After Rafael Marquez stopped rival Israel Vazquez on cuts in the third round to even their epic four-fight series at 2-2 on May 22 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, featherweight titleholder Juan Manuel Lopez sat quietly at the post-fight press conference.
He had also been ringside for the fight and hoping to eventually fight the winner. Lopez has had his wish granted, provided he handles some business first.
Lopez and Marquez will meet Sept. 18 in a Showtime main event at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, their handlers told ESPN.com on Wednesday. However, the fight is contingent on Lopez winning a fight already scheduled for next month and coming out healthy.
Puerto Rico's Lopez (28-0, 25 KOs), a former junior featherweight titleholder, moved up and claimed a featherweight belt by stopping Steven Luevano in the seventh round in January. Lopez will make his first title defense against Manny Pacquiao protégé Bernabe Concepcion on July 10 in San Juan on Showtime knowing Marquez is on the books next if he wins and is uninjured.
"The only one who doesn't agree to this deal is a guy named Bernabe Concepcion," Top Rank's Bob Arum, who promotes Lopez and Concepcion, said. "But we made our deal with Showtime and we have the MGM on hold."
Gary Shaw, who co-promotes Marquez with Fernando Beltran, a longtime close associate of Arum's, said their side had come to terms with Showtime last week.
"I'm really excited about this fight because I believe Marquez wins the fight," Shaw said. "I think 'Juanma' is overrated. [Showtime's Ken] Hershman told me Top Rank's deal with him was done and Beltran told me we were all buttoned up and done. So all we are waiting for is the July fight and for 'Juanma' to come out victorious and healthy."
Lopez-Marquez would pit one of the bright rising stars in boxing [Lopez] against the respected veteran star [Marquez] in a fight that would also add another chapter to one of boxing's most heated rivalries -- Puerto Rico versus Mexico. And it would be taking place on the weekend of Mexican Independence Day, a traditional time for a major fight involving a top Mexican fighter.
"That's always a big rivalry and we're doing the fight on the Mexican holiday," Shaw said. "What could be bigger?"
Said Arum, "It's a sensational fight and a great fight particularly for that date because it's the 200th anniversary of Mexican independence."
While Lopez, 26, made the trek to Los Angeles to see Marquez fight in person last month, Marquez, 35, has also wanted to fight Lopez very much, Shaw said.
"Rafael Marquez really wanted this fight," Shaw said. "He believes he wins the fight and that it's a great opportunity for him. If he beats 'Juanma' he knows that anyone who doubted that he should be in the Hall of Fame won't be able to doubt him anymore."
Marquez (39-5, 35 KOs), the younger brother of lightweight champ Juan Manuel Marquez, was a long-reigning bantamweight champion before moving up and winning the junior featherweight title in the first fight with Vazquez. He lost two subsequent junior featherweight title fights to Vazquez in their memorable series before moving up to featherweight and winning two fights in a row, including the fourth bout with Vazquez.
"If Marquez beats Lopez, he's got some more really big fights in the division," Shaw said. "The next fight I'd try to make is with [Top Rank-promoted titlist Yuriorkis] Gamboa."
Arum said that on paper, Lopez-Marquez reminds him of a classic matchup he promoted between Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales, who fought one of boxing's all-time great trilogies.
"I look at the fight like another Barrera-Morales kind of fight because of their styles and the way they're going to come and bomb each other, and not take a backward step," Arum said.
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.