Exclusive Interview: Juan Manuel Lopez

By Socrates Palmer Jr


Exclusive Interview: Juan Manuel Lopez

Juan Manuel Lopez and Ponce De Leon will battle for the WBO 122-pound title on Saturday night in Atlantic City, new Jersey.  Lopez and De Leon are the newest characters and the latest chapter of the ethnic rivalry between Mexicans and Puerto Ricans.  Boardwalk Hall will serve as the venue as the undefeated Puerto Rican challenger, Lopez, looks to capture his first world title from the Mexican power puncher. “Juanma” as he is affectionately referred as says he’s up for the challenge and set to leave the ring as champion. 

“I’m calm right now and actually a little bit more at ease then when I was in Puerto Rico. Since I arrived here today, things are so quiet and I just blend in here in New York. Back home this fight is getting a lot of attention and people have been stopping and talking to me about the fight, here I’m totally concentrated on the task at hand and I’m ready to go,” Lopez.

“I could not ask for a better team from, my manager Orlando Pinero, to my trainer Alex Caraballo and conditioning Coach Victor Martinez, I owe it all to them along with my hard work in the gym it’s been a total team effort. Also Ricardo Figueroa has been a friend to me from day 1 and I am lucky to have a good support base,” Lopez.

The way Lopez describes his emotions leading up to this fight you would not suspect that the 25 year old is days away from the biggest night of his life. Juanma as he is affectionately referred to in his native Caguas, Puerto Rico is his usual soft spoken and low key self when this interview was conducted. However Juanma, is a exuding a self confidence that I had not heard from him in previous talks. Juanma says that his focus and preparation comes second nature to him. You would imagine that not being overwhelmed is a trait that he practices often being the father of 5 children. 

“I expect a tough fight from De Leon. He says he’s going to knock me out and I know that he can punch but so can I my record proves that, (21-0 with 19 KOs) I’ve seen how he fights, its awkward no doubt about it. I’m very familiar with him in fact because my compadre Carlos Valcarcel fought him in the amateurs we’ve both fought on Telefutura a few times so what he does won’t be a surprise. It’s an ugly style but it works for him. He is a good fighter. He says he’s going to stop me and that’s cool, I have 7 1st round knockouts so lets see what happens,” Lopez. 

The defending champion De Leon has one defeat and 34 victories and has stopped 30 of his opponents. It will be the seventh defense of the 122 strap that he captured in 2006 (Israel Vazquez is generally recongized as the world's topp 122 pounder). Lopez wanst to make 7 an unlucky number for his foe. Lopez says that discipline and not chance will be the key to his success on Saturday night. 

“My smarts and my ability, and my punch will be the difference, he’s going to make a mistake and I will make him pay,” Lopez.

In keeping with the nationalistic theme to this terrific encounter is that both men are representing arguably the boxing Mecca’s of Latin America. It is a rivalry between to lands that is unsurpassed. Lopez says that he and De Leon are rivals inside of the ring and that there is no added animosity or extra pressure to win, because De Leon is Mexican. Juanma does admit though that them being from these two great lands that have produced some of boxing biggest legends is the fuel that has carried the media coverage and the promotion to this fight. Juanma and De Leon will be the first of three consecutive title bouts that pit Mexico vs. Puerto Rico in the upcoming months. Antonio Margarito will meet Miguel Cotto on July 26th and one of the best pound for pound fighters of this generation Ivan Calderon will defend his 108lb title against Hugo Fidel Cazares on August 31st.

I have a game plan and that’s to take the title from him I have earned my way to where I am. My team and I are approaching this round per round, but I don’t think it will go the distance. Its not going to be easy Socrates, but he makes mistakes and I will capitalize on it. He says he’s a different fighter and his trainer says he’s made adjustments but after 35 fights you are what you are. If he tries to fight different that wont be easy or to his benefit, I am going to win no matter what,” Lopez.


A few Notable Bouts Between Puerto Ricans and Mexicans:

Wilfred Benitez- Carlos Palomino
Benitez wins the world Welterweight title with a 15 round decision.v

Hector “Macho” Camacho-Bazooka Limon
Camacho wins the world Jr. Lightweight title with a 5 round knockout

Camacho captures the world Lightweight title with a 12 round decision.

Julio Cesar Chávez-Edwin El “Chapo” Rosario
Chávez wins the world Lightweight title with an 11 round knockout

Julio Cesar Chávez- Hector “Macho” Camacho
Chávez retains his world Jr. Welterweight title with a 12 round decision. One of the best one sided beatings you want to see.

Cuevas beats Espada for the world Welterweight title, then successfully defends it three times against the same rival

Escobar becomes the first Puerto Rican world champion, winning the world Bantamweight title over Casanova by knockout in nine, in the first world title fight between a Puerto Rican and a Mexican

Escobar retains world Bantamweight title by knockout in round one.

Wilfredo “Bazooka” Gómez- Lupe Pintor
Gómez retains the world Jr. Featherweight title with a 14 round knockout in what was described by Ring Magazine as the fight of the 80s at the Jr. Featherweight division

Wilfredo“Bazooka” Gómez-Carlos Zarate
Gómez retains his world Jr. Featherweight title by knockout in round five. Still talked about this day in barber shops and bars to this day.

Revenge for Mexico Sanchez inflicts what many consider the greatest defeat in Puerto Rican boxing history, knocking Gómez out in eight rounds to retain the world Featherweight title

In their first fight, Rosario conquers the vacant world Lightweight title with a 12 round decision. In their rematch, Ramirez wins the world title with a four round knockout

Trinidad-de la Hoya
Trinidad defeats de la Hoya by a 12 round decision to unify the world Welterweight title, in what many Puerto Ricans see as revenge for Gómez's loss at the hands of Sanchez

Trinidad recovers from a knockdown and drops Vargas five times, unifying the world's Jr Middleweight title with a 12 round knockout.


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