By Jake Donovan
Marcos Maidana travels to Southern California for a high-profile main event. Down on the scorecards, the visiting Argentine claws back and scores a dramatic 6th round knockout to erase a deficit and emerge victorious in a surefire Fight of the Year contender, leaving the local fighter dejected and seriously pondering his future.
If the tale sounds familiar, it’s because history repeated itself for the former 140 lb. titlist. Nearly four years after scoring a shocking 6th round stoppage of Victor Ortiz in downtown Los Angeles, Maidana managed to halt Josesito Lopez in as many rounds in their Showtime-televised main event Saturday evening at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California.
Maidana trailed on two of the three official scorecards at the time of the stoppage, dropping Lopez in round six before battering him along the ropes to end the fight in the very same round.
In a loaded boxing weekend, many tabbed the Showtime main event as boasting the greatest potential for a Fight of the Year entrant. Maidana and Lopez delivered on that front, going directly at each other from the opening bell. Lopez, whose best win is his own come-from-behind win over Ortiz nearly a year ago, sought a quicker start in this particular bout rather than relying on dramatics.
A strong opening round for the Riverside Rocky didn’t result in sustained momentum, however. Maidana came roaring back in round two, stunning Lopez with a right hand but unable to land that one final blow to end the fight early. It nearly cost the Argentine the fight, as Lopez regained control midway through the third, legitimately hurting Maidana for the first time in the fight.
It would get even worse in round four, a round where even Maidana himself admitted the threat of trouble surfaced.
“Some of the punches that he was hitting me with and was controlling (the action) weren’t that hard, but that one left hand he hit me with did hurt me,” Maidana confessed after the fight. “The fight went as I expected. The punch I got hit with in the fourth round hurt me, but my trainer Robert Garcia helped me get through it.”
Ever the warrior, Maidana was able to ride out a disastrous fourth round – one where he never went down but could have easily been scored 10-8. A strong round five suggested that scorecards would eventually render useless. Both fighters had legitimately been hurt to that point and it was clear that the fight wasn’t going the distance.
The biggest difference between the two was the ability to ride out the hailstorms of power shots. Maidana had the sense to hold and clinch whenever he was hurt. Lopez did not, his warrior heart perhaps getting the best of him. It was evident in the final minute of round five, when Maidana had Lopez hurt along the ropes without any fear of incoming.
All that was missing was that one big shot to permanently turn the tide in his favor. That moment came in a fight-ending sixth round. A right hand put Lopez on the canvas for the bout’s lone knockdown, coming early in the round.
“That right hand was the first good punch that I landed on him,” insisted Maidana, who would have plenty more to offer once Lopez rose from the canvas to beat the count.
Maidana unloaded both clips, repeatedly catching a near defenseless Lopez along the ropes. Referee Lou Moret saw a fighter who no longer had his faculties and elected to stop the fight.
Opinions varied on whether or not it was the right call. Even Maidana was torn on whether or not he should have been declared the winner at that exact moment.
“I don’t know. I think it was a good job by the referee, although I still wanted to fight and hit him some more,” suggested Maidana, who picked up his third straight win in improving to 34-3 (31KO).
Lopez wouldn’t have minded being allowed to catch more punches, though naturally his preference was to ride out the storm and hopefully punch his way back into the fight.
“I felt like I was doing pretty good. I felt like the stoppage was a little premature,” believes Lopez, who suffers his second straight loss as he falls to 30-6 (18KO). “Yeah he hurt me. But we are professionals. It’s our job to take punches like that and fight back.”
Both fighters proved an uncanny ability to do just that. Maidana has performed that trick against Ortiz, Amir Khan, Erik Morales and again last September in a vicious war with Jesus Soto Karass. That fight ended with Maidana picking up a career-saving 8th round knockout, taking place on the undercard of Lopez’ knockout loss to Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez.
The fight with Alvarez took place at 154 lb., which Lopez later admitted was an ill-advised move up the scales. It came just three months after partaking in his first major welterweight fight of a career largely spent at 140 lb.
The question now facing Lopez is where to go from here – whether back down the scale, or even against lesser competition for the sake of getting back in the win column.
Lopez will hear none of it.
“We got to go back to the drawing board. I’m a147 lb. (fighter), I know that,” Lopez firmly states. “I went up against one of the best welterweights in the world here. Unfortunately, the fight didn’t go my way today.”
It went Maidana’s way, and in a very big way at that. Many questioned whether 147 was the right fit for his career after an extremely poor showing in a near shutout loss to Devon Alexander last February. Three wins and two Fight of the Year contenders later, Maidana has not only righted the ship, but once again has everyone salivating over the thought of a long-rumored showdown with countryman and budding boxing superstar Lucas Matthysse.
“They have been talking about that fight for a long time, but there has never been anything concrete,” Maidana admits of what for the moment largely remains a fantasy matchup. “They never made a formal offer, so I don’t know if the fight will ever really happen.”
Such a fight would surely be a can’t miss event whenever it happens. Given his recent success and flair for the dramatic, every fight has become that way for Marcos Maidana.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, Yahoo Boxing Ratings Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox