Tonight in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the welterweight hierarchy was shuffled as the highly regarded Jose Luis Lopez was soundly outpointed in an exciting ebb and flow contest by Northern California's James Page.
Lopez's heavy hands were expected to offer a still challenge to the virtually unheralded Page, and although Lopez's power was a major factor in the bout, it was not enough to secure him a win. Page used his reach advantage to full effect in the opening rounds, punishing the Mexican challenger with a heavy jab, his trademark left hook, and some sneaking lead rights that caught Lopez completely off guard.
As in his fight with Quartey, Lopez's inactivity cost him dearly, although when he did throw punches, it was to great effect. After dropping the first two rounds, and taking increasing punishment for most of the third, Lopez suddenly turned the tide with a cracking right cross that staggered Page back across the ring. Following up with a flurry that wilted Page into the ropes, Lopez scored a clean knockdown and finished the stanza with more heavy shots.
Page answered the knockdown in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds by pummeling Lopez for the first two minutes of each round, before allowing Lopez to land clubbing hard shots at the end of each frame. Although Lopez's power shots were effective, they often came too late in the round to affect the scoring. What's more, Lopez's inactivity was most evident when he failed to follow up when Page missed with wild winging shots.
In the second half of the bout, Page's output rate kept him ahead, although Lopez would occasionally awaken from his stance long enough to remind the champion who the stronger man was. It was not enough. Page, to his credit, kept throwing, and as the fight wore on, his punches not only landed, but began snapping Lopez's head each time they found their target.
Tony Perez made things interesting in the ninth round. Despite both fighters slipping repeatedly on the painted "Budweiser" logo in center ring, Perez called an obvious Page slip a knockdown. Page, the commentators, and the crowd, were incredulous, as the slip was so obvious. Intent on proving the knockdown was not for real, Page resumed the fight immediately, stunning Lopez with his own power before being staggered in turn by a countering Lopez.
Perez was not through, however. In the 10th, after yet another mid-ring slip necessitated the calling of time, the fighters were ordered to neutral corners while the canvas was wiped. Despite the delay occurring with 40 seconds left in the round, after the clean up was complete, Perez announced that the round was over, and both fighters returned to confused corners.
Trailing behind badly, Lopez was told in no uncertain terms by Lou Duva that he needed a knockout to win, but he was unable to complete the task. In the final rounds, Lopez landed hard shots, but it was too little too late. Page survived to hear the scorecards read, and was handed a much deserved unanimous decision. Page W12.
Securing his grip on the WBA welterweight title, James Page (23-3/18), now lines himself up for a big payday with a potential matchup versus IBF welter king Felix Trinidad, another King fighter. But just how good is Page? Although he toppled the man many considered a legitimate welterweight threat, Page showed a number of glaring weaknesses. He frequently missed with huge punches, tired greatly in the final minute of most rounds, and was unable to kayo an opponent he was able to hit all night long. To his credit, he showed good combination punching and a great left hook...but overall Page seems custom made for speedy boxers like DelaHoya or Trinidad.
As for Lopez, his standing in the division deserves serious reconsideration. Since beating Campas at welter, Lopez has fought every fight at 154 except two. His two appearances at 147, both WBA title shots, were marred by long lapses of inactivity during crucial rounds, and effectiveness only when he finally threw his power shots. Perhaps Lopez would be more comfortable at junior middle, or perhaps he's just too patient when choosing which bombs to drop....but with this loss, Jose Luis Lopez (42-4-2/33) has suffered a setback that will take some time to reverse.
After the thrilling give and take of the Page-Lopez battle, Johnny Tapia's tepid boxing performance seemed boring in comparison.
Moving up to 118, Tapia used footwork, handspeed, and a dazzling defense to completely frustrate WBA bantam belt wearer Nana Konadu of Ghana. Using lateral movement and quick combos upstairs and down, Tapia was able to avoid any of the power that Konadu was reported as having. So slippery was Tapia that Konadu was only able to land a handful of clean punches the entire evening, not that he threw that many. Several times throughout the bout, Konadu's inactivity drew boo's from the Boardwalk crowd.
Tapia was cut by an accidental headbutt in the third round, but was unaffected by the blood that flowed for most of the fight. Konadu's only relevant punch of the night was a big left hook that snapped Tapia's head late in the eighth round. Tapia predictably mugged for the crowd after the shot, and commented to new trainer Freddie Roach "I sure can take a shot, can't I?" in between rounds.
Tapia was throwing a complete shutout until a mid-ring slip on the painted canvas was ruled a knockdown (the second such poor call of the night) in the eleventh. Johnny deviated from his fight plan only briefly after this episode, standing in front of Konadu and exchanging at the end of the round.
Closing out the show with some crowd pleasing flurries, Tapia had appeared to have won every round, including the round in which it was ruled he was knocked down. One judge, however, had the fight a draw, while two others had Tapia winning by only a few points. Controversy or not, Tapia improved to 45-0-2, remained undefeated, and picked up another world title in the form of the WBA 118 lb. strap. Konadu (39-4-1/31) insisted that he was the victor after the bout, but you'll be hard pressed for find anyone that agrees with him.
-How many times in the past year have we seen fighters slipping on the painted "Budweiser" logo in center ring? Something has to be done. Part of the problem, understandably, is the amount of water being poured over fighter's heads during the rest periods. But that's only part of the problem, as the water that drips from their trunks seems to causes no slips whatsoever on the blue canvas in the other parts of the ring. The Showtime team reported that network executive Jay Larkin's solution was pouring Pepsi on the logo between bouts to make the center ring sticky. Sorry, that doesn't cut it. Tonight the fighters slipped repeatedly on the logo. Forget the obvious danger of twisting an ankle of pulling a hamstring....the slips resulted in two bad calls of knockdowns...which would have had major impact had either fight been closer.
-And what of those bad calls? Tony Perez and Frank Cappuccino are long time officials who have served the sport by participating in countless title bouts. But both men are aging and have been involved in more than their share of controversies. The New Jersey Athletic Control Board needs to take a serious look at the continuing qualifications of both men to officiate important bouts, before another of their mistakes makes boxing headlines.
-Quote of the night:
Ferdie Pacheco on Jose Luis Lopez's inactivity: "He's fighting like his feet are in guacamole."