Josh Warrington's career suffered another setback Saturday as Luis Alberto Lopez took his IBF world featherweight title by majority decision.
Lopez did most of his best work in the first eight rounds, and despite a strong finish by Warrington, the Mexican won by scores of 114-114, 115-113 and 115-113 at First Direct Arena in Leeds, England.
Warrington's home crowd was silenced by the decision after he was beaten again by a Mexican boxer; Mauricio Lara stopped him in February 2021.
"This is my moment; it comes from hard work over a long boxing career," said Lopez, who won the belt in his first world title fight.
Warrington lost the IBF belt in a first defense of his second reign as champion.
"I started off slow, but after four or five rounds, I did some good work inside," Warrington said. "For the last three rounds, body shots were ripping into him and all he wanted to do was hold. I'm devastated to lose my title like that. I still think I can have a big fight with one of the champions."
Warrington has talked about the possibility of facing WBC champion Rey Vargas, WBO titleholder Emanuel Navarrete, or Lara, and Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn insists those fights are still a possibility despite Saturday's defeat.
WBA champion Leigh Wood, also from England, is perhaps the most realistic option for Warrington, 32, and Wood says he would be agreeable to offering him a shot at his belt.
Warrington (31-2-1, 8 KOs) produced a strong finish, and in the 11th round, he rocked Lopez with a left hook, but it was too little, too late.
Lopez (27-2, 15 KOs), known as "El Venado," boxed immaculately at times, and the angles he threw shots from caused problems for Warrington.
After the fight, Lopez, 29, complained about Warrington's fouling. He said he was hit on the back of his leg and was cut by a clash of heads in the second round, but he managed to retain his composure under pressure in the later rounds.
Lopez, who registered two stoppage wins earlier this year after traveling to the United Kingdom to defeat Isaac Lowe by seventh-round KO a year ago, made an aggressive start on the front foot and Warrington ended the first round with a bloody nose. Lopez launched unpredictable jabs amid a bright start but then suffered a cut by his left eye from an accidental clash of heads.
Lopez, whose corner did a good job on the cut, delivered a thudding left body shot in the third round, but Warrington mustered a quick response with a right hook. Warrington opted to fight at close range in the fifth round, and in the sixth he had some success as Lopez's work rate dipped. But the Mexican was still very much in the fight and benefited from Warrington failing to establish his jab throughout.
Lopez landed a leaping left hook and uppercut in the eighth round, but the ninth belonged to Warrington, who was aggressive and landed his hooks. Warrington was busy again in the 10th and 11th rounds as Lopez looked ragged and was caught by the English boxer's hooks. When Warrington caught Lopez with a left hook in the 11th round, the Mexican looked in trouble momentarily.
Both fought ferociously in the last round as they looked to secure a stoppage with the fight seemingly close on points.
Conlan stays in the frame
Featherweight contender Michael Conlan (18-1, 9 KOs) only needed one round to deal with France's Karim Guerfi (31-6, 9 KOs) at the SSE Arena in his native Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Conlan, 31, is hopeful the victory sets up a world title shot in 2023, after he suffered a last-round knockout loss to England's Leigh Wood, the WBA world champion, in March.
Saturday marked Conlan's second win since that setback, and it only lasted a round after he landed a straight left hand early and then followed up to force the stoppage.
Bridges retains title by stoppage
Ebanie Bridges recovered from a shaky start to overpower Australian rival Shannon O'Connell for an impressive eighth-round stoppage in a first defense of her IBF world bantamweight title on the Warrington undercard.
Bridges (9-1, 4 KOs), a 36-year-old Australian who is now based in England, won the title on points against Maria Cecilia Roman in March.
After an acrimonious buildup, these rivals took no time to work each other out and set a ferocious pace from the first bell. O'Connell (23-7-1, 11 KOs), from Queensland, Australia, had lost three previous world title attempts but looked like she might win this one in the first round. O'Connell, 39, repeatedly wobbled Bridges with right hands in the opening session, but Bridges was better in the second round and connected with a good right hook.
Bridges, a former bodybuilder and math teacher, had more success at the start of the third round when O'Connell was left sitting on the canvas taking a count after being caught by a right hand to the jaw.
O'Connell fought back gamely but all of her confidence from the first round was gone. Bridges was the heavier puncher and had a good fourth round, with O'Connell often left on unsteady feet after exchanges.
O'Connell looked like she was wilting in the seventh, under the accumulation of punches, and did well to stay upright from a big right hand. It was one-way traffic in the eighth round and after Bridges landed a barrage of clean shots, including a couple of crunching right hooks to the jaw, referee Howard Foster stopped the fight.