He is at an age when some of his boxing contemporaries are still
in the ring, flailing wildly in search of one last mega-payday.
But excluding a lapse of reason in 1992 that was truly
momentary--he lasted barely one round in an ill-conceived
comeback fight against Jorge Rodriguez--Danny (Little Red)
Lopez, 44, hasn't heard the siren song luring him out of
retirement since he hung up the gloves in '80. Why not? "Oh,
I've always had other things going on, spending time with my
sons, playing golf. My wife, Bonnie, and I have been in our
house in Chino Hills [Calif.] for about two years, and I still
haven't gotten around to fixing up the backyard," says Lopez.
"We had some guys put in a patio, but I still have to lay down
topsoil, plant grass and all that other stuff."
The former WBC featherweight champ always seemed cut from a
different cloth than his colleagues. Part Mexican, part Irish
and part Native American, Lopez spent his teenage years on an
Ute Indian reservation in Utah before becoming a skilled and
popular fighter, able to deliver--and absorb--crushing
punishment. He knocked out 39 of his 48 career opponents and
successfully defended his belt eight times between 1977 and '80
before losing to Salvador Sanchez and then retiring six months
later, feeling he had accomplished as much as he could. "Indian
Red? He was very talented, very strong and very brave," says
renowned fight doctor Ferdie Pacheco. "You couldn't go to one of
his fights without seeing a great fight."
Upon retirement Lopez, who earned nearly $1.5 million during his
career, eschewed the fast life of a champ, preferring instead to
escape to the mountains for a day of skiing or camping with
Bonnie and their three sons, now ages 19, 23 and 25. Today he
continues to earn a living with his hands. A construction
worker, he wields a sledgehammer, lays pipe and digs trenches in
the Los Angeles area. "I'm still definitely a boxing fan,
especially of Oscar De La Hoya, but I've moved on," says Lopez,
who says he weighs 20 pounds more than his fighting weight of
126. "Sometimes I get a little upset that I missed the boat
fighting for big money," he adds, "but I have a lot to be
thankful for," especially when he compares his fate with those
of Sanchez, who died in an auto accident, and nemesis Bobby
Chacon, who suffers from dementia pugilistica and spends his
days collecting recyclable cans. By having emerged unscathed
from boxing, Little Red still stands apart from the crowd.