By: Rich Lopez
ESPN Boxing returns back at The Bubble located at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, with a main event that can produce fireworks. The focus will be in the junior welterweight division with a battle between two top contenders that are hungry for a title shot. The fight will be a WBC Junior Welterweight title eliminator, so the stakes are high. Former IBF Junior Welterweight Champion Ivan Baranchyk and former title challenger Jose Zepeda will square off. If anybody has seen these two fighters before, we can be in for a treat on Saturday night.
Jose “Chon” Zepeda (32-2, 25 KO’s) of La Puente, California, has been boxing professionally for almost eleven years. He started out in the lightweight division and moved up the rankings fighting in the US and Mexico. The southpaw worked up a nice record of 23-0 by 2015 and earned his first title shot. He faced the undefeated Terry Flanagan for the vacant WBO World Lightweight title in Flanagan’s hometown in the UK. It would be a terrible night for Zepeda, as he dislocated his left shoulder and could not continue the fight.
The result would end up being a TKO loss for Zepeda in the second round. After this, Zepeda moved up to the junior welterweight division and racked up seven straight victories which would earn him another title shot last year. He faced off with WBC Junior Welterweight Champion Jose Ramirez. Even though Zepeda was only ranked number 14 by the WBC, he proved to be a worthy challenger for Ramirez. Both fighters engaged in a high contact battle through twelve rounds but Zepeda fell short and lost by a majority decision. However, Zepeda bounced back and defeated the highly ranked Jose Pedraza by a unanimous decision to keep himself in the top rankings. He followed this up with a clear decision win over Kendo Castaneda three months ago by unanimous decision. Zepeda, who is now 31 years old, is close again for another crack at the title but first, he will need to get through Ivan Baranchyk.
Ivan “The Beast” Baranchyk (20-1, 13 KO’s), of Belarus, has been boxing professionally just a little over six years. He did have a great amateur career which made him adapt to the pro rankings very quickly. A lot of buzz was behind him and eventually, he had good exposure by fighting on national television. He quickly rose in the rankings at junior welterweight and had an 18-0 record when he challenged for a world title. Baranchyk would make the most of this opportunity when he stopped Anthony Yigit in the seventh round to win the vacant IBF Junior Welterweight title in 2018.
However, Baranchyk lost the belt in his first title defense against the current lineal champ, Josh Taylor, by unanimous decision. Since then Baranchyk bounced back with a stoppage victory over Gabriel Bracero a year ago. Now, the 27 year old Baranchyk is ready for another title shot.
In sizing up both fighters stylistically, this looks to be a barn burner on paper. Baranchyk is super aggressive and likes to throw heavy punches. Zepeda, on the other hand, likes to counter punch but also enjoys exchanging punches on the inside. Both fighters have power which makes this fight more exciting. This is truly a 50/50 fight and whoever wants it more will earn the victory.