There was a time when Puerto Rican Juan Manuel “Juanma” Lopez was one of the most feared fighters in the lower divisions. In his first championship fight on June 7, 2008, he easily disposed Daniel Ponce De Leon, then also a feared fighter, in just one round.
That set off a “reign of terror” by Lopez, and among his wins were over Filipinos Gerry Peña-losa, who retired in round 10, and Bernabe Concepcion, who was stopped in two rounds.
Although Lopez was known as a methodical puncher when he climbed into the ring against de Leon, some of his next fights saw him resorting to brawling and he hardly clinched. This was evident in his fight against Mtagwa on October 10, 2009. Also in the Bernabe fight, Lopez was dropped by the Filipino in the first round.
Then on April 16, 2011,Orlando Salido, despite getting black and blue from the power shots of the Puerto Rican, managed to beat the brawling Lopez via a 8th round technical knockout.
After stopping Mike Oliver in the 2nd round in his next fight, Lopez secured a rematch with Salido on March 10, 2012, but was stopped brutally in the 10th round.
Lopez would stop unheralded opponents in this next two fights, but on June 15 this year, he was stopped in the 4th round in his bid for the vacant World Boxing Organization featherweight title by Mikey Garcia, who was overweight for the fight and was not awarded the title.
Although Lopez can still recover from the Garcia fight and be champion again, it is doubtful as to whether he can beat up-and-coming fighters. But one thing is for sure—fight fans will surely want to watch the next fights of Lopez, who still resorted to his old brawling style when he met the highly skilled Garcia.
Once Lopez retires even now, many fight fans will remember him as a truly entertaining and bold fighter who never backed down, even if the tide was turning against him.
So why am I also discussing Guillermo Rigondeaux in this column?
Last week, it was all over boxing websites that HBO is not interested in airing a fight featuring Rigon-deaux, who decisioned Nonito Donaire in their world junior featherweight fight on April 13 this year.
Promoter Bob Arum was quoted that HBO execs would “throw up” when he mentioned featuring Rigondeaux over their network.
What went wrong? HBO must have thought that clinical boxers who do not take much risks were a financial risk to them – or simply put it, Rigondeaux wasn’t a good business investment.
Surprisingly or not surprisingly, HBO is still interested in showcasing Donaire and maybe, Lopez, whose last fight was televised also by HBO.
While many boxing fans would scream “unfair” or “robbery” on HBO’s refusal to give Rigondeaux a televised main event, the reality is that sports is big business. And boxing can be ugly business.
Let’s face it, boxing organizations and promoters cannot operate without making a profit or income, because many other sports—like professional basketball, football, tennis, baseball and what have you —also fiercely compete with boxing in getting the fans’ eyeballs and money. Fight fans (as opposed to boxing fans) are also drawn to mixed martial arts, where “clinchers” and “runners” absolutely have no chance of winning.
And what are sports fans looking for—real action and in the case of boxing, these are the fierce exchanges, knock downs, and knock outs.
So what did Rigondeaux did much in his last fight? Clinch again and again, dance away from Donaire, and put up a “boxing clinic?” Was there an occasion he egged Donaire to a fierce exchange from the first to middle rounds, or chose to infight instead of clinching?
Hell – Donaire did not even resort to clinching after he was hit hard by the Cuban many times in the last round of their fight.
I am not saying that Rigondeaux throw caution to the wind in his next fights, but I ended up admiring Floyd Mayweather when he stood toe-to-toe in his fight Miguel Cotto. Even Muhammad Ali traded blows with George Foreman in the “rumble of the jungle” when he could have jabbed and danced much of the time.
The record of Lopez now stands at 33-3 with an astounding 30 knockouts, but his three losses were also stoppages. On the other hand, Rigondeaux’s record is 12-0 with eight knockouts.
While I highly respect Rigon-deaux for having a brilliant amateur career, he should have realized that professional boxing is more of a money game than a “medal game.” Go ask Lopez.