On March 10, former WBO featherweight titleholder Juan Manuel Lopez will return to the scene of the crime, so to speak, when he faces the man who took his title last April.
Orlando Salido’s shocking eighth-round knockout upset took place in Lopez’s native Puerto Rico, and the two men will meet once again before a partisan crowd, this time at the Coliseo Roberto Clemente in San Juan.
Lopez (31-1, 28 knockouts) partially blamed the loss on distractions created by his divorce from Barbara DeJesus, the mother of his five children, which he said weighed him down emotionally.
Since then, however, Lopez has rebounded with October’s win over fellow southpaw Mike Oliver, against whom he scored two knockdowns on the way to a second-round KO.
Salido (37-11-2, 25 KOs) will be after his fourth consecutive stoppage victory, having fought twice since meeting Lopez to score late knockouts over Kenichi Yamaguchi and Weng Haya.
Although focused on what amounts to a must-win fight with Salido, Lopez told RingTV.com that, in victory, he would consider rising into the junior lightweight division, and if not, a featherweight bout opposite unbeaten Mikey Garcia, or a rematch with ex-beltholder Rafael Marquez, who lost an eighth-round knockout to Lopez in November of 2010.
Interview translated by Top Rank’s Ricardo Jiminez.
Juan Manuel Lopez: You know, the way that I look at it, I think that this is a fight that a lot of people are expecting, and I think that this is the fight that people want to see. People want to see how I rebound from that loss.
So for me, this is the most important fight of my career. It will define a lot of the things that I want to do in the future, so I look at this as a very important fight. It’s not only a fight that I need to win, but also, a fight that I need to look good winning.
RingTV.com: What went wrong tactically in your first fight with Salido that you can improve on in this next fight?
JML: You know, I don’t think that there was any problem with our strategy or our tactics or the things that we wanted to do. It was just the fact that there was a problem with me not being there.
I wasn’t as focused as I should have been. I should have been able to execute a game plan. I was not there totally, mentally, that night, and that’s on me.
RingTV.com: Have you recovered from your marital issues, and are they all behind you?
JML: Those things are in the past, I feel good about everything that’s going on. I’m just focused on my fight. I know how important my fight is, so I need to stay focused and think about what I need to do.
RingTV.com: How important was it for you to score the big win over Oliver in front of your Puerto Rican fans?
JML: It was important for me to get back out there. It was important to get a win. It was important to show my fans that I was back. To me, that was not only an important statement to make, but to also do it at home.
It was a little more difficult to get than I expected, but it was a good win to get and to get back into it.
RingTV.com: Is it important to defeat Salido in Puerto Rico, where you lost to him?
JML: It’s important of course to be at home, but I don’t think about that so much as getting the opportunity to regain my title. I think that this is a good night for revenge, and it will be great to celebrate with my fans.
But the important thing is that I’m getting the opportunity to get the win and to regain my title by doing that.
JML: The most important thing is to get the win, that’s the biggest thing that I need to do. I just need to get the win. If the knockout comes, great.
I mean, yeah, that would be good. A knockout is what the fans want, and if I can give it to them, then I will surely try for it.
RingTV.com: Should you defeat Salido, have you thought about what you would like to do beyond this fight?
JML: You know, right now, we have to take it step-by-step. There are some other interesting fights at 126. There’s Mikey Garcia, and maybe another fight with Rafael Marquez. There’s some options out there.
But the important thing is to get done what we need to get done. We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves in thinking about the other possibilities out there. Eventually, though, I think that 130 is a weight class where I want to go.
Photos by Mary Ann Owen, Fightwireimages.com
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com