Juan Manuel Lopez Due Back In Ring In April - Will 2011 Be “Juanma’s” Year?

By James Slater - Though he enjoyed a fine year in 2010, Puerto Rican sensation Juan Manuel Lopez failed to win the Fighter of The Year award on any major lists. The unbeaten, now two-weight world champion stopped three good men this year - Steven Luevano, Bernabe Concepcion and, most impressively Rafael Marquez. Perhaps in a different twelve months, that would have been enough for “Juanma” to have gotten a few mentions as far as the FOTY distinction goes. But this year, Argentine superstar Sergio Gabriel Martinez was doing his stuff at the highest level, and his two huge wins earned him FOTY honours..

Lopez, still only 27-years-old and already 30-0(27) as a pro, looks set to return to action in his native Puerto Rico in April, and sources suggest unbeaten yet unknown Philly fighter Teon Kennedy could be the opponent. This fight (if it happens) is not the best way Lopez could have kicked off his 2011, yet bigger and better fights await him down the road. With bouts against Yuriorkis Gamboa and Chris John mentioned as real possibilities, the reigning WBO featherweight king might just win himself the FOTY award in 2011.

But what can we expect from the fight with the 24-year-old Kennedy? The unbeaten super-bantamweight turned pro in Jan. 2007, and he has never met anyone remotely approaching the class and power of Lopez. At 16-0-1(7), Kennedy has a good-looking record, but he has met no instantly recognisable names. The draw came against Lante Addy of Ghana; a fighter who is durable, having gone the distance with Jason Booth, Guilermo Rigondeaux and Kiko Martinez amongst others.

Kennedy has definite skill and promise, but it will be some audacious move on the part of his management team if they do actually put him in with the ferocious southpaw next spring. Lopez looks destined for greatness in the opinion of many, and he has proven he can take a punch and come back from it, as well as fight hard for the full 12-rounds if needed. Okay, “Juanma’s” chin is far from made of granite, but he has amazing recuperative powers. Much like countryman and idol Felix Trinidad, Lopez comes back stronger after he’s been knocked down.

Relative feather-fist Kennedy (just those 7 stoppage wins) doesn’t figure to hurt or knock down Lopez, that’s for sure. Neither does the USBA and NABA super-bantamweight champ figure to spoil any of the lofty plans Lopez and his team have for 2011.

Still, it will be good to see the most exciting fighter in all of boxing back in action. Hopefully, though, after he takes care of Kennedy, Lopez will get the big, big fights he and his fans want. “Juanma” has yet to reach his peak, he says he can win titles as high as lightweight, maybe even light-welterweight, and it sure is gonna be exciting watching to see how good he really can become.

2011 promises to be an excellent year for the lower weight classes in general. Lopez may well be at the forefront when it comes to the little guys giving us tremendous fights.

(Merry Christmas to all ESB readers!)

Article posted on 24.12.2010

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