Sports

For welterweights Josesito Lopez and Andre Berto, 'it's now or never'

For welterweights Josesito Lopez and Andre Berto, facing off Friday in Ontario, the motivation is desperation

Josesito Lopez wants to return to where he was, and the best way to get there is by impressing those back home.

Just minutes from where he lives in Riverside, welterweight Lopez (33-6, 19 knockouts) has a Friday night main event at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario against former welterweight world champion Andre Berto (29-3, 22 KOs).

"I'm motivated to win, and what better to put on a great performance in front of my home crowd?" Lopez said. "To fight a fight of this magnitude and come out with the victory. … I'm focused."

The bout headlines the second card of Premier Boxing Champions, a series of fights created by powerful boxing manager Al Haymon, and will be televised by Spike TV (tape delayed at 9 p.m.).

Lopez catapulted to prominence in 2012, when he replaced Berto in a welterweight main event at Staples Center against Victor Ortiz and produced an upset victory in toe-to-toe form, breaking Ortiz's jaw and forcing him to retire on his stool after nine rounds.

For Lopez that was followed by a lucrative, but nearly impossible-to-win bout against junior-middleweight Saul "Canelo" Alvarez three months later that Lopez lost by fifth-round technical knockout.

He returned in a June 2013, main event against Marcos Maidana at StubHub Center in Carson but couldn't handle the Argentine's power and was stopped in the sixth round.

After three victories over pedestrian opponents, Lopez, 30, is back in a fight of note against Berto, who has recovered from career-threatening shoulder surgery and also seeks greater purses. Lopez has said, "it's now or never."

"I'm ready for those [bigger] fights, I am one of those best fighters, I belong there," Lopez said. "I'm going to show the world."

Berto, 31, also feels the inspiration of desperation.

"I didn't think I was going to be able to be in this position to fight anymore," Berto said in a recent conference call with reporters. "It was just so taxing on me."

Berto suffered two swollen eyes and was defeated in a November 2012 appearance at the Ontario arena by Robert Guerrero, who parlayed that triumph to a date against Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Friday's co-main event was scheduled to be a welterweight bout between recent champion Shawn Porter (24-1-1, 154 KOs), who was beaten by England's Kell Brook in Carson during the summer, and his former sparring partner, Roberto Garcia (36-3, 23 KOs).

However, Garcia did not show up for Thursday’s weigh-in, and was scratched from the card's co-main event Thursday night. A replacement fighter to face Shawn Porter will be named Friday.

Garcia, 34, has won eight consecutive fights dating to a loss in Mexico against former welterweight champion Antonio Margarito in 2010.

"I've had fun with him, but we've been boxing. I've been boxing him as a friend," Garcia said of the sparring with Porter. "Now, I'm not going to get in there as his friend. To be honest with you, I don't even know him anymore."

Andy Foster, the California State Athletic Commission's executive officer, said in text messages to The Times that Garcia "did not show up for medical reasons -- I am not sure exactly why. I was also told he was in the hospital yesterday (which would obviously disqualify him from competing). He will not be licensed in California until his medical file is reviewed and [we] are comfortable ensuring he can safely compete."

Foster made it clear he did not speak to Garcia directly.

Porter will fight Erick Bone (16-1, eight knockouts).

Bone weighed in Friday morning at 149 pounds -- two pounds over the welterweight limit -- so the camps agreed to fight in 10-ounce gloves, not eight-ounce gloves.

The Spike TV portion of the card will begin at 6 p.m., with Riverside's former heavyweight title challenger Chris Arreola (35-4, 31 KOs) fighting Florida's Curtis Harper (12-3, eight KOs).

Follow Lance Pugmire on Twitter @latimespugmire

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

7:23 a.m.: Updates to reflect Roberto Garcia did not weigh-in Thursday and will be replaced by another boxer.

10:46 a.m.: Adds Erick Bone as replacement fighter for Roberto Garcia.

This story was originally published at March 12 at 4:19 p.m.

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