Boxing Snippets

Brian Mitchell UD 12 Tony Lopez – 13 September 1991

This fight was a rematch of their first encounter that took place in March the same year. That fight ended in a controversial draw, one judge giving it to Lopez, the other to Mitchell and the third judge calling it even.

Lopez was a two-time IBF junior lightweight world champion with big wins over the likes of Rocky Lockridge, Jorge Paez and Jon-Jon Molina and a huge star in his native Sacramento, where he made the Arco Arena his home. Despite the fact that Mitchell entered the lion’s den for their first encounter with 11 successful WBA world title defenses under his belt, he was made a big underdog by the bookies who considered Lopez’s level of opposition superior.

In a great fight that ebbed and flowed, Lopez having more success earlier and Mitchell coming on in the second half of the fight, many ringsiders thought that Mitchell had done enough to win a close decision. Promoter Rodney Berman recounts the tale of the post-fight scenes. “We thought he won but as I jumped into the ring, Cedric Kushner tapped me on the shoulder and told me, ‘They robbed him, it is a draw.’ Brian was already celebrating and when I told him, ‘They robbed you,’ they got very upset. I then told him, ‘But you have a rematch’ and he calmed down as they announced the decision.”

The sad part is that Mitchell was robbed of the opportunity to become the first South African to become a unified world champion. The good part was that he hung on to his WBA world title, racked up a division record twelfth successful title defense and had a lucrative rematch.

Mitchell entered the Arco Arena in front of Lopez’s rabid fans for the rematch as the challenger because he had to relinquish his WBA title, opting to fight Lopez again instead of making a mandatory defense. “Those fans are the toughest in the world, they were hurling abuse at Mitchell from the moment he left the dressing room. You have to be something special to perform under those circumstances,” remarks Berman. Mitchell was not quite as big an underdog as the first time, but still a betting underdog, nonetheless. Lopez had scored an impressive stoppage of Lupe Gutteriez since their first encounter and the belief in some quarters was that he would have figured the South African out by now and win decisively.

It was all academic in the end. This time around the fight was somewhat one-sided with Mitchell out boxing Lopez behind the jab, on his toes, with head snapping rights thrown into the mix every now and then. Mitchell romped home a unanimous points winner and became the new IBF world champion. “Lopez was a really tough, strong guy. He had that Mexican style and if you fought him, he will give you trouble but he could only fight one way, so I decided to just outbox him the way Leonard did to Duran in their second fight,” Mitchell explained his strategy.

Brian Mitchell retired, made a brief comeback three years later to score two more wins and then finally retired in 1995 with an incredible record of 45-1-3 having beaten every man he ever faced. He is a familiar face on the South African boxing scene, calling the blow-by-blow action from ringside on Supersport.

Tony Lopez fought on longer, winning the WBA world title as a lightweight, fighting our own Dingaan Thobela twice and even giving the great Julio Cesar Chavez a tough night before getting stopped on cuts. He retired in 1999 with a record of 50-8-1.


Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Back to top button