An Uncertain Time: Juan Manuel López Waits for His Future

image: suminstrada

****

Juan Manuel López, who went before the Puerto Rico Boxing Commission last Monday in a hearing to determine disciplinary action against him for his allegations against referee Roberto Ramírez, Sr., may be facing more than just a lengthy suspension in the next few weeks. During the hearing, López shockingly admitted to suffering memory loss after some of his recent bouts. For López, whose automatic 90-day medical suspension following a TKO loss to Orlando Salido on March 10 was doubled after his troubling admission, the end of his thrilling career may be in sight.

Interviewed by Jim Gray in the ring shortly after crashing from a thunderous Salido combination, López accused Ramírez, Sr., of wagering on the outcome of the fight. López said he did not remember making the comments about Ramírez, Sr. “I recall that when I opened my eyes, I found myself in the dressing room and this is when they [his team] told me what had happened,” reports Primera Hora. Salido stopped Lopez in the 10th round before thousands at the Coliseo Roberto Clemente.

Accompanied by his lawyer, Pedro Hernandez; his co-promoter, Peter Rivera; and his manager, Orlando Piñeiro, López made his case before commission representative Alberto Arroyo, stressing his condition at the time of the interview and again publicly apologizing to Ramírez, Sr. According to Carlos González of Primera Hora—who cites an anonymous source—Arroyo has recommended a trio of punitive measures: banishment of one year, a $10,000 fine, and 100 hours of community service. The suspension would not run concomitantly with the medical suspension López is currently serving and would begin in September 2012.

Arroyo, who expressed concern over the health of López, submitted his report to the Commission, which will review it and make a determination possibly as early as this week.

López passed his medical examinations—which included an MRI and a CAT Scan—soon after his knockout loss, but his team will look to get further testing done in mid-April. “The tests would be more or less the same [as the earlier ones], but we will wait a month and take them again to make certain,” El Nuevo Día quoted Peter Rivera, of Puerto Rico Best Boxing.

Despite sporting an impressive record of 31-2 with 28 knockouts, López has taken a lot of abuse in the ring over the last two years. Except for his walkovers against a pair of ringworn opponents—Mike Oliver and Steven Luevano—López has been through the proverbial wringer recently. Before facing Salido, Lopez was nearly stopped in the last round by clubfighter Rogers Mtagwa in 2009. Next, Bernabe Concepcion dropped him with a hard counter left during the waning seconds of the first round of their two-round free-for-all. Even former bantamweight titleholder Rafael Márquez, long past his best, managed to shake López. “This is not the first occasion that I lost track of time after a fight,” López said during the hearing. “It happened after the fight with Bernabe Concepcion. I don’t remember how I got to the dressing or how I took the drug test.”

At 28, with the prospect of an 18-month layoff and possible health concerns looming, López has seen his career and his life unravel dramatically before the public. There is no telling what the future holds for him now.

****

This post relies heavily on the following sources: Primera Hora, El Nuevo Dia, Fightnews.com, Univision.com, and Vocero de Puerto Rico. All translations from Spanish are by The Cruelest Sport.

****

Consider donating to The Cruelest Sport. For less than the price of a Frappuccino, you can help TCS remain a counterbalance to websites that refuse to credit their sources.

Topics: Featherweights, JUAN MANUEL LOPEZ, Orlando Salido, Roberto Ramirez Sr.

Want more from The Cruelest Sport?  
Subscribe to FanSided Daily for your morning fix. Enter your email and stay in the know.
  • JDL

    Hey, Carlos. Good article. It’s a shame, really. Lopez is always exciting in the ring. His statement after the fight was unfortunate. I knew he’d probably get in trouble for it. Unless he works on his defense, he should probably consider retirement. If he’s admitted to twice having memory issues after fights, then it’s probably time to call it quits, for his safety. However, we know that in boxing, especially at his age and with his record, that rarely happens and he’ll probably be back. Best of luck to him.

  • safesideOTR

    boxing is at its most thrilling when fighters like Lopez battle through concussion in order to win. Some folk even cite those who do as having shown “greatness”. Unfortunately its also a one way ticket to illness — the main culprit, maybe. Terry Norris, Floyd Patterson, Ali, Riddick Bowe, Frazier, Junior Jones, Bobby Chacon and countless others. You start calling fights when a guy gets woozy and it kills the spectacle. You let ‘em roll and you’re watching a guy heading for brain damage. 

  • jet79

    Hi CA,
     
    Some disturbing stuff here. If Lopez is suffering from memory loss it might be time to think hard on the value of continuing his career. As you pointed out, some less than distinguished names have been able to shake Lopez. That vulnerability, coupled  with the deterioration of form that’s manifested in his more recent performances, makes me think that, even if the competition is reined back the damage probably won’t diminish all that much. 
     
