Can Conlan summon his best to halt Lopez?
Michael Conlan will put his recent resurgence in form to the test against Luis Alberto Lopez in Belfast in May. The bookies cannot split the two fighters and there are offers available to back the Irishman to walk away with the IBF title, but Lopez will be a tough opponent to defeat to claim the crown for the first time. Conlan has all the skills at his disposal to overcome the Mexican, although he will still need to put forward the best performance of his career to get over the line. It will be a test of his character and mettle, having previously his lost his last title bout against Leigh Wood in Nottingham in 2022.
Learning From Past Mistakes
Conlan was unbeaten heading into his fight against Wood for the WBA featherweight title, having previously defeated TJ Doheny for the WBA interim featherweight belt. The Irishman started off the bout in confident fashion in Nottingham. He surprised Wood with an early knockdown in the first round to unsettle his opponent. Conlan carried that momentum through to the late rounds of the contest where he was narrowly ahead on points.
Wood hit back with a firm right hand to close the gap on the 11th, although it was a contentious point in the bout. The Englishman continued to find his rhythm and he eventually broke through Conlan’s defences to force a knockout in the 12th. Conlan fought extremely well, but just lacked the finishing power to close out the bout. Had he remained on his feet, the Irishman may well have edged the fight on points and would have held the WBA featherweight title.
It highlighted the difference between a championship fights against top-quality opponents and the rest of the field. Conlan now has to channel his experience into defeating Lopez in Belfast. He has seemingly learned a great deal from the only failure of his career to date. He displayed his endurance to beat Miguel Marriaga on a unanimous points’ decision before brushing aside Karim Guerfi last time out with a knockout in the first round. Conlan can trust in his own form, but the challenge will be raising his standards against an elite opponent.
Can He Defeat Lopez?
Lopez is an exceptional fighter and will provide the ultimate test of Conlan and his skills. He will not be deterred despite boxing Conlan in Belfast, having won the IBF featherweight title with a victory over Josh Warrington in his hometown of Leeds. Lopez was flawless in the opening stages of his bought against the defending champion. He put him on the back foot and knocked him out of his rhythm with a flurry of hands. Lopez took the early initiative and it took a while for Warrington to figure out his point of attack. Warrington eventually penetrated his defences and managed to work his way back into the bout, but it was too little too late for the defending champion as he lost out overall as Lopez claimed the majority decision.
There is lesson for Conlan to take into the bout against Lopez. He too enjoyed a strong start against Wood in his last title match, but faded to allow the Englishman to take the crown. Lopez showed the control of the fight needed to close out points’ victories. Considering that Conlan is unlikely to knock out Lopez he will need to manage the bout and play it on his terms rather than the Mexican’s. Lopez has only lost two fights out of 29 in his career, and both of those defeats came through points’ decisions. His last loss came at the hands of Ruben Villa in 2019, and he has since won his last 10 bouts. Conlan is going to have to produce the best fight of his career to knock Lopez off his perch. He cannot afford any mistakes in the course of the bout. The Irishman has to be locked in from the off and not relent until the final bell.