Luis Alberto Lopez celebrates a fifth-round knockout over Michael Conlan (Image credit: Conlan Boxing).
Luis Alberto Lopez defended his IBF featherweight belt by stopping Michael Conlan in the 5th round
He throws from unconventional angles, from distances that don’t make sense, and he’s not afraid to fight in nobody’s backyard. Luis Alberto Lopez, 29, is a living, walking definition of what do not do in the ring.
None of it matters.
The IBF featherweight champion and third-ranked The Ring 126-pound made his first title defense and a very successful and entertaining one, stopping Michael Conlan at 1:14 of the fifth round at the SSE Arena in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
The 29-year-old Lopez (28-2, 16 knockouts) forced Conlan’s trainer Adam Booth to throw in the towel shortly after Lopez connected with a powerful right uppercut that Conlan plunged into.
“I had a great training camp,” said Lopez. “I was a bit nervous, but I’m very happy about it. I knew Michael Conlan would underestimate my strength and he paid for it. I wanted to come to Belfast to show that I am a true champion. I wanted to make a real statement today in my first defense.
Lopez caused an upset when he defeated Josh Warrington for the IBF belt in December in Leeds, England.
He had no problem getting back to the opponent’s backyard.
The 31-year-old Conlan (18-2, 9 KOs) was making his second attempt at a world title fight after losing in the last round to Leigh Wood for the WBA minor featherweight title in the classic, which was awarded the Fight of the 2022 Fight of the 2022 award. A year by everyone in boxing.
This time Conlan started as the south paw and the move met with some early success. With 1:12 left in the first, he pulled back Lopez at the ropes. Between rounds, Booth advised Conlan, the 2012 Olympic bronze medalist, not to be afraid to convert to Orthodoxy to confuse Lopez.
Lopez, meanwhile, was reaching with a right uppercut of one foot and appeared open to counterattacks at times. With 1:14 left of the second, Conlan landed a right hook to the head. Still, Lopez, much like the savage Ricardo Mayorga, shot from distance looking for contact.
In the third, Lopez began to find distance and balance in his shots. The swaying subtleties of combat began to turn in his direction. He closed the third, nailing Conlan with nine consecutive shots.
Conlan fought at Lopez’s frantic pace until four. Gaps in Conlan’s defense were beginning to open. Lopez landed consistently, with a smile on his face towards the end of the fourth, suggesting something was coming.
He arrived in the fifth.
Lopez, still swinging wildly, was making Conlan work, probably more than Conlan wanted. And then it happened: Lopez uncorked the right chin cut, Conlan plunged right into it and fell.
Booth threw in the towel, ending it.
“Hopefully all the world champions in the featherweight division are ready for ‘Venado’ Lopez,” Lopez announced. “I’m going after them all. I want all their belts. One by one I’m taking all their belts with me to Mexico.”
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sports journalist who has been with Ring Magazine/RingTV.com since October 1997 and is president of the American Boxing Writers Association. Follow @JSantoliquito