Call it the lull before the storm. A slew of important fights are headed our way in the coming weeks. The last weekend of October was a coffee break of sorts, a chance to chill out in advance of the deluge. But there was one fight that attracted a lot of eyes and it didn’t disappoint. The “War at El Clemente,” pushed back three weeks by a power outage, was worth the wait, at least for fans of Juan Manuel “Juanma” Lopez (pictured) who showed flashes of his former self while turning away his bitter rival Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. on Saturday at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The contest between the former champions, scheduled for 12 rounds, was contested at the “catchweight” of 129 pounds.
The smart money was on Vazquez (24-6-1 going in) who closed as high as a 3/1 favorite in some precincts. Lopez, coming off a 25-month layoff, was potentially rusty and judged to be more ring damaged. He had been stopped in three of his last four starts. But Juanma upset the odds, stopping his fellow Puerto Rican in the 11th stanza.
Lopez did appear rusty in the early going, but he gradually found his range and turned the tide. Through 10 rounds, he was ahead by two points on two of the scorecards. The other judge had it even. The stoppage came after Lopez rocked with Vazquez with a combination that sent him sprawling into the ropes. One could see that Vazquez was fading and the referee wisely stopped the fight. Lopez then exchanged punches with one of Vazquez’s cornermen, giving the fans a little extra for their money. After security quelled the melee, the two fighters embraced.
Lopez, whose comeback was deemed ill-advised, hushed his detractors while advancing his record to 35-5 (32). He can now look forward to another big payday. Vazquez indicated after the fight that he planned to retire.
OTHER NOTEWORTHY FIGHTS
In Almaty, Kazakhstan, Kanat Islam improved to 22-0 (18) and acquired a minor WBA super welterweight strap with a 12-round unanimous decision over Ghana’s Patrick Allotey. This was Islam’s first fight in Kazakhstan, the homeland of his ancestors. Born and raised in China, the two-time Olympian had fought exclusively as a pro in Latin America and in Florida where he currently resides.
In Gomez Palacio, Durango, Mexico, veteran Christian Mijares (55-8-2), fighting on his home turf, turned away Japanese invader Shohei Kawashima (14-1-2) who wasn’t quite ready to step up in class at this stage of his career. All three judges scored it 115-113. This was the sixth straight win for Mijares after staying the distance with Leo Santa Cruz in a losing effort.