Josesito Lopez was never supposed to be here. At best, he was supposed to be in the stands watching the Mexican Independence weekend class he’s now center stage in. At worst, he was supposed to be at home or at the bar watching on television. Lopez (30-4 , 18 KOs) had other plans.
Pegged as a stepping stone for Victor Ortiz, Lopez threw a wrench into an Alvarez-Ortiz fight, stopping Ortiz in round 9 of their June bout to claim the vacant WBC Silver Welterweight strap after Ortiz suffered a broken jaw.
Now, for the second time in less than three months, Lopez attempts to climb another mountain. This time, his opponent is the rising star and undefeated WBC light middleweight champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (40-0-1, 29 KOs).
Like the Ortiz fight, Lopez has no shortage of motivation.
“My motivation for this fight is that I’m fighting the best,” Lopez said on a recent conference call. “I’m fighting the best in the division I field. I’m fighting the champion. He’s undefeated. That’s my motivation.”
Lopez is the underdog in the fight – and some may argue rightfully so. In addition, to facing the undefeated Alvarez, Lopez is moving up in weight to meet Canelo at 154-pounds. For Lopez, there’s no pressure to win. That’s just the way he likes it.
“The more people don’t believe in me, probably the better for me. I think that that makes victory that much sweeter, motivation that much bigger. That’s really what pushes me.”
To compensate for Alvarez’ size, the Lopez camp brought in some heavier fighters. But while boxing pundits and fans may be focusing on the weight disadvantage, Lopez says he isn’t focused on bulking up for the title tilt.
“We’re not really focusing on weight too much, which is completely different. We’re focusing on weight more of maintaining weight really, ’cause throughout these intense workouts it’s natural to start losing some weight.”
Lopez offers no predictions on the fight, and depending on your view of him and who you think wins the bout, the humility is either an indication that Lopez knows he’s outgunned or a sign of true humility. But if you believe Lopez is planning to phone in a performance think again. When notified that Alvarez was potentially looking at a mega-bout with fellow undefeated fighter Floyd Mayweather, Lopez offered his most boastful statement during the call.
“I really hope there are no plans,” he said, “But if there are, I’m going to try to ruin those plans.
Boxing needs its stars – and it needed them yesterday. With the Klitschko’s lording over the heavyweight division hostage overseas and Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao entering the twilight of their careers, a victory for Alvarez is one more step towards super stardom. At just 21, his record rivals that of fighters twice his age.
Conventional wisdom for building a male celebrity is that guys have to want to be them and women have to want to be with them. Fresh off a dominant performance against Shane Mosley, its clear Canelo can box. As for the look, he has no trouble with the ladies.
The clear favorite, Canelo almost talks like he’s the underdog.
“[Lopez is] a very smart fighter,” Canelo said in praise of his opponent. “He’s a good fighter, very smart. He’s got very, very good combinations so I think he’s a very good fighter. And no, I’m never overconfident. I’ve prepared very well. I never, any fighters are going to be an easy fight. I’m not overconfident and I’m well prepared for this fight.”
Preparation is a must as the pressure mounts. Alvarez was the co-headliner in the Mosley bout. This time, it is he that takes center stage for the first time in the Fight Capital of the World. His gargantuan likeness occupies a side of the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, a space usually reserved for Mayweather and Pacquiao when they roll through town. In spite of the growing celebrity, Canelo says it’s all about the fight.
“I’m just thinking about this fight,” he said calmly. “I have to fight Josesito and obviously there’s always a lot of rumors, people talking, but I’m just thinking about Josesito.”