By Cliff Rold
Most boxing fans in the States probably won’t be tuning in. Boxing has all but gone dark in October and a clash between faded former titlists isn’t likely to turn the dial from a riveting World Series or the college football slate.
For those who must have their boxing though, this independent pay-per-view show might get a glance. No matter the state of the competitors, memory says Juan Manuel Lopez and Wilfredo Vasquez Jr. have delivered in the past.
Matched against each other, they might have a few thrills left up their sleeve. As noted in a column earlier this week, the downside to fights like this is the way they lead fighters who don’t belong into fights with men they can’t compete with anymore.
For now, we have a pair that can probably still compete with each other.
Let’s go to the report card.
Juan Manuel Lopez
Previous Titles: WBO Jr. featherweight (2008-10, 5 Defenses); WBO featherweight (2010-11, 2 Defenses)
Height: 5’5 ½
Weight: 128 ½ lbs.
Hails from: Caguas, Puerto Rico
Record: 34-5, 31 KO, 5 KOBY?
Record in Major Title Fights: 9-4, 8 KO, 4 KOBY
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 8 (Daniel Ponce De Leon TKO1, TKO2; Gerry Penalosa RTD10; Steven Luevano TKO7; Rafael Marquez RTD8; Orlando Salido TKO by 8, TKO by 10; Mikey Garcia TKO by 4; Francisco Vargas KO by 3; Jesus Cuellar KO by 2)
Wilfredo Vasquez Jr.
Previous Titles: WBO Jr. featherweight (2010-11, 2 Defenses)
Height: 5’5 ½
Weight: 129 lbs.
Hails from: Bayamon, Puerto Rico
Record: 24-6-1, 19 KO, 1 KOBY?
Record in Major Title Fights: 3-2, 3 KO, 1 KOBY
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 5 (Marvin Sonsona KO4, L10; Ivan Hernandez TKO11; Jorge Arce TKO by 12; Roberto Leyva KO3; Nonito Donaire L12)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Lopez B; Vasquez B
Pre-Fight: Power – Lopez B; Vasquez B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Lopez C-; Vasquez B-
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Lopez C; Vasquez B
For at least a couple rounds, Lopez in his most recent appearances a couple of years ago still had decent hand speed and, as was displayed in his rematch stoppage of Ponce De Leon, power that has to be respected. It’s the rest of the package that gives pause.
Lopez always struggled with keeping his guard after throwing punches. He never had the defensive chops he needed. Guts were never an issue but the volume of flush shots taken eroded him in similar fashion to Fernando Vargas at Jr. middleweight a decade before. Part of that was his competition. He was still facing killers like Cuellar and Vargas in his last two fights.
Vasquez isn’t the same sort of physical threat.
His is more physically together at this point. Even in recent losses, Vasquez appeared to still have his legs and some snap on his shots. His accuracy has declined with age, and he was always a bit of a fringe talent. He just hasn’t declined as far.
For Vasquez, the key will be patience here. If he gives Lopez chances, he can get caught. He has to play the counter puncher to win this backyard rivalry game. Lopez, conversely, can’t go backwards. If he does, he’ll be a sitting duck waiting for a likely career finishing shot.
Had they faced off when both were at their best, Lopez would have been a heavy favorite. We are far removed from those years. Both enter having lost their last two fights. Unlike Lopez, Vasquez has at least remained active. His last fight was in December 2015. Lopez hasn’t been in the ring in over two years. Lopez’s Achilles was always his chin and what resistance he had was gone long ago. The pick here is Vasquez by stoppage in a fight that is entertaining for what it is.
Report Card and Staff Picks 2016: 36-12
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]