Lopez-Luevano Preview

Boxing returns to HBO this weekend with an intriguing Boxing After Dark doubleheader. In the main event, Puerto Rican slugger Juan Manuel Lopez moves up in weight to battle Steven Luevano for the featherweight title. The co-feature sees Cuban phenom Yuriorkis Gamboa do battle with Rogers Mtagwa. The fight coverage begins at 9:45 pm ET on HBO this Saturday.

Steven Luevano vs. Juan Manuel Lopez
WBO Featherweight Title

Juan Manuel Lopez, 27-0 (24 KOs), is coming up from the super bantamweight division to challenge Steven Luevano, 37-1-1 (15 KOs), for his featherweight title. Lopez was running through his opposition at 122 lbs until his last fight with Rogers Mtagwa. Lopez squeaked out a unanimous decision last October but his aura of invincibility has been taken away.

Steven Luevano is coming off of an interesting fight in which his opponent, Bernabe Concepcion, was disqualified for knocking Luevano out well after the bell sounded to end the 7th round. Luevano likes to fight cautiously behind his jab although he has been prone to push the pace when the fight calls for it. It will be interesting to see if Luevano can apply some sort of gameplan to stymie Lopez. My guess would be “no” as Lopez puts Luevano down early then finishes the job in the 5th.

Corey Willinger: Though Lopez is the one moving up in weight for this fight, he’s considered the stronger of the two, especially considering Luevano has gone the distance in all of his title defenses. This is a combination of Luevano having a good beard and not packing one-punch knockout power. Throw in the fact that Luevano is a slow starter who gets hit often early in his fights, and he plays right into Lopez’ hands. Lopez has only looked vulnerable in one fight, his last bout against Rogers Mtagwa. Mtagwa is one of those fighters that can really bang and stand up to the heavy thunder. Luevano can do neither. He might box well at times in this fight, but expect Lopez to pour it on and eventually overwhelm Luevano around round 8.

Yuriorkis Gamboa vs. Rogers Mtagwa
WBA Featherweight Title

Yuriorkis Gamboa, 16-0 (14 KOs), will fight Juan Manuel Lopez someday. The two are often put on the same card and both are promoted by Top Rank. Until that fight is made, however, the game of one-upsmanship plays on. Gamboa is facing Rogers Mtagwa, 26-13-2 (18 KOs). The same Mtagwa that pushed Lopez to his limits in October. Should Gamboa win in a more impressive fashion, he suddenly has the upper hand in this budding rivalry.

Rogers Mtagwa is certainly tough, but let’s not rush in anointing him as a grizzled warrior just yet. He has never beaten a meaningful opponent and his toe-to-toe style hadn’t won him a legion of fans prior to the Lopez bout. Gamboa needs to be tested against the likes of Mtagwa, just to see how he responds against a brawler. The Cuban should have no trouble in handling the heat. I will respect Mtagwa’s grit and say he makes it to the final bell, but the scorecards won’t be in his favor. Nor will it be close. 118-110 Gamboa.

Corey Willinger: This one screams firefight. Neither Gamboa nor Mtagwa is likely to shy away from a slugfest, and both become increasingly wild when they do. Mtagwa got lit up in the early going against Juan Manuel Lopez in October but proved he could take a big punch and thus was a threat all the way through, nearly finishing Lopez on several occasions in the championship rounds. But whereas Mtagwa’s best chance is to drag Gamboa into a brawl, Gamboa would be wise to approach the bout methodically for the first four rounds. Trying to take Mtagwa out too early in fact gives Mtagwa his best chance to win. If he gives the fight some time, Gamboa will see an opening and eventually catch Mtagwa with a punch the tough man from Philly doesn’t see coming and stop him around the seventh round.

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