Juan Manuel Lopez has been on a roller-coaster ride these last several years.
A young, undefeated, rising star from boxing-crazed Puerto Rico, Lopez was on the fast track to boxing superstardom when he ran into grizzled veteran Orlando Salido in 2011.
Lopez was down in Round 5 and stopped on his feet in Round 8 of an absolutely brutal, grueling affair for both men. It was the type of fight that ruins a fighter, but to his credit, Lopez rebounded quickly with a solid knockout of Mike Oliver before taking on Salido in a rematch.
Amazingly enough, the second fight was even more brutal and hellacious than the first. Both men tasted the canvas, Round 9 was one of the most vicious you’ll ever see, and Salido once again stopped Lopez on his feet a round later.
Most left the Puerto Rican's career for dead after that fight, and he took a couple of fights against low-level opposition before getting blown out by Mikey Garcia last June.
It seemed like he was only delaying the inevitable when he signed on to face former featherweight champion Daniel Ponce De Leon in a rematch this past March. Lopez had stopped Ponce De Leon in one round back in 2008, but it seemed like that fight was ages ago, and Ponce De Leon, while shopworn himself, seemed to have more left in the tank.
And it appeared that way early in Round 2, when a series of left hooks put Lopez on the mat, badly hurt and seemingly in danger of being stopped.
But they say that power is the last thing to go for a fighter, and Lopez showed that to Ponce De Leon with vicious emphasis. With the Mexican fighter carelessly going in for the kill, Lopez connected with a colossal counter right hand that floored him and effectively ended the night.
Ponce De Leon, somehow, barely beat the count, but he was felled again, forcing referee Luis Pabon to intercede and stop the contest.
In one of boxing’s ironic role reversals, Lopez, who was considered done, will continue his career, facing Francisco Vargas on the Canelo vs. Lara undercard, while Ponce De Leon, knocked out again in his next fight, has called it a career.