Lopez more mature than he looks
FIGHT NIGHT CLUB: THE FACTS
What: Fight Night Club, a monthly boxing series featuring rising prospects at Club Nokia in downtown Los Angeles
Who: The featured young fighters hail from Southern California and beyond and all of them have the potential to be successful.
When: The premiere show is this Thursday, June 11.
TV/Internet: The card will be televised on Versus and streamed live on RingTV.com and yahoo.com/sports. The first fight begins at 6 p.m. PT / 9 p.m. ET.
Future shows: July 30, Aug. 27 and Sept. 24 at Club Nokia, which is adjacent to Staples Center.
Ricky Lopez could easily pass for a high school freshman, and the former amateur standout from Denver, Colo. knows it.
Lopez, who makes his California debut on Thursday’s “Fight Night Club” show at downtown L.A.’s Club Nokia, has come to accept his baby face.
“I get it all the time,” Lopez (3-0, 2 KOs) said of being mistaken for a teenager.
The 22-year-old junior featherweight prospect says he doesn’t mind as long as fans aren’t commenting on the way he fights.
“I was the youngest boxer ever (16) to participate in the Olympic Trials (for the 2004 Games),” said Lopez, who compiled an 89-9 record during a stellar amateur career that included 10 national titles in the ‘junior’ and ‘under-19’ classes. “I was always rated in the top-three of USA Boxing’s 119-pound division rankings as a teen. I’m used to being ‘the kid’ but I don’t fight like a kid.”
He certainly doesn’t act like a kid. At age 15 he made a very mature decision when he asked his father if his good friend from the amateur circuit, Victor Ortiz, could move in with their family.
Ortiz, a highly-rated junior welterweight who was the prospect of the year for 2008, was going through a difficult period in his life at the time.
“Victor had left his parents in Kansas to stay with his older sister, who lived in Denver,” Lopez recalled. “I had known him since we were 11 years old. I was actually bigger than him when we first met. We conquered the junior amateur tournaments together and we became good friends.
“About the time he was 14 and 15 years old, he was bouncing back and forth between his parents and his sister’s place and at some point had nowhere else to go. I asked my dad if we could take him in and we did, for a year. A few years later we took in his younger brother, Temo, for about a year.”
Ortiz, who has a contract with Golden Boy Promotions and is co-managed by the very-connected Shelly Finkel and Rolando Arellano, returned the kindness by helping Lopez out when the junior featherweight’s fledgling pro career was stagnating.
“I turned pro on May 9 last year; I had my second pro bout two weeks later and then nothing,” Lopez said. “My career hit a snag and nothing I did could get it going. Victor hooked me up with Rolando, who worked on getting me out of my old (promotional and managerial) contract, and he let me move in with him in Oxnard (Calif.), where I could get the best training.
“Victor and Rolando pushed to get me on the ‘Lightweight Lightening’ undercard in April, which was the first step in getting my career back on track.”
That first step back was a rocky one for Lopez, who had to get up from a first-round knockdown before struggling to a four-round split decision over Felipe Ramirez on the Golden Boy Promotions card in Austin, Texas.
Lopez describes himself as “a boxer-puncher” with a good jab and counter-punching ability but he had a hard time jabbing or counter punching his 0-1 opponent.
“I was the most depressed in my life after that fight,” he said. “The dude I fought had a concrete chin. He was like a terminator, he just kept coming. After the fight he told me that I hit him harder than anyone ever had, but it didn’t matter. I didn’t look good and I didn’t feel like myself. I was rusty.”
Lopez chalks it up to inactivity.
“I didn’t compete in the 2008 Olympic Trials because I had an injury that kept me out of the ring from May of 2007 to when I turned pro,” he said. “Then I was out almost a full year after my second pro bout. All I did was train and that’s not enough.
“I know that I looked like an amateur in my last fight. I only have three fights. I basically am an amateur, I throw a lot of punches and I waste a lot of energy. I’m not relaxed yet. It’s frustrating.
“Victor tells me that I’ll settle down and that it will feel more natural in the ring once I get more fights and get on a busy schedule.”
If Lopez is successful on Thursday, he might land a spot on the June 27 undercard of Ortiz’s title-elimination showdown with Marcos Maidana at STAPLES Center in L.A.
However, his fight on June 11 won’t be easy. Lopez’s opponent, Rufino Serrano of Arroyo Grande, Calif., looked impressive in his pro debut — a brutal first-round KO — last month.
That’s OK. Lopez believes that the four rounds he fought in April served as a wake up call.
“I knocked out my first two pro opponents and I think it went to my head a bit,” he said. “I’m glad I didn’t knockout my opponent in Austin. It reminded me that you can’t knock everyone out. I’m glad it was a tough fight because I didn’t use my skills.
“I will next time. I learned a lot from that fight.”
Lopez might look like a kid for many years to come, but he doesn’t expect to fight like one for very long.
Doug Fischer can be reached at [email protected]