By Jake Donovan
If there’s a single universal take on the 15-year career of Josesito Lopez, it’s that the tough-as-nails welterweight from California has never shied away from a challenge.
The image he’s looking to ditch, is that of a well-known opponent.
It won’t come easy, especially entering Saturday’s showdown with unbeaten welterweight titlist Keith Thurman at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Bur armed with a brand new team which includes head trainer Robert Garcia, the 34-year old feels he’s giving himself as good of a chance as any in finally turning that corner.
“For the people who know boxing, who know what I’ve been through in camp, how I’ve been training, they know I will emerge victorious,” Lopez insisted during a media conference call to discuss Saturday’s bout, which will air live in primetime on Fox. “I’ve had a great training camp, the same training camp that Mikey Garcia has been in here.
“The road here isn’t the training camp. It’s really been a three-fight camp. I’ve worked my way up to championship level thanks to Robert Garci. I’m definitely championship-level and I’m ready to prove that I’m championship material.”
Lopez (36-7, 19KOs) hasn’t always been afforded the opportunity to showcase his skills so much as his being thrown in with some of the best contenders and champions of his day. He takes as much pride in the grit he’s shown in losses to the likes of Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, Andre Berto, Marcos Maidana and then-unbeaten Jessie Vargas as he does in notable wins over Victor Ortiz and—most recently—previously unbeaten Miguel Cruz.
The loss to Berto prompted a lengthy ring absence before returning under the watchful eye of Robert Garcia, a former 130-pound titlist who has made an even bigger name for himself as a leading trainer. The two are 3-0 since working together, beginning with a pair of tune-up wins followed by his 10-round decision over Cruz in a minor upset last April.
Since then, it’s been all about further honing his craft in the gym and staying sharp for the next big opportunity that also made the most sense.
In Thurman, the veteran contender gets a comebacking titlist following a near two-year absence to heal two separate injuries.
Some view Thurman’s—and to a larger degree the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) brass’—selection of Lopez as a safe pick for a first fight back following a lengthy absence. His opponent sees it as an opportunity to showcase an entirely new side to his game.
“What I bring to the table now is adding a little more intelligent and skill to that will I’ve always had,” Lopez says of his preparation for his second shot at a major title. “I’ve sparred guys fighting at middleweight. You can name absolutely everyone from 140-160 at training camp in Riverside, I’ve sparred all of them.
“I’ve put in the work and now it’s time to execute (the game plan).”