By Pavel Yakovlev
(April 1, 2011, Foxwoods Resorts Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut) – ‘Hammerin’ Henry Lundy won a unanimous decision over Patrick Lopez to win the vacant NABF lightweight title in a bout telecast live by ESPN2. The final scores were 99-91, 97-92, and 95-94 for Lundy, whose lightning-fast hand speed, clever footwork, defensive skill, and persistent right jab gave him an edge over the rugged but less fluid Lopez. Control of the match shifted several times from one boxer to the other. Lundy dominated the first six rounds, but Lopez stormed back with a hurtful body attack to win most of the later stanzas. In the tenth, both boxers engaged in furious infighting, with Lundy appearing to get the better of the exchanges. Lopez was knocked down briefly in the second by a sharp left cross. The weights were 134 ½ lbs for Lundy, against 135 lbs for Lopez.
Lundy started brilliantly. In the opening round he could not miss with his whiplash right jab, and even rocked Lopez a couple of times with sneaky lefts to the jaw. Lundy proved that he had the faster hands, constantly getting his punches off first whenever the stronger, harder-hitting Lopez pressed within striking range. In the second, Lundy stepped up his dominance by flooring Lopez with a sneaky left. So masterful was Lundy’s boxing that he did not need to set the left up with a lead punch. ESPN2 announcer Teddy Atlas pointed out that Lundy created an opening by shimmying his shoulders to distract Lopez – much as Jersey Joe Walcott did to his opponents in the 1940s – and then connected with the knockdown blow. Although Lopez arose without difficulty and finished the round unhurt, he looked outclassed and seemed destined to soak up a one sided beating. Based on the action through two rounds, Lopez looked outclassed, and this correspondent doubted that the Venezuelan would survive to hear the bout’s final bell.
The pattern continued through the first six rounds, all of which were won easily by Lundy. It was hard not to be impressed with Lundy’s confidence and ring generalship. Moving backwards and sideways before the hard-pressing Lopez, Lundy picked his shots and scored with impunity. Occasionally Lundy would stop moving, at which times he would stand directly in front of Lopez in an almost taunting manner. With his feet spread wide, his knees coiled, and his right glove held by his waist, Lundy would cagily move his head from one position to another, thus preempting Lopez from initiating a punch that would surely miss its elusive target. The relaxed yet highly focused way that Lundy executed these movements suggested he felt in total command of the action.
Lopez, however, is a battle hardened veteran of 280 amateur bouts, including winning the Pan American Games and fighting in two Olympic tournaments. A pro for seven years, the 33-year-old Venezuelan showed grim, unwavering determination as he absorbed Lundy’s punches and continued to press the action. Despite having his head snapped back several times and suffering a cut under his left eye, Lopez steadily stalked Lundy while shooting a constant and stiff right jab. Looking very much like a patient, old pro on the hunt, Lopez’s persistence eventually paid off: near the end of the sixth, he uncorked a series of blows that put Lundy into a defensive shell. With Lundy slowing down and throwing fewer punches in the fifth and sixth rounds, it appeared that Lopez might have a shot at turning the tide of combat.
Sure enough, the seventh went to Lopez, who connected more often with jabs and left crosses. Now dancing laterally on his feet with his gloves outstretched to pick off punches, Lundy assumed the defensive. It was not clear if Lundy was fatigued or if he was deliberately coasting in order to conserve energy. Whatever the case, Lopez’s confidence grew. With his heavily muscled shoulders hunched forward, the fierce looking Venezuelan intensified his frenetic feinting motions and jabbed with increasing authority and success. To this correspondent, Lopez sometimes resembled a southpaw version of Alexis Arguello because of his stand-up boxer/puncher posture, moderately wide feet positioning, good balance, feinting, and well-leveraged power punching.
Chasing Lundy around the ring in the eighth with heavy punches that generally missed, Lopez finally connected with a smashing right to the body late in the round. Lundy obviously felt the punch, and Lopez followed up with a jolting right to the head. A strong barrage of punches soon had Lundy trapped in a corner. A left to the gut appeared to hurt Lundy, who played defense until the bell. In the ninth, Lopez was even more successful, driving home several crackling body blows and a left that snapped Lundy’s head back. Lundy spent much of the round with his back to the ropes, defending desperately against the onrushing Venezuelan. Far behind on points, Lopez must have realized he needed a knockout to win. With Lundy fading, it appeared that Lopez stood a very real chance of clinching the kayo in the upcoming round.
But the action in the tenth yielded a surprising development. After taking more punishment from Lopez, including more strength-sapping body blows, Lundy suddenly connected with a stinging right hook and two jabs to the head. The punches appeared to slow Lopez’s attack. Moments later, as Lopez pressed him against the ropes with hard, sweeping hooks, Lundy fought back with a series of well-placed lefts and rights. The round closed, in fact, with Lundy outfighting Lopez at close quarters.
The hard fought victory moves Lundy’s record to 20-1 (10 KO’s). More important than winning the NABF title, perhaps, is the exciting, action-packed nature of Lundy’s success, and that it was televised live before a national audience. That Lundy had the grit and boxing skill to resist Lopez’s scorching, late fight assault should enhance Lundy’s credibility with television executives and fans. The win also redeems Lundy, to some extent, for his eleventh kayo loss to John Molina last summer. In that bout Lundy dominated most of the rounds only to fall late to Molina’s bombs. Consequently, many dismissed Lundy as a front-runner who lacked the stamina and warrior’s mentality necessary to hold up over the distance in a tough fight. Given that he withstood a grueling late fight assault from Lopez, Lundy may now have silenced some of his critics.
Exactly what the future holds for Lundy is not yet clear. Certainly the Philadelphian’s prospects look brighter now than was the case after the Molina debacle. This correspondent (who was at ringside for Lundy’s 2010 struggle against world-rated contender Richard Abril) was favorably impressed. Lundy looked much better tonight than he did against the slippery, eel-like Abril. The boxing skill, athleticism, and infighting ability Lundy displayed tonight in the first six rounds, and in the tenth, were considerable. Most likely, Lundy’s future will be determined by how successful he is at improving his capacity to maintain a high work rate, including punch output, in a fight’s later rounds. If Lundy is able to hold-up well in this area, he will probably establish himself as a force on the lightweight division’s world stage.
Despite losing, Lopez acquitted himself well. He can box, he can punch, and he is clearly capable of putting on barn-burner performances. It was hard not to be impressed with Lopez’s mental intensity, which showed constantly in his ferocious scowl, glowering eyes, and poker-faced composure. Aside from the second round knockdown, Lopez was never off balance, and always appeared ready to turn the tide with a single well placed left cross or body punch. Now 20-4-1 (12 KO’s), the Venezuelan native is currently living in Connecticut. He is a crowd-pleaser and a consummate professional who, based on this performance, is certain to appear on future ESPN Friday Night Fights broadcasts.