One Fight, Two Careers Destroyed

By Ted Sares on September 4, 2015
One Fight, Two Careers Destroyed
It was a brawl, a pier-six that kept the crowd standing and cheering. (Ed Mulholland)

Neither was ever the same again. Let’s hope and pray that their ring deterioration does not extend beyond the ring…

“The 12th round was all heart. A lot of people think I am Superman. I’m not. I get hit like everyone else. But I’m resilient.”—Juan Manuel Lopez.

Rogers “The Tiger” Mtagwa fought Juan Manuel Lopez in October 2009 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Lopez was 26-0 at the time and was a very hot property having destroyed Daniel Ponce De Leon (34-1) in one round and stopping the unstoppable Jerry Penalosa (54-6-2) a year later. In an article in 2007, I wrote the following about the highly touted Puerto Rican:

“Juan Manuel ‘Juanma’ Lopez Rivera is the latest Puerto Rican sensation having exploded upon the scene with a 24-0 record and a remarkable KO percentage of 91.67%. He served notice by icing Giovanni Andrade in one round in 2007 to win the WBO Latino super bantamweight title. In June 2008, he knocked out rugged Daniel Ponce de Leon in the first round by moving in between Ponce wide punches and taking him out with short and crisp shots the power of which were generated by super hand speed.. He did the same with Cesar Figueroa, but this time it only took him 47 seconds to close the show. Two months later, he met Sergio ‘Rocky’ Medina and ended this fight in 1:38 of the first stanza by rocking ‘Rocky.’ In Juanma’s last 5 outings, he has gone only 8 rounds—which begs the question, is he that good or are his opponents that bad? We will soon find out.”

Rogers Mtagwa hails from Tanzania and now lives in Philadelphia. He was heavily traveled at 26-12-2 and also was a heavy underdog, but the fight turned out to be a straight-up brawl, a pier-six that kept the crowd standing and cheering the nonstop action for all twelve action-packed rounds as Mtagwa went on the stalk from the opening bell. The nonstop pace exhausted and took a heavy toll on both men. Lopez scored a borderline knockdown in the fifth round, but the 12th round was a 10-8 for Mtagwa without a knockdown. The first half of the match belonged to Lopez; the last half was owned by the rampaging and pressuring Tiger.

The action in round 9 clearly exposed Juanma for the first time in his career as woefully lacking in defense and also as possessing a less than granite chin. At the very end of the 11th, the Tanzanian almost put Lopez away with a crunching flurry. In the 12th and final round, the aroused Tiger came on and had a bleeding, gasping, and struggling Lopez in deep trouble after taking one crunching shot after another. It was a miracle and a testament to his courage that Juanma, who had no offense or defense, remained on his feet. The beating he received in the last round was severe and would, in my view, have career-altering implications.

As the seconds ticked away, Rogers literally ran after Lopez but time ran out. Lopez won the decision, but had the fight lasted another 20 seconds, the win would have belonged to his opponent. The scorecards read as follows: Carlos Ortiz Jr. 116-111, Steve Weisfeld 115-111, and Kevin Morgan, 114-113. Here it is:


“Salido’s just a really tough guy and you just have to give him credit for walking through the fire and then putting out the fire.”—Larry Merchant

Three months later. Mtagwa fought streaking and flawless Yuriorkis Gamboa (16-0) and took a horrific but quick two-round beating aided by referee Steve Smoger’s predictable over tolerance. See:

The Tanzanian Tiger would then go on to lose three of his next four with a long layoff between 2011 and 2014 bookended by TKO losses. Now 27-17-3, The Tiger’s last real mauling came in the Lopez fight in 2009, one that altered his career in a negative way.

As for Juanma, he would go 7-4 and lose two thrillers to Orlando Salido in 2011 and 2012. After two quick wins in 2013 against decent opposition, he was stopped again— this time by Mikey Garcia in October 2013 who decked him with a right and finished him in the fourth with a left hook to Juanma’s prominent jaw.

