Rogers Mtagwa vs. Juan “JuanMa” Lopez:
Like Something Out Of The Movies

By Tim Donaldson
Photos: "Sugar" Ray Bailey


Philadelphia might only be Rogers Mtagwa’s adopted home, but he seems to have something in common with Philadelphia’s most famous, although fictional, fighter. I almost hate to do it, and I am sure you see it coming. However, the comparison is too great to deny. Mtagwa’s fight against JuanMa was like something out of a Rocky movie.

The most obvious comparison is that Mtagwa was clearly the underdog. No one really gave him a shot at winning this fight. Before the fight, talking to members of the press, it was clear that everyone thought JuanMa would end this fight no later than the eighth round. Anything beyond that, they argued, would call into question his status as a champion. Besides, look at Mtagwa’s record, 25 wins, 12 losses, and 2 draws. He doesn’t even belong in the same ring as JuanMa. The outcome of the fight seemed obvious to all of them. Them? I have to admit that the outcome of the fight seemed obvious to me too.

However, someone forgot to tell Mtagwa. His performance clearly showed that he believed that he could win this fight.

As early as the first round, you could see that Mtagwa came to fight. He started the fight chasing JuanMa around the ring. Unfortunately, he slipped, which shifted the momentum back to JuanMa. Now I don’t want to take anything away from JuanMa. He is a great fighter, and he was showing it as early as the first round. He seemed a little more cautious, but he was landing some good shots.

But like Rocky, Mtagwa seemed to be able to take any punishment that JuanMa dished out. In the third round, JuanMa landed a hard shot on the chin of Mtagwa, a shot that would have taken a lot of lesser fighters down. Mtagwa refused to not only fall but also to keep his distance. He just kept coming. In the fourth round, Mtagwa fell while throwing a punch. In the fifth, he was down on one knee from the right hand of JuanMa. Through the same rounds, JuanMa stayed elusive, proving to be a hard target for Mtagwa. And JuanMa was easily landing more than Mtagwa.

But something started to happen in the seventh round. Mtagwa was still chasing JuanMa, but he was starting to connect more of his shots. JuanMa, on the other hand, was starting to slow down. At times, he almost seemed surprised at what was happening. And it was then, that JuanMa started to look very tired, breathing deeply between rounds. I am sure he sensed it. JuanMa came out in the eighth round with a clear purpose, to end the fight. Mtagwa once again battled back. The round ended with an all out brawl. And the crowd that came to see JuanMa win this easy fight was on its feet.

In the ninth round, it looked as though Mtagwa might actually do it. In the middle of the round, he had a brief chance to knock out JuanMa. However, JuanMa, being a true champion, hung on. He started the tenth round with a flurry of punches against Mtagwa. Mtagwa landed a hard punch to face of JuanMa to stop the attack.

The eleventh round, JuanMa once again seemed to sense the urgency. He sprinted across the ring to where Mtagwa was standing. The round was back and forth. Mtagwa landed hard shots on the head of JuanMa, at one point. Then, JuanMa backed Mtagwa across the ring. Mtagwa was looking shaky but had enough energy to keep up his attack on JuanMa. JuanMa looked stunned but again survived the round.

JuanMa came out in the twelfth round shaky. Mtagwa was controlling this round. JuanMa was having trouble connecting his punches, and he would hold onto Mtagwa to stop his attack. JuanMa even fell on Mtagwa, pushing him through the ropes. But JuanMa never went down.

At the end of the fight JuanMa looked ready to collapse in his corner. Mtagwa went to the edge of the ring and faced the crowd. The crowd that was overwhelmingly there for JuanMa cheered. And even though they were happy that JuanMa won the decision, they booed Bob Arum when he said that there would be no rematch.


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