Juanma: On The Brink!
Report & Photos By Luis Cadiz
It's been a while since I have had to sit down and write more than just a paragraph about a Juanma fight. Since winning his W.B.O. super bantamweight title against Ponce De Leon in just 2 min:25 sec of the very 1st round, then defending his title two times, first against Cesar Figueroa, KOd in :47 sec of the 1st, and Sergio Manuel Medina, TKO in 1 min:38 sec also of the 1st round, my articles were about a paragraph long. Juan Manuel "Juanma" Lopez just didn't give me much material to work with. That was until this past Saturday when Gerry Peņalosa, the W.B.O. bantamweight champion, stepped up and took the challenge.
For starters, Peņalosa survived the 1st round and in the process he proved two things: first, he's no pushover, he wasn't intimidated by Juanma's size, power or pressure. Secondly, he came to fight, he didn't come to Puerto Rico to pick up a check and spend the rest of the week end on a white sand Caribbean beach drinking Piņa Coladas.
The Philippine challenger weathered the defending champs onslaught of the 1st round, the bell rang and I automatically had more than just one paragraph. Juanma continued punishing Peņalosa around the ring in the 2nd round, but Gerry would look for openings and attack Juan Manuel's long lean body.
Vicious exchanges in the 3rd round between the fighters frenzied the crowd, but the tides began to change in the 4th as Juanma began to connect with more frequency and Peņalosa would assume a much more defensive posture.
Round 5 was more of the same but Gerry Peņalosa would pick his spots and connect, he was particularly effective with his right. By this time, Juanma was connecting too much on Peņalosa's anatomy, making not only myself but others in the public wonder, how much of a pounding could Gerry tolerate before giving out?
In round 7, Peņalosa connected a few shots cleanly but Junama was ferocious, the defending champ would retaliate immediately and overpower his foe once again towards the end of the before mentioned round. For the first time in the fight, in round 8 it looked as if though Gerry Peņalosa was fading and could take no more.
The very tough and durable Philippine was determined to continue in the 9th but his corner calls a halt to the hostilities, Freddie Roach, Gerry's trainer, had seen enough. Juan Manuel "Juanma" Lopez defended his title a third time, with another stoppage victory, this time in 9 rounds instead of just 1, and improves to 25 victories with 23 KOs and remains undefeated.
Hats off to W.B.O. bantamweight champion, Gerry Peņalosa, who took the challenge many other "feared" fighters of the 122 pound division have looked past. Gerry came to Puerto Rico as a champion, with a future hall of fame trainer in Freddie Roach in his corner and touting the reputation of never being knocked out. Though it was a TKO victory, Peņalosa never visited the canvas during this grueling match. He remains W.B.O. bantamweight champion and more than a formidable foe at super bantamweight.
In my opinion, Juanma proved three important things in his 3rd title defense.
First, Juanma can box, and this trait was appreciated during the course of 9 rounds. Gerry Peņalosa made him work for his victory, thus we had a Juanma that tapped into his boxing vein to earn the win.
Mentioning work brings me to my second trait of Juanma, his extraordinary and unexpected punch output. Juanma threw an amazing 1,020 total punches in this bout and connected 421. This would lead me to believe that not only is the Puerto Rican champ and future superstar a power puncher, but a volume puncher as well and with a very impressive connect percentage.
He's on the brink of future superstar status, which brings me to Juanma's third trait. On the international level, he's well on his way to impressing world wide audiences, key matches against opponents such as Israel Vazquez, Rafael Marquez and unified champion Celestino Caballero will launch Juanma to the elite "pound for pound" level.
As far as local admiration is concerned, and wherever a large Puerto Rican population is present such as New York for example, he's on the verge of becoming an idol. Juan Manuel "Juanma" Lopez is humble, a family man, avoids scandal and controversy and remembers his public, giving out a yell, "Puerto Rico!" for all of his fans after the bout. Kind of reminds me of another former great Puerto Rican champ... from "Cupey Alto Puerto Rico..."
Luis M. Cadiz Sr.