In a bizarre, or perhaps apropos sequence of events, Tony Lopez had two chances to lose his International Boxing Federation junior lightweight title: at the weigh-in and in the ring.
He escaped the first but couldn't the second, losing his 130-pound championship by a unanimous decision to South African Brian Mitchell.
On the undercard, former World Boxing Assn. welterweight champion Mark Breland was knocked out in the sixth round by Mexican veteran Jorge Vaca and announced his retirement.
The Lopez-Mitchell fight was a rematch of their controversial draw in Sacramento on March 15 in which they sought to unify the IBF and WBA junior lightweight titles. To avoid a mandatory and less-lucrative WBA title defense, Mitchell relinquished his crown to fight for the IBF belt and wasn't disappointing.
Dominating Lopez with a quicker jab and superior counter-punching, Mitchell (43-1-3, 20 knockouts) won by comfortable margins on all three judges' cards over Lopez (37-3-1, 25 knockouts).
Mike Glienna of Chicago, who scored the first fight even, had it 116-112 for Mitchell, as did Fritz Werner of Chula Vista. Harry Davis of Toronto had it 117-111 for Mitchell.
Unlike the first fight, Lopez never got into this one, despite opening a cut over Mitchell's right eye in the third round.
The loss meant Sacramento no longer has a world champion after starting the year with two. In June, Loreto Garza's WBA junior welterweight title was taken in a knockout loss to Edwin Rosario.
Lopez says he wants a third fight, claiming: "I thought I won this one. My corner told me I was doing good the last two rounds."
Said Mitchell: "I thought I won nine of 12 rounds the last time we fought, and I thought so this time, too. My jab was the key factor and my conditioning was great. I showed too much respect for him the last time."
While Mitchell's conditioning has never been questioned, Lopez's was suspect.
As in the first fight, he faded late despite a six-month campaign to build up his strength. The drama before Friday night's fight, however, may offer a clue to Lopez's problems.
Before a quiet crowd of 11,000 at Arco Arena, Lopez was allowed to fight, although he weighed three-fourths of a pound over the division limit at Thursday night's official weigh-in.
After Lopez failed in two attempts to sweat off more than a quarter-pound, Mitchell waived the excess fraction to keep the bout a championship fight.
Not doing so would have meant declaring the title vacant and reducing Friday night's main event from 12 to 10 rounds. And the $200,000-plus purses from the pay-per-view telecast undoubtedly would have been jeopardized.
Mitchell's decision quieted the nerves of co-promoters Don Chargin and South Africa's Cedric Kushner.
"TVKO and South African television, which is paying a big part of Mitchell's purse, bought a title fight," Chargin said.
"I'm not saying they wouldn't have paid what they agreed to in the contract, but they could have (not paid) and we'd have a mess on our hands."
"We came here to win the title in the ring (not on the scales)," said Mitchell, who nevertheless obviously enjoyed the worried look on the faces of Lopez supporters.
Rounding out the card were non-title bouts involving one current and three former world champions.
Reigning WBA welterweight champion Meldrick Taylor (28-1-1, 14 knockouts) knocked out Ernie Chavez (14-2, eight knockouts) of Garden Grove at 1:51 of the sixth round.
Uppermost on Taylor's mind is avenging a disputed 1990 loss to another Chavez--Julio Cesar Chavez, who will defend his World Boxing Council super-lightweight title today in Las Vegas.
Breland led on all cards, using a steady left jab early, but gradually weakened and was tagged by a looping left hook by Vaca in the sixth. Twenty-six unanswered punches followed, forcing referee Hank Elespuru to stop the fight with Breland on his feet but defenseless.
In a bout between aspirants for the IBF junior lightweight title, top contender and former champion John John Molina (25-3, 17 knockouts) was too quick and experienced in defeating Rowdy Welch (13-2-1, five knockouts) of Sacramento. Molina negated two-point deductions for fouling by scoring three knockdowns, two in the first round.
The three judges had Molina winning, 95-91, 99-88 and 98-87.