    While I love Juanma’s fighting spirit, I don’t want to see him permanently damaged. I’d be comfortable with him hanging them up. In fact, I hope he does. But I’m a softie.

  • HitDog

    Excellent work, Carlos. I’ve never been a big Lopez admirer, but I sure hope he isn’t allowed to fight his way into fodder, because it sure sounds like his brain isn’t the same age as the rest of him.

  • thenonpareil

     @JDL 
    Hi JDL,
    thanks.  I think Lopez should probably give it up, too, but, as you said, since he is only 28 he’ll probably be back.  I don’t like the way he reacts to punches.  Of course, it is abnormal to take punches well, but Lopez may be, in that regard, “too normal.”  His defense is so bad, it’s hard to believe he’s gotten this far. A 1 1/2 year layoff will not help him.
    I think Lopez should be penalized for what he said about Ramirez, Sr., but what they are talking about in PR seems a bit severe.  He’s been an exciting fighter for years now and has given his all in the ring each time out.  We need more “Juanmas” in boxing. 

  • thenonpareil

     @telltales You know what?  I woke up today thinking the exact same thing! 

  • thenonpareil

     @doggoneson  @yumolrene Hi,
    I see both points of view here.  Fighters who complain about these irregularities should be looked at very carefully, if not suspended for their own health.  Gerald McClellan complained about headaches after his first fight with Julian Jackson, and he wound up terribly injured a few fights later.  On the other hand, boxing is inherently risky and those who undertake such a dangerous vocation are aware of the possible consequences.  Lopez wants to make a living, but it may be best to find another way to do so. 

  • thenonpareil

     @safesideOTR Hi Harrison,
    thanks for checking in.  It’s true–the paradox you describe is impossible to get around.  However, I believe referees are terrible at stopping fights these days.  I’m not talking about the split-second stuff that happens in the ring, but the fights where a fighter is taking a drawn-out beating.  No longer, for example, do I see referees selling stoppages.  It used to be that a referee would take action in the ring to prepare an audience for the inevitable stoppage.  This way, the crowd does not feel cheated by the suddenness of an ending.  The easiest way to do that is to take the losing fighter to the ringside doctor to check out cuts or swelling.  Visiting the losing corner between rounds is another way.  Then, if the fighter continues to get shellacked, the referee can stop the fight without any outrage from a bloodthirsty crowd. 
    Years ago, I read an article in the NY Times written by Randy Neumann about stopping fights based on “soft signs” shown by the boxer.  These include how they are knocked down and how badly their defense is unraveling during a fight. I’ll say flat out that Lopez should not have been allowed to come out for the 10th round against Salido.  This is a guy who took nine rounds of punishment and couldn’t sit on his stool without support–leaning his forehead on the head of his trainer.  This was a sign of obvious distress.  Stopping the fight would have spared Lopez the brutal knockdown and would have taken the defeat, in a sense, out of his hands. 
     
    I think we need more application of mercy stoppages and selling stoppages.  Fighters today are so poor defensively and are so often in mismatches, that they may be in greater danger now–relatively speaking–than fighters from years ago.  Obviously, fighting 25 times a year with 6-ounce gloves against tough competition made dementia more likely in the 20s, 30s, and 40s, but today fighters just can’t defend themselves properly and are heading down a bad road despite the fact that boxing is not nearly as brutal as it was years ago.  

  • thenonpareil

     @jet79 
    Hi JT,
    a cynical Puerto Rican columnist suggested Team Lopez is making this all up to get a break from the commission–without knowing, apparently, that the commission is just as likely to bounce Lopez for being medically unfit to fight. 
    I’d be happy seeing Lopez quit.  If he’s shot–and he looked like it to me against Salido–then there’s really no turning back.  I used to workout at Gleason’s Gym many years ago, and I’ve seen these brokedown fighters hanging out, playing dominos, trying to get someone to listen to them, etc.  It’s a sad thing to see.  We don’t really know if Lopez has suffered medically provable damage, but his admission is scary enough as it is.

  • thenonpareil

     @HitDog HI JD,
     
    thanks.  I admire Lopez very much because of his exciting style.  Really, he’s a genuine prizefighter–heart, courage, machismo, etc., and boxing will be worse off without him (and fighters like him).  It is very rare for a fighter to publicly admit this kind of stuff–hell, fighters wouldn’t even admit to being blind back in the day!–and the fact that Lopez has means it could very well be more than what it is, if that makes any sense. 
    In the hearings on Monday, Lopez appeared to be genuine and contrite, for what it’s worth.  The commission, at this point, seems to be railroading the poor guy, which is funny since the President of the Puerto Rico Boxing Commission has been censured for irregularities and for possibly violating the Muhammad Ali Act.  She may be bounced from her lofty position soon.  That’s boxing for you.