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Luis Alberto Lopez Interested In Unification Or Oscar Valdez-Liam Wilson Winner Next

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Luis Alberto Lopez Celebrates His 8th Round Technical Knockout Of Mandatory Challenger Reiya Abe In March 2nd IBF 126-Pound Title Defense In Verona, New York. (Photo Credit: Mikey Williams/Top Rank)

Luis Alberto Lopez has strongly considered a path that would momentarily park his unification dreams.

The reigning IBF featherweight titlist is open to a big fight in the 130-pound division if he cannot get another divisional beltholder next. Mexicali’s Lopez, The Ring’s No. 2-ranked featherweight, dominated mandatory challenger Reiya Abe, whom he stopped in the eighth round of their March 2 ESPN+ co-feature. The fight was paired with Raymond ‘Savage’ Ford’s come-from-behind, 12th round knockout of Otabek Kholmatov to win the vacant WBA featherweight title.

By design, the idea was to arouse interest in a potential head-on collision down the road. Lopez instead had another fight in mind.

“My dream is to unify the world titles at 126,” Lopez told ESPN’s Bernardo Osuna after his latest win. “But I’m also willing to move up to 130. [Former two-division titlist] Oscar Valdez and Liam Wilson are fighting later this month. I will take on that winner as well.”

Lopez (30-2, 17 knockouts) has fought above the featherweight limit in non-title fights. None of those occasions were as significant as would be a fight versus Australia’s Wilson (13-2, 7 KOs) or especially his countryman in Valdez (31-2, 23 KOs), No. 7 at 130.

There still remains the possibility of a unification bout given promoter Top Rank’s investment in the featherweight division. The company is in the process of finalizing a Rafael Espinoza-Robeisy Ramirez WBO 126-pound title fight rematch later this summer.

Camden’s Ford (15-0-1, 8 KOs) admitted both before and after his dramatic knockout victory of his own plans to move up in weight as well. The 24-year-old southpaw could remain at featherweight for one more fight at the most. However, he is already being groomed for a potential unification versus England’s Nick Ball (19-0, 11 KOs), should The Ring’s No. 10-ranked featherweight dethrone WBC titlist Rey Vargas (36-1, 22 KOs), No. 3 at 126 this Friday in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

For now, Lopez will be an interested observer for the Valdez-Wilson March 29 ESPN+ headliner from Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona.

Mexico’s Valdez (31-2, 23 KOs), and a former two-division titlist, aim to rebound from an August 12 defeat to countryman Emanuel Navarrete (38-1-1, 30 KOs), No. 1 at 130. Wilson has won two in a row since his own defeat to Navarrete last February 3.

Both defeats to Navarrete suffered by Valdez and Wilson took place at Desert Diamond Arena.

Lopez has held the IBF 126-pound title since a December 2022 majority decision over Josh Warrington (31-3-1, 8 KOs) on the road in Leeds, England. He returned to the U.K. for his first title defense, a crushing fifth-round knockout of Michael Conlan (18-3, 9 KOs) last May 27 in the challenger’s hometown of Belfast, Northern Ireland.

A return to North America saw Lopez outpoint former title challenger Joet Gonzalez (26-4, 15 KOs) last September 15 in Corpus Christi, Texas. He was far more dominant versus Abe, No. 8 at 126, this past Saturday at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York. Lopez landed 135-of-293 power punches, the effects evident on Abe whose nose was bloodied and right eye swollen shut. The fight was brought to a merciful halt in the eighth round.

Lopez extended his current thirteen-fight win streak with the stoppage victory over Abe. He has fought at or just outside featherweight for each of his last seven contests. His last billed junior lightweight fight was a dominant Sept. 2021 unanimous decision over then-unbeaten Gabriel Flores in Tucson, Arizona.

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for The Ring and vice president of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA). X (formerly Twitter): @JakeNDaBox

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