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Juanma meets the press!

Story by Mariano A. Agmi
Photo courtesty of Ed Keenan

Last week WBO jr featherweight champion Juan Manuel Lopez (27-0, 24 KOs) took time out of his final preparations for his January 23rd challenge of WBO featherweight champion Steven Luevano (37-1-1, 15 KOs) to meet the press at Sazon Restaurant in New York City.

The proud Puerto Rican champion was gracious in assessing his opponent: “Luevano is a great fighter. I’ve seen him fight a number of times. He’s pretty polished and technical. He doesn’t lose control during a fight. I’ve seen that if you pressure him you can give him trouble, but you can’t take anything for granted before a fight.”

Juanma headlines at the Garden in NYC for the first time since his October 2009 war against Rogers Mtagwa: “It’s great to be fighting in Madison Square Garden again. It’s the fourth time I fought here and the second time headlining in front of my people. Tito Trinidad will be there and he’s a hero in this sport. With Tito and all of my fans supporting me, it’s always a great feeling to fight at the Garden.”

Lopez pointed out that this is a very important fight for him as he wishes move on to bigger and better things in 2010: “I’d like to fight two or three times this year. If everything goes well on January 23rd, we’ll see who wins between [Yuriorkis] Gamboa and Mtagwa that night and also look at the winner of Israel Vasquez – Rafael Marquez before deciding what’s next. I don’t like to look too far ahead because you never know what can happen in boxing, but the idea is to provide the public with big fights they want to watch against name fighters like Gamboa, Vasquez and Marquez.”

On moving up to the featherweight division:

“We’re in the last weeks of training and moving up in weight made me feel better. I’m comfortable and feel stronger. I’ve sparred hundreds of rounds, many with 140 pounders.”

On his battle against Rogers Mtagwa:

“Many people thought I was exhausted at the end of my last fight. It wasn’t that I was tired – I was genuinely hurt. I was a little concerned, but I was well conditioned and conscious of what was happening. I kept moving around and I was checking the clock to see how much time was left.”

“Everyone thought this fight would be easy for me, but I knew it wouldn’t be. I watch a lot of boxing and I was familiar with Mtagwa. I knew how hard a fight against him would be. He always tends to change the momentum of a fight by imposing his style and strength. At first I was outboxing him, but because he was so easy to hit, I started to trade with him in the seventh round and that’s when it got tough.”

“I learned a lot from that fight. I learned that I have to maintain my composure. I got too excited and started throwing more punches than necessary. I also learned that if I’m dominating a fight using my boxing skills, I shouldn’t change the rhythm of the fight by slugging it out.”

On Gamboa vs. Mtagwa:

“Gamboa should win that fight. I’m sure he studied my fight against Rogers and he’ll learn from my mistakes. Gamboa should use his speed and box to win comfortably. He should avoid trading with Rogers like I did and keep his composure.”

Lopez-Mtagwa and Gamboa-Mtagwa will be shown live on HBO at 9:45 ET from the WaMu Theatre at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, January 23rd.


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