By Andrew Fruman
Douglas over Tyson, Honeyghan over Curry, Turpin over Robinson, Braddock over Baer…
One more round – heck maybe just a dozen more seconds – separated Rogers Mtagwa, the Tanzanian born Philly fighter from a stirring come from behind upset that would have ranked right up there with some of the biggest shockers the sport has ever seen.
With 12 losses to his name, and a wide open come forward style that seemed perfect fodder for the destructive fists of the belt holder (the WBO 122 pound strap if you care about such things), Mtagwa was given a spot in Saturday night’s Latin Fury 12 main event for the sole purpose of getting hammered by Top Rank’s rising young star. Instead, the tough as nails journeyman brawler produced a stirring effort in pushing the fancied house fighter to the brink.
While Lopez banked the early rounds, landing a number of heavy right hooks and straight lefts, Mtagawa never stopped coming. He relentlessly waded through the leather, and kept banging away with his own artillery, and slowly but surely the flow of the fight began to change - and by the mid-rounds, the expected blow out had turned into a give and take battle of attrition highlighted by a number of fierce exchanges.
By the 11th round of the fast paced bout, both men had absorbed a great deal of punishment and were looking tired, but it was the wide swinging Mtagwa that seemed to have more left and looked to be the more willing and confident fighter. However, it was not until the closing seconds of the round that he found a real break through.
It came in the form of a big left hook that badly shook Lopez, who appeared dazed as he headed back to his corner. Had the punch landed a little earlier, Lopez might very well have been finished.
As it was, even with the precious 60 second break, Lopez did not appear fully recovered when he came out for the final frame. It was a heart stopping 3 minutes, with Mtagwa desperately going for the finish, as Lopez in full on survival mode, staggered all over the ring.
As the final moments ticked down, the reeling title holder looked up at the Wumu Theater time clock to see how much time was left. It was heady, but desperate stuff from Lopez, who somehow managed to still be on his feet when the bell sounded.
Lopez had survived – winning on the cards by scores of 116-111, 115-111 and 114-113.
While he may have come up just short, it was a championship effort from Mtagwa that will not soon be forgotten. Bob Arum made it clear he wouldn’t be getting another crack at Lopez, but if there’s any justice, he'll be in there with another name opponent, and hopefully receive a decent payday to go with it.
After 13 hard working years as a pro, giving it everything he has each time out, it's the least he deserves.
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Sunday, October 11, 2009
By Andrew Fruman