By Craig Daly: Michael Conlan has to make a major decision about where he wants to go in his career after losing by fifth-round knockout to IBF Featherweight Champion Luis Alberto Lopez last Saturday night in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Conlan is an old 31-year-old due to the weariness of a long amateur career, and it is clear that he lacks the power, defense, stamina and impact resistance to be a major player in the 126-pound division.
These are things that will resist change no matter how much hard work Conlan puts in. As such, if Conlan’s goal is to be a contender and hope to win additional titles in hopes of getting lucky one day, he may not be worth the effort.
Surprisingly, Conlan (18-2, 9 KOs), despite his vast amateur experience, put up a wrong fight from the start, dodging hacker artist “El Venado” Lopez (26-2, 16 KOs), seemingly begging to be pinned down this blow.
Conlan dodged Lopez’s punches
“After round two I could tell it wasn’t Michael Conlan’s night. He looked really bad and Lopez looked really sharp, took shots well and never let Michael Conlan get into any boxing rhythm. Great fight weekend on IBF Featherweight Champion Luis Alberto Lopez’s win over Michael Conlan last Saturday.
“Michael has no problem fighting a guy, but Michael’s daily bread is that he excels as a boxer. He’s not a great boxer. He’s known that throughout his career, and Lopez is the opposite. Lopez is a guy who’s trying to come and take you.
“He has a lot of knockouts under his belt. He went far when he won the title against Warrington, but did some damage in this particular fight. Right away I was almost at the beginning of the fight, I didn’t like Michael’s body language.
—Michael Conlan (@mickconlan11) May 28, 2023
“I thought he had taken too much. He wasn’t defensive at all. He didn’t dodge shots. He never set the distance to keep or at least try to keep Lopez at the end of the jab and then it was all downhill from there.
“Good heart, he tried and stuck there but there are only a few hard hits you can take from that kind of shot and in the end that big hit (in the fifth) just ruined him. Sometimes there’s not much to read in the box. I’m not trying to find every little excuse, problem, whatever,” Rafael said.
Lopez was the perfect opponent for Michael
“Sometimes they’re just having a bad night and I’m not saying he would have won on any other night,” said Rafael. “It was a coincidence that Michael Conlan wasn’t having a good night. Michael also played with other strong boxers and had no problem shooting.
“I think it was the perfect match for him. This is not a complicated opponent or a guy who is much bigger than you or has a huge amount of experience. Michael is an incredibly experienced competitor, a two-time Olympian with a medal and a lot of professional experience, fighting in front of a large audience against good opponents.
“Luis Alberto Lopez, he did what he did. He is an aggressive puncher. His defense sucks but he has his hands down but effective. Jamel Herring said “Luis Alberto Lopez’s attack is his defence” because he is so wild with his shots.
“They’re coming from everywhere. He shoots from the hip and throws with both hands. So he keeps pushing you, so he doesn’t let the opponent get back to him or fall into any groove. So it’s effective for his defense because it keeps pace and pressure.
“The bottom line was Michael Conlan, the game plan was, I have to assume, go and box him from a distance. Stir occasionally if you must, but stick and move and do it as long as you can and as well as you can. Luis Alberto Lopez had none of it. He wasn’t going to let him fall into such a quagmire.
“After two rounds, you could tell Michael Conlan was going to be anxious no matter how long this fight lasted, and then he dived into this wild uppercut, paid the price and went to sleep there for a few seconds. The fight is over.
“In fact, before the referee could even start the count or stop, you saw Adam Booth, Conlan’s trainer, fly into the ring.
“You could tell that after the fourth round, when he went to the corner, Adam was a little apprehensive. Usually after four rounds, the coach doesn’t see the urgency, but it felt like there was an urgency. Adam knew, “We don’t have that today,” Rafael said.
Where is Conlan going?
“An issue Michael is facing now in his two biggest fights, both title matches, the Leigh Wood match three fights ago, a fight he was winning but also knocked out even more spectacularly than last Saturday. Where are you going?” Raphael said.
“I’m not sure. He’s not young. He’s had a lot of amateur fights and he’s in his 30s. This was his best opportunity. That doesn’t mean he can’t get another shot. Does he really want to go through that effort again, climb up again He’s not getting any younger, and in some fights he’s already been punished a bit.
“Michael is an Irish fan favourite. Michael has been a fan favorite for a long time, whether he was fighting in New York, where he attracts a lot of fans, or fighting in Northern Ireland.
“I wish Michael Conlan all the best. He’s a good dude and he works hard. But Luis Alberto Lopez, people write him off. We chose against him. This guy is a road warrior. All three of his championship victories were in enemy territory.
“He went to London and defeated Isaac Lowe in an elimination match, which gave him a shot at the title. While waiting for the shot, he had several fights equalizing.
“Then he went to Leeds, England for a title fight, a fortress where Josh Warrington fought him in his hometown and beat him, beat him and beat him and won a majority decision. It really should be a unanimous decision.
“When you get to a guy’s hometown like this and win by a majority, you know it was a really clean win. Then in his first defense, he had no big homecoming fight celebration, he didn’t take a soft touch or an easy mark.
“No, the guy went in with a very good, reputable, legal challenger in Michael Conlan, and he did it in Michael Conlan’s hometown. It’s not like any old hometown. This is Belfast in Northern Ireland where they don’t fuck,” Rafael said.