Juan Manuel Lopez was at the height of his professional career on Jan. 23, 2010, after an impressive performance in a seventh-round stoppage of Steven Luevano in a fight for the World Boxing Organization featherweight title in The Theater at Madison Square Garden.
Lopez improved to 28-0 that night and won a world championship in a second weight class. Fans and media were drooling over the possibility of a featherweight unification bout with Yuriorkis Gamboa a few months down the line.
Lopez was included on many pound-for-pound lists and was hailed as one of boxing's next big stars.
But Top Rank chairman Bob Arum, who promotes Lopez, opted to not make a Lopez-Gamboa fight at that stage. He wanted to let the fight build and become more lucrative financially.
It was a risky decision because of the near-miss Lopez had against journeyman Rogers Mtgawa in 2009, when Lopez was struggling to stay on his feet in the waning seconds of the bout.
Waiting is almost always a prudent move for a boxing promoter if the only goal is to max out every single cent. But it's a risk: If either or both fighters lose, it often diminishes the big fight significantly.
After Lopez's win over Luevano, which came on the same card as an impressive Gamboa victory over Rogers Mtagwa, Arum defended not making a Lopez-Gamboa bout in mid-2010 because he wanted to raise both of their profiles and, as a result, make the bout more financially lucrative.
"If I have to wait until 2011, that's what I'll do," Arum said. "I don't want to make this fight too early because then that's taking money out of these kids' pockets."
The fight is now apparently dead forever. Lopez was stopped on Saturday by a brilliant Orlando Salido. Lopez has been stopped by Salido in two of his past three bouts and his status as an elite contender is now very much in question. Worse, Gamboa has moved to featherweight and has many bigger fights ahead of him.
They are two men going in opposite directions.
That simply shows the risk a promoter takes by holding a fight. Arum made the third bout between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez much bigger by not caving to pressure in 2008, after they had met for the second time, to do an immediate rematch.
Golden Boy's Richard Schaefer harangued Arum for not agreeing to make the immediate rematch and sending Pacquiao off in another direction. Most of the boxing media sided with Schaefer.
But Arum was proven right when Pacquiao-Marquez III was a massive hit – both at the box office, where it did an $11.6 million gate, and on pay-per-view, where it sold in excess of 1.4 million units.
He was dead wrong, though, in opting to wait to make Lopez-Gamboa.
There is still a market for Lopez because he's a highly entertaining fighter, but there remains a question as to whether he'll ever be the same fighter after the beatings he absorbed from Salido.
Knowing when to make a fight is one of the trickiest decisions in boxing. Arum is usually among the best at it, as his track record would indicate.
In Lopez's case, however, there is no gray area: Arum not only blew it, he blew it big time.
• Vitali Klitschko, the World Boxing Council heavyweight champion, said he won't fight much longer and plans to enter politics in Ukraine. It's a smart decision if he is true to his word.
• Mikey Garcia was exceptionally impressive on Saturday in a win over Bernabe Concepcion and is moving rapidly toward becoming the class of the featherweight division.
• It's amazing that a man with the talent and accomplishments of middleweight champion Sergio Martinez is relegated to fighting in The Theater at Madison Square Garden instead of in the big arena, where all of the big stars have fought. On Saturday, Martinez will meet Matthew Macklin in a bout televised on HBO.
• Sympathies to the family of ex-light heavyweight champion Julio Gonzalez, who died in an auto accident Saturday in Mexico at 35. Gonzalez was an entertaining fighter and a good guy. I'll never forget his exceptional 2001 bout with Julian Letterlough, one of the best fights of that or any year. He'll be missed.
• Never should a loss cost a fighter too much, particularly if he was involved in a terrific fight. But Miguel Roman was routed by Javier Fortuna in his last outing in December. On Saturday, he'll fight Antonio DeMarco for the WBC lightweight belt. When championship shots are devalued like that, it affects fighters across the board. Give the title shots to those who earn them.
