Colombian lightweight Darleys Perez was an undefeated fighter, although largely untested, when he stepped up to face Yuriorkis Gamboa for a vacant interim lightweight belt last June.
Perez lost a unanimous decision to the quicker Gamboa, but returned in December to score a near-shutout eight-round decision against journeyman Dunis Linan in December.
Now the 30-year-old Perez (29-1, 19 KOs) finds himself in another fight of note, taking on Argenis Lopez (19-0, 7 KOs), 24, of the Dominican Republic, for the same now-vacant interim lightweight belt on Saturday night at the Sheraton Hotel in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
"I've had plenty of time to reflect on my defeat to Gamboa," Perez said. "I've came back with a win against Linan and my confidence is where it needs to be moving forward. Lopez is coming to fight as am I, so I'm expecting to face a fighter who is determined to take food off my table. I'm not going to let it happen. I've worked too hard get back in this position and Lopez better be ready to die in the ring because I am.
"I've only fought once in the last 12 months but I've been training hard while I was on down time. I'm healthy, in great shape, and I'm ready to go the distance if need be. I'm going to Lopez's hometown so I'll be gunning for the knockout as I don't want to leave any doubt in the judges' minds."
The winner will be in position to challenge Richar Abril for the full title, although he has not fought since March 2013, in part because fights have been canceled.
Gary Shaw, Perez's promoter, said he would try to set up an Abril-Perez fight if Perez wins on Saturday.
"If he comes out victorious, which I believe he will, then I'll be working to get him a title shot against the champion, Richar Abril," Shaw said. "Right now he must focus on Lopez and bring home the victory."