By Chris Robinson
When WBO featherweight champion Juan Manuel Lopez was stopped this past weekend in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, the boxing world was thrown a definite curve ball. Undefeated in thirty fights with twenty-seven knockouts to his credit, Lopez was a huge favorite to upend former titleist Orlando Salido and further pave his way towards a unification tilt with WBA champion Yuriorkis Gamboa but saw those immediate plans go up in flames.
Lopez controlled the early rounds against Salido but suffered a wicked knockdown in the fifth after eating a left-right combination and wasn't the same afterwards. He was again rattled in the eighth and despite trading with Salido along the ropes and appearing to have most of his bearings about him, referee Roberto Ramirez Jr. had seen enough and saved the champion from any further punishment.
As he sat watching the fight unfold in his Las Vegas bases, trainer Jeff Mayweather, who has had a vested interest in Lopez in recent times, seemed to think that the call was just.
"I thought he was clearly getting beaten," Mayweather told me earlier tonight. "I think they saved him some embarrassment when they did [stop it] because it looked like he was going to get knocked out anyways as opposed to physically stopped. He showed good moments in the fight as well but for the most part Salido owned Lopez."
Mayweather has had his eye on Lopez for well over a year as he trains former WBA super bantamweight champion Celestino Caballero, who for years has been clamoring for a collision with Lopez. For the longest time Lopez has seemed to shy away from such a contest and took some shots at Caballero last November following his shocking upset to Jason Litzau, claiming that the loss was proof that the Panamanian was never on his level to begin with.
When I asked Mayweather if Lopez's recent meltdown makes him look especially bad after seeing him go out of his way to diss Caballero, the mild-mannered yet outspoken coach seemed to agree. Mayweather also addressed Lopez's claims that Caballero wasn't a big enough draw to warrant such a fight, noting that the Puerto Rican's previous fight against Rafael Marquez inside of the MGM Grand was far from a sellout.
"Of course it makes him look bad," Mayweather remarked. "Basically it goes to show you that it is karma. And one thing, he may be huge in Puerto Rico but here in Vegas he's nothing because he only had five-thousand people here or less. I mean that fight belonged in a small ballroom not a place that seats ten or fifteen-thousand."
Without trying to spit too much venom towards Lopez, Mayweather simply pointed out that what Lopez went through on Saturday night in Puerto Rico was similar to Caballero's disappointing outing against Litzau, who was presumed to be inferior to him in nearly every capacity.
"Everybody is entitled to an off night and that's what Celestino had. It's the same thing that happened with Lopez. It's the exact same scenario. But Lopez got stopped. Celestino at least moved up in weight and fought a bigger guy," Jeff said.
Caballero is back in Las Vegas and was recently seen inside of Floyd Mayweather's personal facility on the West side of town training with Jeff. The duo is looking towards a crack at WBA champion Jonathan Barros and Mayweather insists Caballero is coming to camp with a definite chip on his shoulder, as he did when they first linked up in January of last year.
"That's the fight. That's what we are training for. The fight is either going to be in Argentina or in Panama. He's like the old Celestino who came to me. When he first came to me I didn't really know much about him and it was a situation where it's like 'You don't know who I am but I'm going to show you who I am' and that's what he did. He made a statement in camp and he impressed a whole lot of people. And that's where he's at again."