Head to head: Lopez vs. Concepcion
JUAN MANUEL LOPEZ vs. BERNABE CONCEPCION
When: Saturday, July 10
Where: Coliseo Jose Miguel Agrelot, San Juan, P.R.
TV: HBO, 9 pm. ET (live) / PT (delayed)
Weight: Featherweight (126 pounds)
Title(s) at stake: Lopez’s featherweight title (first defense)
Also on the card: Nonito Donaire vs. Hernan Marquez, 12 rounds, junior bantamweight; Eden Sonsona vs. Jonathan Oquendo, 10 rounds, bantamweights.
Height / reach: 5-7 (170cm) / 69 (175cm)
Hometown: Caguas, P.R.
Turned pro: 2005
Record: 28-0 (25 knockouts)
Trainer: Alex Caraballo
Fight-by-fight: Fight-by-fight: Fight-by-fight: http://www.boxrec.com/list_bouts.php?human_id=291928&cat=boxer
The Ring rating: No. 2 featherweight
Titles: WB0 junior featherweight (2008-10; vacated); WBO featherweight (2010-current)
Biggest victories: Daniel Ponce de Leon, June 7, 2008, TKO 1 (won junior featherweight title); Gerry Penalosa, April 25, 2009, TKO 10; Rogers Mtagwa, Oct. 10, 2009, UD 12; Steven Luevano, Jan. 23, 2010, TKO 7.
Height / Reach: 5-4 (163cm) / 66 (168cm)
Hometown: Binangonan, Rizal, Philippines
Nickname: The Real Deal
Turned pro: 2004
Record: 28-3-1 (15 knockouts)
Trainer: Buboy Fernandez
Fight-by-fight: Fight-by-fight: http://boxrec.com/list_bouts.php?human_id=319882&cat=boxer
The Ring rating: No. 6 featherweight
Biggest victories: Benjamin Flores, April 14, 2007, UD 10 (first fight in U.S.; youth title); Adam Carrera, July 26, 2008, TKO 3; Gabriel Elizondo, Aug. 4, 2007, TKO 4; Mario Santiago, Feb. 13, 2010, UD 10 (most-recent fight).
Losses: Richard Garcia, April 23, 2004, MD 6 (third career fight); Mark Sales, March 5, 2005, MD 10; Steven Luevano, Aug. 15, 2009, DQ 7 (hit Luevano after bell).
Skills: Both fighters are known for their power but Lopez has also earned a measure of respect for his skill and technique. The Puerto Rican southpaw possesses excellent fundamentals (which includes solid balance, an educated jab, block-and-counter ability, good timing, and effective footwork). Concepcion has decent skills but he tends to rely more on his athletic ability in the ring than his technique. While Lopez can be described as a powerful technician, Concepcion’s style is like a right-handed version of the young Manny Pacquiao (who happens to be his manager). The Filipino banger bounces in and out of range looking to land his big right hand.
Power: Concepcion has a very fast and powerful right hand that does most of the damage in his bouts and is responsible for most of the knockouts he’s scored. However, most of the 15 knockouts Concepcion has scored were of journeymen and former prospects (Carrera and Elizondo). He’s never stopped a world-class opponent (unless you count the right hand after the bell that dropped Steven Luevano and resulted in a seventh-round disqualification). Lopez, who possesses knockout power in both hands, has stopped world-class opponents (DeLeon, Penalosa, and Luevano).
Speed and athletic ability: Lopez possesses world-class power with above average strength and speed, but he doesn’t have the quick-twitch reflexes, agility or explosive speed that Concepcion is gifted with. The Filipino slugger is the more dynamic of the two punchers.
Defense: Neither fighter can be described as “slick,” but Lopez’s tight technique includes a high guard that is difficult to penetrate. He seldom drops one hand when he’s punching with the other and he’s able to use his legs to maneuver himself out of danger when need be. Concepcion also uses his footwork to stay out of his opponent’s range but his average technique and periodic lapses of concentration make him susceptible to counter punches when he’s on the offensive.
Experience: Concepcion has four more professional bouts than Lopez, but the two-division titleholder, who had an extensive amateur career that included a spot on Puerto Rico’s 2004 Olympian team, has faced better opposition.
Chin: Both fighters have reliable whiskers. Concepcion was dropped in the 11th round of his 12-round draw with Alex Escaner but he was only 17 at the time. Lopez was buzzed by Mtagwa and he was out on his feet in the final round of their slugfest but those wobbly moments occurred late in a grueling fight and the budding Puerto Rican star may have been weight drained in his final junior featherweight bout.
Conditioning: Both fighters train extremely hard and always prepared to go the distance despite their punching power but Concepcion has faded in the late rounds of some of his 10- and 12-round bouts, most recently against Santiago.
Wear and tear: Both fighters are young, in their athletic prime. And though both have been in at least one tough distance fight, neither has ever taken an extended beating in the ring.
Corner: Concepcion advanced from a raw prospect to a dangerous fringe contender under the tutelage of Freddie Roach during a two-year stretch (2007-2009), however, Restituto “Buboy” Fernandez has been the chief trainer for his recent fights. Fernandez, best known as Pacquiao’s best friend and loyal mitt man, is a decent trainer, but it’s evident that Concepcion is not learning anything new from the popular Filipino cornerman. Alex Caraballo, who has trained Lopez from the start of his career, has developed a complete fighter who continues to improve.
Outcome: Concepcion’s superior speed and athleticism will enable him to compete with Lopez in the early rounds of the bout. Lopez will carefully stalk his talented challenger behind a high guard and hard jab, respecting Concepcion’s power but always looking for counter-punch opportunities. Concepcion will gamble with his speed and vaunted right in the middle rounds, sparking heated exchanges that thrill the fans but ultimately cost him. Unlike Concepcion, Lopez will throw combinations and land hard body shots along with his accurate head punches. Lopez will sense that his body work is sapping Concepcion’s energy and apply more pressure over the second half of the bout while concentrating on the challenger’s mid-section. Concepcion will barely have the energy to protect himself down the stretch of the fight.
Prediction: Lopez by late stoppage.
Michael Rosenthal contributed to this feature.