Monday, November 28, 2022  |


Weekend Review: Lopez’s big night


Lucas Matthysse did plenty of damage against Zab Judah only to lose a controversial split decision on Saturday in Newark, N.J. Photo / Tom Hogan-Hoganphotos-Golden Boy Promotions.


Juan Manuel Lopez: The fact that the rising Puerto Rican star stopped Rafael Marquez on Saturday night in Las Vegas was no great surprise. Lopez is approaching the prime of a special career while his Mexican foe is nearing the end of one. The WAY he won is a key reason he has become so compelling. He not only was willing to go to war with a killer puncher, he seemed to relish it. He wasn’t concerned about looking pretty; he wanted to prove he was more bad-ass than a possible future Hall of Famer even at great risk. He delivered the biggest blows but also took some hellacious shots, which he embraces as part of becoming an idol. Indeed, that’s the kind of fighter with whom many fans fall in love. And undoubtedly they’re more smitten than ever after Saturday night.


Rafael Marquez: Once again, the word “loser” is used here only in a technical sense. This fighter is anything but. We had no idea what he had left going into his fight against Lopez. Had his many ring wars taken the life out of him? Or was he largely the little warrior of old? Turns out he’s the latter. Marquez, as determined and brave as ever, went to war with one of the most-potent punchers in the game and held his own long enough to make the fight interesting. He continued to fire back even in his darkest moments. He was broken down in the end, in part because of what he said was a shoulder injury, but he had demonstrated that he is hardly finished at 35. In fact, he could be downright scary if he really did fight with a bum shoulder.


Marquez’s injury claim: Emanuel Steward will tell you that Thomas Hearns broke his hand in his legendary three-round war with Marvin Hagler in 1985 but kept it quiet because he didn’t want to steal any of Hagler’s glory. We don’t know whether Marquez actually had a shoulder injury or how severe it was if he did. Only he knows. And perhaps doctors will be able to determine whether there is a problem. However, even if he was truly in pain, he should’ve followed Hearns lead and kept his mouth shut. That was an important victory for Lopez, one that shouldn’t be tainted by Marquez’s post-fight excuses. He should’ve allowed Lopez to have his glory, rehabbed the shoulder and then come back and prove with his fists that he’s as good as his conquerer.


Glen Johnson: No one is shocked that Johnson beat Allan Green on the Lopez-Marquez undercard. This was more or less a pick-’em fight. The fact he remains an elite fighter at 41 years old and 67 fights into his career is what is astounding. And we must marvel at his ability to move down from 175 pounds to 168, a weight at which he hadn’t fought since 2000. To move down and maintain energy is extremely difficult for a fighter of any age. Still, he was able to fight a young man on even terms and then take him out in the eighth round. Remarkable. And more drama lies ahead. He has a date with another top 168-pounder in the Super Six semifinals. A lot of people enamored with Johnson and his story undoubtedly will be rooting for him.


Allan Green: Green did better against Johnson than he did in a disastrous performance against Andre Ward in his previous fight, when it appeared he barely showed up. He didn’t fight with much fire against Johnson, particularly after tasting some hard punches, but he boxed well enough to lead on two of the three cards through seven rounds. That didn’t mean much in the end, though. Two rights put him down and out 36 seconds into the eighth round. Two fights against big-name opponents, two losses. Green has no reason to give up. He proved against Johnson that he can fight. The problem is that the road to another truly big fight could be a long one.


Zab Judah: This was supposed to be the veteran’s opportunity to demonstrate that he remains a player in the sport and could be a factor in a deep 140-pound division. Did he succeed? Not really. Judah fought carefully while building a lead and, having been worn down by body shots and the knocked down, limped to a razor-thin victory over a relatively untested Lucas Matthysse on Saturday in Newark, N.J. It was hardly an inspiring performance. Now what? Judah apparently will fight Kaiser Mabuza for a vacant junior welterweight title, which will give him another opportunity to prove he’s still an elite fighter. Right now, though, it’s hard to imagine him competing against the likes of Timothy Bradley, Devon Alexander and Amir Khan.


Lucas Matthysse: The hard-punching Argentine was devastated after his fight against Zab Judah, certain that he did enough to win the fight. And many agree with him, particularly because he dominated the final few rounds. A loss is a loss, though. And the fact his performance for nine rounds was anything but scintillating probably didn’t earn him any fans. All is not lost, though. Matthysee proved he could compete with an established, big-name opponent in that opponent’s back yard. He’s a better boxer than many expected him to be even if his power didn’t quite match his knockout percentage. And he has the backing of a powerful player in Golden Boy Promotions. Matthysse probably will get another chance.


Judah-Matthysse: Many people are questioning the scoring of the Judah-Matthysse split decision: 114-113 and 114-113 for Judah and 114-113 for Matthysse. The Argentine won the final three rounds of the 12-round fight, including an extra point for a knockdown. That means that Judah won six of the first eight rounds, which some might say is a stretch. Judah scored fairly consistently to the head but Matthysse did the same to the body. Still, Matthysse shares the blame. He gave away too many of the early rounds because of relative passivity. And if those who object to the scoring can accept a 114-113 score in Matthysse’s favor, is 114-113 the other way really out of line? That’s a difference of only one round. I scored the fight 114-113 for Matthysse but I’m OK with the official result.


Robert Guerrero Guerrero dominated a good fighter in Vicente Escobedo for seven rounds of their 10-round lightweight bout on the Judah-Matthysse undercard, putting the former U.S. Olympian down twice. And then, perhaps convinced that the fight was over, Guerrero cruised to the finish line to win a one-sided decision. In the process, the fight and Guerrero’s performance ended with a thud. That will stick in the minds of those who watched the fight. The former two-time titleholder has designs on another title shot and true stardom. That’s not the way a star finishes a fight, though; a star punctuates a good performance with a flourish. Guerrero made a statement, just the wrong one.


Vicente Escobedo: What are we to make of Escobedo? He has given two spirited performances against top-tier opponents, a close loss to Michael Katsidis in September of last year and a setback against Guerrero in which he staged a nice rally, but has nothing to show for it. Escobedo has considerable ability and more confidence than he has had in years but he must win big fights to realize his potential. Physical strength might’ve been a problem against two very strong fighters in Katsidis and Guerrero. Escobedo says he can move back down to 130 pounds, a weight at which he last fought in 2007. That might be what it will take for him to find success.


Referee Tony Weeks: Weeks was right to continually warn Lopez about holding the head of Marquez down and then punching him, which he did on numerous occasions. However, he picked the wrong time to stop the action and deduct a point. Marquez had just hurt Lopez with a series of punches in the fourth round; it was his best chance to win the fight. That’s when Weeks penalized Lopez. The decision probably helped Lopez more than Marquez because it gave the winner time to recover. Weeks could argue that he followed procedure, giving warnings and then deducting a point. Sometimes a referee must use common sense, though. He should’ve recognized that Marquez had a tremendous opportunity and held off. In effect, he punished the victim.


Juan Manuel Lopez, who doesn’t believe that Rafael Marquez had an injured shoulder, to a Mexican reporter: “Maybe I didn’t knock him out, but I sure took his heart out. He didn’t want to continue fighting. I told you he didn’t have any heart.”