Lopez: ‘I want all their belts’

On Saturday, IBF featherweight world champion Luis Alberto Lopez (28-2, 16 KOs) went on the road again and scored a fifth-round TKO over Michael “Mick” Conlan (18-2, 9 KOs) at The SSE Arena in Conlan’s hometown of Belfast.

Lopez, 29, made the first defense of his crown after capturing the title from Josh Warrington in enemy territory in Leeds, England.

Unfortunately for Conlan, a 2012 Olympic bronze medalist, his second attempt at a world title falls short. 

Conlan, 31, had some moments in this fight, but Lopez really had no problems landing, and things started to fall apart for Conlan in the third round as Lopez timed an uppercut that hurt him and sent him against the ropes.

In the fifth round, the fight ended as Conlan, who tried to avoid a hook, ran into a right uppercut that immediately floored him, forcing his corner to throw in the towel.

“I hope all the world champions at the featherweight division are ready for ‘Venado’ Lopez,” Lopez said after the win. “I’m coming for all of them. I want all their belts. One by one, I’m taking all their belts with me to Mexico.”

Conlan had nothing but respect for the Mexican star.

“Lopez had my respect before the fight and still has my respect after the fight,” Conlan said. “He hits very hard. He just beat me. He travels well and is a great champion.”

In other action:

Featherweights: English contender Nick Ball (18-0, 11 KOs) defended his WBC Silver title with a 12th-round TKO win over South Africa’s Ludumo Lamati (21-1-1, 11 KOs). Lamati’s six-inch height advantage posed issues for Ball in the first two rounds of the fight, but by the third and fourth, Ball began closing the distance with ease. Once inside, the 26-year-old landed vicious combinations, and Lamati’s corner stopped the bout in the latter stages of the final round.

Junior Lightweights: Anthony Cacace (21-1, 7 KOs) scored a 12-round unanimous decision win against Polish contender Damian Wrzesinski (26-3-2, 7 KOs). Despite Wrzesinski’s aggression, Cacace’s reach and height advantages allowed him to land harder and more consistently from his southpaw stance. Cacace is now 6-0 since suffering his first loss in 2017 against Martin J Ward. Scores: 118-111, 117-111 and 116-112.

Junior Welterweights: Irish standout Pierce O’Leary (12-0, 7 KOs) defended his WBC International belt with a first-round stoppage over Florin Ciorceri (17-4, 7 KOs). O’Leary dropped Ciorceri with a left hook, then finished things up with a savage follow-up attack. Time of stoppage: 1:11.

Photos: Lopez, Conlan getting ready for big showdown

Luis Alberto “El Venado” Lopez will make the first defense of his IBF featherweight world title against Michael “Mick” Conlan this Saturday, May 27, at The SSE Arena in Conlan’s hometown of Belfast.

Lopez-Conlan and undercard bouts will stream live and exclusively on ESPN+ in the U.S. beginning at 1:30 p.m. ET/10:30 a.m. PT.

Lopez (27-2, 15 KOs), from Mexicali, Mexico, navigated bumpy terrain to become a world champion. Despite losing early in his career to Abraham Montoya and Ruben Villa, he regained his momentum with victories over unbeaten standouts Gabriel Flores Jr. and Isaac Lowe. After two stay-busy wins, Lopez received his shot at the title, defeating Josh Warrington last December in enemy territory in Leeds, England. Now under the tutelage of Kay Koroma, he is set to make his first title defense.

Conlan (18-1, 9 KOs), a 31-year-old Olympic bronze medalist, made an unsuccessful bid for the WBA featherweight title against Leigh Wood in March 2022 but bounced back later that year with wins over Miguel Marriaga and Karim Guerfi. Less than six months after his first-round knockout against Guerfi, he will return to The SSE Arena for the third straight time.

In other ESPN+ streaming action from Belfast:

  • In a battle of undefeated featherweights,

    Nick Ball (17-0, 10 KOs) defends his WBC Silver title in a 12-rounder against Ludumo Lamati (21-0-1, 11 KOs). Ball, hailing from Liverpool, England, secured his regional title by defeating Isaac Lowe via sixth-round TKO in April 2022. He defended it later that year with stoppage wins against Nathanael Kakololo and Jesus Ramirez Rubio. Lamati, from South Africa, enters the bout after his fourth-round knockout win against Mark Anthony Geraldo last November.

  • Junior lightweight contender Anthony Cacace (20-1, 7 KOs) takes on Polish standout Damian Wrzesinski (26-2-2, 7 KOs) in a 12-round clash. Cacace is 5-0 after suffering his first defeat in 2017 and is coming off a decision win against Michael Magnesi last September. Wrzesinskreturns to the ring after decisioning Artjoms Ramlavs last October.

  • Pierce O’Leary (11-0, 6 KOs), the undefeated fighting pride of Dublin, defends his WBC International title in a 10-round junior welterweight tilt against Romania’s Alin Florin Ciorceri (17-3, 7 KOs).

Photo/Courtesy: Conlan Boxing

Lopez-Conlan set for May 27 in Belfast

Luis Alberto “El Venado” Lopez may have to start calling himself “The Road Warrior.” Lopez will make the first defense of his IBF featherweight world title against Michael “Mick” Conlan on Saturday, May 27, at The SSE Arena in Conlan’s hometown of Belfast.

Lopez captured the title last December, venturing to Josh Warrington’s home base of Leeds, England, to grind out a majority decision.

Lopez-Conlan and undercard bouts will stream live and exclusively on ESPN+ in the United States. BT Sport will broadcast the event in the UK and Ireland.

Lopez (27-2, 15 KOs), from Mexicali, Mexico, navigated bumpy terrain to become a world champion. After early-career defeats to Abraham Montoya and Ruben Villa stunted his momentum, Lopez thrilled American fight fans with his July 2020 split decision victory over Andy Vences inside the MGM Grand Bubble. Fourteen months later, he dominated then-unbeaten junior lightweight prospect Gabriel Flores Jr. over 10 rounds. Lopez then moved down to featherweight and stopped another undefeated foe, Isaac Lowe, in seven rounds at London’s York Hall. After two stay-busy wins, he received his shot at the title, turning an expected triumphant Leeds homecoming into disappointment for the partisan fans.

“I am a road warrior. Traveling to my opponent’s home country doesn’t faze me,” Lopez said. “I won my world title in Leeds, and now it’s time to defend it in Belfast. The louder they cheer for Michael, the harder I will fight. The IBF title will remain in Mexico. May 27 will be a special night for me, and Michael’s fans will go home disappointed.”

Conlan (18-1, 9 KOs) turned pro in 2017 after a decorated Irish amateur career that included two Olympic berths, an Olympic bronze medal, and gold medals at the World Championships, European Championships, and Commonwealth Games. His double middle finger salute to the judges at the 2016 Rio Olympics turned him into a fighting folk hero, and as a pro, he has proven himself on the world stage. Last March, he nearly captured the WBA featherweight crown from Leigh Wood in Wood’s hometown of Nottingham, England. Conlan, ahead on all three scorecards, was knocked out in the 12th round of ESPN’s Fight of the Year. The Wood disappointment did not linger, as Conlan came back later that year with victories over Miguel Marriaga and Karim Guerfi at The SSE Arena. Five months after knocking out Guerfi in one round, Conlan returns to the friendly SSE Arena confines, prepared to seize his championship moment.

“This is a massive opportunity. Fighting for the world title in Belfast is something I’ve always dreamed of, and I will be taking this opportunity with both hands.” Conlan said. “The SSE Arena will be buzzing, and I will do everything I can to bring a world title home. Credit to Lopez for coming to Belfast, but I am taking his title. He is not prepared for what is coming his way on May 27. Ireland will see a new champion crowned.”

Conlan cruises to unanimous decision win over Marriaga 

 Michael “Mick” Conlan returned home to Belfast and got back on the winning track. Conlan, who lost a featherweight title bid in March, defeated Miguel Marriaga by unanimous decision in the 10-round featherweight main event Saturday at The SSE Arena.

