The last ring images of Juan Manuel Lopez were scary and worrisome.
A series of brutal knockout losses dropped Lopez from the elite level, and doubts about his fighting future intensified with every visual of Lopez on the canvas.
The former junior-featherweight and featherweight world champion began his descent following a knockout loss against Orlando Salido that ended Lopez’s featherweight reign five years ago.
The Salido fight became the precursor to a string of subsequent losses within the distance. During a two-year span culminating in 2014, Lopez was knocked out four additional times, including a rematch with Salido. After a second-round knockout loss to Jesus Cuellar in September 2014, Lopez slipped into inactivity.
But ring returns are inevitable, and the native of Puerto Rico is no exception. Lopez, 33, will face compatriot Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. in his comeback bout Oct. 29 in San Juan.
The fight originally was scheduled for Saturday night, but power outages in Puerto Rico last week forced the rescheduling of events at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum.
“I’m thankful to God that I have another opportunity to participate in the sport I love,” Lopez said during a news conference two months ago that officially announced the fight and also featured Vazquez.
Lopez’s return and the bout are met with obvious skepticism. He is also facing an opponent who has lost four of his past six fights. Yet, given the fighters’ enmity toward each other and Lopez’s status in Puerto Rico, fan interest in the bout could build leading toward fight night.
A former junior-featherweight champion, Vazquez Jr., son of the three-division world champion, has pursued a fight with Lopez (34-5, 31 KOs), dating to Lopez’s title reigns but dealt with repeated denials.
Vazquez (24-6-1, 19 KOs) felt undervalued by his opponent at the height of Lopez’s dominance.
“He has said I am not at his level,” Vazquez said. “That always stayed in my thoughts. Now I get the opportunity to fight him — what I have always dreamed of in my career as a boxer.”
Although the fighters didn’t exchange punches or shoves often seen at news conferences, their back-and-forth accusations played into the hype.
“You have claimed that I am a piece of garbage but losing to a piece of garbage will be humiliating,” Lopez told Vazquez.
AROUND THE RING
Davie-based Warriors Boxing will present the fourth local card of the year Nov. 5 at Club Cinema in Pompano Beach.
The show will emphasize fighters primarily in the formative stages of their careers. Robert Daniels Jr., son of the former cruiserweight champion, is scheduled to make his professional debut on the card.
Other local fighters scheduled to appear on the show are junior-middleweights J.D. Martinez and Anthony Martinez, lightweight Daniel Placeres and Chastity Martin, a former women’s state amateur champion in multiple categories.
For more information, call 954-985-1155.
Friday (11:30 p.m., Telemundo-Ch. 51): Orlando Cruz vs. Luis Sanchez, 10, junior lightweights.