Return of the Native
He did the crime. He did the time. All is forgiven and now he’s back.
Puerto Rican native and former featherweight and junior featherweight champion Juan Manuel Lopez (31-2, 28 KOs) returns to action on Feb. 2 after an 11-month suspension. He will step in the ring against Brazil’s Aldimar Silva Santos (18-3, 9 KOs) at Ruben Rodriguez Coliseum in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.
If one were living in a rain forest or cardboard box the past year, one might assume that Lopez was suspended for using steroids.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Those who fail post-fight drug tests often receive lighter, not stiffer, sentences than Juanma, at least here in the US. But in Puerto Rico the need to discipline and punish is more developed, or more selective, or more severe, and that severity was meted out at the expense of Juan Manuel Lopez.
In a rematch against Orlando Salido on March 10, 2012, Juanma had the stuffing beaten out of him. Without having taken the time to gather his wits, he spoke candidly with Showtime’s Jim Gray.
“I was winning the fight,” he said. “It was a tough fight, but I felt I was dominating the fight.”
Lopez was not dominating the fight, no matter what he and two of the three judges may have thought. If he had stopped there and said nothing else, everything would have been fine. But he didn’t stop there. He spoke his mind, not realizing that there would be consequences and a heavy price to pay.
“The referee stopped the fight. The other fight,” continued Lopez, referring to his first loss to Salido, “his son stopped it. And now he stopped it. The referee stopped the fight because they have gambling problems. I told the commission that the referee was a gambler. It was very irresponsible for the commission to put him in as a referee. He has a gambling problem.”
All hell broke loose. The referee, Roberto Ramirez Sr., denied the accusation. Lopez apologized, or tried to apologize, but Ramirez wouldn’t hear it. He felt his reputation had been besmirched and he wanted his pound of flesh.
“Excuses only satisfy those who say them,” Ramirez said. “I heard the words of Juanma and the arrogance with which he massacred my honesty. I have already 184 world title fights and this is the first time a person puts into question my honesty and my integrity. I’m very upset…to say that I gamble is attacking my integrity and my family.”
Ramirez wanted blood and the Puerto Rican Professional Boxing Commission was only too happy to oblige. They brought down the hammer on Lopez. He was suspended for a year, fined $10,000, and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service.
Juanma must have been given time off for good behavior. We welcome him back. Let’s hope Robert Ramirez Sr. won’t be the referee in this fight. And if boxing could develop some sane sentencing guidelines, we wouldn’t mind a bit.