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Feature Story

Juanma ready to defend

WBO featherweight champion Juan Manuel “Juanma” Lopez (28-0, 25 KO’s) is set to defend his title against Filipino Bernabe Concepcion (30-2-1, 17 KOs) on July 10 in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico, live on SHOWTIME at 9 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the west coast). The 12-round world title fight is promoted by Top Rank Inc. Lopez, The former WBO super-bantamweight champion, knows Concepcion will be one of the fastest fighters he’s ever faced. “I’ve seen Bernabe Concepcion fight several times and I’ve really studied his style. I know he’s working with Manny Pacquiao – they work with the same people. He’s a very strong fighter. He’s a young fighter – a hungry fighter. He really wants to be a world champion. He’s a difficult opponent. He’s a very intelligent fighter, so we need to be very intelligent, too. We need to fight him with a lot of pressure and a lot of speed – we need to be very fast that night.”

In what should prove to be an equally entertaining co-feature bout, Nonito Donaire (23-1, 15 KOs) will battle Hernan Marquez (25-1, 18 KOs) for the interim WBA super flyweight championship. Donaire is currently ranked in the top five on several publications’ pound-for-pound lists and is the former IBF world flyweight and IBO world flyweight champion.

Lopez, who will be making the first defense of his second world title, made the move up to featherweight in his last fight, a January TKO win over Steven Luevano at Madison Square Garden in New York, and is currently on the longest layoff of his five-year pro career. Luevano was the third world champion Lopez has fought and vanquished in his last seven fights.

Luevano is the only common opponent between Lopez and Concepcion with Concepcion losing to him by disqualification in the seventh round in August, 2009.

On June 7, 2008, Lopez defeated Daniel Ponce de León by technical knockout to win his first title – the WBO super bantamweight championship. He defended the title five times until Jan. 23, 2010, vacating it after defeating Luevano for the organization’s featherweight championship.

Against Lopez, Concepcion will face the biggest puncher he’s ever encountered. The 22-year-old began his pro career at 110 pounds before settling into the super-bantamweight division in 2005. He later moved up to 126 pounds in 2009.

In his last fight in February of this year, he won a 10-round unanimous decision over Mario Santiago in Las Vegas. Before that, against Luevano, Concepcion blatantly belted the defending WBO featherweight champ with an after-the-bell shot at the end of the seventh round earning him the disqualification.

In preparation for his 12-round co-feature bout against Marquez, Donaire will be looking to drop close to 10 pounds to get down to the 115-pound limit. The “Filipino Flash” has been sparring with heavier fighters like Glenn Gonzales and Luevano.

Donaire, 27, won the interim WBA super flyweight title in August 2009, and has made one successful defense. He is unbeaten in world title bouts. Marquez is just 21 and goes by the nickname “Tyson” because as an amateur his father said he hit as hard as Mike Tyson.

Gus Johnson will call the action with Al Bernstein serving as expert analyst and Jim Gray as the ringside reporter. The executive producer is David Dinkins Jr., with Ray Smaltz producing and Bob Dunphy directing.

For information on all SHOWTIME Sports telecasts, including exclusive behind-the-scenes video and photo galleries from its events, please visit the website at http://www.sports.sho.com.




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