Tomorrow night on HBO the main event is a WBO Jr. Featherweight title clash. In this instance it is much more than that. It is an early chance to catch the abundant gifts of Juan Manuel Lopez. Like his Puerto Rican compatriot Wilfredo Gomez did 30 years ago, Lopez is beginning his ascent to the top of boxing in the 122 lb division. Like Gomez, as well, he brings good boxing skills into the ring along with a punching power that may not have a limit. He currently is 24-0 with 22 Ko’s and has won his last three fights ( all title bouts) by first round KO.
His fight on Saturday is against former Bantamweight champion Gerry Penalosa. It is a good fight for Lopez’s development, since Penalosa hasn’t been stopped in 60 pro fights. Penalosa probably doesn’t have the power to deter Lopez or the speed to hide from him; but he does have the ring savvy to frustrate Lopez and the tough noggin to at least make him work for this victory. I see Lopez coming through with flying colors, most likely with a late round stoppage. Then onward and upward for the 25 year old Puerto Rican. There are many possible fights at 122, like Celestino Caballero and Rafael Marquez, but I don’t think Lopez will reign too long at this weight.
For a fighter that has power he doesn’t fight wildly or look for one punch. He breaks his guys down, fights under control, and looks for knockouts within his combinations. He has the all-around ability to be a player as high up as Lightweight. So get your first look this weekend against Penalosa, but be ready to cheer on Lopez for many years to come.
Heck, I’m already salivating about a 2011 Jr.Lightweight unification fight with Yuriorkis Gamboa. Bring on the fights.