Titles: 1976-1980 WBC featherweight Champiom Record: 42-6 Born: July 6, 1952 in Fort Duchesme, Utah, USA Years active: 1971-1980 Nickname: "Little Red" Lopez was perhaps the most exciting fighter to watch during the 1970's. It was hard to miss Lopez with a punch and as his 39 K.O's in 42 wins suggest he had the ability to knock out his opponents with a single punch. Lopez also had extraordinary recuperative powers that rivaled that of Matthew Saad Muhammad, if you knocked Lopez down you knew that you were in trouble! Lopez would start slow soaking up punishment looking for the hole in his opponents defense. I am not sure how many times Lopez hit the canvas but I am sure that he got up every time to fight on. Lopez unlike other power punchers did not prefer any single finishing blow, he knocked his opponents out in various fashions. He simply carried power in both hands and knew when to throw the correct punch. Lopez has to be counted as one of the 5 best featherweight punchers of all time. While defense was not his strong suit he did move well on his feet but preferred to put himself in a position to lead with his punches and invariably in position for return fire. Lopez of Irish, Indian and Hispanic mixture was a unlikely looking fighter, with his Hispanic features showing under a mop of red hair and long sideburns. Add to this his entrances which featured him in a Indian headdress and you can see why he was featured on T.V so often. Lopez who had been in foster homes from the age of 8 began to box as he followed his older brother to Los Angeles and the gyms he would train in. After a good but no mean great amateur career Lopez turned pro at 18 and found his style made him a instant sensation in the Los Angeles boxing community. Lopez went on a 21 fight knockout streak to start his career against strong opposition in California. Consider that Lopez knocked out Ruben Olivares, Chucho Castillo, Raul Cruz, Sean O'Grady, Famoso Gomez, and Art Hafey before he even got his title shot. In only his 10th fight he was matched with another undefeated K.O artist Arturo Pineda (13-0) that drew 10,000 fans, Lopez knocked him out in four rounds and the fight was voted fight of the year in Los Angeles. After 4 years of learning in fighting the tough L.A scene against Mexican and Mexican American boxers of all styles and ability it was time for Lopez to take a step up in competition in 1974. It started well enough when Lopez finally went the 10 round distance against fringe contender and iron jawed Genzo and followed up that fight with a knockout win over Memo Rodriguez who was a tough challenge for any fighter. Then in late 1974 and early 1975 disaster struck for Lopez in the ring. He found his equal in toughness when he fought legendary Bobby Chacon in a fight of the year candidate which saw Lopez knocked out in the 9th round of a grueling fight in front of 16,000 fans. Chacon was just a notch above Lopez in terms of strength and it showed after Chacon weathered the early storm of Lopez. As the fight wore on Chacon countered Lopez solid left hooks that finally wore Lopez down and forced the referee to step in. Lopez came back with a easy win over Masano Toyoshima but once again lost via a 9th round stoppage when a headbutt caused his fight with Shig Fukuyama to be stopped. Lopez took on another tough challenge way too soon not allowing his body to heal from the two tough losses and he looked in terrible form against Octavio Gomez who out hustled him for a 10 round win. Many gave up on Lopez and thought he was just a hard punching kid who would always be just a level below championship caliber. Lesser fighters might have given up or not trained to get back to a championship level, in 2 years Lopez would become a champion however. Now offers started to come for Lopez to fight high level boxers who thought he was in decline and wanted a good box office payday. In 1975 former world champions Chucho Castillo and Ruben Olivares learned the hard way that Lopez was far from finished as he knocked them both out. In both of those fight the two combatants were on the canvas. 1976 might have been the best year for Lopez as he started it by taking out featherweight prospect and future champion Sean O'Grady before defeating world #2 rated Art Hafey in a bout that assured Lopez of a title at champion David Kotey.... the problem was that Lopez would have to travel to Africa for the title. Taking the title from the champion in Africa back in the 70's was a daunting exercise to say the least but by the 12th round of the 15 round title fight large portions of the crowd of 90,000 were leaving the stadium sure that their man had been beaten. Not even the judges could ignore the beating and total domination Lopez showed in the ring that night. The fact that Kotey was able to stand up the punches of Lopez for the 15 rounds speaks volumes for his toughness and skills. It was a one sided fight from the start as Lopez cut Kotey in the first round (it 37 stitches to put Kotey back together) that left Kotey bleeding and swallowing blood from his