Juan Manuel Lopez: ‘My career is at stake and I can’t afford a loss’
Two-division titleholder Juan Manuel Lopez knows “100 percent that my career is at stake and I can’t afford a loss” entering Thursday’s featherweight clash with Jesus Cuellar in support of main event between heavyweights Luis Ortiz and Lateef Kayode.
Lopez (34-4, 31 knockouts), of Puerto Rico, will face Cuellar (24-1, 18 KOs), of Buenos Aires, Argentina, at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on a “Golden Boy Live!” card to be televised on FOX Sports 1 and FOX Deportes.
“This is a difficult fight but I’ve been a two-division world champion and I wasn’t going to take easy fights that the public and my fans wouldn’t respect, ” said Lopez. “We know 100 percent that my career is at stake and I can’t afford a loss. But that’s why we came ready and in the best possible shape.”
Lopez, 31, is trying to bounce back from a third round stoppage loss to Francisco Vargas in July that had followed his second round technical knockout of ex-beltholder Daniel Ponce de Leon in March.
“I don’t want my career to end on a note like the Francisco Vargas loss,” said Lopez. “We know what’s ahead of us and what this fight means. It’s very important for me.”
Before his March bout with Ponce de Leon, Lopez had gone 3-3 in his previous six fights, being stopped in all his losses, including a fourth round loss to Mikey Garcia in June 2013. Lopez had sandwiched a second round knockout of Mike Oliver in October 2011 between stoppage losses to Orlando Salido in April 2011 and March 2012.
“The person who I thought would have tried to convince me to retire was my mother. She’s been my biggest supporter and my biggest fan. She was there at the Vargas fight and I really thought she was going to try to convince me to stop boxing. But she’s continued supporting and backing me 100 percent,” said Lopez.
“Of course, I want to go for one big payday and retire. That’s every fighter’s dream, to get the biggest payday and retire. I always said at 32 I’d like to retire but things happened to stall that a little bit. But I’m not going to go past 34. I want to retire before then.”
Cuellar is 7-0 with four knockouts since being stopped in the seventh round by Oscar Escandon in October 2011 and is coming off a unanimous decision over former titleholder Rico Ramos in May.
“I see a very strong fighter in Jesus Cuellar. I see a young fighter that wants to be the best in the world and a champion,” said Lopez. “That makes him very dangerous. My advantage is that I’ve been here on this stage and the experience that I have at this level, you cannot buy it.”
Note: Quotes from a release by Golden Boy and Mayweather Promotions.