round as a pro. The record for consecutive first-round knockouts to begin a career is 21, held by the late Ali Raymi. Berlanga made his “Bubble” debut on July 21 and stopped Eric Moon in 62 seconds, which equaled the fifth-shortest outing of his career. Bellows (20-5-3, 13 KOs) has never been stopped as a pro and has made his bones testing young prospects. He is coming off a fourth-round stoppage over Malcolm Jones, who entered the fight with a 15-1 record.
“I’m dedicating this fight to my family and Puerto Rico. I want to continue to shine like a bright star and carry the flag on my back,” Berlanga said. “Bellows has never been stopped, but I intend to be the first man to stop him. He’s a strong fighter, and I hope to get some rounds in. I want to show that I’m a versatile boxer and not just a puncher. One thing I will guarantee is another explosive performance.”
Use the hashtag #LomaLopez to join the conversation on social media. For more information, visit www.toprank.com, www.espn.com/boxing; Facebook: facebook.com/trboxing; Twitter: twitter.com/trboxing; twitter.com/ESPNRingside.