By Robert Morales
If Richard Schaefer is anything, he is defiant. It was Tuesday, and the CEO of Golden Boy Promotions was about to play host to a news conference at famed Olvera Street in Los Angeles to formally announce the Sept. 15 super welterweight title fight between champion Saul "Canelo" Alvarez of Mexico and Josesito Lopez of Riverside (CA) at MGM Grand in Las Vegas (on Showtime).
Before it began, Schaefer deflected criticism that this fight is not nearly as compelling as the middleweight title fight between champion Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. of Mexico and Sergio Martinez of Argentina on the same night, at Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas (on HBO pay-per-view).
Schaefer grinned slyly when asked by a BoxingScene.com reporter what he says to those preferring to watch the son of the legend, meaning the rapidly emerging Chavez Jr.
"Well, do you want to see a son, or do you want to see a legend?" he said. "Canelo is going to be a legend. So I don't really worry about what other promoters do."
Rather, Schaefer intimated, he concerns himself with excitement.
And top-to-bottom card strength.
"We know if people enjoyed what we've done with Victor Ortiz and Josesito Lopez, or this past weekend with Amir Khan and Danny Garcia, or Humberto Soto against Lucas Matthysse ... if they like these kinds of fights, I know where they're going to go," he said.
Confirmed for the card are a featherweight title fight between champion Jhonny Gonzalez and Mexican countryman Daniel Ponce De Leon, as well as a 12-round non-title welterweight fight between Marcos Maidana of Argentina and Jesus Soto Karass (26-7-3, 17 KOs), a tough Mexican who has yet to fight for a title after 11 years as a pro.
Showtime will televise a fourth fight, which has yet to be announced. And, to be clear, this event is not pay-per-view.
"This card with Maidana against Soto Karass - I mean, there is another Fight of the Year candidate," Schaefer said. "Jhonny Gonzalez against Daniel Ponce De Leon is another Fight of the Year candidate.
"And those people who made the mistake of counting out Josesito Lopez the last time, hopefully, they learned because that's going to be a hell of a fight (against Alvarez)."
Lopez (30-4, 18 KOs), who as a huge underdog broke Victor Ortiz's jaw and stopped him after nine rounds last month in Los Angeles, is co-promoted by Goossen Tutor Promotions and Thompson Boxing. Ken Thompson had an interesting thought on which of the dueling cards should be preferred by fans.
"Canelo is a superstar in any walk, so he's going to outshine anybody that comes down the pike," said Thompson, a highly respected businessman in Orange County (CA). "Now, Jose has just won the biggest fight of his life and everything that has happened moved him to superstardom.
"So, I think people are going to look at this and say, 'Well, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. has been babied for a lot of years and I think he can do good,' but they don't know that. So I think people are going to go with the real fight, which is Canelo and Lopez. The winner of this fight becomes a superstar with (Floyd) Mayweather and (Manny) Pacquiao. That's the mix, three people. The third is the one who wins this fight."
Lopez Win Over Ortiz Was Indeed Huge
Let's not forget that Lopez, 27, was a replacement for Andre Berto when he took on Ortiz, so he didn't have a full training camp and he still busted up Ortiz, who was also the bigger fighter. That makes Lopez's victory even more impressive.
It therefore wasn't surprising to see Lopez standing proud as a peacock while answering questions following Tuesday's proceedings. He spoke in confident, yet humble, tones.
"Yeah, it's been a little hectic since that night of June 23," he said. "I'm taking it all in. But I've got another huge battle ahead of me. Now it's time to get down to preparation."
Lopez was supposedly too small for Ortiz, now he's supposedly too small for Alvarez (40-0-1, 29 KOs). Again, he's expected to lose, and he seems to embrace that.
"I was the underdog for Victor Ortiz, and I'm definitely the underdog for Canelo," he said. "But you know what? I fight with my heart and I give it my all in the ring and like I've said before, no matter who I fight, as long as I have time to prepare, I'm going to give them a fight and I'm going to fight my heart out."
Lopez confirmed a rumor circulating at the news conference that he at times has sparred with his heavyweight stablemate Chris Arreola. Lopez weighed in at a career-high 144 3/4 pounds against Ortiz, and now he's going against a 154-pounder. But Lopez suggested he's not going to be much smaller than Alvarez.
"People talk about my weight," he said. "You know what? I walk around at a heavier weight. I'm not as small as people think, but I prepare. And now that I have two months to prepare, that makes a huge difference. I had four weeks to prepare for Victor Ortiz."
Lopez said he walks around at 160 to 165 pounds between fights. Alvarez is no runner, that's for sure. And Lopez showed against Ortiz he is willing to trade. Lopez likes what it all means.
"He's not going to be too hard to find," Lopez said. "He's going to be in front of me. I know that. So I think I'm going to be able to land my punches. I was able to land my punches with Victor Ortiz, I'm definitely going to be able to land my punches against Canelo."
