Juan Manuel Lopez Returns In July - Can He Become The First To KO Bernabe Concepcion?

by James Slater - One of the most exciting fighters in the sport today, along with being one of the game's purest punchers, Puerto Rican star Juan Manuel Lopez returns to action in his homeland on July 10th. The undefeated 26-year-old southpaw wrecking machine will make the first defence of his WBO featherweight title, against young, ambitious and capable Filipino Bernabe Concepcion.

An interesting, if not huge fight, the July battle will see "Juanma" attempt to become the first man to stop the 22-year-old with the good, 28-3-1(15) pro ledger..

Lopez, 28-0(25) made the move up to featherweight in his last fight, the January TKO win he scored over Steven Luevano, and now, after having had the longest layoff of his now five-year pro career, the former WBO super-bantamweight ruler will make the first defence of his second world title. And though Lopez knows only too well how dangerous it can be overlooking an opponent - as he did in his way tougher than expected war with Rogers Mtagawa in his last fight at 122-pounds - he may well be looking past Concepcion and focusing on the mega-fights that are out there for him.

If this is the case, and if Lopez is thinking about guys such as Yuriorkis Gamboa and Rafael Marquez and Israel Vazquez (all three of which he has spoken of wanting to fight soon), he could have a tricky night against Concepcion. Having said that, Lopez is, quite rightly, a pretty big favourite to win in July. But can he take his challenger out inside the distance?

Concepcion, who began his pro career at 110-pounde before settling into the super-bantamweight division in 2005 and then moving up to 126-pounds in 2009, last fought in February of this year; when he won a ten-round UD over Mario Santiago in Las Vegas. Before that, the 22-year-old fought a most controversial fight with the aforementioned Luevano. Behind on points in a close affair in August of last year, Concepcion blatantly belted the defending WBO feather champ with an after-the-bell shot at the end of the 7th-round. Disqualified, and rightfully so, the young warrior is perhaps lucky to be getting another title shot so soon. Will he dare to pull a stunt like the one he pulled last summer in this fight?

A decent enough boxer, with speed and good reflexes, Concepcion wasn't overly fazed by the southpaw stance when he fought Luevano, and Lopez' southpaw stance shouldn't bother him either. What will bother him, though, most likely anyway, is the champion's withering power. Concepcion - quite a bit the smaller man, at 5'4" to 5'7" - is no defensive wizard and he likes to fight. Against Lopez, by far the single biggest puncher he will have ever faced, this could prove his undoing.

"Juanma" proved in his fight with Luevano that he has carried his power up with him from 122-pounds; becoming the first man to stop the talented boxer from L.A. Though he faces a young man who has tons of desire and who wants to become a world champion alongside his countryman Manny Pacquiao, Lopez could also add a 1 to the KO-by stats on Concepcion's record when the two meet in the fight to be televised by Showtime.

Concepcion will give Lopez, who may be a touch rusty, a few problems in the early going, before the favourite catches up with his challenger in the middle rounds. I go for Lopez to win inside eight-rounds, and then hopefully that super-fight with WBA featherweight champ Gamboa won't be too far away!

Lopez will be having his third world title fight in his native Puerto Rico, look for him to send his adoring fans home happy.

Article posted on 20.05.2010

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