By Jim Dower: Former two division world champion Juan “Juanma” Lopez (35-5, 32 KOs) proved that he has a little left in the tank on Saturday night in defeating former World Boxing Organization 122lb champion Wilfredo Vasquez Jr. (24-7-1, 19 KOs) by an 11th round knockout in a fight on pay-per-view from the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan, Puerto Rico. There was an ugly brawl after the fight involving Lopez and Vasquez’s trainer that needed to be broken up.
The 33-year-old Lopez struggled in the first round rounds, but he can on strong to drop the 32-year-old Vasquez Jr. in the 11th round. The fight was then halted by the referee. The official time of the stoppage was at 1:36 of round 11. Vasquez Jr. was too hurt, and there was no way the fight could have continued on.
Lopez had Vasquez Jr. in his crosshairs from round 5 on, and was nailing him with tremendous right hooks and left hands to the head.
This was Lopez’s first fight since his 3rd round knockout loss to Francisco Vargas in July 2014. Lopez looked rusty, no longer youthful, and slow in the first four rounds of tonight’s fight. Vasquez Jr. was much more on point in nailing Lopez, and controlling the fight with relative ease against the southpaw.
The fight changed in the 5th round when Lopez suddenly hurt Vasquez Jr. with a right hook to the head. Lopez’s power was still top notch, as we saw with that shot. Lopez then began to take the fight to Vasquez Jr. in the subsequent rounds, as he was unloading on him with everything he had. Vasquez Jr. wasn’t ready for that kind of power, and he started to wilt.
Lopez controlled the 6th round with his power shots and pressure.
Vasquez Jr. fought well in the 7th round in landing some nice power shots to the head of Lopez. it was surprising that Lopez was able to take the shots from Vasquez Jr., because he had a history of getting hurt in his fights. Somehow, Lopez was able to take Vasquez Jr’s best shots without dropping for the count. It obviously helped him that Vasquez Jr. was never a tremendous puncher like some of the guys that Lopez had been beaten by in the past like Orlando Salido, Mikey Garcia and Francisco Vargas. the guys that beat Lopez in the past were always fighters with huge punching power. Vasquez Jr. couldn’t come up with the needed power to do a job on Lopez.
As they say, the power is the last thing that goes from an aging fighter, and the 33-year-old Lopez showed that tonight. Lopez’s reflexes looked gone, his speed nowhere near the level he had years ago, but his punching power was still there intact and at his disposal.
Things looked bleak for Lopez after the first 4 rounds tonight, as Vasquez Jr. was schooling him and making him look old and slow. However, Lopez unveiled his punching power in the 5th round, when he caught Vasquez Jr. with a right hook to the head while he was slipping to hurt him. I don’t think Vasquez Jr. ever really recovered from that shot to the head, because he wasn’t the same fighter in the following rounds. Lopez had gone to the emergency button to bring his old punching power, and there was no way that Vasquez Jr. could handle that kind of world class punching power. Vasquez Jr. was never a really great fighter to begin with during the prime of his boxing career. Vasquez Jr. was just a guy that beat a flawed fighter in Marvin Sonsona by a 4th round knockout in 2010 to capture the World Boxing Organization super bantamweight title. Vasquez Jr. held the belt for exactly one year until a past his prime Jorge Arce stopped him in the 12th round in 2011. It’s been downhill for Vasquez Jr. ever since that loss.
The Vasquez Jr. vs. Lopez fight is one that was long overdue, as these guys should have fought each other six years ago when they were still relevant fighters instead of now, when both are clearly over-the-hill fighters. Tonight’s Lopez-Vasquez Jr. fight was little more than a glorified old timer’s fight. As I mentioned earlier, Lopez hadn’t fought in two years, and had lost his last two fights to Jesus Andres Cuellar and Francisco Vargas. For his part, Vasquez Jr. hadn’t fought since since December of 2015, and he too had lost his previous two fights against Rafael Rivera and Francisco Vargas. Vasquez Jr. had lost 4 out of his last 6 fights going into tonight’s fight. That was a pretty clear sign that he was an over-the-hill fighter.
You have to hope that this win for Lopez doesn’t plant ideas into his head ot make him think that he can start facing the relevant fighters in the featherweight or super featherweight divisions, because there’s no way he’s going to be able to compete against the best in the sport at this point in his career. If Lopez does want to try his luck against the best, then he should work his way back slowly by fighting second tier fighters for a year or so before he starts facing the fringe contenders in the division. if Lopez still hasn’t been beaten or discouraged at that point, then he should look to try and get a title shot. It’s so improbable though. Lopez looked terrible tonight. The only reason he won is because Vasquez Jr. was even worse. It would be bad news for Lopez if he tries to face a top level fighter at this point without slowly fighting his way back the way that serious fighters do when they’re trying to make a comeback. If Lopez’s management wants to find other aging fighters that can fight him, then it might not be bad. Look at how Miguel Cotto is able to hang on despite him no longer showing the capability to to beat the top guys any longer. Lopez might be able to hang on for a little while if he’s selectively matched against certain fighters. But you cant throw Lopez in with a top featherweight or super featherweight like Oscar Valdez or Vasyl Lomachenko and expect him to get positive results, because it’s unreasonable to think that would happen.