California grows professional lightweight prizefighters by the bushel as a number of local fighters demonstrated by blasting their way to victory over the weekend.

Riverside’s Josesito Lopez, Rialto’s Dominic Salcido and Covina’s John “The Equalizer” Molina ripped their way to impressive wins in the same card last Saturday and are all primed for better opponents. And there are more California lightweights still coming.

Lopez has the most fights of the bunch with 23 professional fights in his resume at age 23.

“Jose used his head in the fight and couldn’t miss with the left hook,” said Henry Ramirez who trains Lopez at the Lincoln Boxing Club. “Luis Arceo was throwing those wide rights. I told Jose the left hook would be there for him all night.”

All night Lopez battered the rugged fighter out of Tijuana named “Vampiro” in defense of the WBC Continental Americas title.

Lopez had spent time during training to help mixed martial arts lightweight Joe Stevenson prepare for his upcoming battle this weekend in Las Vegas. On several occasions the Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter rode down to Riverside from his Big Bear camp to spar with Lopez at the Lincoln Boxing Club.

“Joe Stevenson was getting better and better,” said Ramirez of the UFC fighter.

Lopez said Stevenson has super strength.

“He’s very, very strong,” said Lopez.

Ramirez believes Lopez can fight at the elite level of professional boxing including any of the current world champions.

“He’s thinking now,” said Ramirez. “He’s not just punching and trying to get the guy out of there.”

Lopez is the most experienced of the young group of lightweight contenders fighting in Southern California.

Salcido

Another lightweight poised to make a run at a more competitive level is Salcido.

For years he languished in the gyms unable to obtain a fight until he signed with Thompson Boxing Promotions. Then Coachella’s Joel Diaz agreed to train the speedy boxer and five months later, Salcido is poised for his first title fight on Sept. 21 in Ontario.

“I made a New Year’s resolution to fight once every month until I win a title,” Salcido said. “Next month is my time and I can’t wait.”

Salcido knocked out Puerto Rico’s Jose Quintana in 2:33 of the first round. With his smooth footwork and lightning hand speed the Rialto boxer obliterated Quintana though he had no idea what style of fighter he was opposing.

“I was nervous before the fight because I didn’t know anything about him,” said Salcido, 23, who now has14 professional bouts. “But once I saw he had a sloppy left jab I said to myself, dude, this fight is over. I knew I could take him out.”

Molina

Few in the Inland area had ever seen big John “The Equalizer” Molina fight. Rumors of his punching prowess had been spreading the last three years starting in his amateur boxing days.

Why?

“He can be losing a fight and with one punch he can change it around,” says Ben Lira, who trains and co-manages Molina.

That’s why he’s the Equalizer.

Molina tasted the canvas for the first time in his boxing career and he quickly dispensed with the tit for tat feeling out process. He felt Ronald Byrd’s punches now he wanted Byrd to feel Molina’s punches. The Washington D.C. fighter was rendered unconscious in the first round.

Lira, who trained former world champion Lupe Aquino, says Molina may be the hardest-hitting fighter he ever prepared, especially after only eight pro fights.

“Lupe Aquino had more skill. He also had power too,” said Lira in comparing Aquino to Molina. “But John is just a lightweight and he hits like a middleweight. He can make mistakes and if he hits you he can send you out of there. Kind of like middleweight champion Julian Jackson.”

Molina is scheduled to fight on Sept. 15 in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand on the under card of the Juan Manuel Marquez and Rocky Juarez fight.

Other lightweights

Jason Litzau, a lightweight from Minnesota, fought in San Diego against New York’s Emmanuel Lucero and won by second round technical knockout. But the three California lightweights mentioned above would have provided the same results, maybe even quicker.

It’s time for Litzau to meet one of the California lightweights. The lanky 5-11 in height Litzau packs a serious wallop and has speed. A fight between the Minnesotan against Lopez, Salcido, Molina or a Brandon Rios would make a great show.

“I’ll fight them all,” Litzau says.

You gotta believe it. Litzau really shoots from the hip.

Maybe sometime soon we’ll see Litzau face one of the California Wild Bunch.

Vicente Escobedo has been refining his fighting skills under the tutelage of Mexico’s boxing guru Nacho Beristain. The Sacramento native trains primarily in Southern California where he gets a steady supply of elite sparring at the Wild Card. But recently he’s been training in Mexico City. Many feel that Escobedo will be the first of the California bunch to win a world title.

IBF champ

Speaking of lightweights, the best of the bunch Julio “The Kidd” Diaz from Coachella will definitely fight in a unification bout against Texan Juan Diaz who holds the WBO and WBA lightweight titles. The collision of lightweight champions who would be king takes place on Oct. 13 in Chicago and promoted by Don King Productions.

Fights on television

Fri. ESPN2, 5 p.m., Delvin Rodriguez (20-2-1) vs. Keenan Collins (12-2-1).

Fri. Telefutura, 8 p.m., Lenin Arroyo (18-5-1) vs. Juaquin Gallardo (17-6-1).

Fri. Telemundo,11:30 p.m., Mike Alvarado (17-0) vs. Jorge Padilla (7-3-3).