By Thomas Gerbasi
Josesito Lopez has gotten the “seasoned veteran” tag thrown at him already as he approaches his September 17th bout against 22-year old Jessie Vargas on the Floyd Mayweather-Victor Ortiz Pay-Per-View card. But be thankful that they haven’t called him “grizzled” or “rugged” yet, because that would be pushing it.
The 27-year old laughs, amused by the fact that some fans and media are looking at him as the old man heading into one of September’s most intriguing bouts, the stepping stone for the unbeaten young gun.
“I’ve seen that, but it doesn’t bother me,” said Lopez. “I usually don’t read up too much on the internet talk. As long as I’m prepared and I know that mentally and physically I’m a hundred percent, all the talk doesn’t matter. I’ve heard it all before and it’s nothing new to me. I know up in the ring it’s just me and him. As long as I do my job, everything will come out all right.”
It’s what you would expect to hear from the guy brought in as the “B” side for a major bout (Vargas is represented by Golden Boy Promotions), but from Lopez it comes with a heavy dose of truth when you realize that he’s been in this position before. More than once in fact.
You can start with his pro debut, ironically in Vegas, when he was to be the foil for Allen Litzau, one half of “The American Boys” with brother Jason. Lopez needed just 53 seconds to end that fight. He wasn’t so lucky in April of 2006, when he fought Floyd Mayweather protégé Wes Ferguson on the Mayweather-Zab Judah card and was on the short end of a controversial 10 round split decision.
But maybe the one “B” side fight that really stung was when he dropped hot New York prospect Edgar Santana twice in their 2008 ShoBox fight only to lose a majority decision. That’s the life for fighters who are willing to take that risk in order to get the big fights. And most of the time, things don’t work out right. Yet when you have the talent that Lopez does, going through experiences like that will steel you to the business of boxing both in and out of the ring and make you a tough man to beat when new opportunities arise.
“It’s helped me a lot mentally,” he said of taking the road less traveled. “I got the go big or go home attitude, and to give it all and leave it all in the ring, so I’m definitely gonna go in to try to win every single round and try to win decisively and leave no doubt with the judges and in people’s minds that I belong at the top.”
Since the Santana fight, Riverside, California’s Lopez has reeled off seven consecutive wins, including victories over 15-1 Patrick Lopez, 15-3 Anthony Mora, and 21-1-1 Marvin Cordova Jr. But the biggest win of the streak came in January of this year when he removed Mike Dallas Jr. from the ranks of the unbeaten with an old-school, down and dirty performance punctuated by a seventh round knockout. The victory netted Lopez the NABF junior welterweight title, but more importantly, it showed that he had paid attention in the gym, learned his lessons, and had become a truly legitimate prizefighter.
So of course, it begs the question, is Lopez going to do the old ‘take ‘em into deep waters and drown ‘em’ act he pulled off with Dallas against Vargas.
“We’ve actually been working a lot on boxing,” said Lopez. “So if need be, we’ll box and we’re definitely ready. I think we’ve improved on everything, on banging inside, on our power, on our speed, and boxing on the outside if we have to. My style is a go out there and give it all fighting style, but we’ll see. We don’t have one straight plan, and we’re both gonna have to dig deep and push hard. So we’ll see who comes out on top.”
Sounds like a young man who doesn’t want to show his cards too early, and that’s understandable. But when reminded that Vargas does have some deceiving victories – knockouts of Vivian Harris and Arturo Morua that came with both far past their sell by date – he smiles.
“We definitely plan on getting him into an uncomfortable zone that I’m pretty sure that he hasn’t ever been in,” said Lopez. “We’ll see how he reacts with that, but we’re ready and in great shape to go 10-12 solid good rounds.”
And it’s evident from chatting with Lopez that he doesn’t see Vargas as a media creation. He sees him for what he is – a talented kid with some good wins who is about to take the next step up in his career.
“I know he’s a good, tough solid fighter, so we’re definitely prepared for as good as we can expect from Vargas,” said Lopez. “And I’m sure there’s a lot more pressure on him, if he knows the fight he’s getting into. But I put pressure on myself and a loss is definitely not in my plans. It’s a lot bigger than just the loss, it’s the fact that I’ll disappoint the people who have faith in me. I can’t let anyone down.”
That may end up being the deciding factor in the fight, that Lopez isn’t just fighting for himself; he’s fighting for his family, friends, training partners, and coaches. And considering that he’s gaining positive notices from his peers as well for being a fighter’s fighter is another reason for him to come out with all guns blazing next weekend.
“For a long time, I’ve gotten a lot of support and a lot of faith in me from my peers,” he said. “It was faith that I didn’t really have in myself, and now I’m starting to believe and have faith in myself and I push myself to that limit and I know I’ve got more to give, so that’s definitely helped and boosted me. All these guys that have said this, it’s not just talk; they’re right. I just gotta go in there and prove it and do what I know I can do.”
So when Josesito Lopez heads to Las Vegas and a crush of media and fans unlike anything he’s ever experienced before, perhaps all those reports will be proved right. Maybe this 27-year old is seasoned, rugged, and grizzled in the ways of the boxing game. And maybe that’s what’s made him a fighter.
“I’m definitely focused and I’m definitely prepared,” he said. “I’m in there and I’m ready to fight. My focus is on Vargas and only Vargas. When people come up to me and congratulate me on the big fight, I say ‘don’t congratulate me yet. Congratulate me after the 17th when I get my victory.’”