Khan, Lopez ready for their weekend close-ups
By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor
Ocala, FL (Sports Network) -
Coming this weekend...the rebuttal phase.
After watching their signature belt-wearing colleagues get face time over the past several weeks, WBA super lightweight champion Amir Khan and WBO featherweight kingpin Juan Manuel Lopez take to the cable airwaves to state their own cases for supremacy.
Khan, a title claimant since July 2009 and winner in three subsequent defenses, will defend his slice of the 140-pound pie against Paul McCloskey on Saturday night at the M.E.N. Arena in Manchester, U.K. -- as part of a two- fight, two-site broadcast on HBO scheduled for 9:45 p.m. ET.
Also on the "World Championship Boxing" show is WBC welterweight champ Andre Berto's defense against No. 5 contender Victor Ortiz, from Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Conn.
But while Berto is generally seen no better than third in a 147-pound division top heavy with Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr., Khan is widely viewed as equal or superior to his most prominent prospective foil -- WBC/WBO champion Timothy Bradley.
Bradley defended the WBO belt and won the WBC version on Jan. 29 in Pontiac, Mich., where he topped unwilling Devon Alexander by 10-round technical decision in a universally panned unification bout.
Khan, meanwhile, won a narrow unanimous nod over Marcos Maidana a month earlier in a 12-rounder voted 2010's "Fight of the Year" by the Boxing Writers Association of America.
Amir Khan (pictured) will defend his slice of the 140-pound pie against Paul McCloskey on Saturday night.
Previous defenses for the now 24-year-old include an 11th-round TKO of veteran former champ Paul Malignaggi in May 2010 and a one-round blowout of then- unbeaten Dmitriy Salita in December 2009.
Should he defeat the No. 4-ranked McCloskey -- a 7-to-1 underdog in some circles -- a showdown with Bradley is penciled in for July 23 at a site to be determined.
"I've always wanted to break records," Khan said. "I was the youngest British boxer to win an Olympic medal when I won silver in Athens in 2004. I was a world champion at 22 and now I want to be the unified champion. To become the unified world champion at 24 would be amazing."
If he indeed becomes owner of multiple belts at 140, the 5-foot-10 right- hander said his next challenge would involve a jump to the land of Manny and Floyd.
"The way Bradley performed in his last fight against Devon Alexander didn't worry me. It made me even more confident I can beat him," he said. "If I unify the title, I'll move up to the next division. I'll have nothing left to prove at 140 pounds.
"I want to do what Manny has done and I get a lot of confidence from watching him, training with him and sparring with him. He started out at flyweight and has won his last title at light middleweight. I have goals and when I've done everything I want, I'll walk away. I won't fight on."
As for Lopez, he was last seen in a ring chummily sidling up to his own would- be superfight foe, IBF 126-pound champion Yuriorkis Gamboa.
Gamboa defended his share of the throne with a TKO of Jorge Solis on March 26 in Atlantic City and was greeted warmly afterward by stablemate Lopez, who's also promoted by Bob Arum.
The two are a combined 50-0 with 43 knockouts.
"We just need to have the right negotiations," Lopez said. "I have never rejected him and he has never rejected me. We are the best two fighters in the division. This fight has to be made."
The 27-year-old faces former IBF champion Orlando Salido on Saturday night in Puerto Rico in a scheduled 12-round headliner to the "Showtime Championship Boxing" event set to air at 10:30 p.m. ET.
Lopez, who beat Rafael Marquez in November in Las Vegas, held the WBO's title at 122 pounds in 2008-09 before capturing the featherweight title with a TKO of Steven Luevano 15 months ago in New York.
He's since defended twice, stopping Bernabe Concepcion in two rounds and Marquez in four.
Salido last fought in September and lost his title to Gamboa via unanimous decision.
He's 34-11-2 in a pro career that began in March 1996, when Lopez was 12.
"I'm going back to the old school and using my amateur knowledge, but if we have to enter the zone of fire, we'll go," Lopez said. "If there's a knockout, it will be in something like the eighth or ninth round. I do not think it will come in the first round.
"If the knockout comes, it would be better, but I'm not going in there with that mentality. You have to please the public but with 30 fights you have to do it intelligently. Now I'm stronger and I won't get hurt, no way."
ESPN2 -- Pechanga Resort & Casino, Temecula, Calif. Ivan Popoca (15-0-1) vs. Ruslan Provodnikov (18-1) -- 10, junior welterweights
TeleFutura -- Longshoremen's Hall, San Francisco, Calif. Eloy Perez (20-0-2) vs. Alejandro Rodriguez (12-1) -- 10, junior lightweights
HBO -- M.E.N. Arena, Manchester, United Kingdom Amir Khan (24-1) vs. Paul McCloskey (22-0) -- 12, WBA super lightweight title
HBO -- Foxwoods Resort Casino, Mashantucket, Conn. Andre Berto (27-0) vs. Victor Ortiz (28-2-2) -- 12, WBC welterweight title
Showtime -- Coliseo Ruben Rodriguez, Bayamon, Puerto Rico Juan Manuel Lopez (30-0) vs. Orlando Salido (34-11-2) -- 12, WBO featherweight title
Lyle Fitzsimmons is a veteran sports columnist who's written professionally since 1988 and covered boxing since 1995. His work is published in print and posted online for clients in North America and Europe. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at www.twitter.com/fitzbitz.