Thursday, June 25, 2009

Juan Manuel Lopez vs Olivier Lontchi Preview

Andrew Fruman previews Saturday night's Top Rank PPV main event between Juan Manuel Lopez and Olivier Lontchi.

This Saturday night at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, in the main event of Top Rank’s Latin Fury PPV show (on Super Channel in Canada) unheralded Montreal super-bantamweight Oliver Lontchi takes on arguably the sport’s most talented young star in Puerto Rico's Juan Manuel Lopez.

Make sure to check out The Boxing Bulletin's live blog coverage of this event

The fight will be a huge jump in class for the 26 year old Cameroonian born Canadian, who only a little less than 3 months ago had his hands full with Cecilio Santos. While Santos has challenged for titles at lower weights, and held his own with world class opposition, he’s nowhere near the same level as Lopez.

This isn’t the first time GYM has rolled the dice, sending an unproven fighter into the lion’s den. Back in January of 2007, Herman Ngoudjo another Cameroonian born Canadian (Ngoudjo and Lontchi arrived together as part of Cameroon's team at the 2001 Francophone games held in Ottawa) from the GYM stable took on former lightweight champ Jose Luis Castillo as part of an HBO double-header that also featured Ricky Hatton and Juan Urango.

The card was designed to hype a Castillo/Hatton showdown, with the little known Ngoudjo expected to be no more than cannon fodder. Instead, Ngoudjo very nearly upset the planned showdown by pushing Castillo to the brink in narrowly losing a split decision.

Can Lontchi pull off a similar surprise by giving Lopez a run for his money?

The odds are certainly stacked against him – more so than they were against Ngoudjo.

While it’s true that Castillo was considered a P4P fighter at the time, it’s also safe to say that he was on the downside of his career. Plus, the bout was at 140 pounds, and the grinding physical style that Castillo employed was bound to not be as effective with the jump in weight.

Juan Manuel Lopez on the other hand has likely not even reached his peak, and looked better than ever last time out against Gerry Penalosa. The crafty Filipino managed to last until the end of the 9th round, but took a beating for his troubles.

Prior to that, Lopez had been on a destructive run that had seen him knock out Sergio Manuel Medina, Cesar Figueroa and Daniel Ponce de Leon all in under a round.

If there was a criticism to be levied against Lopez it was that he was perhaps too reliant on his devastating right hook – but against Penalosa he mixed up his punches together nicely in steadily hammering out a dominating win.

While mostly untested at the world class level, it’s clear that the quick handed Lontchi also brings some solid attributes to the table.

Besides fast hands, he’s a determined body puncher. He throws more than one shot at a time downstairs, and often finishes combinations up by firing off a couple salvos to the mid-section. It’s paid off well, especially in his last two fights, as he finished off Santos with a left hook to the liver, and stopped Ruben Estanislao with a right hand to the solar plexus. Both men dropped in agony.

While some speedy fighters try and get in and out quickly, Lontchi instead prefers to fire off multi-punch combinations from mid-range. It’s a style that makes him exciting to watch but also vulnerable to getting tagged in return. He keeps his gloves up, but he isn’t particularly slippery and can be countered.

In a nutshell, he’s quick and scrappy, but not really a slick operator, and it’s hard to imagine Lopez not catching him clean – so how well he does will come down to his durability. He’s going to have to take some hard shots, and in order to last, his capacity for punishment will need to be world class.

Realistically, the underdog from Canada's chances are slim. There are few tougher opponents to make a splash on the world stage against than Lopez. But Lontchi has enough ability to make a really solid showing, and if he can give the Puerto Rican knockout artist some trouble, it would dramatically raise his stock.

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Make sure to check out The Boxing Bulletin's live blog coverage of this event