Tony ‘The Tiger’ still thinks he’s great
By Tim Parsons Tribune Boxing Writer
Tony “The Tiger” Lopez earned his stripes a long time ago, but
he’s not satisfied.
“I want one more, maybe a few more,” the three-time former world
boxing champion said, referring to world titles.
The 35-year-old Sacramento resident appears Saturday at Caesars
Tahoe when he takes on Jaime Ocegueda.
Lopez, 8-0 in Stateline and 48-7-1 with 33 knockouts overall,
is in an unusual situation. The Tiger is the underdog. And if
Tahoe bookmakers are correct, this cat’s ninth-and-final boxing
life at the lake is about to be spent.
“If I lose this fight, I am going to quit, without a doubt,” Lopez
said. “If I can’t beat this guy, why would I think I would be
fighting for the title.”
The bookmakers may look to several factors for picking Ocegueda:
-At age 29, Ocegueda (20-2-4) is the younger and more active fighter.
Since losing to Hector Quiroz exactly one year ago in the last
fight card at Caesars, Ocegueda has won three straight fights.
-Lopez, once one of the most feared sluggers in the game, hasn’t
scored a knockout in 16 months. According to the record provided
by his promoter, Lopez is 3-0 since beginning his comeback May
30, 1997. However, Lopez says he has won five bouts.
-The one common opponent is Juan Cervantes, who lost to Lopez
by decision 13 months ago. Ocegueda knocked him out in the second
round in 1994.
-Lopez’s family, tired of seeing Tony involved in brutal brawls,
wants him to throw in the towel. “We don’t want him to fight,
but we can’t stop him,” lamented father Sal Lopez.
-Lopez’s trainer, Jerry Jacobs, didn’t want this fight. As a North
American Boxing Union junior welterweight title fight, Lopez must
come in at a weight of 140. He hasn’t been that light since March
1996 when he lost to Charles Murray and decided to retire.
Lopez, relaxing Tuesday in his room at Caesars was surprised and
amused when he learned he was not the favored fighter.
“Tell everybody I’m 150 pounds and am drinking beer and watching
TV,” he laughed.
The fighter, in fact, said he has weighed 143 for three weeks
and is not concerned about making the weight.
Moreover, he didn’t appear overly concerned about anything.
During an hour-and-a-half interview, Lopez answered about a half-dozen
phone calls. Each time, playing a different game. Sometimes he
pretended to be someone else, at others he feigned anger, and
once acted like he didn’t know the person on the other end.
“The most important thing for me (to box well) is if I am a happy
Tiger,” Lopez. “I am a happy Tiger now.”
“Happy” seemed an understatement. From his walking away from a
motorcycle accident a few years ago that should have killed him,
to his view on the President Clinton spectacle, a loquacious Lopez
was happy to talk about any subject.
The last time Tiger was unhappy was when he was lost three straight
fights and endured some “personal problems.” Lopez was stopped
by Julio Cesar Chavez and Fred Pendleton before he accepted a
bout in New York with Murray.
Perhaps in an effort to put some distance from the Tiger and his
problems, Sal Lopez set up a training camp in Bakersfield, Calif.
“I don’t like being cooped up,” Lopez said. “If I’m not a happy
Tiger, I’m not going to fight. I hated Bakersfield. I remember
actually quitting. I thought, ‘I’m tired of this. Screw this.'”
Lopez lost a one-sided fight to Murray and decided to retire.
After about a month, Lopez began training with weights. He bulked
up to 160 pounds.
“I saw myself getting bigger and stronger and I liked it,” he
said. “I was (hanging out with a friend) and he told me, ‘You’re
just as cocky as you were when you were fighting.'”
That’s when Lopez, against his father’s wishes, decided to come
Before his knockout victory over Wilberforce Kigundu, Lopez said
he felt like a slow, fat pig. He then befriended Brian Elkins,
a former Mr. Olympia, who taught Lopez about nutrition and weight
Lopez says he’s also put his personal problems behind him. However,
that’s the one subject he won’t discuss. “People don’t need to
know about my private life,” he said. (In that respect, it’s easier
to be a boxer than a president.)
He did reveal that having a young daughter has changed his lifestyle.
“Instead of going out on the weekends and goofing off, I stay
home with her and we can goof off there,” he said.
Lopez said he has changed his style.
“Before it was, you hit me, I hit you,” he said. “I’d move my
head once in a blue moon when I would think of it. Now I move
my head and keep my defense up. I don’t want to lose any marbles
and not be able to know what’s going on with my daughter while
she’s growing up.”
An argument that has been made to Lopez, who turned professional
when he was 19, is that he has already been through too may wars.
“Wars?” he asked. “After you’ve been in a war, you go straight
home and sleep. You soak in the tub. I’ve only been in two wars,
against (John) Molina and (Rocky) Lockridge. After all my other
fights I go out and have fun all night long.”
That’s what happy Tigers do.
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