By Jake Donovan
Big things are in the works in 2014 for Josesito Lopez, just not to the degree that the rumor mill has recently suggested.
The welterweight contender is slated to return to the ring this coming March, though further details remain open-ended for the moment. What can be confirmed is that Lopez will not be facing top 140 lb. contender Lucas Matthysse, at least not in his first fight of the year.
“We are looking at mid-to-late March for Jose’s next fight,” Henry Ramirez, Lopez’ trainer, confirmed Sunday afternoon. “We’re looking at opponents for that fight, something to stay busy before what we hope to be a bigger fight later this year.”
Lopez (31-6, 18KO) returned to the win column in December, albeit in a struggling performance against faded former 140 lb. contender Mike Arnaoutis.
The bout, which headlined on Fox Sports 1 as a distant weekend lead in to Golden Boy’s year-ending Showtime-televised quadrupleheader in San Antonio, was stopped after eight rounds. Arnaoutis offered his best performance in years, including a third round knockdown, but an accidental headbutt produced a cut over his left eye later deemed too severe to continue according to ringside physicians.
Lopez settled for a technical decision win despite not being anywhere near his best. Nevertheless, it helped stopped the bleeding in his career following back-to-back knockout losses to Marcos Maidana and Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez. His previous win came in June 2012, breaking Victor Ortiz’ jaw and forcing him to quit after nine rounds in a fight in which he trailed on all three scorecards.
The win over Ortiz elevated the Riverside (Calif.) native to new heights among the sport’s hardcore fan base, playing up to his ‘Riverside Rocky’ nickname. A pair of knockout losses brought his career back to its previous standing, a solid gatekeeper just short of true contention.
Current plans call for a return to Top 10 form, though that requires a rebuilding process and not racing to the top.
“I don’t know where these rumors came from of fighting Matthysse,” Ramirez wondered, compounded by the fact that Lopez hasn’t fought at 140 since a questionable points loss to Jessie Vargas in Sept. ’11. “I talk to Al (Haymon, adviser to both Lopez and Matthysse) almost every day. Matthysse’s name hasn’t once come up for his next fight.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox