Josesito Lopez took another step forward in his comeback Sunday night, just a short walk from where he earned his greatest victory.
"The Riverside Rocky" worked hard to earn a clear but laborious 10-round shutout decision over Saul Corral in the 147-pound main event of a PBC on FS1 card at The Novo at L.A. Live in Los Angeles. The downtown venue is in the same entertainment boardwalk as Staples Center, where Lopez broke Victor Ortiz’s jaw in a signature TKO win nearly five years ago.
Josesito Lopez nearly got another stoppage Sunday, dropping Corral in his own corner with a barrage in the opening minute of the final round. Lopez couldn’t finish the job inside the distance, however, as Corral held on until the final bell, but he swept his way to a 100-89 victory on all three judges’ scorecards.
“I got some good rounds. I feel like I'm coming along, my second fight coming back in two years,” Lopez said. “It's a little process—the next fight I'll be that much better. I want to step it up in the next fight.”
Lopez, 32, was fighting for the just second time since hand injuries kept him out of commission for more than 20 months following a TKO loss to Andre Berto in March 2015. It was also Lopez's second fight with trainer Robert Garcia in his corner, replacing Henry Ramirez.
Lopez (35-7, 19 KOs) showed he wasn't tentative in testing those hands, letting go of a lightning-quick power combination in the second round that found the mark and backed Corral up a bit.
Despite his underdog status, Corral (21-9, 12 KOs) ended up being a formidable challenge and took the Riverside, California, native the distance. As the rounds wore on, Corral's defense began to slip and Lopez's shots begun to find a home at a higher accuracy rate.
Lopez staggered the 30-year-old Mexican in the sixth, but it came with just seconds remaining in the round and Corral was able to withstand the follow-up barrage. Corral took a more defensive approach in the ensuing rounds, perhaps bothered by the damage he was dealt.
“ I feel like I'm coming along, my second fight coming back in two years. It's a little process—the next fight I'll be that much better. I want to step it up in the next fight. ” Josesito Lopez
"We've been training for a short amount of time and we've connected quite well,” Lopez said of working with Garcia. “I think the improvement's there and there's more to come.”
The 147-pound division is arguably the deepest in boxing, meaning a healthy Lopez could potentially find himself lined up for another marquee matchup. Against Corral, he certainly looked completely healed from the injuries that kept him out of the ring for an extended period.
"We're pretty much there,” Lopez said of being ready for a high-caliber opponent. “I got in with a good guy that could take a punch and I hurt him a few times. I'm pretty satisfied with the smartness I displayed in the ring and I think the next fight it'll be that much better.”
Despite Lopez’s eagerness to once again fight for a world title, Garcia said he would simply like for his new charge to continue working toward that goal.
“Right now, honestly, I'm not looking there yet,” Garcia said. “I'd prefer another one or two fights like tonight … but if the opportunity comes against somebody solid, a good fight where Josesito has a chance to pull it off and a very good payday, then of course I can't stop him.”
Luna continues rise at 135 pounds with decision over Klimov
In undercard action, Alejandro Luna (22-0, 15 KOs) continued his progress toward becoming a legitimate contender in the 135-pound division with a 10-round unanimous decision over former 130-pound title challenger Andrey Klimov (19-4, 9 KOs). Luna pestered Klimov on the inside, wearing him down to the tune of 97-93 and 98-92 twice.
Also, 2016 U.S. Olympian Karlos Balderas (1-0, KO) made his professional debut with a one-round stoppage of Thomas Smith (3-5-1, 2 KOs). The 20-year-old Balderas set up his offense nicely with some beautiful feints, most often to follow up with his left hook. Smith's corner threw in the towel at the end of the first round.
For a complete look at Lopez vs Corral, visit our fight page.