By Dan Ambrose: Former two division world champion Juan Manuel Lopez (35-5, 32 KOs) came out of retirement last Saturday night to beat former WBO super bantamweight champion Wilfredo Vasquez Jr. (24-7-1, 19 KOs) by an 11th round knockout at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The 33-year-old Lopez did not impress despite getting the knockout. He looked like a guy that no longer has it beating another fighter that was clearly over-the-hill in 32-year-old Vasquez Jr. Instead of going back into retirement, Lopez now is reportedly interested in fighting former two division world champion Orlando Salido or former three division champion Abner Mares.
Those two are still very relevant in boxing, and it likely wouldn’t be a competitive fight if either of them were to fight Lopez at this point. Lopez was already knocked out twice by Salido in 2011 and 2012. When a fighter has been knocked out TWICE by another fighter, it’s difficult to justify a third fight when there’s no reason for the two of them to face each other.
If Lopez was a world champion and Salido a challenger, then it would make sense for the two of them to face each other, because it part of the sport. But for a highly ranked fighter like Salido at super featherweight to go backwards with his career to fight a guy just coming out of retirement, it makes no sense at all. Salido already knocked Lopez out twice, and I don’t think there’s any reason for a third fight unless Lopez can work his way to the top of the super featherweight division for the two of them to face each other again.
Mares (29-201, 15 KOs) is challenging for a title against World Boxing Association featherweight champion Jesus Andres Cuellar (28-1, 21 KOs) on December 10 at the USC Galen Center in Los Angeles, California. There’s a very good chance that Mares will lose that fight. Maybe if he gets beaten badly enough, Mares might want to fight a guy like Lopez.
After all, it would be Mares’ second straight defeat if he gets beaten by Cuellar. Mares was beaten in his last fight in August of last year by Leo Santa Cruz by a 12 round majority decision. However, I doubt Mares would want to fight Juan Manuel Lopez unless he’s beating actual contenders and showing that he’s a still relevant fighter. Defeating an inactive fighter like Wilfredo Vasquez Jr. doesn’t count, because he isn’t a contender. Vasquez Jr. is just a fighter that had lost 3 out of his last 4 fights going into his match against Lopez last Saturday night.
The buildup to the Lopez vs. Vasquez Jr. fight was better than the actual fight. The fight looked like a match between two guys that no longer had their boxing skills intact. It looked like two aging fighters that were no longer sharp like they’d been six years ago. However, the featherweight and super bantamweight divisions division has improved greatly since these guys were in their primes, and it’s highly unlikely that either of them would be a factor even if they were at their best.
You can’t throw a guy like Lopez in the ring with Oscar Valdez and expect good things to happen to Lopez. The same goes if you were to put a prime Lopez in with Gary Russell Jr., Carl Frampton, Jesus Cuellar or Lee Selby. Lopez was just a guy that held titles during a weaker period for the super bantamweight and featherweight divisions.
After Lopez knocked out Vasquez Jr. with a flurry of punches in the 11th round last Saturday night, Lopez got into it with one of Vasquez Jr’s trainer’s. It looked like Lopez initiated the altercation by running up and pushing the trainer. This led to the trainer hitting Lopez with several blows to the head before the two of them were separated.
There appeared to be no bad blood between Lopez and Vasquez Jr. though after the fight. It’s unclear why Lopez went after the trainer. Perhaps he was still excited and not thinking calmly after getting the win. For Lopez, it was his first victory in two years since beating Daniel Ponce De Leon by a 2nd round knockout in March of 2014. Lopez had been knocked out in his two fights after that by Francisco Vargas and Jesus Cuellar.
Lopez didn’t look any better against Vasquez Jr. than he did in getting stopped by Vargas and Cuellar. If anything, Lopez looked worse at this point, because he’d been out of the ring for two years. Lopez had the look for a fighter that had lost a lot of weight to get down to the super featherweight limit for the fight against Vasquez Jr. Lopez had the size advantage over Vasquez Jr. , who had never fought at featherweight like he had. You could tell the size difference between the two fighters when they were inside the ring last Saturday night. Lopez looked considerably bigger than Vasquez Jr. and he used that size to win the fight.
Vasquez Jr. fought well in the first quarter of the fight, but Lopez’s punching power was the difference from the 5th round on. Lopez was able to land left hands over and over again to get the better of Vasquez. Those left hand shots wore Vasquez Jr. down gradually until the 11th round, when Lopez finally finished him off. Lopez began to have problems with his left eye in the second half of the contest. Vasquez Jr. got caught into a war with Lopez and that was not his type of fight.