Lopez embraces familiar role of underdog ahead of Canelo fight
LAS VEGAS -- The role is familiar for Josesito Lopez, the questions largely the same.
Lopez was peppered with that one for weeks leading up to June's fight against Victor Ortiz, when he moved up from 140 pounds to face the former welterweight champ. Addressing a small group of reporters on Tuesday, just days before his showdown with 154-pound titleholder Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, Lopez dutifully answered similar questions
Ortiz dropped Andre Berto twice in their 2011 fight, while Lopez had been put on the deck before by a 135 pounder. Alvarez is a full-fledged, eats-his-Wheaties junior middleweight who has finished three of his last opponents before the final bell.
Lopez took the Ortiz fight on just over four weeks notice with the expectation that, hey, maybe he can last until the seventh round. Lopez was not the first, not the second, not the third, but the
Lopez understands these questions, accepts them. He knows he is an underdog -- some Las Vegas sports books have Alvarez favored by double digits -- but he also knows the last opponent who underestimated him left the ring with a loss --
"I know I'm going against one of the best out there," Lopez said. "But [Alvarez] is a fighter I think that I can beat."
Alvarez will be the bigger man on Saturday night (9 p.m. ET, Showtime), but Lopez is not a typical 140-pounder. He's 5-foot-9½, a half-inch taller than Alvarez, and says his frame is filling out nicely. He shoveled down five, six meals per day in the first few weeks after he signed to fight but since then has been eating regularly and maintaining his weight. At the seven-day weigh-in last week, Lopez weighed 160 pounds.
The extra weight, Lopez says, has a benefit: Instead of committing energy to cutting weight, he has been able to lock in on his training. And Lopez's trainer, Henry Ramirez, says a bulked up Lopez has been quicker, stronger and has hit harder than ever before.
"There have been no lapses of energy," Ramirez said. "The energy level in camp, there have never been bad days. Every day has been high-paced."
Alvarez, Lopez admits, will be the more comfortable junior middleweight Saturday. "He's more natural at the weight," Lopez said. But facing a stronger opponent doesn't seem to bother him. In camp, Lopez sparred with 170 pounders -- "That's what Canelo will probably weigh on fight night," Ramirez said -- including middleweight DonYil Livingston, who, Ramirez said, expressed surprise at how much more power Lopez had at the new weight.
"My older brother beat me up when I was little," Lopez said, laughing. "Size doesn't intimidate me. If someone looks more muscular, that means nothing to me. That gives me the extra push."
Lopez (30-4) says he respects Alvarez (40-0), but is quick to add that he believes the 22-year-old prodigy has yet to be truly tested. Alvarez has fought some recognizable names the last two years (Shane Mosley, Kermit Cintron, Alfonso Gomez) but all have been well past their primes.
"I think [Alvarez] has done his job," Lopez said. "He has done what has been expected. I have to say though, his opponents haven't done what they are supposed to do. He has been able to do what he wants against fighters because they have let him do what he wants to do. They haven't given him a fight, or really gotten in there to try to win."
Against Ortiz, Lopez said the game plan was to "rough him up and test his will." He plans to be aggressive against Alvarez, too, though will be wary of standing and trading with such a strong fighter.
"With Canelo we have to be smart, with a fast pace," Lopez said. "He has not had to work at a fast pace. We're going to see if he can. We're a little more active in the ring than he is. We're going to push him. We are not going to let him get 30 seconds of waiting around. We can't wait. We have to be the first to attack. I know I'm in for a rough night but it's not a fight we can't win."
Another notable opponent, another opportunity, another door has opened up for Lopez. He will be paid less ($212,000, compared to $2 million for Alvarez, per the official purse) supported less (a strong pro-Alvarez crowd is expected at the MGM Grand) and generally expected to be fodder for one of boxing's rising young stars.
In other words, it's familiar turf.
"I've had a rough road," Lopez said. "I've had some losses. I'm very thankful to get an opportunity a few fighters like me, who have L's on their record, get. I'm going to make the most of it."