Luis Alberto Lopez doesn’t doubt Joet Gonzalez’s toughness.
The IBF featherweight champion expects the gutsy Gonzalez to press the action and throw a lot of punches during their 12-round, 126-pound title fight Friday night in Corpus Christi, Texas. Mexico’s Lopez also feels that he’ll encounter a vulnerable version of Gonzalez because Gonzalez has absorbed plenty of punishment, particularly during his decision defeats to Shakur Stevenson, Emanuel Navarrete and Isaac Dogboe.
“Remember, there have been wars and a lot of time that has passed,” Lopez told BoxingScene.com through a translator. “He might not be the same. And this fight won’t be the exception. I’m gonna hurt him a lot.”
Most sportsbooks list Lopez (28-2, 16 KOs) as at least a 7-1 favorite to defeat Gonzalez (26-3, 15 KOs) in a main event ESPN will air as part of a tripleheader from American Bank Center (10 p.m. EDT; 7 p.m. PDT).
Gonzalez, 29, will get his third featherweight world title shot in less than four years, despite that he lost lopsided 12-round unanimous decisions to Stevenson (20-0, 10 KOs) and Navarrete (38-1, 31 KOs) in his first two attempts. The Glendora, California native also lost a 10-round split decision to Dogboe (24-3, 15 KOs), a former WBO junior featherweight champ, two fights ago.
“All of his fights have gone 12 rounds, they’ve gone the distance,” Lopez said. “And, you know, when you are in wars like that there are consequences for you, on your body, so he’s not gonna be the same. But he will be coming with the desire to take the title.”
Lopez hopes to make a statement by becoming the first opponent to beat Gonzalez by knockout or technical knockout in the second defense of an IBF belt he won when he edged England’s Josh Warrington by majority decision last December 10 at First Direct Arena in Warrington’s hometown of Leeds.
“Like I have said, it’s been a goal that I have for myself, to win by knockout,” Lopez said. “No one has been able to beat him by knockout, and he has faced great champions, like Shakur Stevenson, Emanuel Navarrete and Isaac Dogboe. So, it would personally be good for my career.”
Mexicali’s Lopez, 30, overwhelmed Northern Ireland’s Michael Conlan in his first title defense, which he won by fifth-round technical knockout May 27 at The SSE Arena in Belfast, Conlan’s hometown.
A dominant Lopez violently dropped Conlan (18-2, 9 KOs) with a right uppercut that caused Adam Booth, Conlan’s trainer, to throw in the towel. Referee Michael Alexander halted the action at 1:14 of the fifth round.
Lopez expects it to take more than that to stop the durable Gonzalez inside the distance.
“We know Joet is a warrior,” Lopez said. “He comes forward. He never stops throwing punches. It’s hard to take him out in the ring. We know that it’s gonna be a good fight. He knows how to take a lot of punches, and he never stops throwing.”
ESPN’s three-bout broadcast will also include a 10-round junior middleweight match in which Puerto Rican contender Xander Zayas (16-0, 10 KOs) will meet Mexican veteran Roberto Valenzuela Jr. (21-4, 20 KOs). Las Vegas-based lightweight prospect Emiliano Vargas (6-0, 5 KOs), a son of former junior middleweight champ Fernando Vargas, is scheduled to oppose Spain’s Alejandro Guardado (5-0, 1 KO) in a six-rounder ESPN will air.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.