It’s a rare occurrence that a fight can be billed as a genuine 50-50 - let alone one which is for a world title.
On Saturday night in Belfast, Luis Alberto Lopez makes the first defence of his IBF featherweight title against local hero Michael Conlan.
This won’t be the first time that the Mexican has entered the lion’s den and is part of a growing contingent of compatriots who don’t know how to lose to British and Irish fighters.
For Conlan, this is everything he has ever dreamed of. A shot at the title in front of his own fans and a real chance of becoming Northern Ireland’s first boxing world champion since Ryan Burnett.
|Luis Alberto Lopez (10/11)||Michael Conlan (10/11)|
|Height:||5ft 4ins||5ft 8ins|
|Trainer:||Kay Koroma||Adam Booth|
|Record:||27-2 (15 KOs)||18-1 (9 KOs)|
|Titles:||Current IBF Featherweight champion||None|
|Last Fight:||W - MD v Josh Warrington (Dec 2022)||W - TKO (R1) v Karim Guerfi (Dec 2022)|
Luis Alberto Lopez v Michael Conlan: Fight date, ring walk time, undercard & betting odds
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Lopez gained a bit of a reputation for himself when he knocked out Isaac Lowe in the seventh round of their contest in December 2021.
The all-out attacking style of the Mexicali native was far too much for the Englishman to cope with.
He was back on British shores one year later, when he was deservedly awarded a majority decision verdict over Josh Warrington in Leeds. The win gave Lopez the IBF featherweight title and enhanced his reputation as a real cat among the pigeons at 126lbs.
His fundamentals can leave a lot to be desired, however. Much like his fellow Mexican and fellow featherweight world champion Mauricio Lara, he believes in overwhelming his opponents.
Against Lowe and Warrington, he was allowed to do so far too often and did not have his weaknesses exposed as much as he should have.
That will change in Belfast against Conlan. The former amateur starlet is a far more skilful boxer than the two mentioned. His movement, reflexes and combinations have the potential to be a nightmare for Lopez.
If Lopez has spent the last five months polishing his roughness into something diamond-like, then it’s a hard night in store for Conlan.
But Mexican fighters tend to stick to what serves them best. Lopez will be confident and sure of himself following his recent exploits. On Saturday night, he may find himself chasing shadows.
|Heavy handed||Leaves his chin high when attacking|
|Reflexes||Wide open to counters|
|Body punching||Uncomfortable on back foot|
It was only one defeat, but having lost to Leigh Wood - the matchmaking for Michael Conlan’s career had to be smart in the short-term.
Wins against Miguel Marriaga and Karim Guerfi have been just that. Two men who had seen better days and who could do little to effectively trouble Conlan.
The March 2022 loss to Wood in Nottingham still lingers. The final round knockout was a shocking scene as Conlan fell backwards through the ropes and onto the floor. Concerns immediately turned to his health, but thankfully he made a recovery after being taken to hospital.
On Saturday, he faces a tougher test if he is to win his first world title. The unpredictability of Lopez marks him down as a wild dangerman. Conlan’s timing and countering skills will have to be on point.
The Northern Irishman possesses a fabulous set of all-round skills that make him look sensational when it all comes together. If Lopez can nullify them and drag him inside, then the fight will favour the champion.
Against Wood, the fight was Conlan’s to lose after an electrifying start and blistering combinations which constantly pinged the Englishman. But Wood stuck to his guns and got Conlan to have a tear-up with him. A brilliant fight but a painful lesson learned.
That experience will prove vital in what will be a cauldron atmosphere at the SSE Arena in Belfast, which Conlan can use to his advantage. The home fighter has the potential to win this wide on points but with a fighter like Lopez you just never know.
|Speed||Knocked out badly in last world title fight|
|Movement||Heart can rule his head|
|Elusive||Can spend too long trading inside|
Conlan to win by decision at 6/4 looks like the bet to be on. The lessons of Nottingham will carry him to a points victory and he will impress doing so.
Lopez will undoubtedly have his moments, but Conlan is the superior fighter and can build up an early lead before seeing off the efforts of his opponent.