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Josesito Lopez: “I must make Saul Alvarez fight my fight”

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By Jason Gonzalez


A month before Josesito Lopez’s 28th birthday, Lopez, 30-4, (18) with one no-contest, stepped into the ring as a huge underdog against Victor Ortiz. Conventional wisdom suggested Ortiz would dispose of Lopez (a late replacement for Andre Berto) within five rounds but apparently Lopez didn’t get the memo. Lopez would cancel out Ortiz from playoff contention after fracturing his jaw, stopping him between the ninth and 10th rounds. With the victory, Lopez earned the right to stand in the opposite corner from Mexican rising star Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. Lopez, a Mexican-American of Riverside, California, gloves up for battle against Alvarez on September 15 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The championship showdown will be televised on Showtime. Much like the first time around, Lopez is coming into the contest as an unexpected supporting actor.
 
“I had a big opportunity on June 23rd (the date of Lopez’s fight with Ortiz) and I have an even bigger opportunity on September 15th,” said Lopez, who some regard as a modern day Rocky Balboa. “We jumped at the opportunity to take this fight. We are going to take full advantage and we are ready to shock the world one more time.”

With the exception of the bout with Ortiz (at 147), the 5’9½” Lopez has fought his entire career more or less around the junior welterweight limit of 140 pounds. That said, if Lopez intends to prove that lightning can indeed strike twice, it will be at the heaviest weight (154) of his chosen profession. But whether or not Lopez stays at junior middleweight or is one and done remains to be seen.
 
“There aren’t any plans to do anything after this fight just yet,” said Lopez who challenges for Alvarez’s WBC title. “What I can tell you is that this fight, fighting at 154, will help mold me into a full-fledged welterweight if we do decide to move back down. We are working a lot on our strength and conditioning. We are making sure that our energy levels are up. Everyone thinks that I am the smaller guy but I am taller than him. I am 5’10” and I was fighting at 140. Making 140 was very difficult.”
 
You can surmise that Lopez’s days at 140 are officially over. 90% of the time when fighters go into training camp, part of their exercise regimen is devoted to losing weight. Lopez doesn’t have that problem, which should narrow his worries down to just one. Lopez’s concern now should be winning the scrap. But even though dieting may be a non-issue now, strategically, it may be to Lopez’s advantage to know of an ideal weight range in which he hopes to tip the scales on the afternoon of September 14. The same concept applies on fight night. With rehydrating permissible the day of the bout, how much will Lopez weigh when he steps into the squared circle?
 
“Honestly, we have no idea what we are going to weigh at the weigh-in,” said Lopez. “It will be the weight that we are most comfortable. We want to feel strong, as well as maintain our speed and weight safely. As far as what that will look like as a number, I couldn’t tell you. It will probably be whatever we are weighing the week of the fight. As far as fight night goes, it’s the same thing. I don’t know what we will weigh going into the ring.”
 
Weight is merely half of the equation whenever a fighter moves up a division. There are many components that factor in. Part of Lopez’s job description is being able to take a punch - which he has shown - even at 147 pounds. But as Lopez prepares for his junior middleweight debut, whether his chin can hold up resonates in the minds of fight fans. In the sake of leveling the playing field, would Lopez’s people be out of line if they required that Alvarez weigh a specific contractual weight the night of the fight? And if the rules aren’t followed, then fines will be doled out. The masses say no.
 
“Well, that’s the idea, for my chin to hold up,” said Lopez, regarding fighting larger foes. “For this fight, I have been sparring with guys from middleweight all the way up to light heavyweight. I have always done this in the past but this time around, the mission has changed. On September 15, I expect to be in the ring with a guy that is going to weigh 170 pounds. I want to be able to adapt to whatever is thrown my way.”
 
Now elaborating on the penalties revolving around the issues of weight the night of the 15th, “I have no idea,” he would say. “I don’t get into those details. I guess I will learn more about it in the upcoming weeks. It isn’t really a concern of mine. I just want to give my all in the ring.”
 
As the Mexican Independence Day showdown rapidly approaches, there is one thing Lopez is taking from his victory over Ortiz and applying now. Lopez is tattooing into his mental psyche that he will not fall into the trap of heading into the bout with Alvarez with any negative, preconceived notions about his counterpart. Lopez admits the only similarity between Alvarez and Ortiz is that they are strong and big punchers. Judging from the nature and the tone of the interview, it suggests to expect anything and everything from Lopez. You can anticipate Lopez stacking up on extra ammunition in case he has to reload.
 
“Every fight is different,” acknowledged Lopez, while alluding to the fact that it’s better to be prepared and not have to use it, as opposed to needing it and not having it. “Every fighter is different. ‘Canelo’ is a better fighter than Victor [Ortiz]. ‘Canelo’ fights at a measured pace. Once he gets in his comfort zone, people end up fighting his fight and he always looks good in doing so. ‘Canelo’ can apply pressure at all times during the fight. He is a very smart fighter. But I am expecting a tough fight; I am expecting anything and everything to be thrown at me the night of the 15th. We have yet to see ‘Canelo’ really tested. We have yet to see ‘Canelo’ overcome adversity. But does that mean that he can’t do it? There isn’t one definitive answer to that. We just have to wait and see. My job is to prepare to the best of my capability and give a good showing because he can fight a tough fight and win a tough fight [as he did against Shane Mosley]. I must make ‘Canelo’ fight my fight.”
 
Revisiting the topic of negative, pre-conceived notions, it is imperative that we expand on it. Clearly, Lopez isn’t buying into it but the public believes Alvarez may be overlooking Lopez for reasons stemming from Lopez being too small all the way to him possibly giving everything he had against Ortiz. As if this argument wasn’t sufficient, there is the prospect of a mega-duel with pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr. But as to why Lopez isn’t buying into it is simple.
 
“‘Canelo’ is a really smart fighter,” Lopez said of his undefeated rival whose record reads 40-0-1 (29). “‘Canelo’ is much more mature than his age would indicate. I don’t suspect ‘Canelo’ to think that I am in over my head against him. ‘Canelo’ is mentally and physically prepared for a very tough fight. He knows that he cannot make a mistake.”
 
It is evident that regardless of bonuses being offered (Oscar De la Hoya offered 100K for the best knockout of the evening) as well as other fights [Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. vs. Sergio Martinez] being televised simultaneously, Alvarez still remains the top priority of choice. Lopez is eating, breathing and sleeping Alvarez, fully knowing that any blooper can and would give his combatant the upper hand.
 
“I am not thinking about the 100 grand at all,” said Lopez of the monetary incentive. “Don’t get me wrong; a 100,000 is a nice piece of change that we would love to walk away with but it’s not that important. As much as we would like to come back home with the bonus, getting the win far outweighs any of that stuff. In my dealings in the past, the knockouts come when you are not looking for them.”
 
Well, what’s his take on Chavez Jr. vs. Martinez? Will there be an attempt to pack on more pounds under the pretense that the “upset wheel” keeps spinning?
 
“With the two cards happening at the same time, just down the road from each other, is great for boxing,” said Lopez. “As a boxing fan, it’s real exciting but for me, I could care less. I am focused on the opponent in front of me.”
 
A victory for Lopez will cement him as a major player in the 147 and 154-pound divisions and will most certainly open the doors for bigger paydays. However, it’s going to be much harder to catch the bigger names snoozing or off guard.
 
Showtime will air a documentary about the lives of Lopez and Alvarez as their September 15 match-up draws near. “All Access” debuts on September 5 at 10 p.m., ET/PT.
 
Jay Gon’s Tidbits
 
-  Lopez is single and does not have any kids.
 
-  As mentioned before, Lopez is Mexican-American and was born in California.
 
-  Lopez is bilingual and speaks Spanish fluently. As he described it, “My Spanish is better than my English.”
 
-  Lopez owns a nine-year-old pit bull named J.J.
 
-  Lopez is a huge fan of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Lakers. Lopez loved the acquisitions of Albert Pujols and Zack Greinke to the Angels. As for Dwight Howard and Steve Nash going to the Lakers, “I am so excited!” exclaimed Lopez. “That is an NBA Finals match-up with the Miami Heat waiting to happen. This year we will get by Oklahoma City.”
 
-  Lopez loves all genres of music. His favorites range from Banda music to hip-hop to Justin Bieber.
 
-  Contrary to popular belief, Lopez is not a fan of video games. Lopez said he could play video games for about a half-hour before he gets fed up. “Once I am fed up, I will lock up the video game system in the closet for months before I even think of looking at it again.”
 
-  Lopez’s family is full of diehard Oakland Raiders fans.
 
Questions and comments can be sent to “Jay Gon” at jg51593n@pace.edu. You can also visit him atwww.facebook.com/jason.gonzalez39 and follow him at www.twitter.com/jaygon15

 



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