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Monday, 2 December, 2002, 15:59 GMT
Farewell to a boxing genius
Ricardo Lopez lands a blow on Alex Sanchez
Lopez (left): A technically perfect fighter

One of boxing's enduring tragedies is that the big men get the headlines and the small ones just get sore heads.

Despite three comprehensive beatings in the ring, the most recognisable boxer in the world remains Mike Tyson.

While the 36-year-old former heavyweight champion of the world resumes his fading career in search of another big payday, the end of Ricardo Lopez's career has attracted few headlines.

In an era when securing a world title shot is ridiculously easy, Lopez's achievements stand out.

  Ricardo Lopez
Born: 25/7/1966
Titles held: WBC and WBO straweight titles; IBF light flyweight title
World title defences: 22 at straweight; two at light flyweight
Record: 51 wins, one draw, 38 KOs

Lopez engaged in 52 fights during his 18-year career and the only blemish on an otherwise perfect record was one technical draw.

Of his 51 wins, 38 came by knockout, and in an era where fighters regularly move up in weight, Lopez remained at straw-weight for all but the last three years of his career.

Just in case you were wondering, the straweight limit is 105lbs.

Colin Hart, who has been watching and writing about boxing for over 40 years, saw Lopez fight on numerous occasions.

"Obviously he is one of the great fighters of all time, but because he was a straw-weight, no one outside of Mexico was interested in him," Hart told BBC Sport Online.

"But he was wonderful to watch - one for the purists."

Lopez could, quite literally, do anything in the ring. At 5ft 7ins, he was freakishly tall for a man of his weight, but although he preferred to box behind his jab, he was happy to mix it up and stalk his man across the ring.

The defining fight of his career took place in 1998 when he fought Rosendo Alvarez.

The two had fought eight months previously, the bout finishing in a technical draw when a clash of heads brought the bout to a premature end

Lopez was the one bleeding and because he had also suffered a knockdown, the general feeling was that this great warrior's time at the top was at an end.

But the rematch showed why the Mexican was rated so highly - he registered a comprehensive points victory to silence his critics and underline his standing as one of the great small men to enter the ring.

Perhaps the only regret Lopez will have is that during the 1990s, he missed the opportunity to fight Michael Carbajal or Humberto Gonzalez.

Those two were light flyweights - the weight that Lopez finished his career at - and engaged in a three-fight series which remain the richest fights in the division's history.

Lopez would have been favoured to beat them both, but, for the usual contractual hassles and disputes, he was never given the chance to prove himself.

Instead, he retires as a man who is, indisputably, the finest straweight in the history of the division.

And in an era when countrymen Juilo Cesar Chavez and Marco Antonio Barrera have made the headlines, Lopez's quiet authority makes him one of the great Mexican fighters.

See also:

23 Feb 02 | Boxing
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