Bay Area prospect David Lopez has never lacked confidence in the ring

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David Lopez (R) lands on Joseph Suero in their fight in August of 2023. Photo from Overtime Boxing

If there’s one thing David Lopez isn’t lacking so far in his boxing career, it’s confidence.

The 20-year-old from Oakland, Calif. has gone past the first round just once in his four pro fights, and is already stepping up to the six-round level this Friday when he faces Anthony Mora in a junior welterweight bout at the Overtime Elite Arena in Atlanta, Ga as part of an Overtime Boxing broadcast on DAZN.

That confidence has been evident to most since he was 12 years old, when current Hall of Famer Andre Ward was training at the Bay Area gym owned by his father, Lightning’s Boxing Club. Lopez observed this Olympic gold medalist who had already unified the super middleweight title, and was significantly taller and heavier than him, and thought to himself, “I could take him.”

“I’m always competitive, I was born competitive. So I saw Dre, he’s a big superstar, something in my head was telling me I could beat up somebody ten times my size. I felt the need to call him out and try to prove myself and show him I’m really about it,” said the 6-foot Lopez (4-0, 3 knockouts), who is of Filipino and Black heritage.

Dre has always shown me what his training camps were like. He allowed me to walk him into his fights so I got to see firsthand what it takes to be a great professional fighter. I appreciate Dre for that,” said Lopez.

The two ended up sparring twice, with Lopez being frustrated by his inability to land a significant punch on the boxing star who would end up retiring undefeated at 32-0. In the end, Ward was impressed that he remarked to a reporter that Lopez was “the best fighter in the world under 13.”

Ask his father/trainer Kris Lopez, he’ll tell you that he’s known his son had boxing potential since the age of five. The elder Lopez, who himself was an amateur boxer and had one pro fight in 2007, had exposed his son to boxing from a young age, both through his own training and watching Manny Pacquiao fights.

David Lopez, whose nickname is “Dynamite,” says that his earliest memories of boxing are of being woken up early in the morning by the sound of his father hitting the speed bag. It’s around this time that the younger Lopez would begin proving himself in the ring against kids around his neighborhood who were bigger than himself.

“We noticed that he had poise. He would wait and they would throw big nasty malicious punches. He would just take it to them with straight, fast punches,” said Kris Lopez, a Filipino-American whose family immigrated from Bacolor, Pampanga, Philippines in the 1940s to settle in West Oakland’s Acorn Projects.

“I attribute that to him watching me and watching Manny Pacquiao. That was just the vision that he had, he would act it out like kids do. Kids want to be superheroes so they put on the cape.”

If it seems that boxing came natural to David Lopez, it may be because it’s in his blood.

His great grandfather, Elmario “Big” Santos, was a pro boxer in the Philippines back in the 1920s, while his older brother Daniel Lopez had 14 amateur bouts, including a win over Fernando Vargas Jr. in 2015. His cousin Nante Manangan has owned the Southside Boxing Club in Maui, Hawaii for over 30 years, and even hosted Mike Tyson’s training camp for his 2002 fight against Lennox Lewis there.

It didn’t take long for David Lopez to fall in love with the sport himself.

“I would say after my first fight. After seeing how it was, having to earn a victory, training hard, having a training camp, waking up and running, the whole process, I was appreciative of it. It made me feel accomplished, seeing how that hard work paid off,” said Lopez, who converted southpaw because of Pacquiao.

Photo from Overtime Boxing

Lopez had a brief but accomplished amateur career with a record of 34-4 – almost all of which were in tournament fights – winning the Desert Showdown World Amateur Boxing Championships and competing at several national tournaments, including the Junior Olympics nationals.

“When people say you only had a little bit of amateur fights, well it didn’t really matter because I was fighting the best competition,” said Lopez, who was rated no. 1 in his division by USA Boxing and has amateur wins over current prospects like Justin Viloria, Floyd “Cashflow” Diaz and Akeem Cheatem.

Lopez decided to cut his amateur career when the COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of a national tournament he was going to participate in.

Lopez turned pro at age 17 on October 30, 2021 – on the undercard of a Mayweather Promotions card at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas – and finished his opponent in just 66 seconds. Lopez wouldn’t fight again for 16 months, which led him to split with Mayweather Promotions and sign with New York-based promoter Lou DiBella.

Lopez fought three times in 2023, and hopes to stay just as busy in 2024. Kris Lopez says they’re waiting to establish consistency in his fight schedule, and then they’d begin considering stepping up competition. He says there’s no rush due to Lopez’s age, and wants to continue developing his son’s skillset.

“He’s highly intelligent in the ring, he’s patient, he sets it up, he’s constantly thinking. He’s got devastating one punch power in both hands. He’s knocking guys out with 16 ounce gloves and headgear on in addition to the guys he knocked out in the fights,” said Kris Lopez of his son’s key attributes.

“The other part is his defense, in all four of his fights he’s only gotten hit clean once.”

This fight, which will be a supporting bout underneath the junior welterweight main event between Kurt Scoby and Dakota Linger, will be Lopez’s second straight on the OTX platform, which provides Lopez with plenty of exposure through social media to establish his brand.

His opponent Mora (3-1-1, 2 KOs) appears on paper to be a slight increase in pro competition. The 35-year-old from New Britain, Conn. turned pro in 2021 and has lost just once, a third round stoppage to a 7-1 boxer named Wilson Mascarenhas.

Just like he does in his career, Lopez says he’s going to let the fight develop naturally and capitalize on what comes his way.

“I’m expecting the best out of [Mora]. We watched some tape on him, he’s a durable guy, likes to throw a lot of body shots. For this camp we tried to spar with a lot of shorter guys because he’s short. We’re just gonna go in there, stick to our game plan and work behind my jab,” said Lopez.

“We don’t force anything, we let it happen organically.”

Ryan Songalia has written for ESPN, the New York Daily News, Rappler and The Guardian, and is part of the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism Class of 2020. He can be reached at [email protected].

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