Featherweight titlist Juan Manuel Lopez will make his third defense on April 16 in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, against Orlando Salido in a fight that will continue the comparisons between Lopez and Yuriorkis Gamboa, the fellow titleholder he is on a collision course with.
Lopez-Salido will headline a "Showtime Championship Boxing" card at the Ruben Rodriguez Coliseum. A news conference is scheduled for Tuesday in Puerto Rico.
" 'Juanma' is one of the top four television fighters today. He makes great fights," Top Ranks Carl Moretti said. "No matter who he is in with, you're going to be entertained. We're at a great arena in Puerto Rico that will have 8,000 to 10,000 people and I think it will be a good evening all around."
Lopez, of Puerto Rico, and Gamboa, a 2004 Cuban Olympic gold medalist, are being kept apart by Top Rank chairman Bob Arum until he feels the fight is big enough to match them. So they both continue to fight, just not against each other. Lopez-Salido will be another way to compare Lopez and Gamboa.
In his last fight in September, the 30-year-old Salido (34-11-2, 22 KOs) lost a competitive decision to Gamboa, whom he knocked down in the eighth round. Salido, of Mexico, had been stripped of his belt on day of the fight because he had gained more than the 10 pounds the IBF allows between the official weigh-in the day before the fight and a weight check on the morning of the fight.
Now it's Lopez's turn to see what he can do against Salido.
I think it's a tough fight for Juanma," Top Rank president Todd duBoef said. "Salido is a really solid, durable guy. Gamboa had to work really hard to get past him and with this fight we will be able to see comparatively where the two hot, young featherweights are. Salido is going to be there all night. Juanma is really going to have to work for it."
Lopez, 27, held a junior featherweight title from 2008 to 2009 and made five defenses before relinquishing it to move up in weight. Lopez (30-0, 27 KOs) stopped Steven Luevano in the seventh round to claim a featherweight belt in January 2010 and has made two defenses, a second-round knockout of Bernabe Concepcion in July and an eighth-round stoppage of Rafael Marquez in November.
Top Rank's Carl Moretti said he thinks there is some danger for Lopez against Salido.
"Salido is a hard-nosed, grizzled Mexican with a great chin and good power [and] this could be his last shot at a title," Moretti said. "And Juanma has been known to catch better sometimes than fellow Puerto Rican Jorge Posada."
Said Salido: "It's a tough fight, but for me it's an opportunity to win a title belt and become a world champion again."
The comparisons to Gamboa's performance are inevitable, Moretti said, which might dictate how Lopez fights.
It's going to be a measuring stick on where both of them stand against each other, so what Juanma has to protect against is fighting the guy and thinking, I gotta look good. Can I knock him out? Do I get out of my game plan just to prove a point because Gamboa went the distance with him?' "
While Lopez deals with Salido in his next fight, Gamboa (19-0, 15 KOs) will face Jorge Solis, an interim junior lightweight titlist who is dropping down in weight, on March 26 in Atlantic City, N.J., on HBO.
DuBoef said there is no specific timeline yet as to when Lopez and Gamboa might be matched with each other.
Theres a feel for when its ready to go," DuBoef said. I think sometimes there's a road map and sometimes it's a sixth sense when it's time to match them up. We're working to get there with these guys and to make this as big as it can be. We're creating a business around both guys. Lopez is more advanced in that sense because he's become a big draw, especially in Puerto Rico. But we're working on it with Gamboa. There is something naturally that happens where fighters are on two independent paths and they eventually merge into one, and the fight happens."
Junior welterweight Mike Alvarado (28-0, 20 KOs), who has had stretches of inactivity while being incarcerated multiple times, is out of prison and slated to open the telecast against an opponent to be determined, Moretti said. Alvarado first fights Feb. 19 on the untelevised undercard of unified bantamweight titleholder Fernando Montiel's defense against Nonito Donaire.
Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter.