When the 105 pound strawweight originated in 1987, I totally ignored that division as I felt it was an unnecessary division in a sport that already had too many divisions and titles. It was not until 1990 when 24-year-old Mexican Ricardo “Finito” Lopez defeated Hideyuki Ohashi in his 27th fight to win the WBC version that the division had a fighter that the rest of the boxing world could take seriously. For eight years, Lopez successfully defended this crown 21 times, which is a major reason why he’s the 25th greatest fighter of the last 45 years.
The first time my father and I saw Lopez fight, my father was shocked at how the 5’5 Lopez could stay at 105 and maintain his incredible power and stamina. Lopez fought tall and worked everything off his totem pole of a jab. Also, Lopez was one of the great body punchers of the 90s and had incredible punching power in both hands which made him damn near impossible to defeat. After destroying Ohashi in five rounds, Lopez began cleaning out the 105-pound division brick-by-brick.
On July 3, 1993, Lopez defended his title for the seventh time against future Thai world light flyweight champion Saman Sorjaturong. In what was undeniably his finest performance of his career, Lopez dropped Sorjaturong three times before referee Vince Delgado stopped the fight late in round two. Lopez was now due for a super fight. Unfortunately, the two biggest fighters a division above him, future Hall of Famers Michael Carbajal and Chiquita Gonzalez would rather fight each other three times instead of fighting Lopez. Both men would spend the rest of their careers avoiding the Mexican warrior. Lopez, unable to secure a major payday, concentrated on destroying more 105-pound contenders.
The first time I saw Lopez fight live in person was on August 23, 1997 at Madison Square Garden. I took my father that night to see his favorite fighter at the time, Felix Trinidad in the main event. Lopez defended his 105-pound title for the 19th time against the miniature 5’2 Puerto Rican and WBO champion Alex Sanchez which was also for Sanchez’s WBO title. Once again, Lopez proved he was on another level as he battered Sanchez from pillar to post until referee Arthur Mercante, Jr. showed mercy and stopped the fight. Lopez was 31 and still looked as invincible as ever. Then came Rosendo Alvarez.
On March 7, 1998 Lopez, now the WBC and WBO 105-pound champion, faced the reigning WBA champion Rosendo Alvarez of Nicaragua in his second consecutive title unification fight. Alvarez was the first fighter I ever saw who walked through Lopez’s high powered offense and was out landing the Mexican superstar. Alvarez even knocked Lopez down for the first time in Lopez’s career in round two. Then, in round seven, both men’s heads collided, resulting in a huge gash above Lopez’s right eye, causing referee Arthur Mercante, Sr. to stop the fight. The fight then went to the scorecards. Because of the WBC’s archaic rules, the fighter who didn’t bleed received a point deduction even if the butt was accidental. That point deduction resulted in the fight being a draw. On judge Dalby Shirley’s card, he had it 66-66 even. If not for the point deduction, Alvarez would’ve handed Lopez his first loss. Instead, Lopez escaped with a gift draw. They would fight each other eight months later in an immediate rematch.
At the weigh in for the rematch, Alvarez came in three pounds over the weight limit and was stripped of his WBA title. Lopez agreed to go on with the fight as he wanted to add the WBA title to his ledger. On November 13, 1998, Lopez once again had his hands full with Alvarez as he struggled to win a very tough split decision to unify the WBC, WBO and WBA titles. After eight years of dominating the 105 pound title, Lopez relinquished all three titles to move up to 108 pounds.
On October 2, 1999 the now 33-year-old Lopez challenged slick boxer Will Grigsby for his IBF 108-pound title. Lopez was able to outbox the crafty Grigsby over 12 rounds to become a two-division world champion. He would successfully defend the belt twice before finally retiring at the age of 35 in 2001. I attended his final fight on September 29, 2001 against Zolani Petelo. Even at 35, Lopez looked as polished and dangerous as ever in knocking his South African challenger out in the eighth round. It was a fitting end to an iconic career.
Ricardo Lopez finished his career undefeated with a 51-0-1 record with 38 knockouts. Lopez’s only blemish was the controversial draw with Alvarez. Lopez was not only the longest reigning 105-pound champion of all-time, he was also the longest reigning champion of the 90s. Coupled with his incredible offensive weaponry and power, “Finito” more than deserved to be the 25th greatest fighter of the last 45 years.