By Jake Donovan
Josesito Lopez understands exactly why he was chosen as the opponent for Keith Thurman’s first fight back in two years.
He’s also fully aware of his perceived chances of victory and that there’s nothing he can do to change anyone’s mind until fight night. All he can do is own it.
In other words, nothing new for a career-long underdog.
“I don’t feel like people are overlooking me; I know people ARE overlooking me (versus Thurman),” Lopez (36-7, 19KOs) bluntly stated during a media conference call to discuss Saturday’s welterweight title fight, which airs live on Fox from Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. “I’ve seen it, it’s shows in their words. I don’t mind it. I’m ready to prove everyone wrong this Saturday.”
The now 34-year old welterweight from Riverside, Calif., aptly dubbed “The Riverside Rocky”, did just that in his very last ring adventure. Lopez was brought in to give rising prospect Miguel Cruz a stiff ring test in their 10-round bout last April in El Paso, Texas. He did more than that, handing the central Flordia-based welterweight his first career loss.
It had been nearly six years prior to that point since the last time Lopez came out on top in a fight he wasn’t necessarily supposed to prevail. That moment came in perhaps his most identifiable victory to date, rallying from behind to force a broken-jawed Victor Ortiz to retire on his stool after nine rounds in their June ’12 war.
Lopez’s handlers immediately cashed in on the feat, with the boxer moving up in weight for a 154-pound title showdown with Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez just three months later. He ultimately bit off far more than he could chew, as Alvarez scored a dominant 5th round knockout victory in their Sept. ’12 battle.
The night marked his lone career title fight until he got the call for this weekend’s battle with Thurman (28-0, 22KOs). In between came a June ’13 knockout loss to Marcos Maidana and a heartbreaking 5th round stoppage versus former champ Andre Berto, who rallied back to score a dramatic win the debut of the now-defunct Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) on Spike series.
Both boxers went on to major title fights in their next adventure. Maidana would become the first to defeat Adrien Broner, claiming a welterweight title and parlaying the feat into two lucrative fights with Floyd Mayweather in 2014 before calling it a career. Berto’s own win over Lopez led to a Sept. ’15 slot opposite what was supposed to be Mayweather’s last-ever fight.
Since the loss to Berto, Lopez has managed three straight wins, including his aforementioned upset of Cruz in his most recent start last April. Each of his past three victories have come since joining forces with famed head trainer Robert Garcia, under whose guidance Lopez has evolved into more than just a B-side slugger.
“For those who haven’t seen me since those fights from years ago, you’re definitely going to see an improved version,” Lopez promises. “I was one step behind the guys who managed to beat me. But when other opponents faced those same champions I did, those champions displayed a lot more than they were when I was in there.
“So now, it’s more about just showing my grit, showing my will. With (Garcia) I come into this fight more intelligent and with more skill to go along with that will.”