Get out your dictionaries. Look up the word "champion". If Ricardo Lopez's picture isn't there, then throw your Webster's out.

Tonight in Las Vegas, longtime 105 lb. kingpin Ricardo Lopez turned in one of the gutsiest performances in recent memory. Fighting against the bigger and stronger Rosendo Alvarez, the only man to ever knock Lopez down, "El Finito" overcame tremendous disadvantages to add the WBA title to the WBC one he already held.

This fight almost didn't come off. At the official weigh in, Lopez made weight easily by scaling in at 103 1/2 pounds. His opponent could not match his effort. Alvarez stepped onto the scale at 108 1/4, a full division above the limit, and was immediately stripped of his WBA 105 lb. title. Lopez could have turned down the fight at that point, and even threatened to. At some point in the next 24 hours, a deal was struck: the fighters would re-weigh in with a new limit of 115 pounds...3 full weight divisions over the 105 lb. ranks from which both fighters hailed. Alvarez made the weight, by one pound, and the fight was on. The new scenario: Lopez's WBC Minimumweight (formerly Strawweight) title would not be on the line. The newly vacated WBA Minimumweight title would be on the line, but only Lopez was able to win it. If Alvarez won the bout, he would remain titleless, having failed to make 105 at the official weigh-in. Confused yet?

No matter which title was on the line, the bout began much as the first fight between these two warriors did: Lopez the boxer, Alvarez the stronger puncher. A classic styles matchup made for a classic bout.

Lopez took the first two rounds by unleashing the accurate and crisp combinations that have defined his sterling career. Lopez landed punches from all angles, committing especially to a strong left hook that found it's target a dozen times each stanza. Alvarez stormed back the next two rounds with his power punches. Slowing down Lopez's aggression, Alvarez's heavy hands landed with clubbing effectiveness. The war was just beginning.

The momentum switched back to Lopez in the 5th, but not for long. As both men took turns attacking, the advantage was traded between the two fighters for the rest of the bout. Ricardo was at his best from the outside, where his jab and quick combinations scored regularly, and Rosendo dished out abuse on the inside, beating Lopez's face into an unrecognizable mess. Lopez was cut over the right eye in the 5th (via accidental headbutt), over the left eye in the 6th, was bleeding out of his nose in the 7th, cut under the left eye in the 9th, and cut under the right eye during the 10th. The rest of his face was reddened with bruises and contusions from the fists of Alvarez, but he kept fighting.

Despite looking much the worse for wear and tear, Lopez somehow managed to establish the rhythm of the fight through the later rounds. As Alvarez slowed, Lopez stepped up the pace, winning some of the closest rounds with a busier style. Firing a persistent jab, textbook right hands, and improbable left uppercuts, Lopez was able to keep Alvarez on defense. Alvarez still, however, bullied his way inside, and the scintillating exchanges they produced brought the crowd to it's feet throughout the bout.

In the 12th, Lopez had established a small lead, but fought like he needed the knockout. As all four cuts, his nose and lip poured out blood, Lopez fired and fired and fired. Alvarez fired back, but was the one holding on in the last minute of the round. Toe to toe at the final bell, Lopez closed the bout with a final round that left little doubt as to the winner. It was a stirring performance from a bloodied champion.

When the final scores were read, Lopez got his victory, albeit via split decision. Winning 116-114, 116-112, 113-115, Ricardo Lopez remained undefeated, added another 105 lb. title belt to his waist, and submitted his application for Fight of the Year. Lopez (47-0-1/35) was ever the sportsman in victory, complimenting Alvarez (24-1-1) and offering no self-promoting boasts. Ricardo Lopez reigns, and boxing is all the better for it.

-Rosendo Alvarez blamed his inability to make weight on an inaccurate scale used in training. A weak excuse. This fight had every reason to be canceled, and may have been had Christy Martin not canceled her own bout earlier. Christy Martin reportedly went to Don King in the days before her bout and demanded more money. When King balked, Martin claimed illness and pulled out of her bout. She looked 100% healthy sitting ringside for Lopez-Alvarez, infuriating Nevada State Athletic Commission head Marc Ratner. Ratner promised an investigation by the state Attorney General and hinted that Martin might be the next fighter to face a Nevada suspension. Martin was unwilling to talk on camera, but was briefly overheard having a heated exchange with King after the main event. King mentioned that Martin had been wooed by a rival promoter (likely Bob Arum, who controls Lucia Rijker) but also claimed that "everything is just fine with us". Time will tell, but at this point who cares? After bursting on the scene with a surprisingly entertaining bout on the Tyson-Bruno undercard, Christy Martin has used her clout to duck real challenges, take easy paydays, and now break contracts when she doesn't want to fight. After leading women's boxing to the limelight, she now threatens to send it back to side-show status with her antics. Whether or not she comes back hardly matters...at this point she has boxing fans crying "Who cares?"

.....Chris Bushnell



© 2001 Chris Bushnell. All rights reserved.

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