by Cliff Rold
Sometimes, the misfortune of others isn’t so bad. Boxing fans everywhere were disappointed with the initial postponement of Victor Ortiz-Andre Berto II. They were more than that when the rescheduled rematch was lost to a failed steroid test. Fans were out a highly anticipated fight.
Ortiz, the former WBC Welterweight titlist, was out two training camps if a suitable replacement wasn’t found.
Enter Josesito Lopez. Only the hardest of hardcore fans know his name, but what they know they have to like. Lopez is a gritty guy who finds himself with the chance of a lifetime.
Ortiz challenging Saul Alvarez for a Jr. Middleweight title in the fall hangs in the balance.
It’s the main event of a quality doubleheader that also features a crossroads bout between a fighter who could well be undefeated and another who has lingered on the verge of bigger things for years, never quite getting there. The leather will fly.
Let’s go to the report cards.
Previous Titles: WBC Welterweight (2011)
Weight: 146.5 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 143.2 lbs.
Hails from: Oxnard, California
Record: 29-3-2, 22 KO, 2 KOBY
BoxingScene Rank: #2 at Welterweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 1-1, 1 KOBY (1-2, 2 KOBY including interim title fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 1 (Alfred Kotey, Nate Campbell, Vivian Harris, Andre Berto)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat/Draw: 2 (Lamont Peterson, Floyd Mayweather)
Titles/Previous Titles: None
Weight: 144.75 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 142.05 lbs.
Hails from: Riverside, California
Record: 29-4, 17 KO
BoxingScene Rank: Unrated
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 1st Champion Faced
Title/Previous Titles: None
Weight: 138.75 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 139.7 lbs.
Hails from: Junin, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Record: 30-2, 28 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #8 at Jr. Welterweight
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 2 (Vivian Harris, DeMarcus Corley)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat: 2 (Zab Judah, Devon Alexander)
Previous Titles: WBC Super Featherweight (2008-10, 3 Defenses); WBC Lightweight (2010-11, 4 Defenses)
Height: 5’7 ½
Weight: 139.5 lbs.
Average Weight - Five Most Recent Fights: 131.15 lbs.
Hails from: Tijuana, Mexico
Record: 58-7-2, 34 KO
BoxingScene Rank: Unrated
Record in Major Title Fights: 9-1, 3 KO (12-2, 4 KO including interim title fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 2 (Jesus Chavez, David Diaz)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat: 2 (Kevin Kelley, Joan Guzman)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Ortiz B+; Lopez B
Pre-Fight: Power – Ortiz B+; Lopez B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Ortiz B-; Lopez B-
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Ortiz B; Lopez B+
Pre-Fight: Speed – Matthysse B; Soto B
Pre-Fight: Power – Matthysse B+; Soto B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Matthysse B; Soto B-
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Matthysse A; Soto A
Beginning with the chief support bout, fans have a potential show stealer on their hands. Soto has been is some memorable brawls, chief among them Yahoo’s 2010 Fight of the Year with Urbano Antillon. Soto will be the naturally smaller man, even as he comes in slightly higher on the scales but can offset it as the more aggressive of the two. Matthysse is more methodical than Soto, using his jab to set up decidedly heavy hands.
Heavy but not necessarily chilling. Matthysse’s knockout numbers are great but probably a bit higher than reality. He’s stopped a lot of fringe fighters. While able to drop Judah and Alexander, he couldn’t finish and in Soto finds as sturdy a beard as there is. We don’t know yet if he has “A” power at the top level. For now, it’s enough to know that when he lands, it hurts.
Matthysse will have to rely on landing the more precise shots and slowing a Soto whose best work was done in lower divisions. The Argentine is superior defensively, but no so much so that it will prevent fire from both sides. Soto has faced a deeper pool of opposition but Matthysse was able to keep pace with two of the slickest foes available at 140. This could be a nice change of pace for him.
In the main event, there is quite the intriguing storyline. Everyone in and around 154 lbs. who can’t get a Mayweather, Pacquiao, or Cotto, would love a crack at the star nipping at their market heels. Saul Alvarez is ready to go from Mexican icon to global boxing idol. Ortiz is lined up to see if he can push “Canelo” Cunningham off track.
Will he get caught looking ahead?
Ortiz looked like he had answered so many of the questions about his mental approach in the Berto war. He got off the floor not once but twice to will his way through a rough early going, dominating the second half. The shadow of the Marcos Maidana loss, a fight where he seemed to give up, was behind him.
The meltdown the world witnessed last year against Floyd Mayweather brought the questions back. From the moment he launched a foul, leaping headbutt to the face of Mayweather, through his repetitive attempts at hugging reconciliation, to the one dap too many that ended with him stretched, Ortiz unraveled.
Now we see if the loss taught lessons, if he’s ready to bite down and put the pieces back together. As far as tune-ups go, he could have been put in with an easier one. Lopez hasn’t been to the big stage yet but he’s been just outside and performed well. Three of his four losses came by a hair and he’s used surprising pop and a steady attack to work through a range of fellow up and comers.
Lopez has been a little lighter for the most part in his career, but with weigh-ins coming so long before fights, size will probably be a minimal difference in the fight. Lopez will be the taller man by a smidge. The big question is how he handles the speed and explosiveness of Ortiz. If Ortiz can land, his opponents find trouble as routine. Lopez has never been stopped, but he’s never been hit like Ortiz will hit him.
If Lopez can handle it, Alvarez has reason to sweat his fall date.
On the undercard, it’s a tough pick. Soto has been at the title level longer and his Achilles heel has always been speed. With Matthysse, that won’t be the issue. What will is that Matthysse is an underrated boxer and can be awkward and accurate at the same time. Soto is going to have moments, but as the fight wears on the size issue will matter. Matthysse can handle the incoming and should be able to impose on Soto and back him up over the second half. It will be enough for a decision win for the Argentine.
In the main event, this has the makings of another Ortiz-Maidana. Lopez isn’t going to shrink and he’ll fight like he needs it because he does. If he can handle the big Ortiz bombs, does Ortiz resort to the doubting fighter he was against Maidana, in the fights before Berto, and the Mayweather debacle? Remember, Ortiz was off to a roaring start against Lamont Peterson and then let Lamont back into the fight and settled for a draw. Ortiz has one Berto against more evidence that big pressure doesn’t bring out his best.
The thinking here is Lopez can take the shot and, when he does, Ortiz turns boxer while Lopez presses. With the Alvarez payday in the back of his mind, Ortiz going safe will cost him rounds while Lopez goes for broke. The pick here is Lopez in a big upset either by narrow decision or late stoppage
Report Card Picks 2012: 32-10
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]