A jarring right uppercut in the fifth round ended Michael Conlan’s second bid for a world title as IBF featherweight champion Luis Alberto Lopez pulled off his prediction of stopping the celebrated hometown hero at The SSE Arena in Belfast last Saturday.
It had been a war from the start with Conlan, fighting from a southpaw stance, setting the early pace. Lopez, squat and powerful, and at 5-feet-four, exactly four inches shorter than the challenger, was more than eager to oblige Conlan.
The unorthodox Mexican had an answer for everything Conlan threw at him – landing explosive hooks and uppercuts with deceptive speed and from unusual angles. After Conlan appeared to steal the opening stanza with a series of left hands, Lopez replied in kind before the bell.
Lopez had a big second round after Conlan had connected early. He had the Belfastman on the ropes at one point with a succession of shots, a few of which landed.
It was clear by the third that Conlan, who’s 31, had a fight on his hands on account of Lopez’ sneaky shots, unorthodox style and power. Still, he was able to score with the long right jab from the southpaw stance.
Although the Mexican was the dominant fighter after four heats, the end in the fifth came almost unexpectedly. Conlan had connected a couple of punches when Lopez caught the challenger trying to duck a punch. What Conlan did was dip into a right uppercut that flattened him.
Before referee Michael Alexander could start the count, Adam Booth, Conlan’s trainer, threw in the towel. It went down as a TKO at 1:14 of the round.
Conlan, who’d been ahead on points when he was knocked out of the ring by WBA titlist Leigh Wood in March 2022, dropped to 18-2 [9 KOs]. Lopez is now 28-2 [16 KOs] after the first defense of the IBF belt he won off Josh Warrington in Leeds, England, last December.
Said Conlan: “Lopez had my respect before the fight and still has my respect after the fight. He hits very hard. He just beat me. He travels well and is a great champion.”
Going into the fight Lopez had warned that it wouldn’t be smart for Conlan to try and brawl with him. “So, I expect him to come out and box. But I have the speed and strength to cut the ring and find him. I will knock Michael Conlan out!"
After the fight, the Mexican remarked: “It was an excellent atmosphere to fight in. The energy was amazing. The boxing fans from Ireland have treated me very well, so I'm glad Mick and I could give them a great fight. I wish the best of luck to Conlan moving forward, and I hope he recovers and comes back very soon.
“I hope all the world champions at the featherweight division are ready for 'Venado' Lopez. 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.”
On the undercard, Dubliner and junior welterweight standout Pierce O'Leary [12-0, 7 KOs] defended his WBC International belt with a first-round stoppage over Allin Florin Ciorceri [17-4, 7 KOs] at 1:11.
O'Leary dropped Ciorceri with a left hook, then finished him off with a brutal follow-up attack.
In his first fight in the Big Apple, Donegal’s Jason Quigley squares off with monster puncher Edgar Berlanga at the Hulu Theater in Madison Square Garden on June 24. On the line will be Berlanga’s WBO NABO super middleweight title.
Berlanga [20-0, 16 KOs] fights for the first time under the Matchroom banner after penning a multi-fight deal with Eddie Hearn in February. In Quigley, he faces a dangerous [20-2 14 KOs] foe.