Alvarez, still just 22, did not seem as comfortable as Lopez did while speaking to reporters. Lopez often smiled, but Alvarez keep a straight face. And told it like it is.
"What I do know is that Josesito won his way by knocking out Victor Ortiz," Alvarez said. "He won his way into this fight."
The young, red-headed Mexican whose nickname means cinnamon, scoffed at the idea he is in a no-win situation because he is now fighting someone few outside of Southern California had heard of before his victory over Ortiz.
"I think differently," Alvarez said. "I think everybody has something to win in every fight, and I'm going to focus on Josesito and I'm going to focus on winning."
Steward Praises Chavez and His Camp
It was just last month that trainer Emanuel Steward beefed about the way things were handled with Chavez Jr. and a drug test ahead of his middleweight title defense against Andy Lee in Texas that resulted in a seventh-round TKO loss for Lee, Steward's fighter.
But Steward on Monday was able to put that aside, while doling out quite a compliment to Team Chavez as a whole. It came during a telephone conversation centering on Chavez's highly anticipated fight with Martinez.
"He has improved tremendously," Steward said of Chavez Jr., 26; he had no amateur background and was brought along slowly by promoter Bob Arum and his Top Rank Inc. team. "What they have done - Top Rank and (its matchmaker) Bruce Trampler - has been the most phenomenal development of a fighter I have ever seen. He has truly become a good fighter."
Steward suggested the boxing world still wasn't sure of Chavez's worth, until he dispatched of Lee on June 16 in El Paso.
"No one took him seriously prior to the Lee fight," Steward said. "It's funny what one fight will do. The fight with Lee gave him credibility."
Steward sized up the Chavez-Martinez fight.
"When you have a tall guy who is aggressive," he said of the 6-foot tall Chavez, "it's not that easy to control him. It's going to be a test of Sergio's speed and boxing skills. The boy (Chavez) cuts off the ring very well. He has become a vicious body puncher." Steward also talked about how physically strong Chavez is, that he is a big middleweight while Martinez is certainly not. He added that even though at one point the son of the legend was not looked upon as a serious threat to Martinez, he should be now.
"I think he (Martinez) is going to be put to the test," Steward said. "I have it as a tossup right now."
Big-shots Weigh-in on PEDs
With the recent rash of positive drug tests, everybody seems to have an opinion on the use of performance-enhancing drugs. In the mind of Arum, there is a way to combat this trend.
Arum believes that the best avenue to take for drug testing is to have it under the umbrella of the ABC (Association of Boxing Commissions), or a Federal commission "that subjects every boxer to random testing and has uniform rules. And more important, an education system. I think a lot of the boxers that are testing positive, like (Antonio) Tarver and so forth ... Tarver, I don't believe, would do anything wrong. He has a whole career of not doing anything wrong."
Enter the wave of so-called fitness gurus that have infiltrated the sport.
"But I believe they get these strength and conditioning coaches that don't know crap and they give them stuff that shows up as a positive because it is a positive," Arum said. "So I think there's gotta be an education campaign. It's gotta be uniform testing and I really believe that the only solution is random testing to everybody who is involved in boxing. Whether it's a four-round fight or a championship fight. Year-round, just the way they do it football, baseball."
Roach, who has trained the aforementioned Chavez the past two years, was asked what he thought about Arum's intimation about strength and conditioning coaches.
"Well, I think it's a fighter's responsibility to know what he puts in his body and if a strength coach said, 'Here, take this, it's good for you,' and the fighter doesn't question that, I think he's at fault because he's the one that's going to be tested," Roach said. "He's the one that's going to be suspended. So, that could be part of the problem, yes. But I can't prove it."
Roach wondered why a fighter would do PEDs, knowing if he gets caught, a victory would mean nothing.
"It's a shame that people have to cheat," Roach said. "If you win a world title but you know you cheated, how can you live with yourself? It might make baseball a better game because you hit more home runs. But boxing is a life and death type of thing.
"You are actually putting someone in danger when you have enhancing drugs. I'm glad people are getting caught, though. That means the system is working."
Steward sighed when the subject of PEDs was broached.
"If this is what's going on in boxing, it's bad," he said.
Searching For a Site
Schaefer said he is still looking for a venue to hold the Randall Bailey-Devon Alexander welterweight title fight slated for Sept. 8.
"I know the fight is going to happen, but it's not going to happen in St. Louis," Schaefer said, referring to Alexander's hometown.
"Bailey did not want to do the fight in St. Louis and Devon Alexander doesn't really care. We'll find another venue to do it from. But the fight is going to happen."
The co-feature could be a fight between Ajose Olusegun and Lucas Matthysse, ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, at 140 pounds by the WBC. Garcia now holds both the WBC and WBA belts. Schaefer was asked if he would like to pit the winner of Olusegun-Matthysse against Garcia.
"Oh, yeah, absolutely," he said. "We always do those fights. We like to make fights where going in you know it's going to be a Fight of the Year candidate."
Robert Morales covers boxing for The Press Telegram, LA Daily News and BoxingScene.com.