- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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Josesito Lopez will get the opportunity to fight former welterweight titlist Victor Ortiz on June 23 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles as the replacement opponent for Andre Berto.
Henry Ramirez, Lopez's manager and trainer, told ESPN.com on Sunday night that his fighter has been offered the fight and that they have accepted, terming the deal "98 percent done. There are just a few minor details being worked out between the promoters."
Berto, also a former welterweight titleholder, tested positive for the banned substance norandrosterone on Friday. He had requested, and Ortiz had agreed, to use the Las Vegas-based Voluntary Anti-Doping Association's random blood and urine testing program in the lead-up to their much-anticipated rematch. However, Berto's "A" sample tested positive and his "B" sample also came back positive on Friday, ruling him out of the fight.
Golden Boy chief executive Richard Schaefer, Ortiz's promoter, and Showtime said they would not cancel the card and instead would find a replacement to face Ortiz (29-3-2, 22 KOs), 25, in his first bout since losing his piece of the 147-pound world title to Floyd Mayweather by fourth-round knockout in September.
Ortiz, who outslugged Berto to win a decision and a welterweight title last April in one of the most exciting fights of 2011, and Berto were supposed to meet on Feb. 11. However, the bout was postponed until June 23 after Berto suffered a torn left biceps training for the fight. Golden Boy and Showtime were not going to ask Ortiz to sit idle any longer.
Golden Boy has been talking to Lopez co-promoters Dan Goossen and Ken Thompson about making the fight since almost as soon as Berto's positive test came to light.
"(Golden Boy) offered the fight to us on Friday afternoon. I got a call from (Goossen Tutor Promotions matchmaker) Tom Brown saying we got the offer and I said, 'We'll take it,'" Ramirez said. "We're excited. We're ecstatic. Our job is to get the biggest fight out there for Josesito that we can for the best money we can get, and this is that fight."
Showtime has already approved Lopez as the opponent.
"We've explored a variety of potential opponents, and so far Lopez seems to be the best available opponent that will take the fight on short notice," Showtime Sports general manager Stephen Espinoza told ESPN.com. "He is a strong, tough and experienced fighter, and he's looked particularly good in his last few fights. I like this matchup, and I hope a deal can be worked out."
Junior welterweight Humberto Soto (58-7-2, 34 KOs) and Lucas Matthysse (30-2, 28 KOs) will still meet in the Showtime co-featured bout, but Riverside, Calif., heavyweight contender Cristobal Arreola (35-2, 30 KOs), who is also trained by Ramirez, will be added to the card to make it into a televised tripleheader. The fight figures to be Arreola's final bout before an anticipated heavyweight championship shot against Wladimir Klitschko in November.
"Pending approval of the opponent, the Arreola bout would be added to undercard on the Showtime broadcast," Espinoza said.
Lopez, 27, who will be moving up in weight from the 140-pound junior welterweight division to the 147-pound welterweight division, has already been in training for five weeks, Ramirez said. Lopez had been getting ready for a June 22 main event on ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights." He was supposed to fight former junior welterweight titlist Kendall Holt in a title elimination bout, but Holt withdrew from the fight a few days ago.
According Gary Shaw, Holt's promoter, Holt decided not to go through with the fight because he did not want to fight outdoors in the heat at the Soboba Casino in the desert in San Jacinto, Calif. The venue was solidified after Holt accepted the fight.
"My guy has been in the gym, so all we have to do is just change the date of the fight by one day and change our sparring partners," said Ramirez, noting that Lopez was preparing for the right-handed Holt and now will be facing a left-hander in Ortiz.
Ramirez also said that Lopez is willing to be randomly drug tested and that they will insist that the VADA testing program remain in place.
Lopez (29-4, 17 KOs), of Riverside, Calif., opened eyes when he knocked out previously undefeated Michael Dallas Jr. in January 2011 on ESPN2 for his biggest victory. In his next fight, Lopez faced Jessie Vargas in September, on the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Ortiz pay-per-view undercard, and lost a disputed 10-round split decision to Jessie Vargas. However, Lopez fought well, but has not fought since.
"Holt pulls out on us and then this drops in our lap, so we're excited," Ramirez said. "The kid (Lopez) will make probably four or five times his biggest purse (which was $35,000) for this fight with Ortiz and a lot more than he would have gotten to fight Holt. So we are in a no-lose situation here because it's a great opportunity, it's a good payday and it's a fight we believe that we can win.
"Lopez puts pressure on his opponents and we know Ortiz doesn't like pressure and we also know he doesn't have the biggest heart in the world. We've seen him quit before" in a sixth-round knockout loss to Marcos Maidana in a 2009 interim junior welterweight title bout.
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