Monday, December 16, 2013

Lopez-Arnaoutis Should There Be A Rematch?

One of the things that makes the sport of Boxing unique and great is that a fighter can become a star of the sport in a couple of different ways. Of course the most notable way to most would be for a fighter to win and win impressively. There are however, fighters who have endeared themselves to Boxing fans by the courage they have shown in battle. Sometimes it is not wins and losses that can make a fighter star, but rather how they fight. A fighter who has endeared himself to Boxing fans for the courage he has shown win or lose is Welterweight contender Josesito Lopez.

One might argue that Lopez became a star after defeating former Welterweight world champion Victor Ortiz last year in a grueling back and forth fight where Lopez broke Ortiz’ jaw in route to a ninth round stoppage when Ortiz could not continue. Lopez, who had entered the fight as a substitute opponent, in his first fight in the Welterweight division showed his courage by going toe to toe with Ortiz. In a fight where most felt Ortiz would win, Lopez wound up pulling off a come from behind victory as he was trailing on all three scorecards at the time of the stoppage.

The win over Ortiz not only put Lopez on the map, but off his performance in that fight he was able to secure a title shot against former Jr. Middleweight world champion Saul Alvarez in September of last year. Although Lopez was not a natural Jr. Middleweight, who had never fought in the 147lb. Welterweight division prior to taking on Ortiz, Lopez took on the naturally bigger Alvarez, again with the odds against him. In that fight Alvarez knocked Lopez down in rounds two, three, and four before the bout was stopped in round five. Lopez suffered a beating in that fight, but was quite “Game” and gave a valiant effort in defeat.

In June of this year Lopez engaged in a slugfest against Marcos Maidana in a fight where both fighters had their moments, but ultimately it was Maidana who got the better of Lopez, stopping him in six rounds. Despite having lost two of his last three fights Lopez had clearly established himself as a force to be reckoned with.

When the twenty-nine year old Lopez entered the ring on December 13th for his fight against Mike Arnaoutis in Indio, California, one of the questions that this observer had in mind was what affect if any did Lopez’ previous three fights have on him? It is important to remember that Lopez had engaged in three grueling fights in a short period of time. The physical toll of those battles in such a short span of time can definitely have an affect on a fighter. An argument could have been made however, that Lopez, who entered the fight with a record of 30-6, with 18 Knockouts was not facing a fighter with the type of punching power or, aggressive style as his previous three opponents in Mike Arnaoutis.

Arnaoutis, a long time contender in both the Jr. Welterweight and Welterweight divisions came into his fight with Lopez with a record of 24-9-2, with 11 Knockouts having lost five of his last seven fights. Although having the ability to outbox his opponents having only scored eleven knockouts in his twenty-four wins, some may have been of the opinion that Arnaoutis was now on the downside of his career. For the thirty-four-year-old Arnaoutis however, this fight presented an opportunity to revitalize his career.

It was somewhat surprising to see this fight being fought at a tactical pace in the early going where both fighters were able to be effective. The first two rounds were what could be described as “Swing Rounds” where an argument could easily be made for either fighter having won those rounds. The momentum turned in the closing seconds of round three when Arnaoutis scored a knockdown of Lopez as a result of a jab that caught Lopez off balance where his glove touched the canvas.

Lopez was not hurt by the knockdown, and began round four by stepping up his aggression, but Arnaoutis was also effective in throwing short crisp punches. Despite coming into the fight having lost five of his last seven bouts Arnaoutis is after all a world-class boxer who twice challenged for a world title in his own right. It was clear that Arnaoutis came to fight and was looking to make the most of this opportunity. The round was difficult to score and when it comes to rounds that are “Swing Rounds” it will often boil down to what a judge prefers in their criteria based on clean punching, effective aggressiveness, ring generalship, and defense.

From my perspective I had this fight even in rounds at the end of four rounds. Because of the knockdown in round three however, Arnaoutis had a slight edge in points in my opinion. There easily could be a difference of opinion as to who had the edge based on how the early rounds were fought. It was a very competitive fight.

Although Lopez continued to step up his aggression, it was Arnaoutis who as the fight progressed seemed to grow in confidence as he used his jab to set up and throw combinations and held his own in exchanges with Lopez. Even with the knockdown against Lopez in round three, this fight was extremely close.

The momentum appeared to slightly shift in Lopez’ favor in the seventh round as he was able to back Arnaoutis up and land punches to the body and head. Lopez however, did have trouble cutting the ring off from Arnaoutis who was able to use his lateral movement to avoid being trapped on the ropes for long periods of time.

An accidental clash of heads opened a bad cut over the left eye of Arnaoutis midway through round eight, which would ultimately bring this ten round bout to an early ending as following the eighth round Arnaoutis told a ringside physician that he could not see out of his left eye causing the bout to be stopped and the fight would go to the scorecards for a technical decision after eight rounds.

All three judges Fritz Warner, Max DeLuca, and Tom Taylor had Lopez ahead at the time of the stoppage making him the winner by a unanimous technical decision. Although this was a very close fight and was not easy to score, I had Arnaoutis ahead 76-75 at the end of the eighth round. It is certainly understandable however, given how this fight was fought how the three judges could have it the other way and in the case of judges Fritz Warner and Max DeLuca had Lopez ahead 77-74 on their scorecards, in contrast judge Tom Taylor had a scorecard similar to mine, only with a difference of opinion as to who was ahead. It was definitely not the easiest assignment for these judges and they should be given credit for turning in reasonable scorecards.

What’s next for Lopez and Arnaoutis? Well, in this observer’s eyes this fight was very competitive and frankly had a somewhat inconclusive outcome. An outcome that would theoretically leave the door open for a rematch down the line. Whether or not a rematch is in the immediate future is unknown. There are opportunities that could be open to both Lopez and Arnaoutis in a crowded Welterweight division where there are several interesting fights that could be made and certainly a lot of money on the table.

If a rematch is not in the immediate cards for Josesito Lopez, it would be logical in the eyes of this observer to see Lopez potentially face the winner of the upcoming fight between former Welterweight world champions Victor Ortiz and Luis Collazo that is scheduled to take place on January 30, 2014. Either a rematch with Ortiz or a fight with Luis Collazo could prove to be very entertaining.

If however, it is possible for a rematch between Lopez and Arnaoutis to be made this observer believes it should be considered. If nothing else Arnaoutis showed despite appearing that he may be on the downside of his career that he has more fight left in him and gave a good account himself against Lopez. Should there be a rematch? Why not?

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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