A hand injury and nearly 18 months of rehab put Josesito Lopez so deep into limbo that doctors encouraged him to find another career.
“The Riverside Rocky” had nothing against the medical profession but life away from boxing was not an option.
Former world title challenger Josesito Lopez (34-7, 19 KOs) will face Mexico's Saul Corral (22-8, 13 KOs) in a 147-pound, 10-round main event of a Premier Boxing Champions card at The Novo in downtown Los Angeles (FS1, 9:30 p.m. ET/6:30 p.m. PT).
Televised coverage also features unbeaten 135-pound prospect Alejandro Luna (21-0, 15 KOs) against former 130-pound title challenger Andrey Klimov (19-3, 9 KOs) in a 10-round bout, as well as the pro debut of 2016 U.S. Olympian Karlos Balderas in a six-round, 130-pound fight.
About a month after Lopez lost to Andre Berto in March 2015, he had surgery on his left hand that kept him inactive until his return last December, when he earned a six-round unanimous decision over Todd Manuel.
“It was nice to get back in the ring because it had been nearly 18 months between my last two fights,” Lopez said. “It felt good. My last fight gave me a chance to test out my hand because I had a long rehab process.”
That process meant zero fights and limited action in the gym. That wasn’t the kind of routine Lopez was used to.
“That was the worst funk I’ve been in my entire life,” he said. “I had doctors saying I should consider retirement because of my hand. It was the saddest time.”
Lopez turned that sad time into the type of motivation that helped generate his “Riverside Rocky” nickname. The time off rekindled his inner fire.
“That time off rebuilt my faith and motivated me to work even harder,” Lopez said. “It made me realize that something you truly love can be gone at the blink of an eye. Retirement was never an option for me. It was like the doctors told me that I had only so much time to live. I’m a fighter, so I had to fight.”
Lopez has never been afraid of a challenge. Although he has competed as light as 130 pounds, he went up to 154 to challenge Canelo Alvarez for his world title in September 2012, when he was stopped in the fifth round.
While the 32-year-old Riverside, California, native also has losses against former champions such as Berto, Marcos Maidana and Jessie Vargas, he has big wins over Victor Ortiz and Mike Dallas in a pro career that began in February 2003.
“You can’t really gain experience without being in that level of competition,” Lopez said. “Looking at it now, I wasn’t ready or prepared as an elite boxer. I was one step short from being at their level.
“I’m in a different position in my life right now. I’m ready for the elite level. I know what it takes.”
A win could propel Lopez back into title contention, but first he must get past Corral, who has won 11 of his last 13 bouts. The Mexican’s only two losses in that time have come against once-beaten contender Sadam Ali in a 10-round unanimous decision last September and to former world champion Mike Alvarado, who gained a third-round TKO in March 2016.
Corral, 30, was inactive for nearly six years before returning to the ring in October 2015. He has been plenty busy since then, though, fighting five times in 2016 and once already this year.
In his most recent bout, Corral gained a third-round TKO of Macario Leyva in Sonora, Mexico, on February 18.
“A victory will mean that I’m ready,” Lopez said. “They put a tough fighter in front of me. How I look in victory will set me up for my next fight. I’ve got to win impressively. I’ve got to show it’s my time and this is only the beginning.”
For a complete look at Lopez vs Corral, visit our fight page.
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