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The Grand Champion Calls It A Career

By Steve Coughlin

On July 25, 1967, in Cuernavaca Mexico, a star was born in the person of Ricardo Lopez Nava. At the time, only his mother could have thought she'd given birth to perfection. After 18 years in the squared circle, 13 of them as a world champion, quite a few boxing fans & experts around the world would agree with Mrs. Lopez Nava.

What I do know about Rocardo's amateur career is that his record was 37-1, 28 coming by knockout. His only loss, amateur or professional came at age 15. Amateur boxing is a different sport than professional boxing to be sure. But with a record like that & that many wins coming inside the distance you had to get the feeling that you were looking at a promising professional prospect with a lot of whack. And someone who had the potential for true greatness.

Ricardo Lopez started his professional boxing career at the age of 17. His debut took place in his home of Cuernavaca, on January 18th, 1985 against Ragelio Hernandez. The fighter now known to the world as Finito started his pro career the same way he would end it; by KOing his opponent in brutal fashion. He'd go on to win his next 24 fights, 17 via the knockout.

In his 26th bout, and at the age of 22, Ricardo traveled to Tokyo, Japan to challenge Hideyuki Ohashi for the WBC Strawweight Championship. Ricardo stopped the champion, attempting his first title defense in front of his hometown, inside the fifth round. The title run was officially on, a streak that would last for the final 25 fights of his brilliant career.

Nearly three years later, on December 10, 1994 Lopez defended his title against for the 13th time against Columbian Yamil Caraballo. Going into the fight, Caraballo had threatened to kill Ricardo in the ring, his way of avenging his countryman Kermin Guardia, who Ricardo had destroyed over 12 rounds just 6 months earlier. The only things killed that evening were some of Caraballo's brain cells, as Finito put Yamil away with a picture-perfect left hook to the jaw in the first round.

Finito's record in world championship fights was a staggering 25-0-1 with 19 KOs, the lone blemish being a highly controversial technical draw against the rugged Panamanian Rosendo Alvarez. In that fight, a unification match against a bigger, also undefeated & hard-hitting world champion in March of '98, Lopez found himself on the canvas for what I believe was the only time in his professional career. Finito was cut badly too and had everything going against him early. But Ricardo dug deeply and, as the fight progressed, had erased Rosendo's early lead & was putting the bull on Alvarez when the referee stopped the action to have the ringside physician examine a terrible gash over his eye. It was determined that the cut was too severe to allow the bout to continue and the fight went to the judge's scorecards. After what seemed like an eternity, and the WBA judge "correcting" his scorecard, the bout was declared a draw. Before the WBA judge fixed his scorecard to protect their meal ticket, even he had Lopez ahead. But boxing being, well, boxing, the screw job was done. But the WBA and Alvarez soon learned that they weren't going to get away that easily.

In an era of Champions & top contenders avoiding the one or two opponents that spoiled their perfect records, Lopez demanded that Don King get him an immediate rematch. Alvarez wasn't too interested to climb back in with Lopez, but he, too, was promoted by King & the rematch was scheduled for the following November. While Alvarez not making weight got the WBA off the hook Rosendo was still in for a rough night. In twelve tough, bloody rounds, Lopez had exacted his revenge and was the undisputed Strawweight Champion. Alvarez really has never been the same fighter since.

But the fight took its toll on Lopez's brittle hands and he would only fight three more times before calling it a career. In his next fight, on October of 1999, Ricardo moved up in weight to take on Will Grigsby for Grigsby's IBF Jr. Flyweight title. The much bigger Grigsby took a beating over 12 and Lopez was now a two-division champion. Finito finished up by crushing former champions Ratanapol Vorapin in 3 and Zoloni Patelo in 8.

In the fall of 2002, with nothing left to prove, he announced his departure form the sport, walking away from the game with a record of 50-0-1, 37 KOs.

Lopez did receive some criticism from people who follow the sport. One charge was that he didn't move up in weight soon enough to challenge Humberto "Chiquita" Gonzales or Michael Carbajal. My retort to that argument is:

A) Since when has defending your title and maintaining your optimum weight become a fault in a fighter? I don't remember any of these people suggesting that Marvelous Marvin Hagler was any less of a legend because he didn't move up to Light Heavyweight to challenge Michael Spinks or Matthew Saad Muhammad.

B) In this writer's humble opinion, he would have destroyed both fighters anyway. He would have boxed the ears off of Carbajal & Gonzales and most likely would have KO'd both of them too. Ask Saman Sorjaturong who he thinks would win a fight between Lopez & Chiquita. I have a feeling that the guy who laid out Gonzales COLD, but was nearly decapitated by Finito inside two, would pick Lopez, don't you?

All that can be asked of a fighter is that he beats the man they put in front of him. Ricardo did something that VERY FEW fighters ever do: he beat everyone they put in front of him. Thanks for the memories, Grand Champion, it's been an honor and a privilege to watch you!

Other stuff:

On February 22nd 2003, in Rockford Illinois, there will be a benefit dinner for two former World Champions. Greg Page and Gerald McClellan were both SERIOUSLY hurt in their final bouts. Their families have been doing the best they can to support both guys over the past years but, with the spiraling cost of healthcare, they can use ANY financial help they can get. Why not be a real champ and lend a helping hand to a couple of guys that entertained us every time they laced 'em up? I PROMISE you that Patricia Love-Page (Greg's wife) and Lisa McClellan (Gerald's sister) would greatly appreciate it. The event will take place at the Clock Tower Resort in Rockford. Tickets are priced at $100.00. For tickets, please call 815-233-5460. If you can't make it to the event but would still like to show your support, tax-deductible contributions may be sent to Gerald McClellan Trust, c/o Fifth Third Bank, PO Box 120, Freeport, IL 60132. I'm hopeful that the event will be so successful that there won't be a need to host another one.

My personal thanks to Arturo "Thunder" Gatti and "Irish" Mickey Ward for treating us to two of the best fights of 2002. The only other fight that came close was De La Hoya vs. Vargas. And a VERY special thanks to my brother, who forced me to get off of my ass to see them both live from ringside. You know we're close when we buy each other ringside tickets as birthday presents.

To the Iowa Golden Gloves: You COULDN'T possibly be represented by nicer people than Emily & Katie Klienfelter. The sisters are both champions, students of the sport, but more importantly are wonderful people. Excellent students too. I had the pleasure of dining with the ladies here in Chicago, as well as their coach, back in August and can tell you that they charmed the entire restaurant staff during their visit there. Believe me, they aren't looking to become martyrs to a cause, they're just boxers looking for the same help from their Golden Gloves that male boxers get - no more, no less. I officially challenge Donald Avant, Jr.- President Iowa Golden Gloves and John Connors - President Emeritus and Member of Iowa House of Representatives to join me, the ladies and their coach for a friendly pizza dinner, on me, at the Des Moines Pizzeria of your choice. I promise you that you'll find the funds to help these ladies once you've had the honor and pleasure of meeting them in person. I can be reached by e-mail at spcedwards@yahoo.com. I anxiously await your RSVP gentlemen.

From the Cheap Seats,
Steve Coughlin

Connections:

Ricardo Lopez

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