To move up in the world, former super middleweight contender Donovan George seems to understand he may first need to make a move down.
George is dropping to 160 pounds for Friday's fight at the UIC Pavilion in his hometown of Chicago, where he'll take on former world title challenger David Lopez in the 10-round main event in this week's edition of "Friday Night Fights."
Lopez (41-13-0, 23 KOs), of Mexico, will be seeking a win to catapult him toward another title opportunity, while George (24-3-1, 21 KOs) needs to firm up his status as a 160-pound contender. Both are big fighters who throw lots of heavy punches -- the kind of matchup that often leads to power-charged, all-action fights.
"I'm going to make a statement with this fight," George said. "Mr. Lopez has fought all the top guys, so when I beat him it'll be a message to the other middleweights in the world."
Lopez, 35, has lost just once in the past eight years -- and that defeat came in a decision against the still-unbeaten Austin Trout in a junior middleweight title bout in June 2011. In his one bout since, Lopez outpointed Julio Garcia in 10 rounds last May.
Before the Trout loss, Lopez had accumulated a streak of 16 consecutive victories, during which he took care of quality fighters such as Billy Lyell, Saul Roman and Michel Rosales. After rising to the top of one sanctioning body's rankings, Lopez earned and won an elimination bout.
"Donovan George has never fought anyone like me," Lopez said during the media conference to promote the fight. "Donovan, thank you for the opportunity and may God bless you. Let the best man win."
George, 28, is making a quick return following his February knockout of James Cook at the same UIC Pavilion where he'll face Lopez on Friday. A frontal and aggressive fighter, George helped put on several spectacular recent bouts: After waging (and losing) an all-out war with undefeated Edwin Rodríguez last March on the Sergio Martinez-Matthew Macklin undercard, George stopped Dionisio Miranda in August and then, in front of a full house at the Bell Centre in Montreal, suffered a 12th-round TKO after a frantic battle with Adonis Stevenson in a fight of the year candidate in October.
George and Lopez, who share a similar style, likely will turn the fight into a phone-booth brawl, with lots of exchanges at short distance. Lopez has a great overhand right and a steady jab that he could use to snuff George's aggressive attack. And then there's the southpaw riddle that George must solve: His most recent lost came at the hands of Stevenson, who, like Lopez, is a lefty.
In addition to the difficulties of the weight cut, George also will be giving away advantages in reach, height and experience. If he's intimidated, he doesn't show it. In a chat with ESPN.com's SportNation early this week, George acknowledged the deficits but also claimed that he'll be "the strongest man" on fight night, when he says he'll weigh nearly 180 pounds.
"I made a lot of sacrifices in preparing for this fight," George said.
In the co-main event, Adrian Granados (11-2-1, 7 KOs) will face former welterweight titlist Kermit Cintron (33-5-1, 28 KOs), who is coming off a 16-month layoff.
Granados, 23, a member of the 2008 Mexican Olympic team, is already a solid prospect -- one with four years of pro experience. Now living in Cicero, Ill., he has won his two most recent fights by knockout.
But in Cintron, he will be facing a 12-year veteran who has battled opponents such as Sergio Martinez, Antonio Margarito, Paul Williams, Carlos Molina and Alfredo Angulo. Another top fighter -- Canelo Alvarez -- stopped Cintron in his most recent bout, in November 2011.
The layoff has been a long one for the native Puerto Rican, and he will return at 147 pounds, a division at which Cintron hasn't fought since 2008. Still, much like George, he considers it an advantage even at an age when cutting weight typically becomes more difficult.
"I was never a 154-pounder," Cintron said, "and I was always fighting guys that weighed 175 pounds on fight night. I am a legitimate welterweight."