Wrong stance on Lopez interview
Kevin, I almost always enjoy your writing, if not fully agree with it. Not so here.Blaming Jim Gray (and I'm no fan of his, either, incidentally) and Showtime for a standard format that has taken place in the 42 years I've been watching boxing is ridiculous. The post-fight interview is compelling and genuine coverage, when the fighter gets to describe his impressions of the heat of battle with some proximity to it. Who wants a safe and measured, politically correct packaging of a fight at a press conference with handlers all around? This is what is fascinating about the drama of sport. If you feel that interviews are not appropriate to conduct in the ring with a fighter who might be concussed, then this needs to be addressed at the commission level, not with Showtime. They only did what has been a tradition for decades. It seems that if this fighter needed protection from himself, as he did in the ring, then his own corner should know that. It is not the network's purview.
Since you're from Pittsburgh (my hometown), Scott, I'm sure you are familiar with Sidney Crosby's case. Much has been learned in the past 42 years about dealing with concussions. I am not against in-ring interviews. I am against in-ring interviews when a fighter has taken a beating such as Lopez had taken. I agree that Lopez's handlers blew it by allowing him to be interviewed. Fighter safety is a prerequisite and it's going to hurt no one if a fighter like Lopez skips an interview in the interest of safety. That fight stood for itself.
Judging atrocious in Lopez-Salido fight
I strongly disagree with what you wrote about Showtime interviewing Juan Manuel Lopez after he was stopped by Orlando Salido. If Mr. Lopez felt well enough to do the interview, then I don't see an issue with it. What I do have an issue with is the fact that you did not even mention the atrocious score cards that the "official" judges had for that fight. Two judges had Lopez up 86-84 and the third had it 85-85 through nine rounds. Those judges deserve to be blasted. I cannot believe that you don't even care enough about the scorecards that you didn't even mention it. I hope you take up this issue and do a follow-up story on it because I would like to hear the reasoning behind the judges' score cards.
The scoring was idiotic, but it didn't matter since the right guy won by TKO.
Why is judging such a mess?
Who is responsible for the judges and why do we keep getting boxing judges who clearly can't score? It seems they favor fighters who are fighting at home and it appears we get some that are biased against rival races. We've seen these bad calls far too often, including in 2011 with Paul Williams and Erislandy Lara and this year with Tavoris Cloud-Gabriel Campillo and Nonito Donaire-Wilfredo Vazquez Jr.
I agree that there have been an inordinate number of bad calls. I think the crazy amateur scoring system, which is completely different from the professional scoring system, is to blame. Judges aren't getting the work they need at the amateur level to learn the business by the time they get to work pro fights.
What if "Juanma" had a point?
What if what Juan Manuel Lopez said about the referee's son had a small bit of truth? Roberto Ramirez Jr. refereed the first Lopez-Salido fight. Roberto Ramirez Sr. refereed the second one. If the son had a gambling problem, it could put a different light on the subject. Personally, I thought Lopez was out on his feet and had no chance to continue, but just maybe …
If Lopez had evidence of a gambling problem, I would think he'd have presented it by now. The fact that he didn't would suggest he was just frustrated, angry and probably suffering from head trauma.
Lopez appears diminished
Lopez not only took a beating on Saturday, but to my eyes, he looked ponderous, tentative and showed a seriously diminished punch resistance. Based upon what you saw, do you envision him becoming a force in the featherweight division again, or do you feel the two losses to Salido have taken too much out of him?
I hope I am incorrect, but I think Lopez is beginning the inevitable slide. He's taken way too much punishment in his career and I don't think he's the same guy he was a couple of years ago. He'll still win his share of fights, but I don't see him becoming elite any time soon.
"When I look back on it all now, I am really embarrassed. There was nothing premeditated. It was all spontaneous. Something kicked in. It just happened. When I slapped Vitali, I immediately regretted it. I was thinking to myself, 'What did I do that for?' " – heavyweight contender Dereck Chisora, who slapped Klitschko at a weigh-in and got into a wild brawl with David Haye in a postfight news conference.
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- Juan Manuel Lopez
- Yuriorkis Gamboa
- Orlando Salido
- Manny Pacquiao
- Bob Arum
- Vitali Klitschko
- Juan Manuel Marquez