First Luis Alberto Lopez closed Reiya Abe’s right eye. Then he closed the show.

Lopez, the IBF featherweight titleholder, hurt his mandatory challenger with a left hook – really, a left thumb – in Round 2. The injury was immediately apparent; there was swelling and discoloration surrounding Abe’s eye, and it was quickly closing shut.

Abe gamely attempted to fight through the injury, surviving another six rounds. Lopez kept coming, however, and ultimately persuaded the referee to stop the bout 39 seconds into Round 8.

The fight began with Lopez coming forward behind constant pressure and an awkward attack that proved surprisingly effective, often leading with a wide right to the body and following with an even wider left hook to the head. Abe tried to box and elude these shots but couldn’t avoid them all.

The pursuit continued in Round 2. Lopez missed plenty but was undeterred, landing that pivotal left about halfway through the round. 

If Lopez’s unorthodox angles and timing were difficult enough when Abe was healthy, then the difficulty level had suddenly been ratcheted up.

The ringside physician checked on Abe between rounds and allowed the fight to go on. Abe sought to fend off Lopez, moving for much of Round 3, then stopping to throw a few, rinse and repeat. 

Again, the ringside physician examined Abe between rounds. “He has to be careful,” the doctor said, advising that the fight would need to be stopped if the swelling increased. Abe continued to throw and move in Round 4, while Lopez remained undeterred, scoring with two here, a few there.

Abe tried to change his tactics at the start of Round 5, walking Lopez down but missing with a left hand. Lopez soon resumed coming forward. The action deteriorated for a bit thanks to ineffective offense from both men. On occasion, Lopez would land something clean to remind Abe and the judges who was in control, including a good right hand before the bell.

By Round 7, Abe was finding more success on both offense and defense. Lopez showed frustration, then found his opportunity after maneuvering Abe to the ropes, tossing in three shots to the body and two uppercuts toward the chin. Abe’s right eye appeared to be worsening. He didn’t seem to have much steam behind his punches. CompuBox showed Lopez going 33 of 74 in the seventh, compared to just 7 of 35 for Abe. 

As Round 8 began, the crowd at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York, began to chant Lopez’s name. Lopez visually responded and then let loose with an extended barrage. Most of the punches missed, but the referee had seen enough.

“I came out to finish that fight in the eighth round,” Lopez said afterward through a translator. “I looked over to see my wife, my mother and my daughter and said, ‘This is the moment to end the fight.’” 

The victory brings Lopez, a 30-year-old from Mexicali, Mexico, to 30-2 (17 KOs). This was the third defense of his IBF belt, acquired in December 2022 from Josh Warrington by majority decision and defended twice last year, against Michael Conlan (TKO5) and Joet Gonzalez (UD12).

In his postfight interview, Lopez spoke of wanting to unify at 126. His fight was the co-feature to another featherweight title fight featuring Raymond Ford vs. Otabek Kholmatov. (Note: Ford, after his dramatic victory, said he'd likely be moving up to 130.) Lopez also said he’s willing to go up to junior lightweight to challenge the winner of the March 29 bout between Oscar Valdez and Liam Wilson.

Abe, a 30-year-old from Japan, falls to 25-4-1 (10 KOs).