Luis Alberto Lopez has traveled twice to England over the past 17 months and beaten British fighters.
Mexico’s Lopez knocked out previously unbeaten Isaac Lowe in the seventh round of their December 2021 bout in London. In his last fight, Lopez out-pointed Josh Warrington in Warrington’s hometown of Leeds to win the IBF featherweight title from the favored hometown hero.
Lopez (27-2, 15 KOs) has taken another transatlantic flight for his first title defense, a 12-round, 126-pound championship bout against Michael Conlan on Saturday night in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Conlan’s hometown. The 29-year-old Lopez anticipates a different fight from Conlan (18-1, 9 KOs) than Warrington gave him, but the visiting champion realizes that it would be best not to go the distance again if he expects to leave another opponent’s hometown with his IBF belt.
“This fight’s gonna be totally different,” Lopez told BoxingScene.com. “Warrington was an aggressive fighter. He can take a lot of punishment. Conlan likes to move, so we have done really great preparation with my coach [Kay Koroma]. But I’m gonna try to end this fight by knockout and not leave it in the hands of the judges. It’s gonna be a great fight. If it ends in decision, we’re gonna win by decision.”
Lopez fought through a cut caused by an accidental clash of heads in the second round to edge Warrington (31-2-1, 8 KOs) on two scorecards December 10 at First Direct Arena. Judges Mike Fitzgerald and Adam Height both scored Lopez a 115-113 winner over Warrington, whereas judge Howard Foster scored their 12-round bout a draw (114-114).
“It was a complicated fight,” Lopez said. “In the first two rounds, I dominated when we were boxing. Then they started telling him to hit me on the back of my head, on my neck, to hit me on my legs. So, it was a complicated fight. It wasn’t easy, but there was justice done with the scorecards.”
The reserved, respectful Lopez expects another raucous capacity crowd to strongly support Conlan at The SSE Arena in Belfast, where Conlan will headline a card in a third straight fight.
“It is uncomfortable to hear the people screaming, to hear the people booing you, to feel them throwing beer at you,” Lopez said. “In Leeds against Warrington, I felt that pressure. But we came very well prepared, with the right mentality, and we did our work. This is gonna be similar. We’re prepared for that.”
Most oddsmakers list Conlan as a slight favorite to dethrone Lopez in a main event BT Sport 2 will televise in the United Kingdom and Ireland and ESPN+ will stream in the United States. Undercard coverage is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. BST on BT Sport 2 and 1:30 p.m. EDT on ESPN+, the cable network’s streaming service.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.