Who should Rafael Espinoza fight next?

What is next for Rafael Espinoza?

The unheralded and undefeated featherweight shocked the world Saturday when he got a majority decision victory over two-time Olympic Gold medalist Robeisy Ramírez.

This win now makes Espinoza the WBO featherweight world champion. This also shakes up a division that has a lot of moving pieces. WBA featherweight world champion Leigh Wood recently left the division. Luis Alberto Lopez has become a dominant champion, out of nowhere it seems.

Here are some possible ideas for future opponents.

Robeisy Ramirez 

Ramirez has been a great fighter in the division despite infamously losing his pro debut. Now, Ramirez seems to be in love with his offensive gifts after his knockout of Abraham Nova. Given the exciting nature of the bout, a rematch would be fair. This fight also had a similar vibe to when Emanuel Navarrete defeated Isaac Dogboe, which was followed by an immediate rematch. 

Why it should happen next is also simple. Espinoza at six-foot, one inch tall, and can make some great fights. It wouldn’t hurt to see a fresh new champion get tested by other world-class fighters in the division. 

Luis Alberto Lopez

Lopez is now seen as the best guy in the division by most. He is locked into a fight against his mandatory challenger Reiya Abe. Lopez can not fight another bout without losing his title before facing Abe. The style match-up of two aggressive and talented Mexican fighters facing each other - between Lopez and Espinoza is quite exciting. It brings back shades of Erik Morales versus Marco Anotnio Barrera. 

The negative if this is next is simple. It would mean Espinoza would be inactive for a year, as Lopez is rumored to fight in March. So that would mean that Espinoza would return next summer which feels far too long after such a great performance. 

Arnold Khegai

Khegai is currently ranked as the number-one contender by the WBO. If Espinoza wants to return quickly this could be an option to take career of a mandatory title defense. 

The downside is despite Khegai being a world-class fighter, he hasn’t had a ton of relevant fights. In fact, his most notable fight was a loss to Stephen Fulton Jr. His biggest recent win was a year ago against Eduardo Baez on the Terence Crawford vs David Avanesyan BLK Prime PPV. Take that for what it is worth.

Winner of Otabek Kholmatov-Raymond Ford

Top Rank won the rights to broadcast Otabek Kholmatov versus Ray Ford. The fight will be for the WBA vacant featherweight world title. This would be an easy unification bout to make if Kholmatov wins. 

The downside is not much other than we wouldn’t see a rematch of the Robeisy Ramírez, which felt like it should happen given the grueling nature of that fight.