Before I get into this, let me say that these are two guys worth rooting for. This is one of the rare well-matched fights where someone has to lose, and it's hard to want to see either of them go down. I also expect this to be a Fight of the Year candidate at the end of the night, which is similar to the end of the day, which is evening.
Josesito Lopez's big claim to fame is beating Victor Ortiz last year, breaking his jaw in a big upset. That launched Lopez into an absurd physical mismatch against Canelo Alvarez, part "offer he can't refuse" bout, and part seeming punishment from Golden Boy, who brought Lopez back to get torn to shreds by the bigger man three months later, after Josesito ruined their Canelo-Ortiz PPV idea.
How did Marcos Maidana break through? By beating Victor Ortiz in 2009. Ortiz was supposed to be the guy bursting into the star ranks with that fight, where he infamously quit after a great back-and-forth brawl for six rounds, telling HBO cameras and the world that he "didn't deserve" to be getting beaten up like that. Ortiz is the biggest scalp on the records of both men.
So who's No. 2? That would be Erik Morales for Maidana, and maybe Mike Dallas Jr for Lopez, but let's count Jessie Vargas, whom Lopez lost to by debatable split decision in 2011. Morales, old, overweight, and fighting with one functional eye for basically all 12 rounds against Maidana, took the slugger to the limit and gave him a mighty big scare in a great fight. Lopez went neck-and-neck with Vargas, again a prospect meant to shine, who didn't. I thought Lopez barely edged that fight, but it was a close call either way.
Does the version of Erik Morales who fought Maidana stack up to the Vargas who fought Lopez? Sure. I'd even say he's better, but then I'm not wild about Jessie Vargas in general. All this A > B so B > C stuff doesn't always work in boxing, and I'm not saying that it does. My point is this: Both of these guys are about on their correct level of competition in this fight. Maidana is a lot of fun to watch, but no big superstar. Lopez is about the same. These guys are something less than elite fighters, but good enough to score big wins on the right night.
And they're both exceptionally mentally tough, which drives them up a notch past their abilities, and is also perhaps the main reason each of them beat Victor Ortiz, a superior fighter in terms of talent who doesn't always respond well to adversity. Even counting the broken jaw Ortiz suffered against Lopez, someone less tough than Josesito probably would have been out of there that night, as Ortiz brought the fire.
I really don't know who to pick in this fight. I think Lopez is the better boxer, and Maidana probably a better puncher, though I feel his power is generally a bit overrated (in that it's good, but not truly great). They both have a great chin. They both know how to deal with in-fight setbacks and troubles. We've seen them truly outclassed one time each: Canelo punishing a brave Lopez for daring to show up, and Maidana bewildered by Devon Alexander last year in his 147-pound debut. So who do you like here? Either way, I figure the fans are the true winners. (I just shit my pants!) Official pick: Lopez by split decision (Backup pick: Maidana by stoppage in 7).
It's difficult to see how this winds up being anything other than all-action. Maidana's minor technical refinements under the tutelage of Robert Garcia were as welcome as they were quickly forgotten last time out as the Argentine was dragged into what was a tremendous brawl with Jesus Soto Karass, and, in taking this and his previous two fights, Lopez has shown - if nothing else - a slight, but applaudable, penchant for facing opponents who are likely to punch him very, very hard.
There's a real chance Lopez is being slightly underestimated here, especially given that both men's best wins are still Victor Ortiz and, er, Victor Ortiz. However, we saw an inflated version of Lopez stopped without much ado by Canelo Alvarez last time out, in what was likely an ill-advised two-division leap to 154, and in that time, Maidana's been busy consolidating at, and growing into, a more legitimate welterweight than the one we saw schooled by Devon Alexander after first making the jump.
In a fight that looks hugely unlikely to go the distance, it looks like it's a match-up that favours the man with the more momentum. Nine months is a long time to be out of the ring, as Lopez has been, and Marcos Maidana isn't, you'd think, the best possible opponent to return to. Maidana TKO10
Maidana v Lopez is a crossroads fight, the winner can move towards another world title shot whereas the loser will be out of the picture altogether, making them a likely contender for Shane Mosley's next opponent.
Whilst I feel the move back down to welterweight will be better for Lopez, I still believe that he'd be better suited to light-welter. Lopez won't be able to match Maidana for physical strength, so he must control the Argentinean brawler with the jab and stay on the outside. If Maidana can get close, he'll rough up, manhandle and slowly breakdown his American foe.
The fight will come down to how well Lopez can implement the box and move style and for how long he can sustain it. Maidana can't change his style, he will do what he always does - march forward, swinging wildly. Lopez has the tools to outbox Maidana but has shown in the past that he can be dragged into a war. He can't afford that to happen too early on Saturday night. Lopez's superior boxing will win the early rounds but I can see him being dragged into a battle down the stretch. If he can avoid a tear-up until the last four rounds, I can see Lopez surviving the late onslaught to win via points. Lopez on points 117-111.