The welterweight strongman is gunning for a world title shot as he prepares to face Francisco Santana Saturday, December 5, on FOX Sports PPV.
In a professional boxing career that has spanned nearly half of his 36 years on the planet, Josesito Lopez has never wavered from the goal he set for himself early on: To give his all once he steps through the ropes and provide fans with what they came to see.
Anyone who’s followed Lopez’s career knows he’s never failed to live up to that goal.
“They know when they put me in a fight, it’s going to be an action fight,” Lopez says almost modestly. “I’m the type of fighter that everyone wants to watch, so I put on a show without trying to put on a show; it’s just the fighter in me. And win, lose or draw, nobody is ever disappointed with the fighter in me.”
The fighter in him has won plenty, and lost a few, too, to the tune of 37-8, with 20 wins by knockout and three losses inside the distance.
He has fought some of the best, world champions such as Canelo Alvarez, Keith Thurman, Andre Berto, Marcos Maidana and others. He broke Victor Ortiz’s jaw in 2012 after being a late replacement, leading to his fitting nickname, “The Riverside Rocky.” He nearly took out Thurman before losing a majority decision. He dropped another warrior, John Molina Jr., twice in the first round en route to an eighth-round KO in his last fight 14 months ago.
What he hasn’t done is what he desires most – to wear a major world championship belt around his waist, just once. It’s the gaping hole in his resume he hopes to remedy even at an age when most fighters might be contemplating Plan B.
“Earlier in my career I was satisfied being in competitive fights against world champions. Now it’s not enough,” Lopez says. “I want to be a world champ and beat these guys. I’ve come close but I haven’t done it. But this is a time where I can do it.”
His trainer Robert Garcia admits the odds are stacked against “Riverside Rocky”.
“Look, it’s not easy. Not that he doesn’t have the hunger to do it,” Garcia explains, “and there’s always been upsets like that in boxing, but it is hard. And at welterweight right now, the champions are unbelievable. (Terence) Crawford, Errol Spence, Manny Pacquiao. “Even if you’re 25, it’s going to be hard because the division is stacked with solid world champions. But he’s always had that dream. He almost pulled it off against Thurman; he was one punch from becoming world champion. The way he trains, and the heart that he has, anything can happen.”
Hard work and sweat have been the main elixirs in his life. It’s why, as a cross country runner at Rubidoux High in Riverside, Calif., Lopez went from being one of the slowest runners as a freshman to being the captain of his 2002 state championship squad as a senior and getting several college scholarship offers. He took cross country to help with his boxing, which he has done since age eight.
It’s why he had no fear moving up two weight classes to fight then-unbeaten Alvarez for Canelo’s super welterweight belt in 2012, realizing during the fight, which ended by fifth-round TKO, that the size difference was simply too much. “He’s very strong; I was overpowered by the weight difference and I definitely felt it inside the ring,” he explains.
These days, under the guidance of former trainer of the year Garcia, Lopez is more confident than ever in his ring acumen and credits Garcia with instilling that confidence.
“Since I started training with him (about five years ago), he has invigorated my career,” Lopez says. “I added another element, I’m more of an intellectual fighter, and I still have what I’ve always had, I just added more to my arsenal. One could see me before as all guts, hard-working. I would say I’m still all guts, just smarter in picking my spots, being less reckless.”
“ I would like to be remembered as a fighter who became a world champion, even at a later age. ” Welterweight Contender - Josesito Lopez
Garcia calls Lopez one of the hardest workers he’s worked with.
“He’s always been the underdog and always been the B-side, so guys like him train extra hard because they know they could get the call at any moment and they’re always in shape,” Garcia says, “so he’s always in the gym and training hard and ready for the call.”
Lopez will end 14 fight-free months on December 5th when he faces Francisco “Chia” Santana (25-8-1, 12 KOs) in a 10-round welterweight scrap – sorry, no title on the line – in front of fans at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas in a Fox Sports/PBC pay-per-view event (9 p.m. ET/6 PT). Headlining the card is unbeaten unified welterweight champion Spence versus former two-division champ Danny Garcia.
“I’m thankful to have this opportunity and for Fox and the PBC for putting me on in this difficult year – not only difficult for myself as an athlete, but difficult for anyone in the United States,” Lopez says. “(Santana) is gritty and tough and always comes to fight. I’m going to have to be a smarter fighter but I’m confident in my abilities and all the work I put in. Now I just have to go out there and execute.”
Lopez has worked through the pandemic, which has been difficult but not a huge inconvenience in his life.
“(In the gym), it’s pretty much the same, other than getting tested twice a week; I am taking all safety precautions with my sparring partner and everyone around me,” he explains. “To be honest, my life at home hasn’t changed too much. I’m a home body, I don’t really go out too much. Me and my girlfriend Tanya live together (in Riverside), and she’s in the medical industry so we’re staying extra safe.”
Isolation hasn’t been a problem for Lopez either because, well, he enjoys spending time alone.
“It’s something I’ve gotten used to, it’s good for everyone,” he says. “I’ve seen some benefit from being alone in different ways. A lot of times I go to breakfast by myself. It gives me a few moments to visualize things, plan things for a day or a week, set up my schedule. I guess you could say I’m a little bit of a loner.”
Lopez has fought only five times since a TKO loss to champion Andre Berto in March 2015, leaving the Riverside Rocky disappointed and aching for more work.
“I wish I could fight a little more often, but they kept me inactive,” the fighter says. “I’ve been trying to get in the ring with some of the toughest fighters, but they’re not taking the bait.
“I know this is the latter part of my career, but I only want to fight if I’m fighting some of the best (and toughest) fighters,” he says. “They put me up against a tough fighter like Santana, but it’s also a fight that with a good victory I won’t be denied a top contender or even a world championship for my next fight.”
Asked how he wants to be remembered after his career ends, Lopez’s answer should surprise no one.
“I would like to be remembered as a fighter who became a world champion, even at a later age,” he vows. “It’s never too late that with hard work and a never-give-up attitude, I’m gonna do it.”
For a closer look at Josesito Lopez, check out his fighter page.