Forgotten Legends: Ricardo Lopez

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By: Steve Gallegos

In the sport of boxing, it is very difficult to be dominant and remain dominant. To retire unbeaten is a great accomplishment in itself. Former heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano retired with an unbeaten record of 49-0 and Floyd Mayweather is very close to matching or breaking that record. There was however another fighter who has already accomplished that feat that many have forgotten about. That fighter was Ricardo Lopez. Nicknamed “El Finito” which means “The Finisher“.

Lopez truly lived up to his moniker as he was probably the most dominant champion during the 1990’s as he dominated the smallest weight class in boxing; the Strawweight division. He was a devastating power puncher with a finesse left uppercut. Lopez was born in Cuernavaca, MX and he had an outstanding amateur career in which he did not lose a bout, going 39-0. He would turn pro in 1985 at the age of 20 and would go on a hot streak, going 26-0 with 19 KO’s over the next five years.

He would get his first crack at a world title when he met Hideyuki Ohashi of Japan. They met on 10/05/90 at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan and it was for the WBC Strawweight Championship. Lopez dominated from the opening bell and would win the title via fifth round TKO. He was now a world champion and it was the start of one of the most dominant reigns in boxing history.

He would successfully defend his title nine times over then next three years, seven by KO. Hungry for national exposure, Lopez would sign with promoter Don King in 1994 and he began fighting on major cards in the U.S. 1996 would be a big year for Lopez as he began to appear regularly on Showtime televised cards, scoring 4 big knockout wins. Two of those knockouts made Showtime Championship Boxing’s top 10 knockouts of 1996.

Talks began for a major fight with Light Flyweight champion Michael Carbajal, however the fight never came to fruition. Instead Lopez decided to unify the 105 lb division and would score an impressive fifth round TKO over Alex Sanchez at Madison Square Garden to claim the WBO Minimumweight Title in August of 1997. It would be in his 48th bout that Lopez would experience the only blemish on his record when he met WBA Minimumweight champion Rosendo Alvarez of Nicaragua.

They met on 03/07/98 in front of a huge crowd at the Plaza De Toros in Mexico City, Mexico and it was the co-feature for the huge Super Lightweight clash between the legendary Julio Cesar Chavez vs fellow forgotten legend Miguel Angel Gonzalez. Alvarez came in with an unbeaten record of 24-0 and would prove to be a tough challenge for Lopez. In the second, Alvarez would land a hard straight right hand that put Lopez down for the first time in his career. Lopez would get up off the canvas and weather Alvarez’s relentless pressure to make it out of the round.

The fight would turn into an exciting back and forth war over the next five rounds. Showtime commentator Bobby Czyz said that the fight was a 105 lb version of Leonard vs Hearns. In round seven, both men collided heads, causing a huge cut over Lopez’s right eye. Due to the WBC rule, the uncut fighter gets deducted a point when a headbutt occurs, therefore Alvarez would lose a point.

In between rounds, the fight would be stopped by the ringside doctor, causing the fight to go to the scorecards. One judge had the fight scored 67-64 for Lopez. Another judge had it scored 68-63 for Alvarez and the final judge had it scored 66-66, making the fight a technical draw. The difference maker in this bout was the point deduction in the seventh round for Alvarez. It was an unpopular decision and the fans began throwing debris into the ring. It was a disappointing end to a great fight and it was the toughest test of Ricardo Lopez’s career. A rematch was inevitable and Lopez and Alvarez would meet again eight months later in Las Vegas.

Alvarez was not able to make the contracted weight of 105 lbs and would lose his title on the scales in what was one of the first times that a title was lost on the scales. The fight would still take place and Lopez would exact revenge on Alvarez, winning a 12 round split decision, claiming his third world title. With nothing more to prove in the Strawweight division, Lopez would move up to the Light Flyweight division and 11 months later would claim the IBF title with a 12 round unanimous decision over Will Grigsby.

He would successfully defend his title twice over the next two years and would then call it a career. His record as a professional stands at 51-0-1 with 38 KO’s, having never been defeated as an amateur or professional. He remains tied with Joe Louis for the most successful title defenses without a loss at 26. Lopez would be inducted into the International Boxing Hall Of Fame in Canastota, NY in 2007.

What would it have been like had he fought some of the elite in the smaller weight classes such as Michael Carbajal, Johnny Tapia or Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson and did his loyalty to promoter Don King prevent these bouts from happening? Did the fact that he fought in the smallest weight class prevent him from getting the notoriety that he deserved. In the end it was the most dominant career in boxing that the world has forgotten about.

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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: Jesus Chavez

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By: Steve Gallegos

The life of a prize fighter has many up’s and downs. There is the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, as well as the chance that they may not come out of the ring the same as they came in. One fighter who can say they have experienced all of these was former Jr. Lightweight and Lightweight champion JesusEl MatadorChavez.

