By Keith Idec
Almost all of the interaction Juan Manuel Lopez has had with Puerto Rican fight fans has been positive since the former featherweight champion lost for the first time as a professional.
Lopez realizes, however, that there are plenty of skeptical people that think he’ll never really recover from his eighth-round knockout loss to Orlando Salido last April 16 in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. Those doubters have inspired Lopez (31-1, 28 KOs) throughout training camp for his 12-round rematch against Mexico’s Salido (37-11-2, 25 KOs, 1 NC) on Saturday night at Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan (Showtime; 10 p.m. ET/PT).
“Unfortunately, in boxing you’re only as good as your last fight,” Lopez, 28, said. “People don’t think I’m the same fighter I was before. I know I am. I know I’m the same fighter I was before and I’m going to show them that. I’m going to show them that I’m one of the best fighters in the division. Anyone can have a bad night. In basketball, you can lose a few games in a row and nothing happens. But in boxing, you lose once and everyone thinks that you don’t have it anymore.”
Nevertheless, the affable Lopez appreciates those who’ve strongly supported him since Salido stopped him and took his WBO featherweight title.
“The fans [in Puerto Rico] have been great to me,” said Lopez, whose aggression and crowd-pleasing performances have made him one of Puerto Rico’s two most popular active fighters. “The ones that come up to me are always encouraging me. They’re behind me.
“I know there is some criticism out there and I know some people are writing some stuff on the Internet about me, but when they come up to me it’s been nothing but positive. They tell me that they feel good about me, that they know I had a bad night, that they want to see me succeed. Those are the people that I listen to, the people that come up to me and offer encouragement.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com.