By Jake Donovan
For weeks, an all-Boricua showdown was being negotiated between former champs Juan Manuel Lopez and Wilfredo Vazquez Jr.
Just when all parties appeared to clear the final hurdle, they instead ran into a dead end.
Vazquez Jr. announced Thursday evening that he will no longer entertain a fight against Lopez, with the final breaking point concerning the agreed upon weight for such a fight.
“We were offered the fight at the featherweight limit. We had an agreement in principle with Top Rank’s Carl Moretti,” stated Tuto Zabala Jr, Vazquez Jr’s co-promoter. “We have no problem fighting JuanMa. It’s all about business; it’s a very interesting fight and Puerto Rican fight fans are eager(ly) awaiting for it. After they agreed, now they want to take advantage with the divisions.”
Lopez, who was recently reinstated by the Secretary of Sports and Recreation of Puerto Rico earlier Thursday morning, immediately announced his intention to move up to the 130 lb. division. The all-action southpaw won titles at 122 lb and 126 lb, but has grown out of both weight classes and made demands for a Vazquez Jr. clash to take place at a catchweight, or even at the full 130 lb. limit.
“I’m not going back to 126 lb. My weight is now 130 lb and if we are making the fight for the month of January (2013) we could do 128 plus,” Lopez said Thursday afternoon. “I cannot do any less than that weight. If they want to reach that agreement, here we are.
“Papito Vazquez has been talking a lot and I have no problem fighting him. Wherever the money is, I am there, whether it’s Papito, (World super bantamweight champ Nonito) Donaire or anyone else.”
The comments didn’t sit too kindly with Vazquez Jr., a career super bantamweight who was willing to move up a full division. With Lopez’ latest demands, it appears that all parties will have to search for a new adventure.
“If (Lopez) can no longer make the featherweight limit, then we will wait for our WBO junior featherweight title fight; there is no rush,” insists Zabala Jr. “We want our title back and the winner of the Doniare-(Jorge) Arce fight on December 15.”
Vazquez’ title reign ended last May with a stunning 12th round knockout loss to Arce. Two fights later, the second generation fighter dropped a split decision to Donaire in a fight that wasn’t as close as the scores suggested.
Despite the setbacks, there still appeared to be more upside in his career than that of Lopez, who was twice battered into submission by Orlando Salido in the span of less than a year.
Their first fight was among the best fights of 2011, and their rematch this past March was every bit as thrilling. Both fighters hit the deck, but in the end it was Lopez who was unable to defend himself in suffering his second career loss.
Lopez was still loopy afterward when he made outrageous accusations towards referee Roberto Ramirez Sr. and his son, Roberto Jr, who served as third man for the first fight. Lopez’ cry of the fix being in led to the aforementioned suspension, originally set for one year. The ban was modified, allowing the former two-division champ to pick up the pieces while youth is still on his side.
Whatever his next move, it will not come against Vazquez Jr. Not for the time being and not while an entire weight class separates the two.
“The day will come at the right moment,” Zabala Jr. believes. “We already beat Juanma's pupil Jonathan Oquendo to prove who is the best super bantamweight in Puerto Rico. We are available to prove who is the best featherweight of the Island by knocking him out.”
Had the two sides reached terms, the bout would have been part of a planned January 19 tripleheader on HBO in its first card of 2013. Gennady Golovkin is slated to appear in a middleweight fight against an opponent to be determined, while Salido would defend his featherweight crown against unbeaten rising contender Mikey Garcia.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox