Calling it “the most important fight of my career,” two-division titlewinner Juan Manuel Lopez spoke to RingTV.com concerning his June 15 clash with unbeaten RING and WBO featherweight champion Mikey Garcia, which is slated to be televised by HBO from Dallas.
A 25-year-old resident of Oxnard, Calif., Garcia (31-0, 26 knockouts) is coming off January’s eight-round technical unanimous decision over Orlando Salido, who has knockout wins over Lopez from April of 2011 and March of 2012.
Lopez (33-2, 30 KOs), who turns 30 in June, sandwiched a second-round knockout of Mike Oliver in October of 2011 between the losses to Salido, and has won his past two fights by ninth- and second-round knockout.
Lopez describes Garcia as being a combination of ex-beltholder Steven Luevano and former two-division titleholder Rafael Marquez, whom Lopez stopped in January and November of 2010, respectively. He also sees Garcia as more conventional than the free-wheeling Salido or rugged Rogers Mtagwa, against whom Lopez survived a treacherous 12th round on the way to a winning a unanimous decision in October of 2009.
Lopez talked about his upcoming fight with Garcia, the adjustments he has made in training as he heads into the bout, and his hope of potentially facing three-division titlewinner and promotional stablemate Nonito Donaire.
Translated by Top Rank’s Ricardo Jiminez.
RingTV.com: Where are you training and how long have you been doing so for this fight?
Juan Manuel Lopez: Well, as you know, I had my last fight on April 20. I trained for that fight, and just took a week off, and now, I’ve been training since then. So it’s been about five weeks, and I’m in Caguas, Puerto Rico.
RingTV.com: Have you made any significant changes either in your style, method of training or in the personnel in your camp that has manifested in your last two fights since losing to Salido?
JML: After the Salido fight, I added Freddie Trinidad to my camp. He’s a well-known trainer here in Puerto Rico, and he’s helped me in my defense and he wants me to be calm in the ring.
He doesn’t want me to force anything and to wait for everything to come to me, and in the past, I would sometimes get desperate and try to do things that I shouldn’t be doing.
He’s teaching me all of the new things that I wasn’t doing, like how to clinch, how to hold the guy correctly, and when you need to do it.
RingTV.com: So is Freddie the lead trainer or is he in with the other trainer?
JML: He’s in with my other trainers, but he’s just adding the other parts to my strategies, the clinching and the types of movement that he wants from me. The other trainer is Alex Carabello, and Orlando Pineda, who has always been there.
RingTV.com: Are you still comfortable in the weight class and making the 126-pound limit?
JML: I’m not going to lie to you, it’s always going to be difficult to make the 126-pound weight class for me. It is going to be difficult, but I’ve really been training since my last fight, which was in Mexico.
So, my weight has been good. I’m 10 pounds away from it with two weeks to go, and I feel good and I know that I’m going to make the 126 weight limit. I’ll see how my body response on that night.
RingTV.com: Is there anything that you’re doing differently to make the weight that has made it any easier, whether it’s dietary or in training method?
JML: For that fight in Mexico, we had changed my diet already. We were working on that. We have continued to just be eating the right things, nothing out of the ordinary and nothing that will set us up.
I haven’t really gone out and eaten anything that I like because I don’t want to eat those things. I just want to continue the same, steady diet that I’ve had for the last couple of fights.
RingTV.com: What does this fight mean to you, given everything that you’ve been through since losing to Salido?
JML: This is the most important fight of my career, without a doubt. But not only will a win give me the title, but it will put me back into that elite level of fighters where I think that I still belong.
I still have a lot left in the tank, and I’m able to do a lot of things. I think that this fight will prove that I’m still one of the best.
RingTV.com: Win or lose, are you likely to remain at 126 pounds or to move up after this fight?
JML: You know, I’m looking at it this way, if I win this fight, and if there is one more fight there, then I might stay for one more fight in this weight class, because I hear that Nonito Donaire might be moving up.
I think that I would stay around for that fight. I would wait for that. But other than that, I think that I would be moving up to 130, regardless of what happens in this fight.
RingTV.com: How do you handle Garcia?
JML: I look at Mikey as a combination of, like, even though Steven Luevano was a left-hander, Garcia fights a lot like Luevano, with a lot of thinking in the ring.
And I think that he has that counter-punching ability like Rafael Marquez did when I fought him, so that makes him a dangerous fighter. I know that I have to stay away from his right hand.
He’s really strong with that punch. He’s a really strong fighter and a thinking fighter, so we always have to be aware of what he’s trying to do so that we can counter.
RingTV.com: Was there anything that you learned about him from his last fight with Salido?
JML: The only thing that I noticed was that at the end of the fight, in the eighth round, or whatever, is that he seemed to be slowing down a little bit. He seemed to be tiring out.
But you have to apply good pressure against him, and you have to get him to tire out a little bit and then take advantage of that.
RingTV.com: Given your comments about your potential weight issues and the energy that it might require to exert pressure against Garcia, do you have any concerns about your own stamina against him late in the fight?
JML: I think that we’re okay. We see this as a 12-round fight, no question about it. It’s going to be hard for him to knock me out, and it’s going to be hard for me to knock him out.
But I think that just because of his style and because of the way that he fights that it’s definitely going to be as if we’re looking at a 12-round fight.
But if there is anybody who is going to be knocked out in this fight, then it’s probably going to be him, because I’m more powerful, and because of my style, which lends more to a knockout rather than his.
RingTV.com: Is there anything more that you want to get out there to your fans or to the public that you want to address?
JML: I think that some people think that just because he beat Salido, and that guy beat me, that he’s going to beat me. But I don’t think that boxing is like that.
Boxing is about styles, and I think that his style is a little more conventional than Salido’s, and a little more conventional than Rogers Mtagwa’s.
Those guys were coming from every angle and from everywhere. You know, they had no pace to themselves, and there’s nothing to them but a lot of punches from different angles.
I think that Mikey’s just a straight, conventional fighter, and I think that it will be a fight against a fighter that I can figure out really quickly.
Photo by Peter Amador, Top Rank
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com