Undisputed light welterweight champion Josh Taylor will need to defend against Jose Zepeda at some point in the near future with the WBC making him his mandatory challenger.
The hard-hitting Zepeda (35-2, 27 KOs) earned the mandatory spot by destroying Josue Vargas by a first round knockout on October 30th.
Taylor already has his WBO mandatory against Jack Catterall that he needs to take care of first on February 26th, and after that, it’s likely that Josh will move up to 147 to possibly challenge Terence Crawford for his WBO welterweight title.
Zepeda is arguably a far better opponent for the unbeaten IBF/WBA/WBC/WBO light welterweight champion Taylor (18-0, 13 KOs) to defend against compared to Catterall, but the sanctioning bodies sometimes make it easy for certain fighters to become mandatory without being tested. That’s obviously the case with Catterall.
Zepeda has won his last five fights since losing a controversial 12 round majority decision to former WBC 140-lb champion Jose Ramirez in February 2019.
That was a fight that Zepeda appeared to win by outboxing Ramirez, but two of the judges felt differently in scoring it for the champion.
“I want all the belts. I’m ready for it. I showed that,” Jose Zepeda said to Sky Sports.
“Absolutely. Zepeda is the mandatory contender in the division,” said WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman when asked if Jose Zepeda will get an opportunity soon to challenge Josh Taylor for his WBO title.
“We have agreed with the organizations to take turns when there is a unified champion.
“It is the WBO’s turn with Jack Catterall. Unfortunately, there was an injury so their fight was postponed. But Zepeda is right there in line for the mandatory of the division.”
Zepeda has looked impressive as he’s gotten older, and he might be the best fighter in the division at this point. Earlier in his career, Zepeda lost to Terry Flanagan by a second round injury stoppage in July 2015.
Zepeda suffered a shoulder injury in that fight in battling Flanagan for the vacant WBO lightweight title. Rather than Flanagan giving Zepeda an injury, he took the title and moved on.
You can argue that a healthy Zepeda would have made easy work with Flanagan, who was nothing special as the WBO champion.
Last year in October, Zepeda defeated Ivan Baranchyk by a fifth round knockout in easily the fight of the year. In that fight, Zepeda was dropped four times and Baranchyk three.
The two fighters were unloading with massive shots without caring about defense. Ultimately, Zepeda proved to be too much for Baranchyk in finishing him off in the fifth.