Bob Arum, who promotes both sides, says, “There’s two ways to look at it: one, obviously if he wins, it’s tremendous. Two, if he doesn’t win but it’s a great fight, it’s also very good for him because there’s guys he can fight. The only way if it’s not good for him is he gets blown out. So you gotta understand; a loss is something he can deal with and still be prominent if he loses in the right way.”
It wasn’t too long ago when Top Rank was grooming him to replace Miguel Cotto as the signature Puerto Rican boxer. “We had more than another Cotto,” stated Arum. “We had more like a Felix Trinidad, who is much more fan-friendly than Cotto.”
Puerto Rico has a long and proud boxing heritage. Per capita, it’s probably as good as any region in the world but there is a vacuum that currently exists. At the moment, the island only boasts one major world champion, Rocky Martinez, the WBO 130-pound beltholder. With Cotto heading into the twilight of his storied career, “JuanMa” understands this dynamic.
“Without a doubt,” he states, “everyone wants to see this fight. They want to see what I can do. Get that championship back to Puerto Rico and this is a great boxing country. So yeah, I want to give them something to cheer about.”
Lopez has that fighter’s belief in himself.
“I believe I’m far from done; I think that I will prove that. We’ve gone through a lot of hard work the past few months and I think my body has been able to respond. I feel good about everything we’ve done. Without a doubt - and I know a lot of people think I’m finished - but believe me; I’m far from finished.”
He says of his younger foe, “I know he’s a good boxer. He’s going to be a world champion. He’s very good; no question about it. But I also believe that they think it’s an easy fight. They are not appreciating me for what I can do in the ring and I’m going to make them pay for that.”
Given Lopez has always been a come-forward, fan-friendly fighter and that Garcia thrives when the action is brought to him, at the very least, we should get an entertaining scrap. The question is, just how competitive will it actually be? “I think it’s a very hard fight for both of us. I think it’s a tough fight for me, a tough fight for him,” Lopez says. “I think in the first half of the fight, he might establish something with his rhythm with the way he fights, him staying away. But this is a second-half fight.
“I think the second half will be my fight. I’ll do everything I can and believe me when I tell you; if there’s going to be a knockout - he’s getting knocked out. He’s not knocking me out.”
And with that, a career will be reborn and rehabilitated. It’s not like Lopez’s career hasn’t been productive or memorable. He’s won major world titles, been in several wars and made good coin but you get the sense that more was expected from him up to this point. But a victory on Saturday night can right a lot of wrongs.
“I think I’ve had a successful career,” he says. “Like any other career, it’s had its ups and downs. I think I’ve had some good success but I still believe that I have a lot left and I still have more accomplishments in the future.”
So how did a fight between a Mexican-American from Southern California and a Puerto Rican end up in Dallas, Texas?
Arum explains, “Mark Cuban (owner of the Dallas Mavericks) wanted a boxing show. We figured we would try. We’re doing very well with tickets. We’re over $200,000 [in sales] right now and we’ll probably be over $300,000. I mean, Texas is very fan-friendly.”
The arena is scaled for around 8,000 for this promotion.
Great news for boxing fans in Los Angeles, it looks like the Forum - recently purchased by Madison Square Garden - will be hosting boxing once again as it reopen its doors next year. And it looks like they’ll be opening in conjunction with Top Rank.
“We have very good relations with the Madison Square Garden and we have had conversations with them about doing events at the Theater in the Garden and also at the Forum here in L.A. So yeah, I think so; I really believe, economically, it would work. The parking is great; it’s a good venue; the sightlines are wonderful and it doesn’t have [luxury] boxes, luxury suits. We don’t need them for boxing.”
THE NEXT ROUND
Here’s the latest edition of “The Next Round” with Gabe Montoya and Yours Truly:
The season finale of ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights” on August 16th looks to be a fun event at U.S Cellular Field (home of the Chicago White Sox) and it will see a light heavyweight tilt between Gabe Campillo and Andrzej Fonfara and a heavyweight rematch between Artur Szpilka and Mike Mollo...Top Rank officially announced the signing of Japanese middleweight gold medalist Ryota Murata, who will help their expansion into Asia. Murata is expected to make his pro debut later this summer...Ahmad Bradshaw could be a good fit for the Colts...Just when you thought (Tim) “TebowMania” was over...