California is the home of sunshine, mountains, beaches and a long list of some of the more talented young lightweight prospects in the country including Josesito Lopez.

Riverside’s own Lopez heads the class against Tijuana’s Luis “Vampiro” Arceo (19-5-2, 13 KOs) at Soboba Casino on Saturday Aug. 18 for the WBC Continental Americas title. Also on the card will be fellow prospects Dominic Salcido, John Molina and Carlos Molina. This can’t miss show will not be televised.

Seldom will a slew of young lightweights be scheduled on the same fight card but Thompson Promotions has a record of grooming talented 130 to 140-pounders.

Lopez (20-2, 12 KOs) began his career with a bang in his pro debut when he knocked out Allen Litzau, but fell in love with his own power. Two fights later he lost a decision in Las Vegas and realized he needed to depend on more than just power.

That was four years ago and since that first loss Lopez embarked on a pockmarked highway that included the death of his original trainer Andy Suarez last year. Slowly a more polished fighter has emerged from the rubble.

“He still has a few things he needs to work on,” said Henry Ramirez his new trainer.

Lopez, 23, stands nearly 5-11 in height and has always been the taller fighter when he steps in the ring. That is until now.

Mexico’s popular Arceo may have a slight height advantage. He also has fought several elite fighters but suffered losses in his last four fights.

“I’m always fighting in the hometown fighter’s arena,” says Arceo explaining his losses to Jose Armando Santa Cruz and Fernando Trejo. “I don’t have a promoter or a manager so they never give me time to prepare.”

Despite the losses Arceo has proven on many occasions that he has the capabilities to trade punches with any lightweight in the world including the speedy Lopez.

“I’ve never seen Josesito Lopez fight,” said Arceo after watching Lopez work the mitts in the ring. “I’ve been sparring with the young Mexican Olympians who are also very fast.”

It was while attempting to make the Mexican Olympic team in 2000 that Arceo was given the nickname “The Vampire.”

“I was always going out late at night and coming in at the day time,” revealed Arceo of his wild younger days. “They called me ‘El Vampiro’ because they said I lived at night.”

Arceo didn’t make the team.

“I was eliminated by Francisco Panchito Bojado,” Arceo offered.

The native of Aguascalientes moved north to Tijuana and found it suited his style. He never left.

“Now I live in Tijuana with my wife and son,” says Arceo who no longer stays up all night. “My dream is to become a world champion.”

Lopez has the same dream and wants to fight the same caliber of fighters that Arceo has experienced.

“I want to fight the big names,” says Lopez. “If they’re famous then I want to fight them.”

Ironically, about 30 minutes away, Jason Litzau is fighting on a televised fight the day before in San Diego County.

“I would love to fight Jason Litzau,” Lopez says. “I beat his brother so if he wants revenge that would be a great fight.”

Dominic Salcido

Rialto’s speedy Salcido (13-0, 6 KOs) meets Mexico’s Rodrigo Aranda (7-7-2) who returns to the ring after almost two years. The fight is scheduled for eight rounds.

Salcido is about to break into to the 10-round fights and is groomed by Joel Diaz, the older brother of Antonio and Julio Diaz.

The undefeated Salcido was formerly trained and managed by Emanuel Steward, but the geographic distance proved a hardship for both parties. Steward resides in Detroit. Now Salcido is guided by Marco Antonio Barrera and Robert Diaz who discovered him when he sparred with the great Mexico City fighter two years ago in Big Bear.

“Everything is good,” said Salcido during a training session in Riverside last week. “I’ve been at weight the last couple of days.”

John Molina and company

Hard-hitting John Molina (7-0, 5 KOs) of West Covina brings his knockout power to the Inland area for the first time when he faces Ronald Boyd (5-1, 2 KOs) a slick boxer-puncher from Washington D.C. It should be Molina’s biggest test yet.

Also on the fight card will be Carlos Molina (no relation to John Molina) in his second pro fight. Hector Serrano, who trains in Riverside but lives in Huntington Park, will be in his fifth pro fight. Also on the card will be San Jacinto’s Ron Hurley (1-2-2) facing Fernando Quintero (3-0-1) of Oxnard. Forget about Hurley’s record. He can fight; he just likes to bang too much.

Philippines Win World Cup

Pitting the two boxing crazy countries Mexico and the Philippines against each other was like putting the match to the cherry bomb. It was a pure explosion for every single fight.

Though Mexico’s Daniel Ponce De Leon knocked out Rey “Boom Boom” Bautista to reserve some dignity for his country, the Filipino boxers simply were faster and displayed more skill in winning five of six fights.

Perhaps the most telling fight was Michael Domingo’s win over Mexico’s undefeated Miguel Roman. Though the Filipino entered the fight with 14 losses and two draws, he proved when given enough time to prepare he can thrive.

One last note: five out of six bouts matched left-handers against right-handers. All five lefties won their bouts. Ponce De Leon, a southpaw, was the lone Mexican to win for his country.

It’s hard to beat lefties.

Boxing on television

Fri. ESPN2, 7 p.m., Jason Litzau (21-1) vs. Emmanuel Lucero (23-4-1).

Fri. Telefutura, 8 p.m., Jesus Soto-Karass (16-3-3) vs. Jose Ojeda (14-5-3).

Sat. pay-per-view, 6 p.m., David Tua (47-3-1) vs. Saul Montana (48-14); Jeremy Williams (41-5-1) vs. Gary Gomez (18-8-1).