Chavez was an all action, come forward, aggressive fighter who most of the time was never in a bad fight as he mixed it up with some of the best in his division during the late 90’s and 2000’s. Chavez was born in Chihuahua, Mexico and was later raised in Chicago, IL. At age 16, Chavez decided to take part in an armed robbery and by doing so, he spent four years in prison and was deported back to Mexico. He would then come back to the United States illegally and resided in Austin, TX where he would begin his boxing career.

Chavez turned pro in August of 1994 and would go 22-1 over the next four years and would claim the NABF Jr. Lightweight title in the process. 1997 would be a big year for Chavez as he began to get some national exposure. In August of 1997, He scored an impressive fifth round TKO over Wilfredo Negron on USA’s Tuesday Night Fights and he would follow it up three months later with another impressive TKO win over former world champion Troy Dorsey, on the Lennox Lewis vs Andrew Golota Pay Per View undercard.

He was being handled by Main Events and the future couldn’t have looked more brighter; however he would suffer a huge setback. In late 1997, Chavez was once again deported back to Mexico and it would have a huge effect on his boxing career over the next three years. While living in Mexico, Chavez would continue to fight as he would go 10-0 from 1998-2000. His story and popularity as a fighter encouraged many sports writers and politicians to lobby for Chavez to receive a Visa. One of those politiicans who backed Chavez was then Texas Govenor and future U.S. President George W. Bush.

Finally after being away from the U.S. for three years, Chavez was granted a Visa to work and live in the United States. Upon his return to the U.S., he would go 3-0 and would earn a shot at a world title against super featherweight champion Floyd Mayweather. They met on 11/10/01 in San Francisco for the WBC super featherweight title. Chavez fought a spirited effort and took it to Mayweather for 9 rounds until his corner threw in the towel after the 9th. Despite the disappointing loss, Chavez continued to fight on and after winning his next four bouts, he was back in line for another title shot as he faced the very tough Sirimongkol Singwancha of Thailand.

They met on 08/15/03 at the Convention Center in Austin, TX and it was for the WBC super featherweight title. Chavez didn’t disappoint his hometown fans as he won a convincing 12 round unanimous decision. He was now a world champion. His reign however was a short one as he would lose his title six months later to Mexican legend Erik Morales.

As he did against Mayweather, Chavez fought a spirited fight as he rocked Morales early and looked very close to taking him out. He also showed a lot of heart and guts in this fight as he was dropped twice in the second round and rose to his feet and fought hard. He also suffered both shoulder and knee injuries during the bout and fought most of the bout while injured.

The injuries would sideline Chavez for 15 months and he returned to the ring on 05/28/05 as he fought an entertaining brawl with former champion Carlos Hernandez on the undercard of Julio Cesar Chavez’s farewell bout in Los Angeles, CA. This win would put Chavez back in line for another title shot against lightweight champion Leavander Johnson. They met on 09/17/05 at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas for the IBF lightweight title.

The bout was one of three bouts on a big HBO Pay Per View co headlined by Marco Antonio Barerra and Shane Mosley. Chavez came out throwing bombs from the opening bell. Johnson, who was a slick boxer puncher, wasn’t able to weather the onslaught brought by Chavez. “El Matador” pummelled Johnson for 11 rounds before referee Tony Weeks stopped the bout. Many observers at ringside felt that the bout should have been stopped sooner. In either case, Jesus Chavez was once again a world champion, however there was very little to celebrate.

After Leavander Johnson went back to his dressing room, he collapsed and was rushed to the hospital where he had emergency surgery for swelling and bleeding on the brain. After being placed in a coma, Johnson died 5 days later. When a fighter dies inside the ring, it can also leave a huge crushing burden on the other fighter and most times that fighter doesn’t recover mentally. Despite the tragedy, the family of Leavander Johnson encouraged Jesus Chavez to continue fighting.

The tragedy would sideline Chavez for 17 months. He returned to the ring on 02/03/07 when he made his first defense of his title against Julio Diaz. Chavez would go down in the third round from the result of a knee injury and was counted out. He clearly was not the same fighter that he was before. It was pretty much the end of the road at the top for Jesus Chavez. He would go 2-4 from 2008-2010 as he became more of a gatekeeper in the lightweight division.

His record as a professional stands at 44-8 with 30 KO’s. He faced tremendous obstacles in and out of the ring and he was able to overcome most of those obstacles, except for the tragedy of the Leavander Johnson fight. Would his already stellar career have been longer and more successful had that tragedy in Las Vegas not have happened? Like many fighters in the Forgotten Legends” series, we are left with the recurring question “What If?”

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