Juan Manuel Lopez has long been one of the game's most exciting fighters, and he's often too brave for his own good. He loves to stand toe-to-toe and slug in the hopes of bringing the fans out of their seats.
Mostly, it's worked for him as he's compiled a 31-2 record with 28 knockouts and world titles at super bantamweight and featherweight.
But it nearly cost him a loss in an epic 2009 scrap with Rogers Mtagwa, when he was barely able to stand in the waning seconds. And he dropped a pair of bouts in the last year to Orlando Salido.
Lopez was suspended after the second loss to Salido for making allegations that referee Roberto Ramirez was gambling. Lopez was clearly woozy after that March 10 loss but was interviewed within seconds after the fight's 10th-round stoppage.
Juan Manuel Lopez (AP)Lopez's words were wrong and he had nothing to back up his accusation that Ramirez has a gambling problem. But he'd also recently been concussed and should have been getting medical attention rather than being interviewed.
He returns Saturday to fight Aldimar Santos in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.
"I am very happy to be back and fighting again," Lopez said. "It has been a long time and this layoff has helped me refocus in my career. The rest also helped me to recuperate and to go back to basics and relearn some things I had forgotten."
Lopez is good enough to still be a contender at featherweight, or at super featherweight if he chooses to move up. He'll make for interesting bouts with a number of the top guys.
He's taken a lot of punishment in his career, and particularly in the two losses to Salido. There is a legitimate question how much he has left to give, even at the tender age of 29.
If Lopez can regain his old form, and improve his defense, his return is great news for boxing. He needs to be watched carefully, though, to make sure there are no long-term effects from his many battles.
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