By Jake Donovan, photos by Jose Colon
Juan Manuel Lopez is truly ahead of schedule for his return bout on February 2 in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.
The former two-division titlist is so anxious to prove he’s ready to go, that he voluntarily showed up for a 30-day pre-fight weigh-in despite the fact that his upcoming bout with Silva Santos came with no such requirements.
“I weighed here to show that I’m working hard and focused,” Lopez said during Friday’s weigh-in ceremony. The Puerto Rican tipped the scales at 139.5 lb for next month’s fight, which takes place at a contracted weight of 128 lb.
The standard for most title fights governed by the Puerto Rico Boxing Commission require fighters are no more than 15% heavier than the contracted weight 30 days from the fight date. Lopez falls well within those parameters, as his maximum allowable weight would have been 147.2 lb. There is no title at stake for his bout with Santos (18-3, 9KO), which is scheduled for ten rounds.
The fighters who were required to weigh-in – McJoe Arroyo, McWilliams Arroyo and Jonathan ‘Bomba’ Gonzalez – all successfully came within the prescribed 30-day limit for separate regional title fights against opponents still to be named.
Lopez (31-2, 28KO) fights for the first time since his 10th round knockout loss to Orlando Salido in their rematch last March. The loss wasn’t as damaging as his post-fight comments, however. Lopez drew a hefty fine and suspension for accusing referee Roberto Ramirez of stopping the fight due to gambling issues rather than for the safety of the fighter.
The loss was the second of Lopez’ career, both coming against Orlando Salido, who faces Miguel Angel Garcia in New York City on January 19. That bout will be televised on HBO.
Lopez’ ring return goes the independent pay-per-view bout, a common practice for shows staged by Puerto Rico Best Boxing Promotions, who along with Top Rank serves as Lopez’ co-promoters.
“This is a get back-in action fight for Lopez,” said Arum of the comeback fight. “We’re anxious to see how he performs on February 2 and are confident that he will land a big fight within the next several months. There are a lot of options out there.”
One option is a fight that – had he agreed to terms – would have landed Lopez on the aforementioned January 19 HBO card. Discussions took place of a possible showdown with countryman Wilfredo Vazquez Jr, though the fight fell apart over a disagreement in weight.
Vazquez Jr. is currently campaigning as a super bantamweight and was willing to fight at 126 lb. Lopez remains unsure if he is returning to the featherweight division, and preferred a higher weight limit for his first fight back in 10 months.
That fight is still a possibility for down the road, as well as possible title fights at 126 or 130, depending on where he feels most comfortable. There is also, of course, the matter of winning on February 2, a fight which Lopez is not at all taking lightly.
“I’m totally focused for this fight,” Lopez insists. “I’m going to show that I have a lot of fight (left) to become a world champion again. I’ve been training since August, training hard with my team (Alex Caraballo aand Orlando Piñero) at the Cheo Aponte Gym and with Freddy Trinidad in the Caimito Gym, where we are working on something new.”
Lopez admittedly doesn’t know much about Santos, whose last fight – which took place just last week - was a six-round points win over Rodolfo Franz in his native Brazil.
“I just know that he is right-handed and has fast hands,” said Lopez.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox