Forgotten Legends: Jose Luis Lopez

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By: Steve Gallegos

During the mid to late 1990’s, Mexican legend Julio Cesar Chavez’ star was beginning to decline. Many up and coming Mexican fighters were eager to fill that void as Mexico’s next great champion. Fighters like Marco Antonio Barerra, Erik Morales and Juan Manuel Marquez were among the fighters of this class, however there was another fighter from Mexico who made a name for himself in his own right and set himself apart from the others. His name was Jose LuisMaestritoLopez.

Lopez wasn’t your typical Mexican fighter. Outside the ring, he was a surfer and motorcycle enthusiast who even rode his motorcycle across Europe. Inside the ring he was an attacker. A straight forward puncher who had the power to turn things around at anytime in any fight. Jose Luis Lopez was born and raised in Durango, Mexico and began boxing at a very young age. His father, Jose Luis Lopez Sr was a former fighter himself and his son followed in his footsteps, turning professional at age 15.

He would go 36-3-1 with 27 KO’s from 1989-1996. He was facing relatively obscure opposition, mostly in his native Mexico. His resume was good enough to land him a world title shot against Irishman Eamonn Loughran. They met on 04/13/96 in Liverpool in the United Kingdom and it was for the WBO Welterweight Championship.

The champion Loughran, hand picked Lopez as an opponent, thinking it would be an easy title defense. He would then find out that Lopez was far being an easy opponent. Lopez showed his tremendous punching power, dropping Loughran three times en route to a first round KO. Jose Luis Lopez was now a world champion and the boxing world began to take notice.

Lopez would make the first defense of his title six months later against hard hitting and future world champion Yory Boy Campas. Campas had only lost one fight in 65 bouts and many thought he would be too stiff of a challenge for Lopez. “Maestrito” broke Campas down with his hard body punching and would score a huge fifth round TKO. Although he had successfully defended his title, Lopez would be stripped of his title after testing positive for Marijuana.

Being stripped of his title didn’t have any negative effect on his career and he was starting to gain some national exposure. 1997 was a big year for Lopez as he started off the year in impressive fashion, making his USA Tuesday Night Fight’s debut with a sixth round TKO over former world champion Jorge Vaca. Three months later he would make his HBO debut, winning a 10 round majority decision over former world champion Aaron Davis, which was an exciting, entertaining bout. These two big wins put Lopez back into another contention for another world title, this time against Ike Quartey.

They met on 10/17/97 at the Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Mashantucket, CT and it was for the WBA Welterweight Championship. The “Bazooka” Quartey came out using his piston like jab to keep Lopez at bay. In the second round, Lopez landed a big right hand that shook Quartey up and caused his gloves to touch the canvas which was ruled a knockdown. Quartey recoverd and continued to stay on the outside, using his jab to keep Lopez at bay. Lopez had a difficult time throughout the bout as he wasn’t able to get inside on Quartey and his punch output was very low as well.

Lopez, however showed why he should never be counted out as he dropped Quartey again in the 11th round. Quartey was able to get up, however he was hurt and Lopez turned up the pressure, closing the fight in impressive fashion. When the judges scorecards were read, Quartey was awarded a majority decision, however one of the scorecards were added up incorrectly; therefore the decision was changed to a draw.

Jose Luis Lopez‘ stock was at an all time high and he was one of three fighters in line to challenge welterweight champion Oscar De La Hoya for a huge payday. Lopez would win his next three bouts, all by KO and it would setup another crack at the WBA Welterweight Championship, this time against James Page.

They met on 12/05/98 at Atlantic City Convention Center in Atlantic City, NJ. Page like Lopez was a huge power puncher and he predicted prior to the bout that he would stop Lopez within four rounds. As was the case with many other fighters, Lopez once again proved he was no pushover as he fought a spirited fight for 12 rounds in which he knocked Page down twice and hurt him during many exchanges.

As was the case with Quartey, Lopez wasn’t able to finish his man off when he had him hurt and the end result would be a 12 round unanimous decision win for James Page. It was pretty much the end of the road for Jose Luis Lopez as a serious contender. He wouldn’t fight again for two years and he would go 8-1 with five KO’s as he fought off and on from 2000-2010.

His record as a professional stands at 51-5-2 with 39 KO’s. He was a unique and special kind of fighter that was dangerous the entire time he was in the ring. What would have happened had he been able to finish off his opponents in his two biggest fights? Would he have been able to challenge the likes of Felix Trinidad and Oscar De La Hoya. Instead, he was a good fighter who was just a punch or two shy of become great.

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Forgotten Legends: Freddie Norwood

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By: Steve Gallegos

During his heyday, nobody brought the heat better than “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler. He fought with an aggressive, take no prisoners kind of style that made for some classic battles. Anyone synonymous with Marvin Hagler had to be a special fighter and that was the case with former featherweight champion FreddieLil HaglerNorwood. Norwood was similar to Hagler in many ways. He sported a shaven skull and inside the ring he was a southpaw who was an offensive machine. He loved to come forward and put together hard combinations to the body and head without much fear of what was coming in return.

Norwood was born and raised in Saint Louis, MO which has a well known legacy for boxing as it produced three heavyweight champions in Sonny Liston and the Spinks brothers, Michael and Leon. Norwood would turn pro in August of 1989 and would go 26-0-1 with 18 KO’s over the next eight years, which included a win over future, long time super bantamweight champion Vuyani Bungu. It was in 1997 that the boxing public began to take notice of Norwood. On 07/13/97, Norwood would make his national debut on CBS, taking on tough and rugged journeyman Darryl Pinckney. It would be one of the last bouts fought on CBS in the 1990’s. Prior to the bout, the legendary trainer and commentator Gil Clancy highly praised Norwood and felt he should be in line for a world title.

Inside the ring, Norwood dominated Pinckney in spectacular fashion as he won a 10 round unanimous decision. During the post fight interview, he called out Vuyani Bungu, who was a super bantamweight titleholder at the time. Norwood would follow this performance up with another exciting performance over Agapito “Cyclone” just one month later. He then called out another Jr. featherweight champion in Junior Jones. The major titleholders at 122 and 126 lbs weren’t responding to the challenges called out by Norwood, however he would finally get a shot at a world title when he faced former super bantamweight titleholder Antonio Cermeno.

They met on 04/03/98 at the Coliseo Ruben Rodriguez in Bayamon, Puerto Rico and it was for the WBA featherweight championship. Norwood dominated Cermeno from start to finish as he won a lopsided unanimous decision. After nine long years, Freddie Norwood was finally a world champion. He would make his first defense of the title just two months later on ABC’s Wide World of Sports as he would dismantle very tough Nicuraguan challenger Genaro Rios in eight rounds. After the KO victory, Norwood began calling out “Prince” Naseem Hamed, saying “Come on Princess, let’s fight”. Hamed didn’t answer the call, so Norwood continued to fight on as he successfully defended his title four times over the next year.

Norwood would then make his HBO debut in 1999 as he took on future Hall of Famer Juan Manuel Marquez of Mexico. They met on 09/11/99 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, NV. On paper, this fight was guaranteed to be a barn burner, however it was far from it. The fight was a rough, ugly “stinker” in which neither fighter really got anything going. The end result was a controversial, unanimous decision win for Norwood. “Lil Hagler” bounced back at the start of the new millenium with two impressive defenses of his title over unbeaten challengers Takashi Koshimoto and Julio Pablo Chacon.

On 09/09/00, Norwood took on Derrick “Smoke” Gainer on a big Pay Per View card at the New Orleans Arena in New Orleans, LA. Norwood was unable to make the contracted weight for the bout and it was one of the first times that a title was lost on the scales. Inside the ring, the fight was an all action slugfest that had just about everything from knockdowns to low blows. The referee Paul Sita made some unusual calls as he administered counts for low blows as well as counting during an instance when both men went to the canvas while tying each other up. Norwood would lose by 11th round TKO in unusual fashion as Gainer put Norwood down with a series of low blows after Norwood hit him with a series of low blows.

After this bout, Norwood began having legal troubles outside the ring as he was arrested and charged with both kidnapping and assault. He would remain out of boxing for six years and would make a comeback in 2006 going 5-3 from 2006-2011. His record as a professional stands at 43-4-1 with 23 KO’s. Who knows what could have happened in those six years he was away from the ring. Could he have bounced back and won more world titles and faced off with the likes of Marco Antonio Barerra, Erik Morales and Manny Pacquiao? Instead all we are left with is the memories of a very tough and skillfull fighter who didn’t live up to his full potential.

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Boxing’s Future: Looking Ahead to a New Era

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By: Steve Gallegos

After watching Sergey Kovalev’s dominant performance against Bernard Hopkins on 11/08/14, it is clear that boxing is transitioning into a new era and new blood is emerging onto the scene. For the better half of the last decade, the sport has been dominated by the likes of Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao as well as others like Bernard Hopkins, Juan Manuel Marquez and the “Brothers” Klitschko, who have contributed greatly to the sport. While the majority of these fighters are still fighting today, it won’t be long until these pugilistic icons ride off into the sunset and eventually claim their spots in Canastota, NY along side the many great fighters that have preceeded them.

With the sport of Mixed Martial Arts rising to prominence in the mid-2000’s, many mainstream sports critics and “fairweather” boxing fans began to write the death sentence for boxing and the obituaries continue to be written to this day. However, boxing is still alive and well and more so than you might believe. Sure the politics between managers and promoters have hurt the sport as well as alphabet sanctioning bodies creating “Super”,”Interim”, “Regular”, and “Silver” titles, etc. Despite all of this, boxing remains in good shape and it will remain that way for years to come.

The cold war between Top Rank and Golden Boy has finally come to an end, providing opportunities for intriguing match ups in which the best are starting to face the best. While the mainstream boxing public is still starving for a super bout between Mayweather and Pacquiao (Which I still believe will never happen), we still have a lot to look forward to and a lot to be excited about.

Once the Mayweather-Pacquiao era comes to an end, we have some great fighters that will succeed them. We have exciting power punchers like Gennady Golovkin and Sergey Kovalev who provide fans with fireworks anytime they fight and a superfight between the two sometime down the road can be one of the most intriguing matchups of this era. Fighters like Keith “One Time” Thurman, Danny Garcia, Shawn Porter and please forgive me, Adrien “The Problem” Broner will continue to provide thrills for boxing fans.

Canelo Alvarez is becoming boxing’s biggest star and he’s beginning to occupy the position that Oscar De La Hoya once had as boxing’s “Golden Boy”, whether he likes it or not. Then there are boxing’s little big men in the lower weight divisions who probably won’t get the shine or money they deserve. These fighters include Guillermo Rigondeaux, Leo Santa Cruz, Juan Francisco Estrada, and Roman Gonzalez.

So the sport of boxing looks to be in good shape heading into the new era; however you never know what will happen next as boxing is the “Theater Of The Unexpected”. As Lennox Lewis said over 10 years ago, “Let the next era begin”.

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