Thanks for the Memories--
Up Close and Personal with Former Light Heavyweight Title Challenger Alvaro “Yaqui” Lopez
Before I get into this interview, I want to tell you how, an interview that has eluded me for quite some time, came to be. Back in November 2000, I did an interview for the boxing website www.ringsidereport.com with former IBF Super Middleweight Champion Murray Sutherland who campaigned as Light Heavyweight before he dropped down to Super Middleweight. In that interview, I mentioned that Yaqui Lopez was also a boxer from Murray''s era who always came to fight, and if anyone had contact with Lopez, it would be honor for me to do an interview with him.
Fast Forward...June 2001, I receive an email from a wonderful young lady who read the Murray Sutherland interview when she found it by searching the internet when she typed in Yaqui''s name, which pulled up my interview with Sutherland. She was doing this for a tenth grade project she was working on. Well, that project happened to be on her Uncle who turned out to be Alvaro "Yaqui" Lopez. The young lady turned out to be Ashley Lopez, Yaqui''s very sweet niece.
I TRULY LOVE THE POWER OF THE INTERNET!!
The Alvaro "Yaqui" Lopez story is a fascinating one which starts with his birth under a bull ring in the Plaza de Toros San Pedro in Zacatecas, Mexico. He was raised for 14 years underneath the seats in an adobe garage of a famous Bullring in Zacatecas.
Young Lopez had dreams of becoming a Matador, but those dreams were shattered when in his teens, he got a shot at fighting a bull. After about four or five passes, the bull drove his horn into his ankle which shattered it. With that shattered ankle came shattered dreams of becoming a bullfighter.
Lopez always continued to dream about bigger and better things. Dreams turned to reality many years later when he met his soon to be father-in-law and manager, Jack Cruz. Cruz would take a young Lopez on a journey into boxing that few boxers ever will have a chance to experience.
It was a journey that saw Lopez challenge for the Light Heavyweight Title four times and the Crusierweight Title once. In three of those fights, many felt that Lopez should have won the belt against John Conteh and Victor Galindez (twice). All three of those bouts were lost by 15 round decisions and many as I said, felt the decisions should have gone to Lopez.
In his other attempt at a Light Heavyweight Title, he faced then Champion Matthew Saad Muhammad. The fight would go on to be the 1980 "Fight of the Year" by Ring Magazine. The first half of the fight was dominated by Lopez and in round eight (also named "Round of the Year"), Lopez pinned Saad Muhammad in a corner landing 20 consecutive blows. Muhammad somehow got out of that round, and stopped Lopez in the 14th round. If the fight would have been staged today, Lopez would have won by a TKO in the eighth round because they stop fights much sooner now, then back in his day.
One side note to the Muhammad fight. I was at the Boxing Hall of Fame this weekend and in fact, ran into Matthew Saad Muhammad. When I mentioned I just interviewed Yaqui, his face lit up with a big smile. He said, "Brad, in my two fights with Yaqui, he made me a better fighter because of his huge heart and the tough fights he gave me both times."