Don Stradley

The Ring All-Star Report Cards: Juan Manuel Lopez

Note: This feature originally appeared in the October edition of THE RING magazine. The November issue, with Floyd Mayweather Jr. on the cover, is on newsstands now. The cover story is titled: “10 Guys Who Would Have Kicked Mayweather's Butt.”

It was out with the old and in with the new as THE RING composed this year’s All-Star Report Cards. Gone from last year’s survey are such old warhorses as Bernard Hopkins, Roy Jones, Ricky Hatton, Shane Mosley, Juan Manuel Marquez, Chris John and Israel Vazquez. In place of those fighters were newer, fresher names like Yuriorkis Gamboa and Timothy Bradley, a sign that new blood is being pumped into the sport. Meanwhile, names like Sergio Martinez and Pongsaklek Wonjongkam show that our All-Star list always has room for veterans, provided they’re still producing in the ring.

Aside from the youth movement, other trends have emerged this year. For instance, there is a noticeable dip in Mexican or Mexican-American fighters among our 20 All-Stars. When THE RING first compiled this roster in 2003, there were five such fighters listed; this year, there is one. Also, the number of fighters born in the United States shrunk from 13 in 2003 to a measly four this year. Lopez and Miguel Cotto are U.S. citizens by way of Puerto Rico, but they didn’t learn their stuff in the American amateur system, so they can’t be counted. Brits are on the rise, though. There was only one Brit All-Star in 2003, but three made the list this year, sans Hatton.

Perhaps you’re wondering why some of your favorite fighters didn’t make the list, but rest assured that many other fighters were given close consideration. It’s just that some fighters seem to lose fights as we’re creating our list, and others just fall a bit short in terms of box office and general excitement value.

The 20 fighters who made it weren't chosen solely on their ability to sell tickets and attract cable customers but the ability to fill seats definitely plays a big part in our selection process. Some fighters, Nonito Donaire for example, might not yet be a legitimate star on the level of Floyd Mayweather Jr. or Manny Pacquiao, but we felt he can compete with the best in terms of talent, and is certainly on his way to stardom.

Those who were removed from last year’s list are gone because they simply didn’t do enough to merit inclusion this year. The one exception is the late Edwin Valero. He made it last time, and there was every reason to believe he’d repeat.

With that in mind, here are the 2010 All-Star Report Cards. The fighters are judged on talent, achievement, marketability, support system, and growth potential. They are presented in order of weight class, starting with the heavyweights.

Today: Juan Manuel Lopez. Tomorrow: Nonito Donaire.

JUAN MANUEL LOPEZ
WBO featherweight titleholder
29-0 (26 KOs)

TALENT: His porous defense might someday cost him in a big way, but we sense Lopez doesn’t want to be remembered as a defensive genius. The southpaw from Puerto Rico goes for the knockout the way “Big Papi” David Ortiz goes for the last-inning home run. A classic boxer-puncher, Lopez is so confident in his ability to dispatch an opponent with either hand that he sometimes forgets fighters might hit back. This has created something of a roller-coaster effect during his recent fights. And while this mighty play havoc with Bob Arum’s nerves, we’re happy to get onboard. Grade: A-

ACHIEVEMENT: Lopez rang up three more victories since making 2009’s All-Star list and passed some serious tests along the way. First, his undefeated streak nearly ended at the hands of gallant journeyman Rogers Mtagwa. Out on his feet during the bout’s final moments, Lopez showed exceptional survival instincts (and a touch of desperation) to hang on and win a unanimous decision. Feeling he’d outgrown the 122-pound ranks, Lopez stepped up in weight to challenge Steve Luevano for the WBO featherweight title, winning by TKO. Most recently Lopez scored an electrifying second-round stoppage of Bernabe Concepcion, but only after being dropped himself in the opening round. Lopez, who started boxing at age 10 and amassed an amateur record of 126-24, has become one of the few must-see fighters working today. We should’ve seen it coming when he won the WBO junior featherweight belt in 2008 by starching the durable Daniel Ponce De Leon in one round. Grade: B+

MARKETABILITY: A Puerto Rican puncher is gold, especially a good-natured one such as Lopez. He’s developed a good following on the East Coast, and judging by the crowd reaction in Puerto Rico when he defeated Concepcion, “JuanMa” might soon leapfrog over fellow Caguas native Miguel Cotto in terms of popularity. The grinning Lopez is definitely closer in personality to Felix Trinidad, as opposed to the dour Cotto, which will no doubt make Lopez more popular in Puerto Rico as his career progresses. Grade: A-

SUPPORT SYSTEM: Top Rank has done a good job getting Lopez above the radar, keeping him active and matching him with strong opponents. The more-immediate Lopez team consists of Alex Caraballo, who has trained Lopez since the beginning of his career, assistant trainer Victor Martinez and no-nonsense manager Antonio Pinero. Another valuable player in Lopez’ circle is Trinidad, whose steady friendship with Lopez can be seen as a kind of passing of the torch from one Puerto Rican slugger to another. Grade: A

GROWTH POTENTIAL: If Lopez gets past the aging but dangerous Rafael Marquez in September, a bout with Top Rank stablemate Yuriorkis Gamboa is on the shortlist of fights we’d like to see. Top Rank has been building up to that one carefully, and both fighters have done their part to whet our appetites. Grade: A

Previous All-Star Report Cards

Wladimir Klitschko
Vitali Klitschko
David Haye
Tomasz Adamek
Andre Ward
Mikkel Kessler
Carl Froch
Lucian Bute
Sergio Martinez
Paul Williams
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
Miguel Cotto
Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Manny Pacquiao
Timothy Bradley
Amir Khan
Yuriorkis Gamboa

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