By William Wilczewski
Both are 31 years old and have had their share of wearing minor association title belts around their wastes. Now, both need an impressive performance to get a shot a major title belt. Problem is, only one can come out victorious when Nogales, Sonora, Mexico’s David “The Destroyer” Lopez and Accra, Ghana’s Ossie Duran headline ESPN’s Friday Night Fights card at Desert Diamond Casino near Sahuarita, Ariz. Duran (23-6-2, 9 KOs), who now calls Patterson, N.J., home, had his first big shot in the A-class ring when he laced ‘em against James Kirkland on June 1, 2007. After losing a 10-round unanimous decision, Duran took more than a year off before fighting to a draw with Eromosele Albert in September of the last year. Lopez (37-12, 25 KOs) will be his next test after nearly seven months of inactivity — but he says he’s prepared for it, despite Lopez’s home field advantage.
“I will fight anybody, anywhere, anytime,” he said at Wednesday’s press conference at the Americana Motor Hotel in Nogales, Ariz. “This is going to be a stepping stone for me. A win will put me in the position to fight the bigger guys.”
Duran, however, is not overlooking Lopez in this scheduled 10-round bout.
“We’re not looking past him. That would be a mistake,” said his manager Phil Shevack. “You watch. It’s going to be a hell of a fight, and you can quote me on that.”
Lopez, whose most recent fight was in October of last year (a 12-round unanimous decision victory over Samuel Miller at DDC), is expecting the same.
“I know him very well,” he said through a translator. “He’s tough and he’s going to come to fight. But, I’ve worked harder and trained harder and am better prepared then ever.”
Lopez better hope so after making a transition in his career. In hopes of getting those high-profile fights, Lopez is dropping from the middleweight division (160 pounds) to junior middleweight (154) in this bout.
“This fight will be critical for me to know how my body will react,” he said. “I’m going to prove that I will be at my best at 154. I will do my best … and am expecting an explosive fight.”
Lopez, in his twelfth appearance at DDC, is no stranger to explosive fights. He hasn’t lost one in a while, which was a stunning defeat to Fulgencia Zuniga on Jan. 6, 2005. Since then he’s racked up 13 victories, with seven of them coming by knockout or technical knockout.
In his last 13 fights, Duran has gone 9-3-1, with only three of those victories coming by way of knockout, giving reason for some to question the righty’s power against Lopez, who is a southpaw and is used to heavier opponents. Lopez also has a 4-inch height and 6-inch reach advantage, but may be giving up some speed.
“He’s taller than me, but that doesn’t matter to me,” Duran said. “We’ve got our plans (on his to deal with him). I don’t think it will be that difficult. Regardless, when the bell rings, the games start.
“I respect him. He’s a good fighter,” he added. “But, I’m good, too.”
“I do have a reach advantage, and all that, but it doesn’t matter,” Lopez said. “Whatever kind of fight he brings, I will adapt. I can fight inside and outside, and deal with speed. Adapting is what a good fighter does.”
A good fighter also does his business legally, unlike fellow Mexican Antonio Margarito. Final test results came back recently on the hand wraps Margarito attempted to use before his TKO loss to Shane Mosley on Jan. 24. The test came up positive for sulfur and calcium. Those two substances, when mixed with oxygen, create plaster of Paris. As a result, Margarito was suspended for fighting in California for one year, and most U.S. states are expected to follow suit.
“He did not get a harsh enough punishment,” Lopez said. “He got off easy. Some would say he should be suspended for life.”
“For me, I don’t need that,” he added. “It’s not going to help you. If you can punch, you are born with, and that’s it.”
As for the safety of all the fighters on tonight’s card, “The Arizona State Commission supervisors always walk around and make sure everything is being done legally,” said Golden Boy Promotions Vice President Eric Gomez. “Plus, both these fighters are pros and take their jobs seriously. They have never been reprimanded for doing anything wrong.”
The co-main event of the evening tonight might showcase the most high-profile name of the night when DeMarcus “Chop Chop” Corley (33-10-1, 19KOs) faces Hector “El Flaco” Sanchez (17-0, 8 KOs) in an eight-round welterweight match-up.
Corley, who has been in with some of the best—Zab Judah, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Miguel Cotto and Junior Witter — has shown glimpses of world-class greatness, and at age 34 is hoping Father Time gives him a few more specs of sand to propel his career into the upper echelons once again.
He is coming off of two knockout wins prior to losing a unanimous decision to Randall Bailey in October 2008. On the other hand, Sanchez, 12 years Corley’s junior, has knocked out all three of his last opponents within four rounds.
Also on the undercard …
*2004 Olympian Rock Allen (14-0, 7 KOs) is scheduled to battle Adan Hernandez (14-6, 5 KOs) in an eight-round junior welterweight fight.
*Carlos Velasquez (9-0, 5 KOs), a 2004 Puerto Rican Olympian, will be featured in a four-round junior lightweight event. His opponent has not yet been determined.
*In a six-round junior featherweight bout, Hylon Williams (8-0, 3 KOs), an alternate for the 2008 U.S. Olympic team, faces Derrick Moon (12-26-1, 3 KOs).
*Southern Arizona heavyweight Eric Woods (5-0, 4 KOs) will test himself against Andrae Carthron (0-1-1).
*Karl Dargan (3-0, 1 KO), who won the gold medal in the light welterweight division at the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, will also fight Rudy Valdez (2-3, 1 KO) in the junior welterweight division. The fight is slated for four rounds.
NOTE: Although nothing is scheduled yet, DDC and Golden Boy Promotions officials are saying they have plans for more professional boxing to come to the Diamond Center in the 2009 season.
(Editor’s note : Wilczewski is the assistant editor and former sports editor of the Nogales International in Nogales, Ariz.)