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Saturday, 23 February, 2002, 12:00 GMT
Final year for 'Finito'
By BBC Sport Online's James Blears
IBF light flyweight champion Ricardo Lopez has announced that he is going to hang up his gloves in 2002 and bask in the glory of a record breaking career which is never likely to be matched or surpassed.
No other boxer has been undefeated over such an enormous span of time at this level.
The Guinness Book of records notes that in a 17-year-career as a professional boxer, Ricardo who is now 36-years-old, has chalked up 50 wins, one draw and no losses.
He has won world championship belts with the WBC, the WBA, the WBO and the IBF.
He has been a world champion for 11 years and has fought 26 championship bouts.
Ricardo captured the WBC's straw weight title way back in 1990.
He went on to completely punch himself out of all opposition against all comers, and in 1999 decided to fatten up a couple or so more pounds to win the IBF light flyweight title.
Now after 26 years as an amateur and professional boxer Ricardo concedes: "This is my last year in boxing for sure.
"There just aren't any challenges left for me any more. I am determined to preserve what Iżve achieved and leave the sport with all that I have accumulated."
Ricardo would like at least one more fight before calling it a day.
He and his business representative are in talks with flamboyant promoter Don King but have yet to reach a final agreement, culminating in signatures on contracts.
Ricardo has lost little of his skills or awesome punching power over the years.
Last September he overwhelmed and then knocked out South African Zolani Petelo in the eighth round when they met in New York.
Looking back over his fabulous career, which is still not quite over, he recalls: "One of my hardest fights was against WBA champion Rosendo Alvarez of Nicaragua.
"In our first fight he briefly put me on the canvas with a big right hand. I should have been more careful.
"My father and my trainer in my corner had warned me not to drop my left lead."
Ricardo then suffered a deep cut through his right eyebrow as a result of an accidental clash of heads.
So the fight was stopped, went to the scorecards which resulted in the only draw on his record.
In their inevitable return bout Rosendo was well over the limit at the weight ceremony, and Ricardo could have easily played safe within the stipulated rules and retained his title without having to throw a single punch.
Instead he refused to duck the challenge, and went on to defeat his appreciably heavier opponent with a classical textbook performance.
Many great champions have battled with the scales, much harder than with their opponents, and in the run up to big fights this boiling down process has often sapped their vital strength.
But Lopez has maintained the self discipline of never being more than two kilos above his prescribed fighting weight between bouts.
But he also explains: "I've been more comfortable in this higher weight division of light flyweight.
"Although it's only several pounds higher, those several pounds do make a great deal of difference. It means I can eat much better and remain a lot stronger."
His ambition after he retires is to be a boxing analyst for television, to travel more widely and learn about other cultures and to spend more time with his family.
He has had minor surgical repair work to eliminate scar tissue around his eyebrows, and made a full and successful recovery from a 1995 operation to repair tendon damage to both hands.
The maestro remains an avid student of boxing and has some forthright views about Britain's Naseem Hamed.
"I greatly admire Naseem Hamed. He is a very difficult fighter to beat.
"But I also think that my fellow Mexican Marco Antonio Barrera who has previously defeated him, has the appropriate style to do it again.
"Naseem possesses great talent, but currently, he is easy to hit. He needs to find a better strategy.
"I think if Naseem fought Erik Morales he would win. Erik hits very hard, comes forward and is very brave, but for me Naseem has more natural ability."
08 Feb 02 | Boxing
Barrera injury KOs Morales fight
08 Feb 02 | Boxing
Morales ready for Barrera
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