Josesito Lopez had it all set up just so. Fighting in front of an adoring crowd at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California—just about a half-hour drive from his hometown of Riverside—Lopez looked to pay those local fans back for all their love with a win on Premier Boxing Champions' first Spike TV broadcast.
Through five rounds, things were following the playbook. He was ahead on two of three judges’ cards and was taking the fight to Andre Berto.
But Berto, in his second fight back from a rough shoulder injury, irked the crowd with a knockdown—a big right that left Lopez sitting on the mat for an eight count. Five seconds later, Berto connected on another right and referee Raul Cantu Jr. stopped it there. The hometown fans really weren't amused after that.
It turned out to be disappointingly familiar territory for Lopez, who felt his 2013 fight against Marcos Maidana was stopped early.
“This one was 10 times worse. Maidana connected. I was a little buzzed with the first Maidana knockdown. This one I wasn’t,” Lopez said. “I don’t know how the referee thought I wouldn’t be able to continue. I wish I could have kept going.”
Despite being behind on the cards, Berto was impressive and seemed to pick up steam as the bout continued. Though he knew coming in, that the early rounds against Lopez would be a stiff test.
“Josesito’s a tough kid,” Berto said. “You’ve got to take your time. I watched his fight with Maidana. He came out banging and knocked him down. He did all that. I knew he was in front of his home crowd, he was going to come out and go bombs away, so I just took my time and kept working he jab.”
Lopez said that Berto’s jab was just missing in the early rounds. He was able to get his head back out of the way in time. But Lopez hurt his left hand in the third round and had to move away from his own jab. It was then that Berto was able to close the distance and start peppering Lopez.
“I could see the crowd was keeping him in there, so I just stayed calm and continued working that jab,” Berto said. “I let him get his shots off and kept my defense tight.”
Keith Thurman, fresh off his win over Robert Guerrero on the debut Premier Boxing Champions card on March 7 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, was there to check out the fight—and keep an eye on the rest of the 147-pound division.
“He started to get a little cocky in the later rounds when he was getting into his groove,” Thurman said of Berto. “But it was good. I’m happy to see the Berto I saw tonight.”