By Keith Idec
Kendall Holt respects what Josesito Lopez has accomplished the past three months.
The former WBO junior welterweight champion liked Lopez’s aggressive approach to his junior middleweight title fight last week with Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. What Holt didn’t appreciate was something Lopez said in the days preceding the biggest fight of his career.
While mildly amused by Lopez saying Holt would be added to his Christmas card list, the Paterson, N.J., native took exception to Lopez’s flippant explanation for Holt not fighting him June 22. To place it in proper context, here’s what Lopez told reporters in Las Vegas: “Come Christmas time, maybe I should [send Holt a card]. I was really mad at him for pulling out, but then we got the news basically the following day [about the Victor Ortiz fight]. I guess now I got to thank him.
“Without him punking out, I would never have gotten the opportunity to be here today.”
Holt hadn’t signed a contract for what was to be an ESPN2 “Friday Night Fights” main event, but agreed to contract terms before the site for the fight was secured by Dan Goossen, Lopez’s co-promoter. Once Holt learned the fight would take place at an outdoor venue in Southern California, during daylight hours, he passed on the fight.
The 31-year-old Holt (28-5, 16 KOs) reiterated recently that he would’ve fought Lopez (30-5, 18 KOs, 1 NC) that night if the fight was indoors, but also was concerned that the Soboba Casino in San Jacinto, Calif., is about a 30-minute drive from Lopez’s hometown of Riverside, Calif. Lopez and Holt also would’ve been paid less than a tenth apiece of what Lopez earned to oppose Alvarez ($212,000), largely because ESPN’s weekly budget for its “Friday Night Fights” series pales in comparison to those of HBO and Showtime.
“First, I’ve never punked out of a fight in my life,” Holt said. “I signed to fight inside a casino, away from his hometown, on his promoter’s TV date. If his people didn’t change the venue I would have happily beat his [butt] at the Morongo [Casino Resort & Spa in Cabazon, Calif.], where I had my last knockout [a two-round, four-knockdown destruction of Tim Coleman on March 16].”
For the record, it was about 80 degrees in San Jacinto at the exact time when Holt and Lopez would’ve fought. The bigger problem was that the ring was not properly covered and the sun was shining into the eyes of other boxers who fought on ESPN2 that night at Soboba Casino.
Lopez exploited a huge opportunity the next night, when he broke Ortiz’s jaw and made the former WBC welterweight champion quit after the ninth round at Staples Center in Los Angeles. The 27-year-old Lopez promptly moved up another weight class to challenge Alvarez (41-0-1, 30 KOs), who stopped Lopez in the fifth round at MGM Grand.
He is expected to move back down to welterweight or junior welterweight for his next fight.
Re-enter Holt, who is recovering from surgery last month to repair partial tears to the rotator cuff and labrum in his right shoulder.
“He got a lucky punch in on Ortiz in a fight he was clearly losing,” Holt said. “I want him to move back down to . He can be my first victim of 2013 and my first KO victim that I fight with two arms instead of one, like I’ve been doing the last six or seven years.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.