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'Little' Josesito Lopez takes big step up to fight Canelo Alvarez

Yahoo Sports

LAS VEGAS – Josesito Lopez will live up to his nickname on Saturday night.

"Little Jose" will be the undersized opponent when he steps inside the ring to challenge WBC light middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez in front of a sold-out crowd at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

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Josesito Lopez has used bigger sparring partners to prepare for Canelo Alvarez. (Reuters)

"I'm fighting against a fighter who is naturally bigger," Lopez said Thursday at the pre-fight news conference. "We've had time to make it work for us. We've had about nine weeks of preparation. I just want to feel the best and the most comfortable since this is my first time at this weight division."

After fighting mostly at welterweight the past four years, Lopez makes the move to light middleweight to challenge the bigger Alvarez.

Lopez was in a similar situation when he stepped up in weight to fight Victor Ortiz on short notice after Andre Berto, Ortiz's scheduled opponent, tested positive for a banned substance. The weight discrepancy wasn't an issue three months ago at Staples Center when Lopez, who was trailing 88-83, 87-84 and 86-85 on the scorecards, broke Ortiz's jaw in two places in an improbable ninth-round victory, securing a fight with Alvarez in the process.

[Related: Las Vegas big enough for two marquee bouts on same night]

But Canelo Alvarez is no Victor Ortiz. Mexico's golden boy is being groomed as boxing's next great superstar from south of the border and he has the resume at age 22 to back up the hype. Aside from being the more talented overall fighter, Alvarez is no stranger to the light middleweight division with nine dominant wins under his belt since 2010. Despite having a half-inch height advantage over Alvarez, Lopez knows weight will be a key factor in the fight.

"We brought in big sparring partners and we are expecting anywhere around 170 pounds," Lopez said of Alvarez's expected rehydrated weight. "We've adjusted to having bigger sparring partners. Most of the fighters I have sparred with before were 160 pounds or 154 pounds. Now we have sparring partners at 170. I know he's a world champion and he's a world champion for a reason.

"I'm not as weak as I look. I know I look skinny. My sparring partners say, 'If I just looked at you, I would think I'm going to push you around, throw you around, toss you around the ring.' That's not the case. I'm a little bit stronger than I look."

It won't take long into the fight to know whether Lopez is indeed stronger than he looks. Lopez tipped the scales at a soft 153 pounds at Friday's weigh-in while Alvarez weighed 154 pounds and appeared to be in better shape.

When asked what his weight will be on Saturday night, Alvarez didn't exactly tip his hand.

"I don't know," he said. "The most I gain is 10 pounds the next day."

[Also: Insurance policy isn't to blame for spate of injuries in UFC]

In his last fight, a tactical Cinco de Mayo annihilation of future Hall of Famer Shane Mosley, Alvarez weighed in at 154 pounds the day before the fight and rehydrated to 167 pounds – giving him a three-pound advantage over his opponent. The 167 pounds Alvarez weighed on fight night is right around Lopez's normal walk-around weight.

"After the fight, I walk anywhere between 160 and 165," Lopez said. "We've had to maintain our weight for the most part so we don't give up too much on size. As long as we feel healthy, we feel strong and we feel fast, that's OK with me if he's a lot bigger or I'm a lot smaller."

Lopez is more concerned how Alvarez will use his size advantage to dictate the fight than the added punching power he will have to face.

"All punches hurt. The weight advantage is using your body, not the punches," Lopez said. "I feel like I can take a punch. It's them using their full body against you. That can be a difference and that will probably play a factor in the fight."

And in case Lopez needed more incentive to rediscover the power he displayed in June, Golden Boy Promotions is offering a $100,000 bonus for the fighter who registers the best knockout of the night in the eyes of the fans. That $100,000 bonus might not register on Alvarez's radar ($2 million purse) but would make a huge financial difference for Lopez ($212,000 purse).

"In a fight of this magnitude, you don't really think of that," Lopez said. I want to pull off the victory and try to win every round decisively. Obviously if the knockout comes up, I'm going to go after it."

In order to pull off his second major upset of the summer, the man nicknamed "Little Jose" will need another larger-than-life performance.

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