Are they ready for JuanMa in Puerto Rico as the new star? • Latino Sports


Are they ready for JuanMa in Puerto Rico as the new star?


New York – Juan Manuel Lopez knows what has to be done. The undefeated and two-division WBO featherweight champion is set to make his third title defense this Saturday on Showtime against Orlando Salido. Add to the fact that Lopez is quickly becoming a popular champion in Puerto Rico.

A win over Salido and Lopez gets closer to an eventual showdown with the undefeated Yuriorkos Gamboa. He says, “I know the great tradition that there is in Puerto Rico with the boxers. I’m very proud to be part of the tradition. Without a doubt growing up my idol and still is Felix Trinidad.”

Trinidad is expected to be at ringside Saturday evening at the Ruben Rodriguez Coliseo in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. The comparisons are made about the popular   Lopez is on the Island with other champions, including welterweight Miguel Cotto and flyweight Ivan Calderon.

“With due respect to Miguel Cotto and Ivan Calderon, two great champions, I feel that I’m the most popular boxer in Puerto Rico,” says Lopez. He has to answer that question about the comparisons.  The boxing public knows about his talent, but it may take that one super fight, with Gamboa, to surpass the popularity of Cotto and maybe Trinidad.

Trinidad is another story because he is etched in stone on the Island and battled with some of the greats in his division. “The Puerto Ricans have embraced JuanMa similar to the way they did with Tito Trinidad and Miguel Cotto,” explains Lopez promoter Bob Arum, of Top Rank.

Regardless of the outcome Saturday, and if he indeed meets and prevails over Gamboa, Lopez may never surpass the popularity of Trinidad. Those boxing fans in Puerto Rico have a passion for Lopez, they admire Cotto, but their hero remains Trinidad and that may never change.

That is, unless of course, Lopez continues to climb the ladder and eventually moves up in weight. He is comfortable for now in a division that is getting more acclaim due to the anticipated fight with Gamboa.  Arum eventually sees Lopez as a pay-per-view commodity because there is a base of Puerto Rican boxing fans indicated by the 55,000 households that purchased the recent Cotto title defense over Ricardo Mayorga.

Salido will be a tough test for Lopez to continue his popularity. The fans want to see Lopez and Gamboa. The two fighters were in the ring at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City last month after Gamboa successfully dominated Jorge Solis retaining his WBA featherweight title.

Arum will eventually have his two fighters in the ring to decide who is number one in the division. Then maybe Lopez can have his sights on moving up in weight. For now the emphasis is on Salido, another tough test in his climb to popularity.

“He’s one of those fighters that, comes forward,” says Lopez about Salido. “He won’t stop when you put on the pressure. He’ll be there all night. I have to be intelligent. I have to know that he’s going to be coming at me at all times. I just have to be very smart and be careful and do my job.”

That, according to Lopez will be trying to win every round. Though Salido stayed tough in the IBF featherweight title loss to Gamboa this past September and Lopez was an observer. “Win every round and win round by round,” he says about his fight plan with Salido.

In essence that is the strategy Lopez has become accustomed to. Winning every round, and when the knockout comes it can be devastating. His last fight with Mexican icon Rafael Marquez ended in an eighth round TKO, a standard finish after trying to win every round.

And what made Trinidad and Cotto so popular was the ability to rid opponents in early rounds. Later, as their careers progressed, knockouts came later in the fight. Lopez may not have to have adopt a similar strategy, but to surpass that popularity of Trinidad he may need that impressive finish against the (34-11, 22 KO’s) of Salido.

Though Lopez does have a majority of his wins by KO, 27 in his 30 fights as an undefeated champion, he claims every opponent is different. “I certainly want to look good and I want to do as well as I can, but I don’t want to compare myself to what he did and what I’m going to do,” he says about how Gamboa handled Salido in that fight.    

Time will tell. There is that inevitable moment for any fighter, however, as boxing history has shown there is always one or two champions from Puerto Rico that never lose their popularity. Cotto will still be around and Trinidad never disappears from the scene and is a frequent ringside observer when Lopez is in the ring.

Arum says everything changes, and everything stays the same in the sport he has been involved with for 45 years. Saturday there is another chance for Lopez to change the popularity of a champion from Puerto Rico.

e-mail Rich Mancuso: [email protected]

 Posted by WGR



About William Gerena-Rochet

William Gerena Rochet, is the former Latino Sports baseball editor. He is a retired NYC teacher who divides his time living between New York City and San Juan, Puerto Rico. He started writing for Latino Sports during the inaugural World Baseball Classic when a series was played in Puerto Rico in 2006. On of his favorite moments was covering the 2006 MLB All-Star Game in Pittsburgh. During his time with Latino Sports, he covered several divisional and League championship series games and the 2009 World Series. He also covered the last game at the old Yankee stadium and the first game of the current one. In closing, William has covered multiples Latino Sports MVP Awards ceremonies and Spanish Language Press Conferences including the Jorge Posada retirement one. Now a contributor, Willie will occasionally cover the Yankees.