Josesito Lopez And The Eight-Year Plan

(Josesito Lopez, with trainer Henry Ramirez; photo credit: Tom Casino, Showtime)

Though many memorable moments remain from last Saturday’s shocking result at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, one of those moments that stuck with me late into the following week about Josesito Lopez was simply him making his ringwalk. Emblazoned on the right breast of his jacket was a large logo: Thompson Boxing.

Josesito Lopez was the first fighter Thompson Boxing signed to a contract in 2004. Though they cut the opening day ribbon on their company in 2000, Lopez was the first fighter to sign an exclusive deal to be promoted by the Orange County-based outfit.

Both promoter and fighter have ridden through their fair share of bumps in the road, but Lopez’s upset win this past Saturday over Victor Ortiz was an unquestionable high point.

“It ranks up there. We’ve had a good history with some of our fighters over the years. I think this one was sweet because of the magnitude of the show,” Thompson Boxing general manager Alex Camponovo said to TQBR on Wednesday afternoon. “This one ranks up there because we have a sweet spot in our hearts for Josesito because he is the first fighter we signed back in 2004. We’ve had a long road up until this point. Some inactivity, some injuries — he wasn’t as focused then as he is now in his career. He was a young man trying to find his way and mature. This has been a great moment because of the fact we’ve had him since the beginning of his career.”

Just prior to the welterweight fight, Lopez was a 7-to-1 underdog most places that offered action. Very few people were giving the Riverside resident a chance to turn Golden Boy Promotions’ plans of a Sept. 15 pay-per-view date between Ortiz and emerging junior middleweight star Saul “Canelo” Alvarez upside down. But from the beginning, Lopez and his team believed they could do it and it became even more apparent when the opening bell sounded.

Lopez implemented a perfect game plan that was orchestrated by trainer Henry Ramirez, some of it based on the tips that were provided by Eduardo Garcia. Garcia is the father of Ortiz trainer Danny Garcia, and was responsible for training Ortiz for a lengthy duration as well as housing the fighter.

“His personal knowledge of Ortiz was interesting,” said Camponovo. “He had a good perspective, but at no moment whatsoever was he part of the training or the team. Every time Josesito was sparring he wasn’t even there. All I can say is Henry did his homework, he studied Victor Ortiz to a ‘T’ and communicated very well with his fighter, and he had a great gameplan like you said.”

Lopez’ perfect game plan consisted of frustrating Ortiz from the get-go, which he was able to do in a number of ways. First, every time Ortiz landed something solid, Lopez did one of two things. He came back right away with something of his own, often backing up Ortiz in the process; he also clinched many times Ortiz landed something good, which helped keep him from following up. At one point in the fight, Lopez also dropped his gloves and waved Ortiz on, no doubt infuriating his heavily-favored opponent and letting him know that it wasn’t going to be as easy as advertised.

In an interview with both Lopez and Ramirez prior to the fight, TQBR wondered whether or not Lopez, a southern California native, could possibly win the crowd. At the opening bell, it felt like a very pro-Ortiz congregation. As time wore on, slowly but surely the crowd began rallying behind Lopez.

The crowd support of Ortiz was no doubt damaged when he committed a flagrant foul in round 5, landing a cheap shot to the back of Lopez’s head that had referee Jack Reiss allow him some time to recover from. Following that, the crowd was overwhelmingly behind Lopez, and you could see it had an effect on Ortiz’s psyche.

“It was amazing, man, something I never experienced before,” recalled Lopez. “It just got that much more out of me and I enjoyed every second. I definitely felt like I won the fans over but the best thing I could do is just what I do naturally and fight my way through, and I am glad everybody enjoyed it.”

Obviously it didn’t help Ortiz’s chances that at some point in the late stages his jaw was badly broken. When the fight was stopped in the corner prior to the start of the championship rounds, the Lopez corner erupted into a level of elation that was quite palpable.

For Lopez, it signified he had finally arrived on the big stage, so to speak, said Camponovo.

“I just know he has reached another plateau, that one we always thought he could get to,” Thompson’s general manager said. “All those losses he had, whether they were split decisions or controversial, it was those fights we sat down after and asked ‘What if he would have pushed himself more?’ But I think finally he has matured and now they say a world champion gets 30 percent more confident, I think he is going to be 100 percent more confident.”

Added Lopez: “I’ve had four losses, man, and it is tough every time… Every loss is tough you know but you can’t ever, ever give up. That is the key, don’t give up.”

There was a question whether or not Golden Boy treating Lopez as a tune-up had any effect on the challenger and his team.

“It made Jose a little angrier, a little stronger, a little more resentful,” said Camponovo. “He rebelled in that way, he wanted to show everyone that he wasn’t a tune-up. He was gonna have to go through him to get Canelo and it didn’t happen.”

The fire in Josesito’s eyes was definitely there. Though he has acquitted himself well in previous contests, his determination rose to a level that, previous to this fight, it never reached.

Now with a career defining victory under his belt, Lopez and co-promoters Thompson Boxing and Goossen-Tutor Promotions have a lot of options. Although there was a rematch clause, it doesn’t sound as though Lopez’s team will be forced to take a fight with Ortiz next, especially considering the uphill battle he faces in rehabbing his jaw.

“We want to do the rematch, it is a great fight, would do great on TV for the ratings, but I don’t think we are in the position to wait too long,” said Camponovo. “Obviously we would like Ortiz to recover well and resume his career whichever way he wants to do it. It was a very serious injury, he needed screws, a titanium plate, and I know it will demand time just to recover, not even to train. For the time being we have to look out for what is good to Jose, what division he will be fighting in, and who will be his next opponent.”

Lopez and his team have earned the right to pick and choose their next fight. Often in today’s landscape, young fighters are basically sleep-walked to world titles and big opportunities. Josesito Lopez went a different, more difficult direction to get to there. Maybe it will be the difference in ensuring he will stay at that level. One thing is for sure, it would be hard to be disappointed by whatever route they decide to go.

“I was able to watch the fight once already and you realize wow, it was a pretty exciting fight,” Lopez said. “I think the announcers were great on Showtime, and the fans out there, man, it was very electric in there so it was a good fight and I’m glad I came out on top.”

More than a good fight, it was a good night — not just for Josesito Lopez and Showtime, but for boxing. Give us more of these moments, please.

Mark Ortega can be reached via e-mail and followed via Twitter. Mark also contributes to renowned boxing publications RING Magazine and Boxing Monthly, and is a member of the Boxing Writer’s Association of America and RING Ratings Advisory Panel.