The Caller Times Highlight

Having spent the past six years absorbing all he could about the Sweet Science, Alfonso Lopez is finally ready to make his professional debut.

For it to happen in his hometown is just gravy.

"I've been waiting for this for a long time," said the Corpus Christi native, who launches his career against fellow newcomer Juan Garcia of San Antonio Saturday night at the American Bank Center on the card headlined by Evander Holyfield's heavyweight bout against Vinny Maddalone.

"It's an incredible feeling to come back home and do something like this," the 24-year-old light heavyweight said. "Everybody's here, my dad, my mom ... everybody. They're all going to be in that crowd."

Lopez graduated from Moody in 2000 after a banner senior season as a linebacker, which landed him on the All-District 28-5A first team. Also a second-team tight end, he led the Trojans with 100 tackles and finished second with 25 solo stops.

The defensive performance earned Lopez numerous accolades, including all-state honorable mention. Lopez also garnered Caller-Times All-Metro (first-team defense, second-team offense) and All-South Texas (second-team defense, honorable mention offense) honors.

After graduating, Lopez headed to Sam Houston State and tried out for the football team as a walk-on before deciding to give up the sport. During his time in college, he participated in several fraternity sponsored "fight nights," giving Lopez a taste of organized pugilism.

Looking for more action, Lopez joined Huntsville's Cut N Shoot boxing club and began training under Henry Harris. A 47-year veteran of the business, Harris liked what he saw.

"He's the best student I've ever coached, and I've been training fighters for years and years," he said. "He listens, studies and learns. I can show him how to do something and the next day he does it. He works on it until he gets it right."

That hasn't seemed to be a problem.

Lopez entered the open division at the 2005 Houston Golden Gloves regional tournament after only two amateur bouts. Despite the inexperience, he won two fights to advance to the state competition.

Only one of Lopez's four fights in Fort Worth went the distance, an effort that resulted in a state championship, which he defended in 2006.

"In eight amateur fights he won a state Golden Gloves title," Harris said of Lopez, who finished second in last year's USA National Championships. "He's much more progressed than somebody with his experience. I expect him to do well in the pros."

So does longtime promoter Lester Bedford.

"He might be the best prospect to come out of Corpus Christi since Jesse Benavides," Bedford said. "There's been a lot of good fighters come out of here - Benavides, (Lupe) Suarez, (Frankie) Warren - but it's been a long time that one looked like a world championship contender."

Lopez is ready to go after it.

"I hope that it all leads to a shot at a world championship," said Lopez, who earned a bachelor's degree in food science and nutrition. "I've progressed to this level pretty quick. I believe I can do it."


When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

Where: American Bank Center

Main event: Evander Holyfield (40-8-2, 26 knockouts), Atlanta, Ga., vs. Vinny Maddalone (27-3, 19 KOs), Flushing, N.Y., 10, heavyweights

Undercard: Calvin Brock (29-1, 22 KOs), Charlotte, N.C., vs. Ralph West (17-10-1, 14 KOs), Jamboree, N.Y., 10, heavyweights; Raul Martinez (17-0, 12 KOs), San Antonio, vs. Kevin Hudgins (5-8, 2 KOs), Pensacola, Fla., 8, bantamweights; Rod Willis (14-0-1, 8 KOs), Dallas, vs. Damian Norris (8-2, 6 KOs), Las Vegas, Nev., 8 heavyweights; Adam Richards (16-1, 12 KOs), Murfreesboro, Tenn., vs. Earl Ladson (12-14-1, 7 KOs), Winston Salem, N.C., 8, heavyweights; Jose Diaz (12-0, 3 KOs), Houston, vs. Jeremy Drapal (6-4, 4 KOs), Hastings, Neb., 6, featherweights; Vanessa Juarez (5-0, 1 KO), Fort Worth, vs. Elizabeth Villarreal (2-2-1), San Antonio, 6, bantamweights; Alfonso Lopez (pro debut), Corpus Christi, vs. Juan Garcia (pro debut), San Antonio, 4, light heavyweights

Tickets: $250 (VIP), $150, $100, $75, $50, $35 (plus service charges), available at the American Bank Center ticket office, all Ticketmaster locations, on the Internet (www.ticketmaster.com) or by calling 361-881-8499. For VIP tickets, e-mail wlbedford@ aol.com

Source: Javier Becerra (Caller.com)


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