A very happy birthday wish goes out today to one of the greatest Mexican fighters of all time. Or, you could argue, one of the greatest fighters of all-time, period – regardless of where they were born. Ricardo Lopez, who exited the ring with an amazing 51-0-1(38) ledger in 2001, was truly magnificent.
Born in Cuernavaca, Morelos in Mexico, on July 25th of 1966, Lopez – who would be known by the ring nickname of “El Finito” – was a 5’2” ball of fire, finesse, and ferocity. Legend has it Lopez never lost a single fight at the amateur level, and we know for a fact that Lopez never lost a fight at the pro level.
Going 26-0 before getting a shot at a world title, Lopez, having fought exclusively in Mexico, traveled to Tokyo, Japan, to face Hideyuki Ohashi in a challenge for the WBC mini flyweight title. Lopez came home off the back of a fifth-round KO win in October of 1990, the belt now his. Lopez made his first defence in Japan, and he made his second retention in South Korea. Lopez would then globe-trot as he kept hold of his title, with the 25-year-old fighting in his homeland, then again in Japan, and then once again in Thailand, and then in America.
By May of 2004, Lopez was 37-0, and he had made ten defenses of his belt. Most of the following defenses – 22 in all – took place in the U.S. before a 48-0-1. Lopez won the IBF junior flyweight title in October 1999. Lopez, who had drawn with and had then beaten Rosendo Alvarez, defeated Will Grigsby in Vegas. These later fights tested Lopez hard, the wars with Nicaragua’s Alvarez especially, but the little giant from Mexico refused to be beaten. Ever.
In September of 2001, Lopez defeated Zolani Petelo in Madison Square Garden, and the 8th round stoppage win saw Lopez retire with a near-spotless record. Only the draw with Alvarez came close to threatening Lopez’s supremacy.
But the debate rages: how great was Lopez? There are some fine fighters on Lopez’s record, no doubt, but there are, truth be told, some pretty average fighters there too. Lopez battled adversity in fights, while he also showed all the attributes fans of Mexican warriors love so – chin, heart, courage, stamina, and a desire to get the knockout.
Lopez was special, no doubt there. But how special? Lopez was inducted into The Hall of Fame in 2007, and deservedly so. Some fans will always rank Mexican warriors like Julio Cesar Chavez, Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, Salvador Sanchez, Ruben Olivares, Juan Manuel Marquez, and others above Lopez, but there is no denying the fact that “El Finito” never, ever lost a single boxing match. Not ever.
That sure count for a whole lot, as do 25 successful world title defenses. Here’s hoping Ricardo has himself a happy birthday today.