Joet Gonzalez hopes third title opportunity is the charm against Luis Alberto Lopez
Joet Gonzalez intends to make his third title shot a lucky one when he challenges Luis Alberto Lopez for the IBF featherweight title on Friday at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Gonzalez, who came up short in previous title shots, losing by unanimous decisions against Shakur Stevenson and Emanuel Navarrete, is ready to make the most of his latest opportunity.
“I’m very fortunate to be here, I’m ready to give a great fight Friday,” Gonzalez (26-3, 15 knockouts) told The Ring. “I think it’s a tough fight. I think all my world title fights have been tough fighters and tough opponents.
“Lopez is a fighter who doesn’t back down. He’ll go to enemy territory to win and defend the belt. He’s just like me, wherever and whenever. He’s a tough fighter.”
Stylistically this appears a fan-friendly fight and a better match up for Gonzalez stylistically than Stevenson. However, he isn’t overthinking that.
“I won’t know how he’ll fight, he might decide to move around this time, he might think I’ll move around,” said Gonzalez, who is training in La Verne, California. “I’m just preparing to the fullest, whether he wants to move, whether he wants to come at me, I’ll be ready for whatever he brings to the table.”
The 29-year-old California native recognizes Lopez talents inside the ring.
“[Lopez] has good speed, he’s explosive with his combinations,” he said. “I just think my experience is quite a big factor, my toughness, he’ll realize my toughness is far beyond what other fighters he has faced and I think that will also be a factor in this fight.”
Recently Lopez declared his intentions to become the first man to knockout Gonzalez. It’s nothing new to the title challenger.
“I think that’s the way you’re supposed to think, when you’re fighting a fighter who has never been knocked out, you want to be the first – you want to try to make a statement,” he said. “That’s what he’s trying to do. I don’t take it personal, whether he talks nice about me, or smack, I’m still going in there with the mentality to hit him. It doesn’t matter. At the end of day I’m not here to be your friend. If he wants to knock me out, come get it.”
Having come up short twice previously, what will be different this time?
“I have to make it different, that’s the only explanation, I have to make it different,” he said. “It’s going to be my third opportunity and I have to take it to the fullest, take full advantage and make it happen.
“Nothings been given to me easy. I’ve had a tough road through all my world title shots against top fighters. This is it, everything happens at the right moment and in that moment I’m going to take full advantage of it. I think it’s going to be an exciting fight. It’s on a great day, Mexican Independance, it’s going to be fireworks, September 15.”
Lopez, The Ring’s No. 1-rated featherweight, turned professional in 2015 and moved through the ranks but dropped decisions to Abraham Montoya (SD 10) and Ruben Villa (UD 10) while learning on the job. He won nine consecutive fights notably beating previously unbeaten trio of Cristian Baez (TKO 5), Gabriel Flores Jr. (UD 10) and Isaac Lowe (KO 7) to become the IBF mandatory challenger for Josh Warrington.
When that chance came he edged out Warrington (MD 12) in the defending champion’s hometown. He took his title to Michael Conlan’s backyard in Belfast and stunned the locals by stopping the Irishman in five rounds.
Gonzalez will be supremely motivated to claim the title but Lopez has upped his game and will be a tough man to unseat. Maybe Gonzalez is his generations Oba Carr, who was unlucky enough to face the outstanding trio of Felix Trinidad, Ike Quartey and Oscar De La Hoya in world title shots in the mid-to-late 1990s. I expect a hard fought battle but Lopez will retain his title by 12-round unanimous decision.
Lopez-Gonzalez, plus undercard action, will be broadcast live on ESPN at 10 p.m. ET/ 7 p.m. PT.
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