Alfonso “El Tigre” Lopez—Freedom With and Without the Ring

By Marc Livitz on April 5, 2019
Alfonso “El Tigre” Lopez—Freedom With and Without the Ring
He’s shared the space between the ropes with some big names in boxing over the years.

Saturday night in Galveston, Texas, “El Tigre” is set to face Melvin “The Romantic Redneck” Russell in a ten-round affair…

The final rungs on the ladder to one’s idea of success will only get farther away with each passing day and more difficult to grasp if focus isn’t where it should be. For those who are aware and to even greater effect, those who have stepped into a ring for reasons other than being the fifteenth head of an entourage, time lost in the gym often proves irreplaceable. There are those who are adept at balancing life’s rewards alongside paying dues to the fighting science. A perfect example of such a person is Texas native Alfonso “El Tigre” Lopez.

If the Huntsville resident’s name sounds familiar, then it’s because he’s shared the space between the ropes with some big names in boxing over the years and he’s never been too far away from it. Were it not for nagging injuries, then perhaps the 36-year-old’s career could have been subjected to much more wear than tear.

Lopez (29-3, 23 KO’s) will continue his march back towards light heavyweight notoriety this coming Saturday, April 6 at the Galveston Island Convention Center in Galveston, Texas. With portions of the gate’s proceeds going towards the area’s VFW Post #880, “El Tigre” is set to face Melvin “The Romantic Redneck” Russell in a ten-round affair for the ABO Intercontinental Light Heavyweight Championship.

Lopez last fought in November of 2018, which was his fourth contest back after suffering a completely torn rotator cuff during his second round knockout victory over Lester Gonzalez in May of 2015. That particular contest was part of the undercard leading up to a quick night’s work for Saul “Canelo” Alvarez against James Kirkland at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

“It tore right off the bone,” said Alfonso during a recent interview. “The surgery was so painful and the first few days back home were absolutely brutal. The rehab was intense, but I knew I had to keep going and try to have one more shot at becoming a world champion.”

The injury bug was unfortunately nothing new for “El Tigre” and there was one which plagued him during a contest when many American fight fans may have caught their first glimpse of him. It was an HBO pay-per-view telecast on May 7, 2011 and the main event featured Manny Pacquiao, who at the time was at his absolute peak in a twelve-round contest with Shane Mosley. That summer night in Las Vegas was one Alfonso remembers all too well. Across the ring from him was former middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik, who hadn’t fought in nearly a year after being thoroughly outclassed by Sergio Martinez. A back-and-forth contest ensued and Pavlik was ultimately awarded a majority decision victory.

“By the time I got into the ring with Pavlik, I was having severe problems with bone chips in each elbow,” said Lopez. “It was very tough to deal with and so difficult to even get my arm to bend, but I fought through it. The next few fights were even more painful.”

He prevailed in a homecoming bout in his hometown of Corpus Christi four months after the loss to Pavlik, although the bout where Alfonso had passed the decision that enough was enough was a ten-round, nationally televised shutout loss to Dyah Davis in early January of 2012. “That one was a ten-rounder and I had been working so hard in the gym on boxing as well as countering,” he said in regards to the defeat.

“He had the same plan and was looking for me to fall into traps and that didn’t really click until the tenth round. It really didn’t suit us to face each other but it was a good opportunity to fight on ESPN. I didn’t feel beaten but I knew that I hadn’t done what it took to win.”

The knife beckoned. “I wanted to go into surgery immediately after that fight with Dyah (Davis). Still, my management signed me up for one more fight in Corpus (Christi). I had no business being back in the ring and I had to kill myself in the sauna.”

On February 18, 2012, Lopez dropped a six-round fight to journeyman Justin Williams and incidentally, this was the last time fight fans would ever see Paul “The Punisher” Williams in the ring. “I don’t think he beat me but I take it like a man,” he commented. “It is what it is and I didn’t want to be there. The next thing I did was have my surgery done, which took time because elbow procedures are done one side at a time. It was a long and dragged out process. I had the bone chips removed through lots of scoping, which also allowed me to take a long mental break.”

Over the last few years, the father of two has made great strides not only as a fighter, but a promoter as well. “My friend and I decided to start our own promotional company (El Tigre Promotions) and so far, I’m four fights into this comeback since having my shoulder repaired,” said Lopez.

“It’s given me the chance to spend more time with my family. During the last Christmas holiday period, I took my daughter to Dartmouth College in New Hampshire for a sports camp. She’s an elite softball player.”

He continued, “We pour so much into this sport and it takes away from time with our families. I’ve always wanted to make it to all of the events for whatever my kids were doing.”

While most fighters are eager to point out one or more particular victories as the defining or pinnacle moment of their respective careers, the amiable, true to Texas native didn’t refer to a ring outing at all. “The fact that I haven’t given up means a lot to me,” he said in closing after a very nice telephone conversation.

“I kept going and always had the support of my family and friends. It meant a lot that they believed in me. At the same time, I’ve been able to train all kinds of people at my gym and give young fighters new opportunities. All of this has also made me a better fighter. I teach them about the small things, the little tricks and the importance of using angles. It’s helped so many people, so that has to be my defining moment.”

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