Lopez vs. Vazquez Jr – Juan Manuel “Juanma” Lopez and fellow Puerto Rican Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. tangle on Saturday, Oct. 29 in San Juan Puerto Rico in a battle billed as Guerra En El Clemente. Both are native Puerto Ricans. Both are former world champions who have seen better days.
Carlos Maldonado, President of Black Tiger Promotions, said: “The response from all cable and satellite providers has been phenomenal. This fight promises to be an all-out war in the ring, non-stop action from the opening bell until the end, which could happen at any moment. No hype; these guys really don’t like each other.”
The 32-year-old Wilfredo Vazquez, Jr. is 24-6-1 and has heavy hands—not a good sign for the inactive and chin-challenged Juan Manuel Lopez (34-5), who many believe should not come out of retirement. He has suffered a number of brutal and concussive knockout defeats, but is always dangerous given his own heavy hands. Vazquez, however, has lost six of his last 10 bouts and has not been all that active with his last meaningful win coming against Jonathan Oquendo in October of 2012 — this is the same Oquendo who later beat talented Mexican KO artist Jhonny Gonzalez (58-9 coming in) in 2015.
When Vazquez won the WBO 122-pound championship against Marvin Sonsona in February 2010, he joined his father as the third father-and-son combination to win world championships, the first to do so in the same division and the first son trained by a tri-champion father to win a title. Amazingly — and as perhaps a testament to his blood lines– he also became the first fighter to win a world title without participating in a single amateur contest.
Lopez, now 33, is a former world titleholder in two weight classes and was involved in several ultra-exciting fights, but he has been stopped by Orlando Salido (twice), Mikey Garcia, Francisco Vargas, and Jesus Cuellar. However, his slow but sure decline began when he was barely able to survive against Rogers Mtagwa back in 2009. It was reminiscent of the Joe Mesi-Vassiliy Jirov fight when the winner—Mesi—was damaged more than the loser. Similarly, the beating Lopez endured in the last round had career-altering implications and also exposed him as woefully lacking in defense. As the seconds ticked away, Mtagwa literally ran after Lopez connecting with head snapping shots but time ran out. Lopez won the decision, but had the fight lasted another 20 seconds, the win would have belonged to his opponent. Here it is:
The beating he received in the last round was severe and took its eventual toll, as Juanma would go 7-4 and lose two spine tinglers to Orlando Salido in 2011 and 2012. After two quick wins in 2013 against decent opposition, he was stopped again— this time by undefeated Mikey Garcia in October 2013 who decked him with a right and finished him in the fourth with a left hook to Juanma’s rather prominent jaw.
Juan Manuel had one last hurrah—or so it seemed at the time– against a somewhat shopworn Daniel Ponce De Leon and won a thrilling TKO (his second against De Leon) in which both men hit the deck and in which Lopez would utilize his patented stop-or-be-stopped aggression. This time it worked for him.
At this point people were calling for Juanma (who allegedly was having serious domestic issues) to retire before something bad happened, but against sound advice he duked one last time against hard-hitting Argentinian Jesus Marcelo Andres Cuellar (25-1) and was stalked and slaughtered in two rounds. He retired for 25 months but the prospect of fighting Vazquez enticed him for a number of reasons, especially the fact he genuinely doesn’t like Junior. “Finally this fight has come from many years of trash talk from Vasquez,” Lopez said at a news conference.
Vazquez responds that, “Everybody knows what I think about Juanma Lopez…I’ve never gotten any credit from Juanma…I’ve taken his crap and responded to those comments and now the fight is made. I will show Juanma Lopez that sacrifice defeats talent.”
This all said, the story here is that the warning signs are being ignored and that the risk-reward for Juanma is questionable at best. If he wins, he likely will fight on until he gets sliced and diced. If he loses, he might sustain permanent damage (if he hasn’t already). This is a dangerous fight for Juan Manuel because something happened in the final round against Rogers Mtagwa that found its way into Juanma’s system and it’s still there.
Ted Sares is one of the world’s oldest active power lifters and holds several records. He enjoys writing about boxing and is a member of Ring 4’s Boxing Hall of Fame.
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