If many had left Juan Manuel Lopez’s career for dead after he suffered two knockout losses to Orlando Salido in featherweight world title fights during a three-fight stretch in 2011 and 2012, then pretty much everyone else kicked dirt on it when Mikey Garcia destroyed him in a fourth-round knockout in another title fight 13 months ago.
But Lopez, a southpaw with outstanding power, resurrected his career by knocking out former titleholder Daniel Ponce De Leon in the second round of their rematch at junior lightweight on March 15.
Puerto Rico’s Lopez, who has won world titles at junior featherweight and featherweight, is looking to put another strong victory in the bank to push himself toward a title shot in a third weight class when he faces Francisco Vargas of Mexico in a scheduled 10-round junior lightweight bout on the Canelo Alvarez-Erislandy Lara undercard Saturday night (Showtime PPV, 9 ET) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
I felt very good. I felt very happy, Lopez said through a translator about the win over Ponce De Leon. Unfortunately, you’re only as good as your last fight, and I was coming off a loss to Mikey Garcia, so a lot of people didn’t give me the opportunity. But I didn’t listen to them. I didn’t listen to any of them.
I only listened to my team. And we knew what we had to do and, obviously, we came out with a spectacular victory. And that’s what we look forward to doing this coming fight too.
Said Golden Boy promoter Oscar De La Hoya (whose brother, Joel, manages Vargas): In his last fight, Juanma Lopez showed everybody what it means to be a warrior, what it means to be a true fighter, because he fought with his heart and he showed everybody what he’s made of.
On paper, Lopez-Vargas looks like a 50-50 fight and just might be the most action-packed bout on the pay-per-view. A win would boost the winner’s title prospects considerably.
It’s the prospect of winning a world title in a third weight class that drives the 31-year-old Lopez (34-3, 31 KOs).
I’m very motivated to put on a great performance, a great fight, and obviously looking forward to winning the world title again, to being a three-time champion, Lopez said. Winning this fight will put me there, so that’s where the focus is.
My goal is to become world champion again. I’m very proud of what Miguel [Cotto] has done [by winning the middleweight title on June 7]. He gave Puerto Rico a title. And I’m looking forward to doing the same. But for me to do that I have to beat Francisco Vargas, and that’s where my goal is right now, that’s where my focus is, on Francisco Vargas and to beating him.
Vargas (19-0-1, 13 KOs), 29, who was a 2008 Mexican Olympian, has scored two notable victories in a row, both 10-round decisions against Jerry Belmontes in December and Abner Cotto in March.
He’s also looking for a victory Saturday to propel him into a possible world title bout.
I’m very motivated. I know he has tremendous experience and I know that he’s a great fighter, Vargas said through a translator. But that’s what we’re working on. We’re working with the sparring partners, working very hard, because I know a victory here will get me ready for the world title, and that’s what we want.