World champion Juan Manuel Lopez and challenger Rogers Mtagwa pose during the final press conference for their upcoming world championship title fight on Top Rank’s “Island Warriors” – Latin Fury 12 Pay Per View event on Saturday at Madison Square Garden. Also on this doubleheader card, WBA featherweight champion Yuriorkis Gamboa of Cuba will defend his title against challenger Whyber Garcia of Panama. Top Rank promotes this event in association with Arena Box-Promotion and PR Best Boxing.
Photos: Chris Farina-Top Rank
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JUAN MANUEL LOPEZ
He’s a real tough guy and I know he can take a lot of punches. I don’t think it’s going to be an easy fight and I know it is going to be a long fight. There are older guys in boxing that have done a lot, but I know my abilities and I know what I can do and I know I can beat him. People think it will be an easy fight because he has a lot of losses but I will have to work hard to get it.
I think with this guy you have to step away from him a little bit. He’s a little awkward and I have been practicing stepping back a little bit.
If a knockout comes it comes but I don’t go in there looking for it. I just keep working. I would love a first round knockout and if it comes it will be an easy night, but that is not going to happen every night.
My skills have always been there but I don’t get to use them. I have not had someone to push me. I know that better fighters will come along and they will make me fight.
For any Puerto Rican, this is a big site, this is a big venue and this is where you want to be, This is where you want to showcase yourself like Miguel Cotto and Tito Trinidad. I talk to Tito almost every day and he tells how exciting it is to fight in the Garden. It is a very special place to fight.
I am on the road to gaining all the exposure that I need. I just need to keep fighting bigger fights and I feel that we are on the right road.
I’d like to win four titles in four weight divisions, something no Puerto Rican has ever done. That is my goal. I feel like I will go to 126 sooner rather than later.
I started at 21 years old and have been fighting for five years at 122 pounds and now my body is ready to go up.
My idol is and always has been Tito Trinidad. We have become real good friends and he calls me all the time and we talk about everything. He can’t be here because he has something with his daughter but he has been to most of my title fights.
He tells me that the fights are won in the gym and that is what I always try to do. He always tells me about the great experiences he has had at the Garden. I get excited when he talks about the fights he has had here and that is why I am so excited to fight here and follow in his footsteps.
A lot of people are talking about Gamboa, but I don’t think about that. I think about my next fight. Gamboa fight may happen but that is far down the road.
Just by being in the storied building means that I am achieving my goals. I have to win the fights and win convincingly to get to where I want to get…bigger fights and bigger paydays.
(Your opponent has been knocked out a few times…)
You don’t measure a man by how many times he falls, but by how many times he gets up.
It was a big risk for me to leave and take the stuff that I took, leaving not only the boxing team but leaving my country. It just goes on to prove that if I seat a goal I can accomplish it.
We had none of the commodities (in Cuba) that we enjoy here today. My family and my friendships are the things that I miss the most. My family knows every step I take and they are very proud of that. They know what this venue means.
I can feel the energy like it is on my doorstep, but first I have to pass this test on Saturday before I think about what happens next.
There is no one that I have copied a style from. I never really got to see many professional fights in Cuba, just one here or one there. I have just made my own style. Videos circle around the neighborhoods and sometimes tourists bring over tapes.