Ricardo Lopez: Mexico's Undefeated Boxing Champion
Jan 20, 2011
When Ricardo Lopez retired in 2001, he enjoyed a record of 51-0-1 and had tied Joe Louis's long-standing record for consecutive title bouts without a loss. With such a sterling record -- the best of any Mexican fighter in history -- one might wonder why so few people know of Ricardo "Finito" Lopez. The answer is simple: for most of his career, Lopez fought in the 105 lbs Strawweight division, and no matter how great the little men of boxing rarely attract much attention.
Lopez was born on July 25, 1966 in Mexico City. He turned pro at the age of 18 in January 1985, and spent much of his career under the tutelage of famed trainer "Nacho" Bernstein (the current trainer of Juan Manuel Marquez). Standing 5'5" with a 65" reach, Lopez's boxing style was a masterful display of sound technique. His stance was perfectly balanced, presenting opponents with his left shoulder and narrow profile to maximize his defense. Unlike many of the little men in boxing, Lopez had very heavy hands, which combined with his accurate punching produced a career knockout rate of 75%. Offensively, he was a skilled combination puncher in possession of an excellent jab, and was easily capable of ripping hooks and uppercuts off that jab.
Building a Reputation
Fighting around Mexico, Lopez steadily worked his way up the Strawweight rankings, eventually traveling to Japan in October 1990 to challenge Hideyuki Ohahashi for the green WBC strap on Ohahashi's home turf. Lopez controlled the fight and knocked him out in the 5th. Despite being 14-3, however, Ohahashi was no slouch. Although it took him three tries to win a world title, the Japanese 105 lbs champ would go on to win the WBA's version of the title before retiring.
Of course, winning a world title in a weight class that was so light it had no Americans or Europeans in it attracted little attention from the boxing press. It would take Lopez a long time and more than his share of hard work to earn his due, and he wasted no time in getting started. In 1991 he traveled to South Korea and beat their 20-1 contender Kyung-Yung Lee at home. The next year he dominated Filipino contender "Pretty Boy" Lucas in a fight staged in Mexico City and then dominated a new Japanese contender, Rocky Lin. By the end of that second year, Lopez had defended his title five times with three knockouts. It was the start of a winning streak that would last a decade.
Lopez fought four times in 1993, with the main opponent being Saman Sorjaturong of Thailand. Lopez had the Thai in trouble from the outset with a hard 1-2 that sent him crashing to the canvas, and then dropped him again with a blinding flurry of punches. A left uppercut in the 2nd finished Sorjaturong. Lopez had utterly routed a man who would go on two years later to beat a Hall of Famer and win a 108 lbs world title, which he would keep through four straight years. He also stopped former champ Manny Melchor.
Ricard "Finito" Lopez kept fighting and kept winning. In 1994 he won a lopsided decision over Kermin Guarda of Colombia, the man who would succeed Lopez as WBC Strawweight Champion after retirement. In 1996 he retired Filipino and former world title challenger Ala Villamor. 1997 saw him blow out Thai contender Mongkol Charoen and then crush WBO champion Alex Sanchez to become WBC-WBO champion. By that time, Ricard Lopez had defended his title 20 times, entering one of boxing's most rarefied groups. His reputation made him a fixture on pound-for-pound lists and widely admired among boxing fans, even if Lopez was still unknown outside of the sport.
The Toughest Challenges
Lopez soon abandoned his WBO strap and plowed ahead to meet the WBA 105 lbs champion, 24-0 Rosendo Alvarez of Nicaragua in April 1998. Lopez was 47-0 by this time. Alvarez was a hard-punching, talented-but-rough fighter who managed to put Lopez on his ass in the 2nd Round. Lopez rallied, but the result was a tooth-and-nail battle that came to an inconclusive and unsatisfying end as an accidental headbutt opened a gash over Lopez's right eye. The result was a Technical Draw, with the scorecards at the time of the stoppage split 1-1-1.
Such a result mandated an immediate rematch, which took place in November. Alvarez was unable to make weight, and came into the ring at 108 lbs. The result was the fight was only for Alvarez's WBA belt, which the Nicaraguan would lose regardless of the outcome for failing to make weight. Lopez boxed his way to a Split Decision, and shortly thereafter vacated his 105-lb titles in favor of a move up to 108 lbs himself.
The biggest name in boxing south of 118 lbs, Ricardo Lopez was not without a title for long. His October 1999 entry into the ranks of the light flyweights was against IBF champion Will Grigsby, who was making the second defense of his title. Lopez won a decisive decision over the American, who would later go on to win back his red IBF strap and enjoy a second reign.
The move up to 108 lbs set up a clash with a Southeast Asian legend, Ratanapol Sor Vorapin. Part of a family of Thai boxers, Sor Vorapin was not undefeated but had enjoyed a lengthy reign as IBF Strawweight Champion, including 20 title defenses and mirroring Lopez almost step-for-step. In this clash of veteran champions, Lopez immediately seized control from the outside and hammered the Thai into submission by the 3rd.
The next year, Ricardo Lopez met Zolani Petelo, a South African who had enjoyed a three-year reign as IBF 105-lb champ with wins over a number of solid contenders, including the recently disposed of Sor Vorapin. Lopez crushed him in the 8th Round.
Lopez announced his retirement from the sport almost a year later, in November 2002. His title reigns at 105 and 108 lbs saw him run up a streak of 25 successful title defenses. He is only one of nine boxers to retire undefeated, and one of only five to retire as an undefeated champion, and Lopez was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame on the very first year of eligibility, in 2007. He now works as a sports announcer for Mexican television.