Juan Manuel Lopez Gets Off The Floor To Stop Bernabe Concepcion, Now Looks Ahead To Rafael Marquez Fight

Juan Manuel Lopezby James Slater - Juan Manuel Lopez, the reigning WBO featherweight champion and one of the most exciting fighters in the sport today, gave us another thriller last night, in his native Puerto Rico. Halting 22-year-old Filipino Bernabe Concepcion in two pulsating, knockdown-filled rounds, "Juanma" got off the canvas to win.

Decked by a desperate Concepcion in the 1st-round by a left hook, the unbeaten 27-year-old southpaw star got up to end the fight in his favour towards the end of the very next round. In once again showing he is both a lethal puncher as well as being an occasionally vulnerable fighter, Lopez used his power and speed to get himself out of jail. Now 29-0(26), the question is, can Lopez continue winning with his blend of raw power, leaky defence and less than granite chin?

The thinking in a number of places is that Lopez WILL pay the price big time and lose one day, simply because of the chances he takes when he fights.. This is what makes the two-weight WBO ruler so exciting to watch - in a similar fashion to the way countryman and former world champion Felix Trinidad thrilled his fans by getting out of tight spots to win in crushing style - but how long can Lopez keep his unbeaten record?

Next up for the 126-pounder is a big match-up with Mexican legend Rafael Marquez. Marquez may be 35 now and he may have taken some quite severe, debilitating punishment in his fine, surely Hall of Fame-bound career, but he remains a dangerous and determined warrior. Arguably as exciting, if not more so, than Lopez, Marquez has won his last two fights since losing two in a row to archrival and fellow Mexican Israel Vazquez - but we still don't really know how effective Marquez can be at featherweight. Marquez evened out his legendary series with Vazquez last time out with a 3rd-round stoppage of "El Magnifico," but Vazquez looked so faded the win told us little regarding how much the winner has left. We will find out in Las Vegas on September 18th against Lopez.

Marquez, 39-5(35) may well have gained some added confidence from seeing Lopez go down against Concepcion, and the Mexican warrior could be thinking that if it had been him who put "Juanma" down he would have finished him off. He'll get his chance in a little over two month's time. Marquez may also have studied Lopez' way tougher than expected battle with Rogers Mtagwa, and he may be willing to put his body through that kind of war of attrition, with him getting the decision that Mtagwa failed to pick up after 12-rounds of hell.

But can Marquez fight that hard and for that long at his current age? His best days down at super-bantamweight, Marquez, had he faced Lopez at around 122-pounds and a few years ago, would, in my opinion, be the favourite to win. But here in 2010, and up at featherweight, Marquez is a pretty big underdog. But we do have that vulnerable factor on the part of the eight years-younger man to consider, and this could make the playing field a little more even.

Marquez doesn't exactly have the best chin in the world himself, though, and in September both he and the defending champion could well pay a visit to the canvas. Indeed, we could be on the verge of seeing something special on the 18th. Neither guy is ever in a dull fight, and 2010's Fight of The Year could even be upon us. As experienced as he is, Lopez' southpaw stance is unlikely to bother Marquez unduly, but the champion's speed and withering power may do so.

It would be a surprise if Marquez didn't at least have his moments in the fight, with him hitting and hurt Lopez a few times, but the man who wins in September could well be the man capable of rallying back best when hurt. With his youth, his edge in speed and power and his less-punished body, this man looks like being Lopez. A short, Hagler-Hearns-type war wouldn't surprise too many and we may even get a fight to match the 1985 classic. Or, on the other hand, we could be in store for a long, draining and intense distance fight.

Either way, and whoever wins, fans are almost sure to go home happy on Sept. 18th!

Article posted on 12.07.2010

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