Continued from part 1
“I always had a great, great opinion of him,” Diaz said of Lopez. “First of all he is a very clean fighter. He doesn’t miss a training day. He is well educated fighter. I never worked with him because they have a doctor who does his cuts. I only got one chance to work with him when the doctor was working in the hospital that day but they eventually sent someone to replace him and they said ‘Miguel, don’t be upset’.”
June 7th of 2008 would be a crowning night for Lopez. Then a young and hungry challenger himself, Lopez was going up against hard punching Daniel Ponce De Leon in an effort to capture the champion’s WBO Jr. Featherweight belt. Lopez put on an explosive and efficient display, jumping on De Leon early and starching him in just 145 seconds to win his first world title.
“I remember seeing him when he won the championship in Atlantic City,” Diaz recalled. “He came to fight from the first round. He never let Ponce De Leon take the initiative. He took the initiative from him and he actually knocked him out.”
Since that stirring victory Lopez has reeled off six straight victories and his star has continued to shine. Slightly alarming, however, were the late round struggles that the fighter had with journeyman Rogers Mtagwa in October of last year. Despite building up an early lead, Lopez would fade late and appeared to be in some trouble. To his credit he erased those bad memories in his next fight by moving up in weight and stopping Steven Luevano in the 7th to claim the WBO crown at 126 pounds this past January. Looking on how everything played out, Diaz believes the turn of events were necessary.
“I was talking today to Sugar De Leon Jr., one of my fighters, and was talking about how the fight that made him was Steven Luevano,” Diaz said. “The reason I say that is because the previous fight he was very hurt in the last couple of rounds. The fight with Luevano was taken but my choice would have been to give him some more rest. He came back and fought Luevano like he didn’t have the previous fight. That showed me the power of him and that the move to 126 pounds was fantastic for him. I think after that fight the kid become a complete fighter.”
Throughout the history of the sport there has always been a rich tradition of championship boxing in Puerto Rico, Lopez’ homeland. The fans on the island are rabid for their countrymen and every generation there seems to be a new torch-bearer for the country. Asked for his thoughts on boxing in Puerto Rico, Diaz gives a few pointers.
“They adore Wilfredo Gomez, and call him one of the best fighters ever,” Diaz said. “The Nuyoricans are talking about Ortiz, who I saw just a little bit of him. He was a great fighter. One fighter the Puerto Ricans don’t talk much about who I really admire because of the way he used to fight was Wilfredo Benitez. The history of boxing in Puerto Rico is very rich because when you open a gym, every gym in every location, 70 or 80 kids walk in. And when you have quantity it leads to having quality.”
Coming somewhat full circle, Diaz again turns his attention to this weekend’s clash between the two young and hungry pugilists. While Lopez may have a certain class about his inside of the ring that Concepcion lacks, the Filipino fighter makes up for is with sheer grit, power, and determination. It’s obvious that Diaz has admiration for both men and he isn’t selling Bernabe short.
“Concepcion had also been training in Manila with his trainer Buboy [Fernandez], who is a very good trainer. He had the confidence from Manny Pacquiao and the will to fight. Lopez may be a more complete fighter but Concepcion is coming to fight, no doubt about it.”
Want to know more about Miguel Diaz? In his time in the sport he has worked with a long list of fighters including Floyd Mayweather, Miguel Cotto, Manny Pacquiao, Kelly Pavlik, Jose Luis Castillo, Erik Morales, and several others. Click on the collage to see images of the fighters Diaz has assisted…
Concepcion did much of his training for the Lopez fight at the Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles, California. Click on the collage below to see more images of Concepcion in training…
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Chris Robinson is based out of Las Vegas, Nevada. He can be reached at [email protected]