By: Kayla Lewis / AP Photo
Todd Dewey of Las Vegas Review-Journal recently wrote, “Terry Norris counts his victories over Sugar Ray Leonard and John "The Beast" Mugabi as the most memorable moments of his Hall of Fame boxing career.
But the former four-time light middleweight world champion can't remember those fights or any others - nor, for that matter, the date of his 2009 wedding to his wife, Tanya.
Due to repeated blows to his head, Norris, 45, suffers from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy - previously known as pugilistic dementia, or punch-drunk syndrome. It's a degenerative brain disease with symptoms that include memory loss, confusion, depression and emotional outbursts.”
It’s quite interesting to see how quickly Juan Manuel Lopez’s stock dropped compared to how highly touted he was at one point, to be one of the next big things for Puerto Rican boxing. “Juanma”, for sure, has had his ups and downs career wise before his eventual demise to the fists of Orlando Salido. He was able to knock out the calibers of Daniel Ponce de Leon, Steve Luevano and Rafael Marquez, to become and remain champion, yet he went life and death against what could be examined as ‘club fighters’ in Rogers Mtagwa and Bernabe Concepcion.
At this current moment, I don’t believe the complete issue at hand is reviving the career of Juanma, but taking a moment to urgently observe Juan Manuel’s health.
Following his second knockout loss to Orlando Salido, Juan was interviewed and asked why he believed he had lost the fight. He went on to weirdly respond that the referee, Roberto Ramirez Sr. and his son Roberto Ramirez Jr.’s “gambling problem” had caused them to stop both of his fights prematurely. Ultimately, this very random, yet absurd accusation led the Puerto Rican Boxing Commission to ban Lopez from fighting for almost a year.
At first, I chalked it up that Juanma had taken quite a beating from Orlando Salido and was simply ‘punch drunk’, but I had later found out that Juanma conceded to not even remembering saying those things about the referee due to memory loss or what could be considered as “blacking out”.
Primera Hora had shortly afterwards reported that during Juan Manuel’s hearing by the P.R. Boxing Committee, Juan had said "I remember that when I opened my eyes, I was in the dressing room and that's when they told me what happened." lamenting on his post fight memory from his second fight with Salido.
Juan also admitted that it wasn’t the first time he had suffered memory loss after a bout. He reportedly recalled the same thing happening in the after math of his fight with Bernabe Concepcion, in saying, "It's not the first time that I lost track of time after a fight. It happened after the fight against Bernabe Concepcion, I cannot remember how I got to the dressing room and performed the drug tests."
If there wasn’t a more obvious sign that boxing has become detrimental to Juan Manuel Lopez’s health as a human being, then I’m not sure what else there is to say. Juan was only 28 years old when he had lost to Salido for the second time and I would like to believe that the most alarming thing about all of this is that Juan Manuel is showing symptoms of post-career illnesses at such a young age. When I think of Juan Manuel Lopez’s current situation, I’m reminded of the likes of Terry Norris, or even Freddie Roach, who in his boxing career, was known to take an unnecessary amount of punches. Roach who had began to show signs of illness, was advised by his trainer, Eddie Futch, to retire at one point while he was very young, advice in which Roach ignored and continued with his career.
As we all know, Freddie now suffers from Parkinson’s Disease.
It has recently been revealed that Juan Manuel fulfilled his term of forbiddance from training and was granted permission to get back on track with his career. He will be fighting February 2, 2013, against an unknown Brazilian Aldimar Silva Santos in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.
I am not here to spread any bad omens on Juan Manuel Lopez’s well-being, but I do believe it is completely foolish to ignore what is happening.
The gist of it all is that Juan Manuel Lopez, a brawler or boxer-puncher of sorts, has always had the power in his fists, but lacked the defense to rival and the chin to match. This has resulted in him taking entirely too many punches in his career thus far and now the damage is starting to rear it’s ugly head. He is to be 30 years old in 2013 and I believe it is naive to assume Juanma can just change who he is as a fighter at this point in his career.
You can take the dog out of the fight, but you cannot take the fight out of the dog.
I understand that boxing is Juanma’s bread and butter. It is the way he earns his living and the way he feeds his family. It is not a sport for the weak-willed nor the light hearted, but at a certain point, when do you separate that the one thing you happen to be good at is not what’s necessarily good for you?
Putting your life on the line fight after fight comes with the territory of being a boxer and in Juan Manuel Lopez’s case, it is much like playing with fire.
And well, you play with fire enough, eventually you’ll get burned.
Follow Kayla on Youtube @ KBCLive.