By Boxing Bob Newman
Former 4-belt undefeated world champion Ricardo “Finito” Lopez inspired the attendees at the 88th WBA convention in Medellin, Colombia this afternoon with his life story. A slide show of Finito’s life in pictures and music was first shown to the crowd, after which, the champion took the microphone…
He went on to describe his visit to a boxing gym as a child and begging his father Magdeleno to be a boxer. “I was taken by the sights and sounds of this guy hitting the speed bag,” explained Lopez, mimicking the rapid fire sound of the bag culminating with a final “POW!” He started at seven years of age practicing in the family’s jewelry shop in Mexico City. His father bought him his first gloves, while his mother wasn’t happy with his decision to be a fighter. “She told me 99% of fighters end up with no money, brain damaged and without their friends.” I told her, “Mom, I could be different.” Lopez was later inspired, as scads of other boxers have no doubt been, by the movie “Rocky,” taking up the raw egg regimen made famous in the film. He also extolled the virtues of another role model, Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Lopez then explained his key to success in a word he learned- DISCIPLINE. “Discipline,” explained Lopez, “has three parts – dedication, responsibility and consistency.” That M.O. helped Lopez win the Golden Gloves in Mexico, but he opted out of an Olympic campaign, as he was told, “It only wins you medals, not money.” Early in his pro career, Lopez was visited in his dressing room after a fight by then legendary reigning champion Julio Cesar Chavez. “You can really fight!,” chimed Chavez. “I’m going to tell Don King about you.”
Eventually, Lopez traveled to Tokyo, Japan to face reining WBC strawweight champion Hideyuki Ohashi. As he was leaving the airport in Mexico bound for Tokyo, he noticed no members of the press were on hand to see him off. He found out later that he was deemed a sacrificial lamb for the tough Ohashi. He was advised to “Just go make your money,” and not be too concerned with actually winning the title. Upon arriving in Japan, Lopez felt great pressure. “I cried for I don’t know how long. My mother had passed away and I missed her. My father hadn’t arrived yet. My original trainer couldn’t travel with me because he was eighty years old. I felt very alone in this country.” At the weigh-ins, Lopez met Ohashi for the first time. At the time, this took place on fight day. After shaking hands, Lopez admitted shaking as he walked away. “It’s true, I was scared!” Afterwards in his hotel room, he prayed for a safe outcome for himself and Ohashi and went to the arena. At this point, the lights dimmed, as Lopez exclaimed, “Let’s not talk about it, let’s see what happened.” The convention attendees were then treated to history in the making as hilights of his title winning effort we played to a round of applause. “As I returned to the airport in Mexico, it was full of Mexican press! I was a champion of the world. But now I had to retain the title.”
Lopez explained he had to battle two enemies as a reigning champion, “the flatterer and the critic.” The flatterer, weakens you and you rest on your laurels if you listen long enough. The critic tries to make you believe your achievements were a stroke of luck.”
A highlight reel of Lopez’ defenses was then shown, punctuated by footage of his 2007 induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. “I never knew I would achieve all of this.” “Happiness is not being at the top of the mountain, it’s enjoying the climb, the work that gets you there.” Despite all his success in the ring, Lopez feels he is still on a path to happiness. “My work is not done. I go to hospitals to visit sick children. I talk against drug addiction.” Lopez credited the WBA for the organization’s K.O. Drugs program of the last twenty years.
In his presentation, moved on this his epic unification fight against WBA counterpart Rosendo Alvarez in Mexico City. By his own admission, Lopez was on top of the world, the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world. His ego had gotten to him. In the second round, Lopez was caught with a titanic right hand and dropped for the first time in his career. Making echoing sounds, Lopez explained how badly he was hurt. Relying on his instincts Lopez survived, only to be further damaged by Alvarez’ head, suffering severe cuts to his eyes and forehead. The fight was stopped in the eighth due to the cuts and ended in a technical draw. The Mexican press crucified him, “If this is the best fighter in the world, who is the worst?” “I went back home and watched the tape of the fight. During the national anthem, I realized that I was thinking about how I was the best fighter in the world, instead of my normal routine of going through the fight plans. That was my downfall.” After viewing hilights of that fight as well as the rematch, which Lopez won on a split decision, Lopez closed with his analysis of his path traveled and that which he has yet to travel.
“My father has old fashioned ideas. He was always first to criticize me. He said ‘Men never cry.’ We often argued.” After reading George Barnard Shaw’s “Pigmalion,” Lopez found the line he had wanted to tell his father. “The man who changes his actions, grows, the man who doesn’t is a failure.” My father told me, “Two things, it’s easier for me to stay the same than to change. Secondly, tell Mr. Shaw to go f*ck his mother!” Laughter rocks the hall.
Lopez decided to retire after he noticed his reaction time was slowing, but his faculties intact. “I saved money from the ring for my family. I didn’t want to be a great champion in a psychiatric hospital.”
At the end of his talk, Lopez took questions from the audience regarding his endeavors now, trying to help drug addicts, sick children. Ricardo Lopez does boxing color commentary in Mexico and one day hopes to finish his degree in university. He finished his career in the ring with a stellar record of 51-0-1, 38 KOs.