Thursday, March 23, 2023  |



Arnold Barboza awaits junior welter title shot, first must face Danielito Zorrilla this Friday

Arnold Barboza Jr. - Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank

Arnold Barboza has been as patient as one could be fighting at 140 pounds.

While the other contenders are positioning themselves to fight for world title belts that have been stripped from Ring Magazine champion Josh Taylor, Barboza continues to wait his turn. It is the reality that is boxing politics today, something Barboza knows all too well.

While Barboza awaits his opportunity, he will face a fighter that is unbeaten and dangerous and could alter his path towards a world title belt.

Barboza, who is ranked No. 6 by The Ring at 140 pounds, will square off against Danielito Zorrilla Friday night at the Pechanga Resort Casino in Temecula, California. The 10-round bout will air live on ESPN (9 p.m. ET/ 6 p.m. PT).

The clash between Barboza and Zorrilla is a compelling fight between two unbeaten fighters at the peak of their careers. Barboza has more fights and has fought the better opposition, but Zorrilla has displayed his power and improved skill-set in recent fights. 

Barboza (26-0, 10 knockouts), who resides in Los Angeles, has not fought since August 14, defeating fringe contender Antonio Moran by unanimous decision. In his previous fight in October 2020, Barboza overcame a knockdown to defeat Alex Saucedo by unanimous decision. 

The 30-year-old will square off against a talented boxer-puncher in Zorrilla, who resides in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico. Barboza has been eager to return to the ring, but admits he will have his hands full against Zorrilla Friday night.

“I’m very excited and very hungry to get back into the ring,” Barboza told The Ring over the phone Monday afternoon. “It’s been a while. I know it’s going to be a great fight.”

“I’m really motivated coming into this fight. This is going to be my toughest fight to date. He’s young and hungry and he’s going to be determined to win. My weight is good. We had a great camp. I’m really looking forward to Friday night.”

Earlier in his career, Barboza has passed each test thus far in impressive fashion. He defeated once-beaten Mike Reed by unanimous decision in March 2018 and scored an impressive knockout win over Mike Alvarado over a year later. 

Barboza knows exactly where Zorrilla is at his career as he fought the likes of Reed and Alvarado as a prospect, which is why he is not overlooking Zorrilla.

“I was at his stage and I was in shoes,” said Barboza, who made his pro debut at the age of 21 in June of 2013. “I know where he’s coming from because I was a determined prospect on the rise. I know how hard it was to train to get to this point of my career. So I know what he’s thinking and his mindset coming into this fight. That’s why I trained that much more and harder. He’s a dangerous fighter. It’s a tough fight for me.”

The COVID-19 pandemic did alter plans for Barboza to fight more often. After fighting three times in 2019, Barboza fought twice in 2020, but only once last year. The former amateur standout went through a tough period last year, but was compelled to get back in the ring as soon as possible.

“It was tough,” said Barboza. “At one point, it was very depressing, but I had to look back at where I was earlier in my career. I was fighting on (promoter) Gary Shaw shows. I was fighting in areas like Pico Rivera (California). No one was paying attention to me, but just thinking about that, where I was at one time and where I’m at now, has given me more motivation. I just sat down one day and looked at how far I’ve come. It’s been a good run thus far.”

Barboza has kept up with the junior welterweight landscape and the recent mandates of the WBC and WBA to strip Josh Taylor of the world title belts. Jose Ramirez and Jose Zepeda are mandated to square off for the WBC title later this year while the WBA title will be up for grabs on August 20 as Alberto Puello squares off against Batyr Akhmedov.

Whether he has a world title belt or not, Barboza believes he is the best junior welterweight in boxing.

“In my eyes, I’m the best fighter at 140 pounds. Top 5, for sure. At the end of the day, I’m going to keep working hard and showing out why I’m the best.

“My goal is to make a statement in every fight. If the knockout comes, it comes. We have a game plan. There were a lot of sacrifices in making that game plan, including spending time away from my family.

“The same could be said for Friday’s fight. It’s going to be an exciting fight for the fans. Everyone is sleeping on this fight. My fight with Zorrilla will be the best this weekend. I can’t wait.” 

Francisco A. Salazar has written for The Ring since October 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (California) Star newspaper. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing


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