by Cliff Rold
It wasn’t a total shock, even coming as a pretty sizable upset. Juan Manuel Lopez entered the ring on April 16, 2011, as a heavy favorite for a reason. He had better speed. He had more pop. He didn’t have 11 losses.
He was busted up in eight rounds.
As good as he can be offensively, Lopez had danced on the head of a pin more than once before his first loss at the hands of Orlando Salido. Rogers Mtagwa pushed him to the brink and he held on. He walked through serious fire from the great Rafael Marquez. He hit the deck hard against Bernabe Concepcion.
He finally fell off the pin.
Lopez knows what it means to be a winner. Once, he’s known loss. Now, we find out if he can play avenger.
Let’s go to the report card.
Title: WBO Featherweight (2011-Present, 1 Defense)
Previous Titles: IBF Featherweight (2010)
Weight: 126 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 126.55 lbs.
Hails from: Ciudad Obregon, Sonora, Mexico
Record: 37-11-2, 25 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #3 at Featherweight
Record in Title Fights: 3-3, 2 KO, 1 No Contest
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 3 (Alfred Kotey, Cristobal Cruz, Juan Manuel Lopez)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat: 4 (Alejandro Gonzalez, Juan Manuel Marquez, Cristobal Cruz, Yuriorkis Gamboa)
Juan Manuel Lopez
Current Title: None
Previous Title: WBO Jr. Featherweight (2008-10, 5 Defenses); WBO Featherweight (2010-11, 2 Defenses)
Height: 5’5 ½
Weight: 125.7 lbs.
Average Weight - Five Most Recent Fights: 125.05 lbs.
Hails from: Caguas, Puerto Rico
Record: 31-1, 28 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #4 at Featherweight
Record in Title Fights: 9-1, 8 KO, 1 KOBY
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 3 (Daniel Ponce De Leon, Gerry Penalosa, Steve Luevano, Rafael Marquez)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat: 1 (Orlando Salido)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Saliido B; Lopez B
Pre-Fight: Power – Salido B+; Lopez A
Pre-Fight: Defense – Salido B; Lopez B-
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Salido B+; Lopez B+
Forgotten in the wake of defeat was that Lopez had success early against Salido. He won most of the first four rounds, even as Salido applied steady pressure. The Puerto Rican southpaw has a good jab and can box when he needs to.
When he’s boxing, he can hold Salido at bay and win rounds.
The problem will be not holding but keeping Salido at bay. Lopez can be a sucker for the overhand right and Salido throws his consistently. An educated pro, he doesn’t aim. He throws where he expects his opponent to be. Against Lopez, he was right often enough.
In terms of chins, Salido’s might not be better but it’s harder to get to consistently. He’s no defensive genius but Salido is clever and makes himself a hard target. He’s been stopped five times, but never since the year 2000.
However, he has shown recent vulnerability. Gamboa hurt him late. Unheralded Weng Haya had Salido badly hurt and down twice in Salido’s last fight. Salido had the character to pull through in the latter and finish on his feet in the former.
In terms of raw power, Lopez is the more dangerous man. Power counts in its application. Salido landed more, and landed better, than Lopez the first time. Lopez has to be first, and avoid getting drawn into close quarters exchanges, if he wants to reverse the tide this time.
If the fight boils down to a war, Salido holds a significant mental edge. He knows he can stop a hurt Lopez. Lopez not only doesn’t know the opposite but has to prove, to Salido and himself, that he can weather the Mexican veteran through stormy waters. Sure, there was a case to be made that the stoppage of the first fight was a tad premature.
There is also a case to be made that Lopez was increasingly a danger to himself that night in his inability to find defense. He better find it this time.
The thinking here is Lopez will do just that. The Salido win was a great story last year but it also smacked of culmination for long ring tenure. Fighter like Salido with so many miles and struggles sometimes put together a great moment but don’t always sustain it. The feeling here is Salido peaked the first time.
Lopez might lack some mental advantages because of the first outcome but he’s got pride, youth, and a desire not to lose at home to the same man twice. Salido couldn’t have fought much better. Lopez could. Look for him to do so this time, boxing more, engaging less, and winning enough rounds to eek out a decision.
Report Card Picks 2012: 9-2
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]