by James Slater – Promoter Bob Arum says he believes he has found a superstar of the future with unbeaten bomber Juan Manuel Lopez, the unbeaten, reigning WBO super-bantamweight champion from Puerto Rico. Clearly hoping to see the fighter he promotes develop into the next Felix Trinidad or Miguel Cotto, Arum wants “Juanma” to engage in his first truly big fight. According to a number of sources – ESPN and USA Today newspaper for two – this initial big fight could come against another possible star of the future, in unbeaten Cuban featherweight Yuriorkis Gamboa, the current interim WBA 126-pound ruler..
Southpaw Lopez – who stopped the previously unbeaten Olivier Lontchi at the end of the 9th round this past Saturday in Atlantic City – wants bigger fights for the future. Even before he defended his WBO 122-pound belt for the fourth time on June 27th, the soon-to-be-26-year-old (Juanma shares his birthday with Mike Tyson) spoke to USA Today about his desire to get himself what he himself calls a signature fight.
“All I need is one of those signature fights,” Lopez said a day before scoring his 26th pro win (24 inside the distance wins). “I have a fight with one of those guys [Rafael Marquez, Israel Vazquez] and beat them, that will make me more popular.”
No doubt such a win would go a long way towards making Lopez the star he himself and Arum feel he can be. However, the latest word is that “Juanma” and Cuban defector and now Miami, Florida resident Gamboa are on something of a collision course, destined to meet soon. The winner of such a fight will be on his way towards genuine star status. According to Dan Rafael over at ESPN.com, assuming Gamboa wins his next fight – scheduled for July 25th’s Top Rank “Latin Fury” instalment – the two wannabe household names will fight together on the same Madison Square Garden card; probably in September or October. Then, if each man wins, the hugely intriguing fight, one that Arum says he is going to build up, will happen around this time next year.
“Juanma is very fortunate that we have Gamboa and, in a year or so, it’s going to be a very big fight,” Arum told ESPN. “It’s going to be a monster fight.”
Letting the fight boil makes sense. If 27-year-old Gamboa, 15-0(13) and Lopez fought in a few months, the fight, though big, would not be the massive event Arum is sure it can be next year. Both guys are unlikely to lose in the meantime, not with the impressive talent each fighter possesses, so the fight can wait for now. But this one has potential classic written all over it.
Both men can crack, Lopez especially, while both men are fast, well conditioned boxers who are hungry, if not starving for glory. Also, as each fighter continues to both develop further and gain more and more fans, you can rest assured there will be much debate as to who will win when the fight is signed. Likely to take place up at featherweight (it doesn’t make sense for Gamboa to drop down to 122), Lopez-Gamboa could well be one of the best and most meaningful lower-weight showdowns since Rafael Marquez-Israel Vazquez or Erik Morales-Marco Antonio Barrera. And, as was the case with those rivalries, the match-up could possibly grow into a series.
It’s way to early to pick a winner, but one thing looks sure; the fight will not in any way be boring. How could it be? Lopez has the kind of raw power capable of sending anyone he catches cleanly to sleep, while Gamboa, though prone to being the victim of a flash knockdown or two, has the kind of reflexes and power to be able to hurt anyone himself. Add it all up, as Arum plans to, and the fireworks will surely go off.
The action might not last too long (a 126-pound version of Hagler-Hearns anyone?), but it figures to be un-missable!