Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo/Associated Press
Three years ago, Juan Manuel Lopez was one of the hottest fighters in the sport. Heading into 2011 he was 30-0 with 27 KOs and the WBO featherweight belt around his waist. His stunning Round 1 KO of Daniel Ponce de Leon was one of the most impressive lines on his resume.
If you had made a list of must-see fights this time three years ago, Juan Manuel Lopez vs. Yuriorkis Gamboa would have been near the top of the page.
Then, in April of that year, Lopez lost by Round 10 TKO to veteran Orlando Salido. In the March 2012 rematch, Salido stopped him in eight.
Last June, Mikey Garcia destroyed Lopez in four. Over the last three years, he is 3-3 and has been stopped by every world-class opponent he has faced.
Ponce de Leon's career has never had quite the high points that Lopez enjoyed, but it's been more consistent. After dropping the WBO super-bantamweight title to Lopez in 2008, he moved up to 126 pounds.
In March 2011, Ponce de Leon lost an extremely close unanimous decision to the much younger and larger Adrien Broner. In September 2011, he was thoroughly outclassed by Gamboa in a Round 8 technical decision.
But in September 2012, he fought his way back to the top, winning the WBC featherweight belt from Jhonny Gonzalez via Round 8 technical decision. He dropped the belt to Abner Mares by Round 9 TKO in his first defense in May 2013.
Lopez and Ponce de Leon are a couple of fading stars in the sport. Each man needs to win to keep getting high-profile fights, so there is a lot at stake in this one.