Fight Preview: Steven Luevano v. Juan Manuel Lopez

Saturday night's big HBO Boxing After Dark double-header is being treated by a lot of people as an exciting card, sure, but two foregone conclusions. Top Rank -- who promote the fighters on the show -- are even treating it as such. Through every minor step of hype, they've essentially ignored Steven Luevano and Rogers Mtagwa, focusing instead on unbeaten young stars Juan Manuel Lopez and Yuriorkis Gamboa.

We'll talk a bit more about Gamboa-Mtagwa in the next few days. For right now, let's focus on Luevano.

You know, WBO featherweight titlist Steven Luevano.

Luevano (37-1-1, 15 KO) isn't the sort of fighter that makes your head turn. He's not flashy, not that powerful, not all that fast. Like a lot of good fighters, he doesn't make many mistakes, and he has a way of keeping himself from getting out of his comfort zone. Call it ring generalship if you want.

Whatever you call it, Luevano is a good fighter. Good enough that if JuanMa Lopez is looking past him the way the advertising is, he could be in some real trouble.

Lopez's last fight in October was against Mtagwa, and the brawler gave him all he could handle, and nearly more than he could handle. Lopez's "0" teetered on the brink in that fight, but he made it out. Now moving up in weight from 122 pounds, he goes right in against a guy who is universally considered top five -- if not top two or three -- in the world. Bad Left Hook has Luevano ranked No. 2 at 126 pounds, with The Ring and ESPN sharing that opinion. In all three sets of rankings, he's behind just Chris John.

This is not saying that Luevano is Rogers Mtagwa. Really, the two of them could not be much further apart. Luevano is a southpaw, Mtagwa fights orthodox. Luevano is a tight, very controlled boxer. Mtagwa is a wild brawler with no fear.

Lopez has fought southpaws before, and he's (obviously) beaten them all. And even though he struggled with Mtagwa, it's no worse than how Luevano did in his last fight in August against Bernabe Concepcion, one of the worst fights of 2009.

Really, I know why Top Rank is hyping this. They've been talking about Lopez-Gamboa since they signed Gamboa, and if both win Saturday, that fight appears all but delivered for this summer, and it's the most exciting fight between two young, top fighters there's been in a long time.

But Luevano deserves to be credited for being a good fighter. So I wanted to do that.

And now...

Lopez is too fast, too strong, too dynamic, and too good for Luevano. This isn't Antonio Davis and Terdsak Jandaeng. This isn't Billy Dib. This isn't Mario Santiago, a solid fighter who drew Luevano in 2008. This is one of the most exciting and promising young fighters in the sport today.

If the world were fair, Luevano would have himself on the fight poster and have his name listed first -- he is the titlist after all. But the world isn't fair, Luevano isn't exciting, and chances are, he's just not good enough for Lopez.

But I don't think JuanMa is going to stop Luevano unless it's accumulation and the referee jumps in. Give me Lopez by wide decision on Saturday night.

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