Talk Boxing with fight fans at the KO Boxing Forum.
Golden Boy Promotions continues with its end of year fare on Friday, 13 December, at the Fantasy Springs Casino, Indio, California. This particular offering features a main event starring Josesito Lopez against "Mighty" Mike Arnaoutis in a 10-round welterweight feature. That this is the main event immediately indicates that this show is dedicated to advancing the careers of several of Golden Boy's young prospects and former Olympians. None of the matches look particularly competitive on paper, but it should be an entertaining evening nonetheless, with plenty of knockouts to be expected on the undercard.
Main-eventer Lopez has been fighting at top level since he took a step up in January 2011 to stop hot prospect Mike Dallas Jr., in the seventh round. This was somewhat of an upset at the time and, indeed, Dallas eventually went on to challenge Lucas Matthysse for the WBC-interim belt at light-welterweight.
Prior to his win over Dallas, Josesito had been an up and down performer, always leaving a good impression but never seemingly doing enough to suggest he could step up to world class. He had come up short on a couple of occasions, most memorably when losing a close but clear decision to Edgar Santana, a fight which was broadcast on ESPN's Friday Night Fights show in April 2008. Even after his excellent victory over Dallas, Lopez blew his big chance on HBO pay per view in September 2011, on the undercard to Floyd Mayweather-Victor Ortiz, against Mayweather's protégé at the time, Jessie Vargas.
Josesito fought a great fight but, once again, just came up short. The fight was in the balance all the way through, but it was Vargas who seemed to want it more and snatched the 10-round decision. Watching that fight, the feeling was that if Josesito had just thrown a few more punches in the vital close rounds he would have taken the nod. This was a further indication that his future was going to be limited to the aforementioned ESPN club shows.
Fate was to take a hand in Josesito's future after this, however. He was named as the opponent for Golden Boy's star Victor Ortiz, who was returning to the ring in June 2012 following that knockout defeat against Mayweather. Lopez was to be the whipping boy who would put up a good show but eventually go down to the flashing fists of Vicious Vic, helping him on his way back to the top. For long periods of the fight, this is exactly what happened. Ortiz was just too big, strong and powerful for Lopez, who had never fought above light-welterweight before. Never one to read a script though, Lopez kept at it and eventually started to land some of his own shots. Ortiz was discomfited by this and from the halfway point Lopez was clearly growing in confidence.
Josesito had his best round in the ninth and, although clearly adrift on the scorecards, still harboured hope that he might pull the victory out of the fire. Sure enough, during the rest period after the ninth round, Ortiz called the referee over and retired himself, having suffered a broken jaw. This was the instant that Lopez's career really took off.
As a result of that victory, Lopez was catapulted into a big payday in September 2012 as a substitute for Ortiz who had been scheduled to face Saul Alvarez for the WBC light-middleweight title. It was always going to be a step too far for Josesito and, for the first time in his career, he was well and truly outclassed by the much bigger Canelo. After taking nine months off, Lopez went straight into another headline bout on Showtime against wicked Argentine puncher Marcos Maidana. Despite putting up another gutsy showing and fighting on level terms with Maidana for five rounds, Lopez suddenly succumbed to the extra power of the Argentine in the sixth round.
That brings us up to date and Josesito's opponent for Friday, Mike Arnaoutis. Mike was a fringe contender himself at one point. In August 2004 Arnaoutis was good enough to share a 12-round decision with future champion Juan Urango. He continued to fight at a good level for the next two years, earning himself a shot at the vacant WBO light-welterweight title against Colombian banger Ricardo Torres in November 2006. Torres had only the year before given Miguel Cotto the fright of his life, rocking the Puerto Rican to his boots with his heavy shots before falling in the seventh.
He was not able to budge Arnaoutis though and they fought to a split decision, with Torres taking the crown thanks to a 114-113 pivotal scorecard. Mike was therefore one round away from achieving his world title dream. Unfortunately for him, that was as good as it was to get. He lost a wide decision to Kendall Holt five months later in a title eliminator and from there on it was all downhill.
Arnaoutis is now 34-years-old and can best be described these days as a quality journeyman. It is always sad to see once highly rated fighters being used as cannon fodder for up and coming young fighters, but Arnaoutis now fits easily into this role. If Lopez and Arnaoutis had fought in 2008, it would probably have been Mighty Mike who would have been favoured to win. Now though, everything has changed. It is Lopez who has the all-important backing of Golden Boy and Al Haymon.
This is a virtual guarantee that further big money televised fights await him, so long as he beats Arnaoutis. As sure as eggs are eggs, this is what Lopez will do. He is five years younger than Arnaoutis at 29 and in his underdog performances against Ortiz and Maidana he fought with a ferocity which Arnaoutis will not be able to live with. Mike is still tough though and is likely to go the distance before losing widely on points.
The chief support on this card features 2008 Mexican Olympian Francisco Vargas, 17-0-1 (13). For viewers watching this show on Fox Sports in the USA who have not seen Vargas, they are in for a treat. Vargas is a really hot prospect who boxes in a nice stand-up style, with a classic high guard, but utilises the most ferocious body attack imaginable. In his last showing, televised on Showtime's superb ShoBox series, he battered fellow unbeaten Brandon Bennett to a standstill, winning nine of the ten rounds. Unfortunately for Vargas, he sustained a nasty cut over his left eye which has kept him out of the ring since.
On this card, Vargas faces Jerry Belmontes who was a hot prospect himself when turning professional in January 2008. Jerry had been runner up in the US national amateur championships in 2007 to Diego Magdaleno, losing by just one point in the final. He turned professional with Top Rank but has subsequently spent time with New Jersey's Main Events before switching again for his last couple of fights to the Golden Boy outfit. Things were going quite swimmingly for Jerry as he went unbeaten for 17 straight fights. He then ran into more experienced Eric Hunter in December of last year and was comfortably outpointed. He did manage a tough comeback win over Nicaraguan Daniel Diaz, which was also featured on Fox Sports, before being upset again in his last fight against Andrew Cancio in July. In both of his defeats Jerry was clearly outpointed on the judges' scorecards. As a result of his two defeats Belmontes is now being thrown to the wolves, in the shape of the fearsome Vargas. Golden Boy is giving him the option to sink or swim.
Unfortunately for Belmontes, he has never been able to replicate his amateur form in the professional ranks. He has never convinced watchers that he was able to take that step and against Vargas this will be confirmed once and for all. Look for Vargas to win a wide points decision. For the Mexican, this should be the last go for him at this level. He is just about to turn 29 and Golden Boy cannot afford to spend any more time building him up. He is ready for sturdier challenges and will show it in Indio on Friday.
At the time of writing, the promoters were still hopeful of featuring star featherweight Gary Russell Jr. on this card. Russell was recently named as mandatory challenger to WBO champion Orlando Salido, but has spent a long period out of the ring this year due to a hand fracture. If Russell does box here, it will only be a warm-up fight to help prepare him for his proposed title shot.
Also featuring on the card are former US Olympians, Errol Spencer, Michael Hunter and Joe Diaz. All of these young fighters are progressing nicely and should comfortably add to their winning records.