Featherweight Lopez a budding star
By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor
If he were American -- and about 30 pounds heavier -- he'd be a superstar.
But as it stands, Puerto Rican southpaw Juan Manuel Lopez is already a pretty big deal.
A winner in each and every one of 28 professional bouts, often in brief and violent fashion, the 27-year-old returns to his native island for a performance in front of the home folks Saturday night.
There, in San Juan, he'll face fifth-ranked contender Bernabe Concepcion in defense No. 1 of the WBO featherweight title he wrenched from Steven Luevano via seventh-round TKO at Madison Square Garden last January.
It's his 17th career appearance on home turf.
The first 16 have yielded one decision, 15 knockouts.
Lopez will headline a Showtime broadcast beginning at 9 p.m. (et). The show also features a scheduled 12-round match between former flyweight champion Nonito Donaire and Hernan Marquez.
The Manhattan blowout of the tricky Luevano -- who'd reigned since 2007 and made five successful defenses -- earned a second weight class belt for Lopez, who ruled the WBO's roost at 122 pounds for six fights between June 2008 and October 2009.
It also primed the pump for more from the handsome slugger, a winner by stoppage in all but three outings, including 17 times in three rounds of less.
Machinations reportedly have him aimed toward an eventual showdown with unbeaten Cuban export Yuriorkis Gamboa, who's won 15 of his 18 fights by knockout and will meet WBC champion Elio Rojas in another table-setter on September 11.
Both Lopez and Gamboa are promoted by Bob Arum.
"Juanma is very fortunate that we have Gamboa, and, in a year or so, it's going to be a very big fight," Arum said. "It's going to be a monster fight."
Also in the 126-pound mix is WBA champion Chris John, a lesser-celebrated Indonesian who's not lost -- 43 wins, 2 draws -- in 45 career bouts since turning pro in 1998.
John will defend against Argentine veteran Fernando Saucedo later this month in Jakarta.
One night earlier on Showtime's air, a Philadelphia-based prospect struts his stuff from nearby Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Mike Jones, now 21-0 with 17 KOs in nearly five years as a pro, takes a seemingly lateral -- albeit significantly televised -- step with a 12-rounder against Puerto Rican-born welter Irving Garcia.
Garcia, who turned 31 in January, is 3-2-3 in his last eight bouts.
Now 27 years old, Jones has already feasted on the requisite run of trialhorses, including former Floyd Mayweather Jr. victim Henry Bruseles (UD 10) and ex-IBO super featherweight and junior welterweight champion Israel Cardona (TKO 3).
He stopped once-beaten Albuquerque foe Hector Munoz in five rounds in his last fight, on April 17 in New Jersey.
The broadcast, which also features once-beaten Florida welterweight Antwone Smith against veteran Lanardo Tyner, begins at 11 p.m. (et).
In a week where former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson ruled out a middle-age comeback, the man who beat him in his swan song is finally back in business.
Irishman Kevin McBride, who became a trivia answer with a sixth-round KO of Tyson in 2005 in Washington, DC, will fight for the first time since 2007 in a scheduled eight-rounder in Poughkeepsie, New York with sub-.500 journeyman Zack Page.
The 6-foot-6 McBride, a winner in 32 of 37 career bouts at the onset of his fame, has won just once in three outings since -- while suffering stoppage losses to Mike Mollo (TKO 2) and Andrew Golota (TKO 6).
He's not fought since the Golota defeat at Madison Square Garden in October 2007.
Page, a 37-year-old Ohio native, is 20-29-2 as a pro but has been KO'd just twice.
ESPN2 -- Twin River Event Center, Lincoln, RI Henry Lundy (18-0-1) vs. John Molina (20-1)
Showtime -- Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, NJ Mike Jones (21-0) vs. Irving Garcia (17-4-3) Antwone Smith (18-1-1) vs. Lanardo Tyner (23-3)
TeleFutura -- Softball Country Arena, Denver, CO Erislandy Lara (11-0) vs. William Correa (8-3)
Showtime -- Coliseo Jose Miguel Agrelot, San Juan, PR Juan Manuel Lopez (28-0) vs. Bernabe Concepcion (28-3-1) Nonito Donaire (23-1) vs. Hernan Marquez (27-1)
Comcast SportsNet -- The Arena, Philadelphia, PA Ran Nakash (24-0) vs. Victor Barragan (11-5)
Lyle Fitzsimmons is an award-winning 21-year sports journalist, a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a frequent contributor to sports radio talk shows throughout the U.S. E-mail him at email@example.com, follow him at twitter.com/fitzbitz and read more at fitzbitzonfights.wordpress.com..