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14 NOVEMBER 2018


Lopez Stops Luevano to Win Featherweight Title

By Michael Norby: Unbeaten Puerto Rican southpaw Juan Manuel Lopez made his featherweight debut one to remember on Saturday night as he hoisted aloft the WBO world title after a sensational seventh round TKO victory over Steven Luevano at the Wamu Theater in Madison Square Garden, New York, USA.

Lopez 28-0 (25) spared no time in abandoning the 122lb division, and the world title he held, after he was brought to the brink of defeat by Rogers Mtagwa in October of last year. Many blamed the rigors of making weight for his performance that night and, this evening, the 26-year-old validated that argument with a terrific performance against the talented Luevano 37-2-1(15). He always looked like the more powerful of the two and, once he convinced the champion to trade with him frequently from the third round forward, the writing was on the wall.

A thunderous uppercut in the seventh and a staggeringly effective follow-up combination that dropped Luevano, was all that referee Benji Esteves Jr. needed to witness before waving the contest over as the beaten champion protested.

Luevano did a good job keeping distance in the opening round and he kept the challenger at bay for prolonged periods with his jab in what was largely a tactical round. When exchanges did occur, it was Lopez who enjoyed the greater success and he landed a series of straight left hands and sporadic combinations against his fellow southpaw throughout the frame.

A nice right hook by Lopez opened the second and he pressed forward more this round – although Luevano caught the former 122lb title holder with a handful of well placed counter punches early in the frame. The champion came on strong as the round progressed and connected with a series of strong punches – most notably a right hook that brought the crowd to life in an otherwise patiently fought three minutes – but Lopez ended the action with a scoring right hand at the bell.

The third round saw Luevano abandon his technique and trade with the stronger Lopez. Early in the round, the Puerto Rican rattled the champion with a straight left hand and opened up with quick combinations as Luevano retreated to the ropes. From then forward, the American tried to respond in kind but was clearly second best in the power category – allowing Lopez to enjoy his best round of the fight thus far.

In the fourth and fifth rounds, Lopez poured forward and thumped the champion with a number of severe assaults. Luevano again sought to fight back and was able to catch Lopez with several tightly wound right and left hands, but he was in a desperate fight, and the challenger surged forward, throwing both hands with great effect as Luevano doggedly fought back, fiercely trying to turn the tide in his favor.

Luevano, sporting a large welt under his left eye, continued to give all he had in the middle rounds but Lopez was fresh, clinical and focused and he bruised the champion with thumping sequences to the body and head in the sixth round. In the seventh, the Puerto Rican connected with a blistering uppercut and sent his man sprawling to the floor with a subsequent right hook/left hand combination. Luevano tried to convince Esteves that he was fit to continue but his jellied legs told the story and the experienced umpire stopped the fight.

Time of stoppage: 0:44 RD7

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