By Mark Whicker
A moving pile of hangers-on obscured Erislandy Lara after he left his public workout in the MGM Grand lobby Wednesday.
Didn't that used to be Juan Manuel "Juanma" Lopez?
Instead, yesterday's next-great-fighter did his run-throughto minimal applause, as the crowd chanted Lara's name and waited for the arrival of Canelo Alvarez, who meets Lara in the main event Saturday.
Lopez will be fighting Francisco Vargas for two secondary lightweight belts on the undercard.
The 31-year-old Lopez was Top Rank's shining light until he lost twice to Orlando Salido. Then he was taken apart by Mikey Garcia last June.
The Puerto Rican admitted Wednesday that he thought about retiring. But in March he knocked out Daniel Ponce de Leon in the second round.
Is it a comeback or a last stand?
"I know I can't lose any fights," said Lopez. "But I'm too experienced to feel a lot of pressure. In my country we talk about bringing two bags to every fight. You know you're either going to win or lose. I think I'm more of a mature person now."
Lopez's restart should be more comfortable at 130 pounds. He strained to make 126 for the Garcia fight, and then Garcia failed to make weight, which Lopez called "unprofessional."
"I just think that when you're young and a lot is expected of you, you don't always know how to handle it," said Pete Rivera, Lopez's promoter. "Sometimes you go to another level and you forget your roots. He's definitely working harder than he did earlier in his career. "
If Lopez gets past Vargas, who is 19-0-1 with 13 knockouts, Rivera sees a way his man can come full circle.
He foresees Lopez winning Saturday and then waiting on WBO champion Garcia does. Garcia has nothing scheduled at the moment as he files suit against Top Rank. Even when he comes back he is likely to move up in weight.
"Salido is No. 2 and JuanMa is No. 4," Rivera said. "So maybe they can fight for a third time."
Then again, we've already seen what happens when Lopez gets ahead of himself.
Mark Whicker has been a sports columnist in Southern California for 27 years.
Tags: Juan Manuel Lopez , Francisco Vargas