RingTV.com caught up to Josesito Lopez of Riverside, Calif., who will be involved in the biggest fight of his life against unbeaten junior middleweight titleholder Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in a Showtime-televised clash on Sept. 15 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Lopez (30-4, 18 knockouts) already is coming off the most significant win of his career, an upset, ninth-round TKO over former welterweight titleholder Victor Ortiz (29-4-2, 22 KOs) on June 23.
Lopez vanquished Ortiz at The Staples Center in Los Angeles, breaking his right jaw. As part of an operation tostablize Ortiz’s injury, the fighter’s mouth was wired shut and both a metal plate and screws have been inserted.
But Lopez will be making his 154-pound debut against Alvarez (40-0-1, 19 KOs), having fought at a career-high 144 and three-quarters pounds against Ortiz when he entered a clash weighing more than 140 pounds for only the eighth time as a professional.
Alvarez, meanwhile, will be making the fifth defense of his WBC belt against Lopez as part of a doubleheader that will open with WBC featherweight beltholder Jhonny Gonzalez (52-7, 45 KOs) pursuing his 13th straight win and his 12th knockout during that run in his fifth defense against former 122-pound titleholder Daniel Ponce de Leon (43-4, 35 KOs).
Alvarez is coming off the fourth defense of his belt against ex-titleholder Sugar Shane Mosley, whom he defeated by unanimous decision in May. In vanquishing Mosley, Alvarez ended a winning streak of 21 consecutive bouts against fighters of Mexican decent.
An under-sized and overwhelming underdog heading into the bout with Alvarez, Lopez was chosen over other 154-pound considerations such as IBF beltholder Cornelius Bundrage, WBA “regular” titleholder Austin Trout, hammer-fisted southpaw James Kirkland. and former welterweight beltholder Carlos Quintana.
During this interview with RingTV.com, however, Lopez reminisced about his win over Ortiz and appeared to relish in his renewed role as underdog against Alvarez.
RingTV.com: How has your life changed?
Josesito Lopez: I’ve gotten more attention than I’ve ever gotten in my life. That’s something that’s a little different. But for the most part, it’s been positive. I’ve gotten a lot of love and I appreciate that.
It makes me work even harder. That’s something that’s going to push me forward. It’s definitely something where there are people who have believed in me, possibly more than I have even believed in myself.
That’s definitely something that makes me want to work harder to become stronger and faster and better and to be the person that people believe that I can be and that they want me to be.
RingTV.com: Did you believe that you were as far down as the three judges had you — by one, three and five points?
JL: At about the time where the fight was stopped, I really thought that there were a few close rounds. But any close round, that’s automatically going to go to Victor Ortiz on the judges’ cards.
That’s how it works for an underdog, definitely. So any close round is definitely a Victor Ortiz round, so, to me in my eyes, I was down by at least a point going into the ninth and final round.
Or going into the 10th round. But I’m very critical of myself. I’ve only watched the fight once, but I still see errors and mistakes that I made during the fight. It sucks.
I hate watching myself make mistakes, and then I especially go over them during training. But I had myself down by a point, and I had to go push harder. I was ready to go the rest of the way.
So I was surprised when the fight was stopped. I really didn’t know what was going on for a few seconds. But I’ve only watched the fight once, so I didn’t get to hear everything exactly.
But I know that the announcers made the fight really exciting, which was the impression I got when I watched the fight the next day.
They made it exciting. The fight itself was a lot more exciting than I remember it. It’s not that exciting getting punched, but everything was good.
I definitely felt like, going in, it was anybody’s fight. It was a close fight to me and it would have been really interesting to see what the last few rounds would have been like.
RingTV.com: Have you had any contact with Ortiz since the fight?
JL: No, I have not. I don’t wish bad upon anybody. We’re enemies inside the ring but outside of the ring, I can be anybody’s friend. It doesn’t matter.
It’s a business and this is what I do. But I’m a nice guy. Outside of the ring, I don’t hate anybody and nothing gets to me. So I sent Victor Ortiz a “get-well soon” Tweet, actually. I wish him the best.
I know that he definitely wasn’t satisfied with the outcome. But I would definitely be happy to do it again. Victor Ortiz gave me the opportunity, so I would be happy to do the same thing for him. I would be happy to do it again.
