(Juan Manuel Lopez finishes Bernabe Concepcion. Photo credit: Tom Casino, Showtime)
This was Juanma at his best and Juanma at his worst. On Showtime Saturday, featherweight Juan Manuel Lopez was on course for a destructive early knockout of Bernabe Concepcion in the 1st round after scoring an official knockdown and getting another that didn’t count, demonstrating the power that makes him one of boxing’s biggest punchers. Then he got caught by a counter left at the end of the round and got decked himself, demonstrating the tendency toward vulnerability aided by foolishness. But he came back a bit more under control in the 2nd, twice flooring Concepcion — who’s normally sturdy, by the way — to end the fight and turning the stadium in Puerto Rico into a convection oven of sound. If the performance gave both believers and doubters ammunition, it did nothing to erase Juanma’s reputation as a thrilling fighter.
On the undercard, junior bantamweight Nonito Donaire was so hungry for a challenge he fought four rounds against Hernan Marquez as a southpaw, and as much as he proved he could win that way, the fight completely flipped the moment Donaire switched back to his usual orthodox stance. Donaire swiftly dropped Marquez in the next round, then dominated him before finishing him off in the 8th. The performance changed nothing for Donaire — he’s still a supertalented boxer fighting undertalented opponents and desperately in need of a marquee bout.
JUAN MANUEL LOPEZ-BERNABE CONCEPCION
There’s nothing humiliating about getting hurt by Concepcion, who’s a good puncher. What’s humiliating is how it happened. Lopez decided he was going to out-punch Lopez, ultimately something he proved he could do. But it was the judgment that put Lopez unnecessarily in harm’s way. Lopez is better as a boxer-puncher than as a puncher, and deciding to out-punch everyone isn’t going to work great sometimes, as the near loss to Rogers Mtagwa proved. Obviously it does work out great for boxing fans.
It’s hard to say where Concepcion goes next. This does put a ceiling on what he’s capable of doing. Being Pinoy and having a punch means he probably won’t lack for fight opportunities. He’s not good enough, though, to boost Lopez’ standing as a pound-for-pound player.
We know where Lopez is going next — a September showdown with Rafael Marquez. Marquez will come in as the underdog, deservedly, but in the court of public opinion, he might have gotten a surge of confidence in his chances after everyone watched Lopez get knocked down. Marquez, even as a featherweight, probably punches harder than Concepcion, and he’s a better overall boxer, too. That increased perception of competitiveness, plus the preexisting status of both men as offensive machines, help make this one of the highlights on the 2010 calendar.
NONITO DONAIRE-HERNAN MARQUEZ
I don’t think Donaire lost a round, although somehow the ringside press selected by Showtime had Donaire losing through the first four. No, he wasn’t as potent as a southpaw, and yes, he was more vulnerable to being hit. What he was, on the positive side: the cleaner, harder puncher. It was a useful exercise. It can be a nice loop to throw at an opponent, to switch stances, and Donaire proved he could make use of it in the future.
When Donaire switched to orthodox, he did more than win some rounds — he did to Marquez what he should’ve. Marquez was smaller and less experienced, and by not stretch of the imagination was he in Donaire’s league in boxing ability, speed or power.
Donaire is dead set, judging by this performance, of not correcting his bad habits, like fighting with his left down or leaping in haphazardly. That could cost him against Fernando Montiel, the opponent he wants next, not that Donaire’s chin has ever shown chinks. And Montiel might not be up next for Donaire. Eric Morel pulled out of his July 17 challenge for one of Montiel’s bantamweight title belts, citing an injury of dubious validity, and Montiel will instead fight Rafael Concepcion. Since it shaped up that Montiel might have to fight Concepcion after Morel because of alphabet politics, Montiel’s defeat of Concepcion could be all that stands in the way of Montiel-Donaire. Yet we’ve heard about Montiel-Donaire before, and it hasn’t happened. If not Montiel, there are more names for Donaire at 118 than 115, so all we can do is hope Marquez is the last of these kind of opponents for Donaire.
Other Saturday results, via Fightnews, BoxingScene, etc.:
–Brian Viloria won a split decision over Omar Soto in his move up to flyweight. Having a tough time with Soto doesn’t speak terribly well of Viloria’s chance for a revival at 112.
–Junior middleweight Saul Alvarez beat up and stopped Luciano Cuello in six rounds.
–Bantamweight Eden Sonsona lost via 9th round knockout to Jonathan Oquendo.