Luis Alberto Lopez vs Reiya Abe: ‘El Venado’ Set for Tricky Test in Verona



Luis Alberto Lopez vs Reiya Abe: ‘El Venado’ Set for Tricky Test in Verona

Luis Alberto Lopez will hope to retain the IBF featherweight championship when he takes on a tricky southpaw in Reiya Abe this Saturday night in Verona, NY.

Lopez is coming off a hard-fought victory against Joet Gonzalez last September and despite all three judges giving him the decision, some believed the contest could have gone either way.

This comes after ‘El Venado’ was seen by many as the man to beat at 126 lbs.

After all, Lopez produced a boxing masterclass to beat Josh Warrington in 2022 to capture the IBF world title before landing a phenomenal right uppercut on Michael Conlan to claim his first successful defense of the strap.

But following a close fight with Gonzalez, there are question marks on the Mexican’s air of invincibility, especially because Lopez already has two losses on his record to Ruben Villa in 2019 and Abraham Montoya in 2018.

On the surface, Lopez possesses immense punching power, superb shot selection, and a strong chin yet aside from Warrington he has not faced the division's elite and Abe could be the man to further test his ability.

Since suffering from a torrid 2019 that saw Abe draw with Taiki Minamoto and then lose a unanimous decision to Ryo Sagawa, the Japanese boxer has bounced back by winning six fights in a row.

This includes his most recent bout with former two-weight division world champion Kiko Martinez who he outboxed over 12 rounds to capture the best victory of his professional career.

And Abe’s performance against Martinez is a reason why Lopez fans might be slightly concerned going into Saturday’s contest at the Turning Stone Resort & Casino.

With ten out of 25 wins coming via knockout, Abe is not the biggest puncher in the featherweight division.

However, at five foot seven and a half, Abe is one of the taller and rangier fighters which suits his style of boxing on the back foot, pumping out the jab and unleashing the straight left hand when his opponent gets too close.

Just ask Martinez who was unable to close the gap effectively enough against Abe and struggled to land his power punches.

Of course, Lopez is not 37 years old, although at five foot four, he possesses similar dimensions to Martinez and this should allow Abe to implement the same tactics.

Still, when you’re the b-side there’s a difference between impressing the judges and actually being awarded the decision.

Lopez is the one signed to Top Rank and Bob Arum, so if it does turn out to be a close fight, he is likely to get the rub of the green.

So for Abe to have a better chance of emerging victorious he might be forced to fight more aggressively and sometimes abandon his hit-and-not-get-hit boxing style.

Another element to consider is Abe’s lack of fighting outside of Japan.

This will be the first time he has fought in America, which is the polar opposite to Lopez, who has boxed under the bright lights in England, America, and his native Mexico.

In some ways though, this bout could be a bit of a lose-lose situation for Lopez.

Obviously, if he underperforms he could lose hold of the IBF featherweight world title.

But also, the 30-year-old may struggle to look impressive against an awkward opponent such as Abe, which could lower his stock in the boxing world.

The good news for Lopez is that if he does make a third consecutive defense of his title, there are big fights on the horizon.

For example, he could face the winner of Otabek Kholmatov and Raymond Ford which happens to be the co-main event on Saturday.

Kholmatov and Ford are set to battle for the vacant WBA featherweight championship which could open the door for a two-belt unification contest with Lopez.

Plus, even if the victor of Kholmatov-Ford is not an option, Lopez could entertain a unification fight for the WBO title against Rafael Espinoza instead. Espinoza is also signed to Top Rank so negotiations should be smooth.

Not to mention, Nick Ball and Rey Vargas who are scheduled to fight on the undercard of Anthony Joshua vs Francis Ngannou on March 8th in Riyadh for the WBC title. Both Ball and Vargas are from different promotional outfits to Lopez but money talks, particularly if a bout can somehow end up in Saudi Arabia.

Overall, Lopez is a strong favorite by the bookies to beat Abe, and apart from Abe potentially being an elusive target, it’s difficult to see the Mexican not getting his hand raised.

Dan D’Alessio is a boxing journalist and fitness enthusiast. When Dan is not behind his desk writing articles, he is smashing pads, kicking a ball or lifting weights at the gym