One day, hopefully soon, Josesito Lopez is finally going to get his chance.
A chance, that is, to fight a guy who is not far bigger than he is, to face an opponent who is not a murderous puncher, to take a fight where he's clearly the consensus choice to win.
Lopez is a longtime super lightweight who has been brawling with welterweights, super welterweights and some of boxing's nastiest guys over the last year or so because that's just the way he is.
No matter how logical, no matter how much sense it might make, Lopez won't listen to someone tell him he's too small or the opponent's too big.
He's become known as "The Riverside Rocky" for his willingness to not only take on the biggest and the best, but to battle them nose-to-nose as if he were the bigger, badder guy.
He'll fight power-punching Marcos Maidana on Saturday at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., in a welterweight bout that should take about, oh, 20 seconds to turn into a slugfest.
Maidana is one of the biggest punchers in the game and has 30 knockouts in 36 fights as a testament to his power.
But after facing burgeoning superstar Canelo Alvarez at 154 pounds the last time out, meeting Maidana at welterweight will seem like a breeze by comparison.
"You know what, I wouldn't say the move to 154 was a great decision, but I have no regrets on taking that fight," Lopez, a native of Riverside, Calif., said on a conference call. "I fought one of the best fighters out there. I lost ... but it helped me. I think that moving up from 154 has probably helped me mold a little bit better to 147, so now I feel a little bit better and feel more comfortable at 147."
Lopez (30-5, 18 KOs) is what would best be described as a boxer/puncher. He doesn't have the lethal kind of power that intimidates opponents, and he's not a straight brawler.
He loves nothing more than a good fight, however, and, as he proved in a stunning upset of Victor Ortiz a year ago, he can't be underestimated.
Maidana would love it if Lopez stood in the pocket and traded. And much like his nickname namesake, Rocky Balboa, there is a part of Lopez that can't resist that kind of crowd-pleasing battle.
No matter how good a man's chin may be, though, it's almost impossible to survive on one's feet if Maidana lands his good stuff cleanly. Trust, then, that Lopez will choose when to brawl carefully.
"You know what, I'm not a straight boxer so I'm not going to say I'm going to go in there and just box around in circles and work around him, but I'm definitely picking my spots," Lopez said. "Like I said, the smarter fighter is going to win, and I'm going to pick when I want to bang."
Maidana has reeled off back-to-back knockout victories, including a sensational eighth-round stoppage following a pitched battle with Jesus Soto-Karass on Sept. 15, and is looking to erase the bad memories of his welterweight debut last year.
He moved to 147 to face Devon Alexander on Feb. 25, 2012, and could do next to nothing. Alexander is a slick boxer whose first goal is not to hit but to avoid being hit. Maidana wound up swinging at air much of the night and was all but shut out.
Maidana hooked up with trainer Robert Garcia after that fight, and a year-plus with Garcia will do wonders for any man's boxing game.
That said, Maidana knows the significance of a victory on Saturday. A win over Lopez will keep his dream alive to fight the bigger names in and around the welterweight division. He even dares to dream of a bout one day with Floyd Mayweather Jr.
He's not going to get one, though, unless he handles Lopez. And so, despite the fact that Lopez enters the bout with losses to Alvarez and Jessie Vargas sandwiched around the win over Ortiz, Maidana insists he's prepared for Lopez as if Lopez were the second coming.
"I feel it's going to be a tough fight," Maidana said. "You're right, he went up to fight Canelo. He had no business in that division, so I think that at 147 it's more his weight class and it's going to be a tough fight. I know he's a very good fighter. It's going to be a tough fight. He's going to be stronger at this weight class, so I've got a very, very difficult fight, but I'm going to do whatever it takes to win, and I've been preparing myself to win. It's going to be a tough fight, but I've got to look good and I've got to win."
If Lopez wins, though, well, it just puts him back into that old, familiar spot: Fighting the uphill fight against the biggest, baddest men the welterweight division has to offer.
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- Marcos Maidana
- Josesito Lopez