Adam Lopez replaced Andres Gutierrez as Oscar Valdez’s opponent Friday after Gutierrez blew by the contracted 130-pound weight by an ungodly 11 pounds during the post-Thanksgiving weigh-in.
That gave the unheralded, Glendale-based Lopez a potential career-changing opportunity, and he turned in an impressive performance before Valdez stopped him in the seventh round Saturday at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas.
Valdez (27-0, 21 knockouts), who was making his junior lightweight debut, survived a serious scare and a second-round knockdown to bounce back, show his championship pedigree and hurt Lopez (13-2, six KOs) in the seventh with a knockdown of his own. Lopez picked himself up, but referee Russell Mora stepped in to stop the fight after Valdez connected with another flurry with seven seconds remaining in the round, and Lopez still on his feet.
“I was very surprised. I take my hat off to Adam Lopez. He’s a great fighter, great warrior, just like his father was,” Valdez said. “I just got hit. This is boxing. I prepared myself for two, three months for Gutierrez, but that’s no excuse. This kid is a warrior.”
Valdez, a two-time Mexican Olympian, was familiar with Lopez and his late father Hector Lopez, a 1984 Olympic silver medalist for Mexico.
“He hurt me, but I was fine. I was blocking shots,” Lopez said. “He caught me one time and the referee stopped it. There were seven seconds left, I was ready to come back.”
The last-minute substitution, a natural 126-pounder with nothing to lose, immediately got Valdez’s respect when he scored a knockdown in the second with a thudding left hook.
The discouraged Valdez, who suffered a broken jaw last year among a variety of other injuries, got up and acknowledged Lopez’s work by proclaiming “nice shot” through his mouthguard.
Lopez, the taller, longer and younger fighter who’d never fought in a 10-round contest before, shed his underdog status and boxed beautifully, showcasing fleet feet, feints and angles and winning most of the middle rounds.
Then it suddenly changed with a stiff Valdez left hook in the seventh, which started the final damage, rattling Lopez. Valdez followed it up with a looping right hand that dropped Lopez against the ropes. Soon after, he finished it.
At the time of the stoppage, Valdez was awarded scores of 57-56, 58-55 by two judges while the other had it 57-56 for Lopez. Lopez, who was riding a five-fight winning streak, landed 92 total punches to Valdez’s 91.
“My experience made me win the fight,” the 28-year-old Valdez said. “I have a great amateur background and a lot more experience than him.”
The 23-year-old, Buddy McGirt-trained Lopez made more money Saturday than he had in all his previous fights, and his performance should earn him another significant shot.
“I’m sure he’s up there, smiling,” a choked up Lopez said of his father after the fight.
The match also was a junior lightweight WBC elimination bout, and now Valdez, a former 126-pound titlist who defended his WBO strap six times, will get a shot at WBC champion Miguel Berchelt’s belt.
In the co-feature, former two-division crownholder Carl Frampton (27-2, 15 KOs) dropped Tyler McCreary (16-1-1, 7 KOs) twice with body shots and cruised to a unanimous decision victory. All three judges scored the contest 100-88, but the win came at a cost as Frampton said he hurt one of his hands.
In other action, Patrick Teixeira (31-1, 22 KOs) overcame cuts and scored a seventh-round knockdown to upset Carlos Adames (18-1, 14 KOs) via unanimous decision. Teixeira was awarded the interim WBO super welterweight title after receiving scores of 114-113, 114-113 and 116-111.
Akopyan reported from Los Angeles.