Joet Gonzalez was much more competitive in this third featherweight title fight Friday night than he was during his first two losses to 126-pound champions.
Gonzalez’s gutsy effort still wasn’t enough to upset IBF champion Luis Alberto Lopez in a 12-round main event ESPN televised from American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, Texas. All three judges – Ruben Carrion (116-112), Robert Hoyle (118-110) and Steve Weisfeld (117-111) – credited Lopez for a convincing victory.
Hoyle scored 10 rounds for Mexico’s Lopez (29-2, 16 KOs), who won nine rounds and eight rounds, respectively, according to Weisfeld and Carrion.
Lopez admitted that their fight was closer than the judges scored it.
“It was a very close fight,” Lopez said. “We know that Joet Gonzalez was coming forward. He wouldn’t take a step back. I know it was a tough fight, but I know that I won.”
The awkward, elusive Lopez couldn’t drop the durable Gonzalez, who has not been knocked out in 30 professional fights (26-4, 15 KOs).
“I hurt him,” Lopez said. “I saw that I hurt him. But, as I’ve said, he’s a warrior who can take anything you throw at him, even the bucket. He is still standing, and my respects to him.”
The game Gonzalez provided pressure throughout their bout and occasionally caught the defending champion with right hands as Lopez attempted to move out of his punching range. Ultimately, though, Gonzalez’s couldn’t land consistently enough to impress the judges.
Lopez, 30, made a second successful defense of an IBF belt he won when he upset Josh Warrington by majority decision last December 10 at First Direct Arena in Leeds, England, Warrington’s hometown. He stopped Northern Ireland’s Michael Conlan in the fifth round of his first title defense, which occurred May 27 at The SSE Arena in Conlan’s hometown of Belfast.
Gonzalez, 29, is now 0-3 in featherweight world title fights. The Glendora, California native previously lost 12-round unanimous decisions to Shakur Stevenson (20-0, 10 KOs) and Emanuel Navarrete (38-1, 30 KOs).
Lopez thought their competitive championship clash was close on the cards entering the 12th and final round.
Gonzalez caught Lopez with a left hook that landed barely 30 seconds into the 12th round. He continued to pressure the champion in the final three minutes of their bout, which eventually led to Lopez catching him with a right uppercut with just over 40 seconds remaining in their bout.
Lopez landed five punches in combination to Gonzalez’s head and body barely 40 seconds into the 11th round.
Lopez knocked Gonzalez off balance with a right hand that connected with approximately 25 seconds to go in the 10th round. Gonzalez’s left hook backed Lopez into the ropes just before the midway mark of the 10th round.
Gonzalez landed a right hand as Lopez attempted to move away from him with about 25 seconds remaining in the ninth round. Backed against the ropes, Lopez landed a left hook and then a right hand just after the midway mark of the ninth round.
A right uppercut by Lopez landed with 1:20 to go in the eighth round. Gonzalez kept coming forward, yet he didn’t land many clean punches in the eighth round.
Cole gave Gonzalez what he said was a final warning for hitting Lopez with about 50 seconds into the seventh round.
Lopez blasted Gonzalez with a left hook that stunned him with just over 50 seconds to go in the sixth round. Gonzalez stung Lopez with a right hand barely a minute into the sixth round.
An overhand right by Gonzalez connected with about 1:10 to go in the fifth round. Lopez was hard to hit for much of the fifth round, however, because he slipped and weaved away from many of Gonzalez’s punches.
A left uppercut by Gonzalez moved Lopez backward a few seconds after the halfway point of the fourth round.
Lopez clipped Gonzalez with a right hand about 35 seconds into the third round. The defending champion was more effective in the third round than he was during the first rounds.
Two straight right hands by Gonzalez connected within a 10-second span in the middle minute of the second round. Gonzalez lunged forward and landed a left hook about a minute into the second round.
Gonzalez worked well off his jab in the opening round, when he made Lopez uncomfortable at times by forcing him to fight while moving backward. Gonzalez landed a straight right a few seconds before the halfway point of the first round.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.