Photos by Sumio Yamada
VICTOR ORTIZ vs JOSESITO LOPEZ
When the Victor Ortiz-Andre Berto rematch was scrapped due to Berto failing a drugs test, Josesito Lopez willingly stepped into the breach to save the show, and he deserves all the credit in the world for so doing. Lopez is, though, moving up in weight to face the toughest fight of his career as he takes on “Vicious” Victor for the WBC Silver welterweight title. If Lopez pulls off the upset it will be a huge achievement. Even if Lopez loses in a competitive fight, it will be a moral victory for the 27-year-old from Riverside, CA.
While this fight isn’t as compelling as Ortiz-Berto II, it should be highly entertaining, given the styles of the two fighters, and the crowd at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and viewers watching on Showtime in the U.S. and Sky Sports in the U.K. have an excellent night of boxing ahead of them.
Backing up Ortiz vs Lopez we have the intriguing Humberto Soto vs Lucas Matthysse fight in the co-feature, and rising junior middleweight Jermell Charlo will be facing his stiffest test in a 10-rounder against Denis Douglin (Charlo vs Douglin will be televised on Showtime Extreme).
Ortiz is scheduled to meet Saul Alvarez in a junior middleweight title fight in Las Vegas in September but sensibly says that he isn’t even thinking about Alvarez at the moment, that all his thoughts are focused on Lopez, which is as it should be.
Lopez is tough, gritty, competent and definitely crowd-pleasing. Three of his four losses were on split or majority decisions. Lopez pulled off what was considered a slight upset at the time when he overpowered Mike Dallas Jr. in the seventh round, ending Dallas’s unbeaten run. Cut over the left eye after a clash of heads in the opening round — a nasty-looking, vertical slice — Lopez just kept coming and kept fighting, and broke Dallas’s will as much as anything.
In his last fight, Lopez gave a fine performance against the undefeated betting favourite Jesse Vargas, losing by split decision. Lopez was often chasing and bullying the more stylish Vargas, but Vargas did some classy scoring and I thought the fight could have gone either way — I would have had it a draw, but Lopez was deducted a point for a low blow, giving Vargas a one-point win on my card.
On Saturday, though, Lopez is moving up seven pounds in weight to face a very good puncher. While Ortiz has boxed most of his career as a junior welterweight he looked powerful in his first bout at 147 pounds when he outpointed Andre Berto in a thrilling fight that saw each man down twice. We all know that Ortiz’s fourth-round KO defeat against Floyd Mayweather Jr. was rather bizarre, with Ortiz looking at the referee and getting clocked with his hands down. The easy-going Ortiz shrugged off that defeat as just one of those things, and I know there were many people in the business who thought that Ortiz was far too casual about the whole thing, but when Ortiz really digs in and starts to fight at the level at which he is capable of fighting he brings impressive firepower from out of his southpaw stance.
While Ortiz was criticised for surrendering against Marcos Maidana, I never held that too much against him. He was looking beaten up — he had an ugly swelling under his left eye and was cut over the right eye — and he had just been knocked down, there were six rounds to go and I think Ortiz knew it wasn’t his night. Thus, why go on? If one is going to be harsh about it, yes, Ortiz quit that night, but he had good reason, I believe, for bailing out. That was three years ago and Ortiz is now a more mature fighter: I think that Ortiz demonstrated a fighter’s heart and a fighter’s instincts to everyone’s satisfaction in the rousing victory over Berto.
I think that Ortiz was draining himself a bit to make junior welter when he boxed a draw with Lamont Peterson, which I think is why he eased up and boxed conservatively after scoring two early knockdowns. Ortiz looked big and strong at 147 pounds when he fought Berto, and he was actually a middleweight in the ring that night — his fight-night weight was 161 pounds on the HBO unofficial scales.
While I respect Lopez as an authentic fighter, I see him as being a little out of his depth in this all-California fight. Ortiz looks the bigger, stronger, more skilled fighter and much the harder puncher. Ortiz can hurt a man from both sides — he is dangerous with the compact, southpaw right hook, the right uppercut or the left hand through the middle.
I do expect a great effort from Lopez. I fully expect him to test Ortiz. For me, though, Ortiz just has too many advantages in the fight.
Wagering specific preview available for subscribers, plus Matthysse vs Soto, Williamson vs Grano, Ramos vs Esquivias, Charlo vs Douglin and more.