Tony Lopez: Eyeball of The Tiger

By Dennis Taylor on July 3, 2015
Tony Lopez: Eyeball of The Tiger
“His elbow caught me right on the eyeball. Nothing intentional—it just happened.”

“I kept thinking, ‘If this guy hits me anywhere in my head I’m going to drop down to a knee and quit.’ But when he did…”

As he sat on his stool at the Arco Arena in his hometown of Sacramento, Tony “The Tiger” Lopez stared blankly at referee James Jen-Kin, who was shouting in his face.

“How many fingers am I holding up?” Jen-Kin demanded.

Lopez had no idea. Two? Five? Fourteen? All he knew was the fighter in the opposite corner, John John Molina, wanted his IBF super featherweight crown.

“Molina was taller than me,” Lopez recounted. “He threw a left hook in the second round. I bobbed under it, then popped back up. When I did, his elbow caught me right on the eyeball. Nothing intentional—it just happened.”

The Tiger knew immediately that something horrific had occurred.

“My eyeball had no way to go backwards in its socket, with all the pressure and muscles back there, so it just blew a hole in my socket and immediately swelled up,” he recollected.

One of the mythical gladiators of his era, Lopez fought on into the third round, when a Molina punch opened a cut over the other eye.

“So now both eyes are messed up and the guy I’m fighting just looks like a blurry picture. The only way I could tell Molina from the ref is that [Jen-Kin] was wearing a light-blue shirt, and Molina was wearing skin,” he said. “Sometimes I couldn’t even tell if they were close or far away. I just couldn’t see.”

He navigated back to his corner at the bell, stalked by Jen-Kin, who could see the damage was severe.

“How many fingers?” the ref demanded again.

As Lopez stared vacantly at the shapeless blob in front of him, he felt three taps on his leg.

“It was nothing we had practiced. It was just Little Tony being creative,” the fighter said of his co-trainer, also named Tony Lopez (no relation). “So I yelled, ‘Three!’ and the ref said, ‘OK, you’re good’ and he walked away.”

A battle had been won, but most of the 12-round war was still ahead. “At that moment I felt like kicking Little Tony’s butt: What are you doing? I’m hurt up here!

Molina, 19-2 with 12 KOs, moved in without mercy, sensing victory. He and Lopez battled each other ruthlessly.

“It hurt so bad. Oh, my god, I’ve never felt pain like that before or since,” Lopez said. “I kept thinking, If this guy hits me anywhere in my head I’m going to drop down to a knee and quit. But when he did, it just pissed me off. All I wanted to do was hit him back, so I kept fighting. I just kept fighting.”

The brutality went into the 10th round before Molina snapped Lopez’s head back twice in a row with jabs that the champ clearly never saw. That’s when Jen-Kin stepped in and stopped the fight.

A spectacular riot followed at Arco, where Lopez was arguably the most-popular boxer ever.

Lopez faced Molina for the third time in 19 months on May 20, 1990, regaining his title by split decision in Reno, then held the championship through defenses against Jorge Paez, Brian Mitchell and Lupe Gutierrez.

His 16-year, 59-fight career also included two spectacular wars with Rocky Lockridge and memorable bouts against Joey Gamache, Greg Haugen, Julio Cesar Chavez, Freddie Pendleton and Charles Murray.

Lopez became owner-operator of Tony Lopez Celebrity Bail Bonds in Sacramento after his career and also had a brief career as a fight promoter in California.

“I pretty much do all of my own bounty hunting, but I don’t go out there by myself,” he said. “I had no clue what I was doing when I started, but I’ve discovered that there are some serious folks out there.

“I’ve been shot at. I’ve been punched. Somebody tried to smash me between two cars with a motor home once,” Lopez said. “If you go out to pick somebody up, you take a team with you. I kind of figured out after a while that nobody wants to go to jail.”

(This is an excerpt from “A Puncher’s Chance,” a book that can be ordered for $6.95 at

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  1. B Bachar 10:12am, 08/21/2016

    Hello. Did Tony Lopez give you permission to use the photo of him at the top of this article? It’s obvious you took this photo from our site and cut out the background in Photoshop. This is the photo we took of Tony as his character in the film. I would appreciate if you please got back to me to discuss, as it’s not right you just rip the pic off our site, minipulate it and then claim copyright. You should have asked first and we would have been happy to accommodate. If Tony gave you permission then we can discuss that as well, as Tony is one of our core team members. Otherwise, this is you just ripping us off for your own use, which is not professional at all and you may need to take the pic down, depending on my decision. Please don’t ignore this message. I’m sure we can work this out amicably. Thanks.

  2. Hugo Loya 09:37am, 07/06/2015

    Tony is one of my favorite fighters!  I miss fighters like him.  He fought when the sweet science was King!

  3. KB 08:24am, 07/03/2015

    Beth and Dog are two of the most disgusting human beings on earth. Beth looks like she smells like an open sewer and Dog is a fat pig.

    How can anyone watch them? Who watches them?

  4. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 08:15am, 07/03/2015

    I’m sure he’s run into more hair raising shit than Dog and Beth ever have. The only time the viewer is not distracted by Dog’s hair is when Beth’s tits fill up the entire screen!

  5. KB 07:09am, 07/03/2015

    Good one, very enjoyable read.

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