The headlines tell you that Juan Manuel Lopez is back. They tell you that his career has been resurrected. They tell you that his stoppage win over Daniel Ponce de Leon in Bayamon, Puerto Rico Saturday night was the magic potion that has revived his career.
Don’t believe any of it.
Juan Manuel Lopez, or “Juanma” for short, was the beneficiary of a referee that stopped the fight too soon. Also take into account Lopez is a Puerto Rican fighter who fought in a Puerto Rican ring with Luis Pabon - a Puerto Rican referee.
It was a rematch between the former world champions who first fought six years ago in a fight Lopez won via first round knockout. Lopez came in with a record of 33-3, 30 KOs and had he not been granted the victory his career likely would have been over. Ponce de Leon came in with a record of 45-5, 35 KOs.
Both fighters were knocked down in a wild round two which will have to go into the books as a round of the year candidate. First Ponce de Leon dropped Lopez and then Lopez came off the deck to put Ponce de Leon down twice, although the second knockdown was more of a push than an actual knockdown.
It was a victory for Lopez that really had to happen. He was a 2-1 betting underdog coming into the bout and the general consensus in the industry is that he was a “shot” fighter after having suffered knockout losses to Orlando Salido (twice) and Mikey Garcia.
Shortly after the action resumed from the second "knockdown" Luis Pabon jumped in and stopped the bout while Daniel Ponce de Leon was still on his feet and still throwing punches. Granted, Ponce de Leon’s back was against the ropes, but he had only absorbed two glancing shots before the referee prematurely stopped the fight. A protesting Ponce de Leon clearly had lots of fight in him.
When asked for his thoughts on the stoppage, ESPN boxing writer Dan Rafael had this to say about Pabon: “I think Pabon is generally a terrible referee and have commented on him many times before - for his abysmal work in a Wladimir Klitschko fight and in Povetkin-Huck, just as two examples. I thought he was a little quick tonight also. I think Ponce was basically done, but I thought it was too quick. I am NOT a Luis Pabon fan. I think he's brutal.”
Due to the amount of criticism he received for stopping the bout, Pabon was forced to release the following statement on Sunday.
“I know the history of Ponce De Leon and Juan Manuel Lopez, the kind of fight they were having and the power of their punches. Well I’m sorry that I have to say and confirm that it was a good stoppage. I’ve learned to live with this. I’m a sensitive person and I understand that boxing is two rival corners and sometimes it’s not easy to understand these decisions. Also this was a rematch and there were many mixed emotions. Some say that Ponce De Leon could have continued but he didn’t go down in the best way. Ponce was stumbling, woozy and getting hammered. That was what I thought to stop. Before criticizing the performance of a referee in this situation, remember that we are there to protect the life of the boxer, not to get caught up in the emotions of the fight.”
And with that, you are to believe the career of Juan Manuel Lopez has suddenly been resurrected.
Don’t believe any of it.
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