Tony Lopez stood on the ropes in each corner to share his triumph on Saturday with the partisan crowd at the Amon G. Carter Jr. Exhibits Hall.
His victory was well worth celebrating, even if in reality his new professional boxing title is merely a first step, albeit a big one, in his ultimate goal.
Lopez is the new WBC super bantamweight Intercontinental champion after earning an eight-round decision over Isaac Torres before a near capacity crowd of 2,000, who urged on the Fort Worth resident with repeated calls throughout the match of “Tony, Tony.”
The verdict was unanimous, with the three judges scoring the bout 78-74 in favor of Lopez.
Lopez will probably jump in to the top 20 in the WBC world rankings with an eye now on the top prize in his division, the world title, currently held by Leo Santa Cruz of Mexico.
“This is something you can’t explain,” said Lopez, wearing the belt around his neck and shoulder. “This isn’t the big goal, but this is a big step.
“Every fight is a big step, but this is something to celebrate.”
Lopez, an Alvarado High School graduate, demonstrated his speed and power to score with stiff lefts to the body and overhand rights. But his combinations, as effective as they were, never seemed to hurt Torres, the one-time U.S. Olympic Trials competitor from Mission who showed he could take a punch.
Torres, though, also appeared to want to stay away from Lopez, who was able to mostly dodge Torres’ best attempts.
“He did what we wanted: sit down on punches and use his speed,” said Vincent Reyes, Lopez’s trainer. Torres “didn’t want to come in once he felt Tony’s power.”
Said Lopez: “My speed, my power and my IQ were exactly where they needed to be. We didn’t let him do what he wanted to do. It was us setting the pace and tone.”
In the other main event, Tony Mack of Dallas successfully defended his super middleweight Texas title with a decision over James Freeman, in the seventh match of the eight-bout card.
Mack punished the Vernon boxer but could never put him away. Freeman lost his balance on several occasions throughout the eight-rounder, but he steadied and even pleaded with Mack to bring it on.
That the champion did, opening a cut above Freeman’s nose and working on it throughout the fight.
Mack won unanimously, taking an 80-72 decision on the judges’ cards.
Lopez and Torres chatted, too, in the seventh round as each looked for an opening.
“Just emotions,” Lopez said. “That’s something I’d like to break, but sometimes you can’t hold your emotions back.”
Lopez got a little emotional in the aftermath of his win, permitting himself to think ahead and daydream of joining Fort Worth’s legendary history of world champions, which include Paulie Ayala and Donald Curry, only to name two.
He’s on a path, but Lopez’s corner knows there’s much work left to do.
“Growing up I always told everyone I would be a world championship boxer. That’s something you don’t understand when you’re that young, but now it’s very real.
“I’m going to get there.”