RingTV.com: Given the physical nature of the fight, do you feel that you are healthy enough to go right back into training for Alvarez on Sept. 15?
JL: I just started training again on Monday and getting back into the gym. I’m perfectly fine right now. It definitely looked a lot worse than it actually was. I actually healed up perfectly fine.
Within a week, I was all healed up. What sucks about my body and my face is that I mark up really, really easily. I tend to get red and to swell up a little bit.
But that’s just me, and there’s really nothing that I can do about it. So I guess as far as the fight, it looked a lot worse than it actually was.
Even though he did connect with some good punches and we did go to war, it really was not that bad. I healed up quite fast and I’m ready to go with whatever comes up next.
RingTV.com: Did it help your power not to have to suck down to 140 as you did in the past, and what is your walking around weight?
JL: It made a difference. You know what? I definitely have to work really, really hard to get down to 140 pounds, because I’m a taller junior welterweight.
I have to really work hard to get there. I have to burn a little muscle just to get down to the 140 division. So it made a big difference.
Throughout the training camp, I was able to push a lot harder the entire time. But it makes a big difference. I’m a big guy. I walk around heavy.
I go all the way up to 160 or 165 after a big fight, so I walk around that way at all times. When I’m in training, a lot of times, it goes down.
RingTV.com: So did you think you would be at a big disadvantage in weight against Ortiz?
JL: A lot of people think that the weight advantage means power. But there is a reason why we took the Ortiz fight. We thought that we could beat him when a lot of people didn’t.
People think that the weight advantage was a big advantage for Victor Ortiz. Looking at it, it might have seemed that way.
But the punching power that somebody has has nothing to do with the size of the arms or the size of the upper body.
It’s about putting the right punches together, and if you do that, you can hit as hard and seem as strong as any body builder out there. That, to me, wasn’t even an issue.
RingTV.com: Do you believe that people are making too big of a deal in your rising in weight to face Alvarez?
JL: Going up to 154 to face Canelo, obviously, that’s going to be an issue in most people’s heads. But as long as I have faith in myself, I can get stronger. Remember, I don’t have to worry about my weight.
And I’m a big, tall guy. I’m not to worried. I mean it’s good for people to question my ability to go up to 154. I mean, I understand it. But only I know. I don’t blame anybody for questioning that.
Their reasons for doing that are obvious. I’ve been fighting at 140 for most of my career. But the people in my camp and the people who know me, the members of my team, they know my potential.
They know that the weight is the least of issues in my situation. The talent that Canelo has is a far bigger issue than his weight.
RingTV.com: Will Alvarez be the most talented fighter you will have faced?
JL: Well, he’s young, he’s somebody who wants it. He’s tough and he’s gritty and he will try to grind you down. He’s just a tough, good fighter.
But just like we saw things that we knew we could be effective against in Victor Ortiz, we see the same thing with Canelo. We definitely see things that we can work on that will allow us to be effective against Canelo.
I think that just being a smart overall fighter can be very, very beneficial for us when we get in there to fight Canelo.
RingTV.com: Being that you were chosen from among guys that others say Alvarez should have fought, such as Lara, Kirkland and guys like that, what are your thoughts when people question why he chose what they perceive to be an easy, smaller opponent such as yourself?
JL: You know what? To a certain extent, I understand it. It’s understandable. I was an underdog against Victor Ortiz, and I’m probably even more of an underdog against Canelo. Being a bigger underdog against Canelo, that’s understandable.
On paper, this looks like it’s going to be a walk in the park for Canelo. But if you’ve seen me fight, and you know the training that I go through for a fight like this — especially one of this magnitude — then you’ll know that Canelo is in for a fight.
I mean, he’s in for a real fight. I know that going into this, there are only a handful of people who believe in me. But those are the same handful of people that believed in me before I fought Victor Ortiz. Those are the only handful of people that I really need to believe in me.
As long as I have that group behind me, I’m going to go in there with the same belief in myself that I had when I faced Victor Ortiz. Victor Ortiz is a fighter who was supposed to blow me out of the ring a couple of weeks ago.
But I shocked everyone. And I’m going to shock everyone again. This 140-pounder is going to give Canelo Alvarez the fight of his life.
Photos by Naoki Fukuda
Photo by Tom Hogan, Hogan Photos, Golden Boy Promotions
Lem Satterfield can be reached at [email protected]