Conlan (17-1, 8 KOs) prevailed by scores of 99-88 2x and 99-89, securing knockdowns in the seventh, eighth, and ninth rounds. Marriaga (30-6, 26 KOs), a three-time world title challenger, dropped to 1-3 in his last four fights but showed a flourish of his vaunted power. In the 10th round, he buckled Conlan, and there were anxious moments for both men navigating the slippery canvas.

Conlan got the result the packed house came to see. He then called for a rematch with Leigh Wood, the WBA champion who scored a come-from-behind 12th-round knockout in a modern boxing classic.

Conlan said, “I had to get rid of a lot of demons tonight. Even in the fuc*ing last round, he hit me with a shot. That guy can punch. {He has} 10 more knockouts than I have fights. He hit me with a jab in the first round, and it was like, ‘Oh, this guy actually can bang.’ I had to be careful and use my skills, which I did. In the last round, he caught me with a shot. Listen, I’ve been using my legs all night. I was a bit off the pace. He was pushing it. He landed a good shot. He buckled me a little bit. I felt it, and for me, to kind of come through that and it’s the last round… I got knocked out in my last fight in the last round. I think that says a lot. I’m back, baby. I’m ready for any of them.

“Obviously, I want Leigh Wood. It’s obvious, but Leigh has his own situation. So, hopefully he can deal with that and come through and the rematch can be done. If not, it’s any other champion. I want to get back in. I will be world champion, and I know I will. Whoever I face, I know I’ll beat him.”

In other action:

Welterweight: Tyrone McKenna (23-3-1, 6 KOs) UD 10 Chris Jenkins (23-6-3, 8 KOs), Scores: 96-95 2x and 97-94. Jenkins, a former British and Commonwealth welterweight champion, appeared to do enough to earn the victory, but the three judges ruled in favor of Belfast native McKenna. It was a battle of Jenkins’ steady pressure against southpaw volume McKenna, and the two waged a phone booth affair. McKenna recovered from a barrage of body blows to have counterpunching success in the ninth and 10th rounds.

Junior Middleweight: Kieran Molloy (2-0, 2 KOs) TKO 2 Evgenii Vazem (9-36, 7 KOs), 1:23. Molloy, from Galway, Ireland, shined in pro bout number two with a devastating performance over Vazem. Early in the second, a four-punch combination, punctuated by a right hook to the body, put Vazem down for the count.

Molloy said, “I fit right in here. I’m an entertainer. I’m a good fighter, and I proved tonight that I’m a good boxer as well. I didn’t even look for that shot. I just landed that uppercut a few times. His elbows were coming up, and it was a nice, sinking body shot, so I just took it.”

Super Middleweight: Padraig McCrory (14-0, 8 KOs) TKO 5 Marco Antonio Periban (26-6-1, 17 KOs), 2:14. McCory moved his knockout streak to four with a one-sided drubbing over the former world title challenger. Periban was dropped three times in the fifth round, the final blows coming courtesy of a quick-trigger combination that knocked him into a neutral corner. The referee waved off the fight, and McCrory secured the second defense of his WBC International Silver belt.

Featherweight: Kurt Walker (3-0, 1 KO) PTS 6 Marcos Gabriel Martinez (18-4, 5 KOs), Score: 59-55. Walker, a 2020 Tokyo Olympian, stepped up in class and used his superior lateral movement and combination punching to stymie Argentina’s Martinez. Walker, who is signed to Top Rank, turned pro earlier this year and hopes to take the express lane to title contention at 27 years old.

Welterweight: Paddy Donovan (9-0, 6 KOs) PTS 8 Tom Hill (10-3, 2 KOs), Score: 80-72. The Irish southpaw sensation returned from injury — and a nearly six-month layoff — to shut out Hill. It was the first scheduled eight-rounder for Donovan, a 23-year-old who is trained and managed by former middleweight world champion Andy Lee.

Donovan said, “It’s very important to get the rounds in. Tommy is a very, very tough fighter. We knew that before. He hopped in the ring before he accepted the challenge. He’s beat the Irish number one welterweight, knocking him down twice in the fight, so we know what he’s capable of.”

Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank via Getty Images