lower lip. The late rounds were especially brutal,in most countries the fight would have been stopped. To his credit Kotey just refused to go down often holding on to Lopez in order to stay up. Lopez would go on to defend the title successfully eight times (5 in his first year as a champion) by knockout, against a cast of better than average challengers, before losing to the legendarily talented Salvador Sanchez. All of Lopez's title defenses were featured on national T.V because of his offensive style. Lopez beat Kotey again on the first Ali vs. Spinks fight this time taking the ex-champ out in 6 one sided rounds. In 1978 on the Ali vs. Spinks II undercard Lopez had a typical fight for him as he was knocked down in the first round and looked ready to go when a single right hand punch laid Juan Malvarez out cold. In 1979 Lopez faced Mike Ayala in The Ring magazine fight of the year. In Ayala's hometown Lopez fought the wrong fight early and was countered by the 21 year old Ayala who was sliding along the ropes. But Lopez got his shots in and broke Ayala's nose in the 6th starting to slow him down. In the 7th and 11th round Lopez had Ayala down but the challenger kept fighting back and scoring well. Finally in the 15 round after Lopez had pulled ahead in the fight the referee stopped the bout after a big left hook sent Ayala down for the last time. His title reign was nearing the end however. The great Salvador Sanchez had the perfect style to foil Lopez. Behind a great jab Sanchez used a movement and counter punching scheme that left Lopez walking into hard punches throughout their two fights. When Lopez did land solid punches which did not happen very often he found the chin of Sanchez to be unshakable. Sanchez at 20 years old was thought as a huge threat to Lopez since he was not well known outside of Mexico. By the 4th round of their first fight Lopez had 3 cuts and his left was beginning to swell shut, and it got worse as the rounds progressed. Lopez refused to surrender and for 14 rounds tried to connect with one of his big bombs without luck, finally the referee rescued the staggering Lopez in the 14th round. In the rematch Lopez performed a little bit better but was once again not able to get within punching distance of Lopez to connect with any kind of effectiveness. Lopez having many tough fights behind him and always training like a mad man decided he did not want to venture on the long road he knew would be ahead of him to get another title shot and retired. At 28 Lopez was finished as a fighter. Inspired by George Foreman Lopez made one comeback fight 12 years later, it ended in predictable fashion when he was knocked out in the third round. Lopez now makes his home in the Chino Hills area with his wife of 27 years, working in the construction business.
1971 May 27 Steve Flajole Los Angeles KO 1 Jun 17 Fili Castro Los Angeles KO 1 Jul 9 Mauro Olivares Los Angeles KO 1 Jul 29 Jose Luis Estrada Los Angeles KO 2 Aug 12 Modesto Ortiz Los Angeles KO 4 Sep 16 Rafael Lopez Los Angeles KO 5 Oct 14 Frank Granados Los Angeles KO 2 Nov 18 Marcarito Rios Los Angeles KO 1 1972 Jan 20 Jose Orantes Los Angeles KO 2 Feb 18 Rafael Lopez Los Angeles KO 2 Mar 10 Arturo Pineda Los Angeles KO 4 May 11 Jose Luis Valdovinos Los Angeles KO 4 Jul 20 Benny Rodriguez Los Angeles KO 1 Jul 28 Yoshinabu Goto Los Angeles KO 8 Oct 19 Jorge Reyes Los Angeles KO 7 1973 Feb 9 Jorge Carrasco Los Angeles KO 1 Mar 17 Kenji Endo Los Angeles KO 2 May 10 Cesar Ordunez Los Angeles KO 4 Jun 21 Juan Ordonez Los Angeles KO 4 Jul 31 Ushiwakamaru Harada Honolulu KO 3 Sep 27 Goyo Vargas Los Angeles KO 1 1974 Jan 17 Genzo Kurosaw Los Angeles W 10 Feb 4 Memo Rodriguez Mexicali, Mexico KO 10 May 24 Bobby Chacon Los Angeles KO by 9 Aug 8 Masano Toyoshima Los Angeles KO 3 Sep 9 Shig Fukuyama Los Angeles KO by 9 1975 Jan 18 Octavio Gomez Anaheim, CA L 10 Apr 24 Chucho Castillo Los Angeles KO 2 Jul 26 Raul Cruz Los Angeles KO 6 Sep 13 Antonio Nava Los Angeles KO 6 Dec 4 Ruben Olivares Inglewood, CA KO 7 1976 Feb 25 Sean O'Grady Inglewood, CA KO 4 Apr 28 Octavio Gomez Inglewood, CA KO 3 Aug 6 Art Hafey Inglewood, CA KO 7 Nov 5 David Kotey Accra, Ghana W 15 (Wins WBC Featherweight Title) 1977 Jul 29 Jose Olivares Sacramento KO 2 Aug 28 Jorge Altamirano Stateline, NV KO 6 Sep 13 Jose Torres Los Angeles KO 7 (Retains World Featherweight Title) 1978 Feb 15 David Kotey Las Vegas KO 6 (Retains World Featherweight Title) Apr 22 Jose DePaula Los Angeles KO 6 (Retains World Featherweight Title) Sep 15 Juan Malvarez New Orelans KO 2 (Retains World Featherweight Title) Oct 21 Fel Clemente Pesaro, Italy WDQ 4 (Retains World Featherweight Title) 1979 Mar 10 Roberto Castanon Salt Lake City KO 2 (Retains World Featherweight Title) Jun 17 Mike Ayala San Antonio KO 15 (Retains World Featherweight Title) Sep 25 Jose Caba Los Angeles KO 3 (Retains World Featherweight Title) 1980 Feb 2 Salvador Sanchez Phoenix KO by 13 (Loses World Featherweight Title) Jun 21 Salvador Sanchez Las Vegas KO by 14 (For World Featherweight Title) 1992 Feb 27 Jorge Rodriguez Irvine, CA KO by 3