Emmanuel Rodriguez vs. Melvin Lopez: Too Close to Call

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Two of the best at 118-pounds will throw down for the vacant IBF Bantamweight World Championship Saturday night atop a PBC triple-header on SHOWTIME.

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Emmanuel Rodriguez vs Melvin Lopez PREVIEW: August 12, 2023 | PBC on SHOWTIME

This Saturday, August 12, live on SHOWTIME, former world champion Emmanuel Rodriguez (21-2, 13 KOs) takes on highly-regarded contender Melvin Lopez (29-1, 19 KOs) for the vacant IBF Bantamweight World Championship atop a Premier Boxing Champions event from The Theater at MGM National Harbor in Maryland. 

The SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING telecast (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT) will also feature undefeated rising star and Capitol Heights, Maryland native Gary Antuanne Russell facing fellow unbeaten Kent Cruz in a 10-round super lightweight co-main event. In the telecast opener, top prospect and Landover, Maryland native Travon Marshall meets unbeaten two-time Olympian Gabriel Maestre in a 10-round welterweight clash.

The Story

Emmanuel Rodriguez, hailing from Manati, Puerto Rico, captured the IBF Bantamweight World Title via unanimous decision over Paul Butler in 2018. He would successfully defend his title against the then-undefeated Jason Moloney before being stopped in two rounds by Japan’s pound-for-pound sensation Naoya Inoue the following year. 

A close split decision loss to Filipino contender Reymart Gaballo followed the Inoue defeat. Since the back-to-back setbacks, however, the Boricua fighter now training out of Jiquipilco, Mexico, has registered a one-round blowout of Roberto Sanchez Cantu and a technical decision over the highly-regarded Gary Antonio Russell this past October to put him in line for this upcoming title opportunity.

The 30-year-old Rodriguez hopes to become Puerto Rico’s fifth current world champion with a victory this Saturday. 

We’re gonna go out there to win in spectacular fashion. Former IBF Bantamweight World Champion - Emmanuel Rodriguez

Melvin Lopez was once regarded as the best prospect in all of Nicaragua by future first ballot Hall of Famer, fellow Nicaraguan, and sparring partner Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez.

Since those weighty words of praise, Lopez has proven himself a top tier talent with impressive performances in both his native country as well as the United States. Now based out of Miami, his lone career setback came in 2019 when he was stopped in the ninth round by seasoned veteran Jose Velasquez in a bout where he was comfortably ahead on all three scorecards at the time. 

Since that tough loss, Lopez is on an 8-0 run with seven of those wins coming inside the distance. 

The Stakes

At stake is the vacant IBF Bantamweight World Championship. Rodriguez is hoping to reclaim world title glory while Lopez is looking to affirm his status as a next big thing from his native Nicaragua.

The Matchup

Rodriguez is a relaxed, tactical fighter with a strong jab that just may be his best offensive asset. He can utilize his jab as either a range finder or as a damage-causing power jab, often working a quick, potent right hand behind it. 

Confident and poised, he throws everything with crispness and has top-tier offensive technique across the board.

On defense, Rodriguez endeavors to use foot speed and reflexes to avoid incoming fire. He can, however, be caught between shots and in the transition from offense to defense.

Lopez is an aggressive, come-forward fighter who throws his punches with bad intent and has good pop in both hands. The 25-year-old southpaw stalks his opposition and, unlike many aggression-minded fighters, wastes little energy in his pursuit of offense. 

Blessed with several quality weapons, his best are a winging left hand and a left to the body, which has been a fight-altering factor in many of his bouts.

Defensively, there isn’t a whole lot of depth to Lopez. Although he works to move around shots and pick them off with his gloves, he’s still very much an “offense is the best defense” kind of fighter.

The Words

Emmanuel Rodriguez

“I’m happy to have this chance to become a world champion again. We’re gonna go out there to win in spectacular fashion and my goal is to show that I’m the best fighter in the world at 118-pounds. My goal is to become undisputed at bantamweight, however I’m not overlooking Melvin Lopez, because he’s a good fighter and will come to give it his all on August 12.”

Melvin Lopez

“I’m very excited that the time is almost here to fight for a world title. We’ve had a great training camp and everyone has sacrificed and worked hard so that we’re at our best on August 12. I’m going to show everyone why I earned this opportunity and repay my team for all of their efforts. I have a lot of respect for Emmanuel, but the best man will have his hand raised when we share the ring.”

The Breakdown

Rodriguez and Lopez are both aggressive fighters in their own ways. Rodriguez likes to box until picking his attack moments. Lopez, meanwhile, likes to stalk his opposition, coming forward to force his will on his opponent. In this bout, each will play into the other’s game plan and preferred tactical approach.

Expect Lopez to move forward on Rodriguez and expect for Rodriguez to try and pick Lopez apart with his sharp jab and a potshot right hand when he does. Rodriguez’s punches are quicker and straighter while Lopez’s are wider and, arguably, heavier. At the core of everything, though, this contest is basically going to come down to who can take more of the other’s best stuff.

The former IBF bantamweight champ has the significantly deeper body of work, with names such as Inoue, Russell, Butler, and Moloney on his resume. Lopez has yet to meet a high-end opponent on the main stage. The disparity in level of opposition could possibly play a roll in Saturday’s outcome, but not necessarily.

Rodriguez-Lopez should play out as a competitive, compelling clash of styles and a true pick ‘em fight where fans won’t know who has the upper hand until the fists start flying. 

For a closer look at Rodriguez vs Lopez, check out our fight night page. 

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