Luis Alberto Lopez: I’m ready for whatever Michael Conlan brings
Last December, Luis Alberto Lopez upset Josh Warrington in his hometown of Leeds, England, to win the IBF featherweight title by hard-fought 12-round majority decision.
Once again, the Mexican will go into enemy territory when he faces Michael Conlan at the SSE Arena, Belfast on Saturday.
Lopez, The Ring’s No. 3-rated featherweight, embraces the role of the away fighter.
“I’m used to being the B-side, I understand it and have done it all my career,” Lopez (27-2, 15 knockouts) told The Ring through his manager Luis “Kiki” Magana. “Honestly I’m not worried about it. I really want the judges to [score the bout] fair and square like the fight between [Katie] Taylor and [undisputed women’s junior welterweight champion and No. 2 in The Ring’s female pound-for-pound rankings Chantelle] Cameron for the decision.”
This will be the third time the 29-year-old Mexican has fought on British and Irish shores in his last five fights and acknowledges the challenger’s strengths.
“Being here in the UK is like my second home; I’m used to it,” he said. “I know Michael Conlan is a great fighter. He’s a former Olympian; he moves a lot, has technique. What we have to do is don’t be falling into his game plan, make the rhythm of the fight my way. This is going to be what we have to do to take the win.
“I’m ready for whatever Michael Conlan brings to the ring. I’m very motivated to be in Belfast and putting on a great show.”
Lopez feels that fighting and beating Warrington last time out, as the visiting boxer, will serve him well against Conlan.
“It has been an honor for me to win the title in Leeds with all the people against us in enemy territory,” he said. “This is going to be a factor in this next fight.”
“El Venado” has greatly enjoyed becoming a titlist and isn’t ready to let it go anytime soon.
“Of course, winning a world title changes the life of any fighter. It’s a dream of any fighter to be a world champion,” Lopez said proudly. “It’s great because it helps take care of my family. You just have to keep up the hard work and continue to step it up.”
Interestingly Lopez decided to add well-regarded trainer Kay Koroma to his corner, which already includes long-time trainers Juan Betancourt and Armando Valenzuela, and trained in Las Vegas for this fight.
“He’s a great coach; he’s worked a lot in the amateurs and has a great resume,” he explained. “Also he knows Michael Conlan very well. I think we have made the best training camp of my career and hopefully this will show on Saturday night.”
Since arriving in the capital of Northern Ireland, Lopez has been warmly greeted wherever he has gone.
“Belfast has been great for me,” he said. “I know for a fact, of course, on Saturday night, it’s going to be very different. You guys in the UK know a lot of good boxing. It has been quite a good experience. I have been taking a lot of pictures with kids, so they recognize I’m a world champion. It’s going to be good and a great fight, Saturday night.”
Conlan (18-1, 9 KOs) turned professional in 2017 after a decorated amateur career. The 31-year-old Irishman scored wins over old amateur rival Vladimir Nikitin (UD 10), seasoned veteran Ionut Baluta (MD 12) and former IBF junior featherweight titlist TJ Doheny (UD 12).
Those wins earned him a shot at WBA 126-pound titlist Leigh Wood in March 2022. Conlan scored an early knockdown and was having the better of things before Wood scored a thrilling come-from-behind last-round stoppage. The modern-day classic was later voted “Knockout of the Year” and “Fight of the Year.” Since then, Conlan has returned with two wins.
This appears to be a very evenly matched fight. Both are entering in good form. Conlan, The Ring’s No. 9-rated featherweight will be backed by a loud partisan crowd but Lopez as he says is accustomed to that. I feel this will go the distance with several close rounds. It’s a coin-flip-type of fight.
Lopez-Conlan, plus supporting undercard action, will be broadcast on ESPN+ in the US at 2 pm ET/ 11 am PT and on BT Sports at 7 pm in the UK.
Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter @AnsonWainwright.