Adam Lopez: Great expectations

Adam Lopez’s life changed immeasurably just days after he spoke to Boxing Social back in November 2019. We caught up on a Tuesday, with his fight on the undercard of Oscar Valdez’s proposed showdown with Andres Gutierrez the following Saturday, and at that time you’d be forgiven for knowing little about ‘BluNose’. But, as Gutierrez spectacularly failed at the scales, Lopez stepped up and life hasn’t been the same since.

Now talking to Boxing Social ahead of his intriguing featherweight clash with British-Ghanaian and former WBO champion Isaac Dogboe, Lopez (15-2, 6 KOs) recalled jumping at the chance to fight Valdez and never glaring into his rear-view mirror since.

“It’s just what I expected, to be honest. The Valdez fight, it was a fight that I had wanted when he was at featherweight, we had always wanted that fight,” Lopez told Boxing Social. “Once that fight happened the way it happened, I didn’t try to overhype it, I knew people would try to sell that fight which is good, but for me, I was like, ‘Alright, this is just another opponent in front of me. He’s got two hands, I’ve got two hands, we’re gonna see who can use them better’. 

“That fight [with Oscar Valdez] really pushed me forward in my career. It changed pretty quick; people started knowing who I was, and I started getting that respect because now they know I can fight. It’s been fast, you know. It was what I’d always expected – just a lot quicker than I’d expected. But now I’m in a position where people recognise me and it’s just making me work a lot harder. It’s everything I dreamed about as a kid, being on that big stage and we’re in talks for a world title soon. It’s all coming together and it’s all part of the journey.” 

The journey started long before his fateful, short-notice contest with undefeated Mexican Valdez, who Lopez dropped in the second before falling valiantly in the seventh round. It started when his father, former world title challenger and prison inmate of nine years, Hector ‘Torero’ Lopez had introduced him to a pair of gloves in a dusty, sweltering Glendale gym. Lopez’s father fell short when chasing the ultimate prize, but the aspiration has been passed down from father to son; fighting is in their DNA.  

“He challenged for the world title on a couple of occasions,” Lopez recalled. “But he was never victorious in those fights. So, for me winning a world title, I know he’d be very proud and very happy, being able to achieve something that he was never able to. It’s a very tough sport, it’s a very tough business, and I’m trying to work my way through it. I’m putting all my focus into it and that’s the bottom line – I want to become a world champion. I want to honour my father and do what he wasn’t able to do, to make him proud. That’s the best goal right there.” 

The bottom line is that, currently, the 24-year-old isn’t quite there yet. In his two fights that followed the Valdez bout, Lopez has emerged victorious each time via majority decision, with a judge in either contest scoring the fights even. Luis Coria and Jason Sanchez proved durable but have fallen short themselves at a higher level, so more could have been expected. But ‘BluNose’ knows that – he’s his own harshest critic.

Now, with a dangerous, wounded Dogboe next in the firing line, stepping it up isn’t optional, as the featherweight division’s top prize is only just out of his grasp. “Performance-wise, against Coria, I could have been better. It was an all-out war,” he said. “It was a very tough fight and I think I overlooked him. I went into the fight not 100% prepared; it was during Covid, so I hadn’t been in the gym. They gave me six weeks’ notice, so I got back into the gym, and I was training a little for that fight. It was a rushed camp, but that’s on me. I learned from that.

“The [Jason] Sanchez fight, I put a lot of pressure on myself for that one. I told my coach, ‘I’m gonna knock him out in the 6th or 7th round’. I think I put too much pressure on myself to the point where I was forcing big shots. I wasn’t letting my natural ability take over. I have to get back to my natural boxing; I just have to make it happen. But they were both good fights and both tough fights. I definitely feel like I learned a whole lot and I think that will pay off for the next, upcoming fight. I still got the win, but I need to make it a lot clearer that I’m winning those fights. I can’t give anything up or make it close.” 

On his next foe Dogboe, Lopez continued: “I think our styles match up perfectly. He’s a short, compact fighter and I’m a long, slick boxer, who can do a little bit of everything. If he wants to fight inside, we can fight inside. He has a hard time with people who are outside fighters and I think he has a hard time with boxers who have that long jab, or even the short jab. He’s shorter and he has to plant his feet; he has to get inside to work. I think if I continue using my feet, use good footwork and make him miss, I think I’ll frustrate him and he’ll get frustrated. I gotta stay disciplined; I can’t get caught up in his fight. I gotta stick to my game plan and I think for six or seven rounds, he’s gonna pressure, but after that, I think we can break him down.” 

One thing that can’t be argued is Lopez’s desire to fight the best. He tackled Valdez – now a two-weight world champion – on a day’s notice; now he faces Dogboe, who has struggled to return to the top because of his tricky, explosive style. Nobody wanted to give the London-born banger a chance before he stopped Jessie Magdaleno though Lopez welcomes him with open arms. But he wasn’t the first opponent from across that Atlantic that trainer Buddy McGirt, management team Sheer Sports and Lopez himself had sought out.

“We want [Michael] Conlan after this fight,” stated the Californian. “They said if you beat Dogboe, you get Conlan. Conlan didn’t want it; it was supposed to be next but now we don’t know what’s gonna happen after this one. You can’t really have much respect for that as a fighter. You gotta be willing to take these fights and see who’s the best. That’s what it takes to get to the top, right? There’s not that many fighters out there who do it nowadays – Teofimo Lopez is the one example. He’s not afraid of anybody, he’s willing to go in and fight whoever he needs to fight, wherever they need to fight.

“That’s the thing about Conlan, it’s his choice. He doesn’t wanna take the fight. Maybe it’s because I’m not ‘up there’ yet and I need to get ranked to get close to a world title. It’s business at the end of the day and, for whatever reason, he just doesn’t wanna take that risk. We’ll sit down with Top Rank after this and figure out the game plan, we’ll figure out where we go from here. I wanna keep an eye on what [WBO champion Emanuel] Navarrete is doing; we are hearing he may be moving up to 135lbs, but if he doesn’t, I’d love to challenge him for his title.”

For now, it’s a date with former world champion Dogboe, Lopez’s stiffest opposition bar-Valdez. ‘BluNose’ still has a fair distance until he arrives at the destination his father fell short of, but he’s firmly on the right path. He believes without a shadow of a doubt that Dogboe is tailor-made for him and on June 19t we’ll find out.

“This fight is everything that people want to see. It’s two, young hungry fighters brought together for an amazing match-up. It looks even better on paper,” he said. “Dogboe is a former champ coming back up and this is what boxing needs right now. I’m ready to bring the best that I can bring – I’ll be very focused. I’m a very exciting fighter, man. I always have a great time. I want to perform in front of people and I’m glad there’s finally fans there so that I can perform in front of people.” 

Lopez closes, telling Boxing Social: “This is something I was born for – boxing. I can’t wait for everyone to really see who Adam Lopez is come June 19.” 

Main image: Mikey Williams/Top Rank.