Juan Manuel Lopez: ‘Bet On Him Until He Loses’

Juan Manuel Lopez18.04.09 - By Andrew Harrison: So went the advice, passed from ‘Fight Doctor’ Ferdie Pacheco to a fight fan rather fond of a gamble and looking for the inside scoop on a white hot prospect smoking his way out of Puerto Rico.

The prospect in question was a certain Felix Trinidad and he would prove to be a shrewd tip; it would be forty one fights before said fan was forced to rip up their first betting slip in anger.

It was rather fitting then on Saturday evening in Bayamon, Puerto Rico to see Trinidad standing alongside the man who punters the world over can quite confidently make a similar investment in.

‘Juanma’ Lopez put in such a breathtaking shift against the equally fantastic Gerry Penalosa, it was the only phrase I could think of as he was hoisted atop his handler’s shoulders in celebration of the win..

Bet on him until he loses.

Each time I see a ‘can’t miss’ prospect, I think of Pacheco’s advice, Trinidad’s emergence and whether or not I should jump aboard this new rising star’s coat tails and in doing so, make a little corn along the way. The last two guys I put my faith in however were Fernando Vargas and Miguel Cotto, which taught me a couple of things. Firstly, gambling remains largely a mug’s game and secondly, fighters of Tito’s ilk don’t come around too often. At least I didn’t bet the farm on Francisco Bojado……

Carl Froch may have stolen the headlines, Gerry Penalosa many observer’s hearts, however Lopez was the star of the weekend, one it seems I had previously underrated. In hailing Lopez the heir apparent to any division in the vicinity of 122 lbs, it would appear that I was doing him a disservice. This kid is so good, I believe it’s just possible that he could in fact be the future of the entire sport.

Smooth as silk and with dynamite in both fists, Lopez showed his excellent infighting ability, applying educated, intelligent pressure against his opponent’s crab like defence, iron chin and indomitable will. This wasn’t going to be an occasion where Lopez could circle his foe before pouncing with the leaping left and whipping right hand combination which did for Daniel Ponce De Leon and Cesar Figueroa, Penalosa more often than not began rounds by backing straight up against the ropes and inviting Lopez to try and find a way past his Fort Knox guard as he himself looked to counter punch.

Watching Lopez chip away at the rugged defence of Penalosa I was impressed by a multitude of attributes, however one thing stood out above the speed, power and punch selection; his composure. To see such a rare commodity in a young fighter, especially a power puncher coming off three quick finishes was truly awe inspiring.

More often than not a fighter who blows through opponents in the manner Lopez has been doing of late, can get a taste for the early finish and with it, the inevitable hand clapping and back slapping it brings. How often do we see a skilled fighter suddenly become seduced by their own knockout power as opponents start falling before them like bowling pins? Basics are discarded, the rigours of training relax somewhat and combination punching goes by the wayside as gradually our banger dissolves into a one dimensional fighter just ripe for the picking (Edwin Valero take note).

Why practice the sport’s intricacies when you can just blast away at the heavy bag, after all you’re only gonna need one of these beauties come fight night right?

Precisely the reason many grizzled observers were warning pre-fight that Penalosa, though an underdog, was a very live underdog. Gerry proved to be a rock, the likes of which we have seen many a hot young fighter run aground on, how many other rising stars would have been able to negotiate the Filipino man of steel with the same self-possession? On top of all of the physical gifts Juan Manuel possesses, he seems to own also a veteran’s assurance and ring intelligence.

Only the great ones possess such poise and whilst Lopez has merely set up base camp on his journey toward such acclaim, his ascent looks a safe bet.

Bet on this guy until he loses.

Article posted on 28.04.2009

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