As an aside, after the second Salido fight and during a post-fight interview in the ring with Showtime’s predatory Jim Gray, a still woozy and groggy Lopez accused referee Roberto Ramirez Sr. of having a gambling problem. As Kevin Iole said, “the commission erred in not quickly escorting Lopez to the locker room and examining him in private before releasing him. It should never have allowed Showtime to grab him for a television interview.”

Lopez would have one last hurrah against a somewhat shopworn Daniel Ponce De Leon and win a thrilling TKO in which both men hit the deck and in which Lopez would utilize his patented stop-or-be-stopped aggression. This time it would work for him.

But then the inevitable happened as he was brutally taken out by undeafted Mexican Francisco Vargas (19-0-1) in Las Vegas in July 2014. Vargas’s KO percentage is 70%.

At this point people were calling for Juanma to retire before something bad happened, but against sound advice he duked one last time against hard-hitting Argentinian Jesus Marcelo Andres Cuellar (25-1) and was stalked and slaughtered in two rounds by a sudden left-right-left-right volley with the third punch doing the most damage. Cuellar’s KO percentage is 75%. Wisely, the once highly regarded and former two-time world champion finally retired after this loss at 31. Here it is:

Juan Manuel López Rivera finished with a 34-5 record and an impressive KO percentage of 79%. His fights were always ultra exciting and he was dangerous at all times (see:, but something happened in the final round of the Mtagwa outing that found its way into his system and never let go.

Two tough fighters met on October 10, 2009. Neither was ever the same again. Let’s hope and pray that their ring deterioration does not extend beyond the ring.

Ted Sares is a member of the Ring 4 Boxing Hall of Fame (New England) and a member of Ring 10 (New York). He is one of the oldest active powerlifters in the world and competes full power raw in the Grand Master Class.

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  1. KB 08:51pm, 09/12/2015

    At best

  2. Tex Hassler 06:51pm, 09/12/2015

    Boxers have great courage just to climb into the ring. This great courage can carry them to victory or to the hospital. At best boxing is a brutal business.

  3. KB 01:23pm, 09/06/2015

    Big Wally, thanks Bro, I did great (ACTUALLY BROKE A RECORD AND WON IN MY CLASS) and am now back and kindly thank all the posters for their comments.

  4. Big Wally 11:20am, 09/04/2015

    By the way, good luck in Vermont

  5. Big Wally 11:18am, 09/04/2015

    I think the photo you sent says it all

  6. John aka L.L. Cool John 09:46am, 09/04/2015

    bikermike: Gatti/Ward, too.
    Great article, Ted!

  7. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 09:05am, 09/04/2015

    Let’s face it, no pun intended, some fighters have physiological advantages over others in this “sport”. Frankie Ryff….cuts, cuts and more cuts,,,plastic surgery and guess what….more Goddamned cuts. Has fukface Floyd ever had a cut in his entire career?

  8. bikermike 08:52am, 09/04/2015

    Ali-Frazier….Ali-Norton ..Ward-Gatti…..Chacon…vs anyone…

    All thrillers…and contestants left chunks of themselves in the ring…

  9. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 08:46am, 09/04/2015

    I’ll tell you what’s bullshit….guys like Brian Minto traveling the world getting the fuk beat out of them for money. This is not even funny anymore….who gives a shit if he can go rounds….he should be banned from boxing.

  10. Steve 08:02am, 09/04/2015

    And not so far behind is Yuriokis Gamboa. I predict he will start to take beatings

  11. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 07:21am, 09/04/2015

    Being prone to concussion is a real handicap in this “sport” for obvious reasons….less recognized is the fact that lesser opponents will go all out and persevere in a losing effort buoyed by the notion that if they just keep going they can land that one punch to exploit that weakness. Why do you think Briggs is so shitty in regard to Wlad other than for the obvious monetary reasons….this POS really believes that if he can bum rush Wlad and land that one shot he will have hit the lottery.

  12. Dollarbond 06:09am, 09/04/2015

    Brutal stuff, the videos are great.  Keep this stuff coming, Bull.

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