Ernie Lopez

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Ernie "Indian Red" Lopez
Ernie Lopez.jpg
Photograph of Ernie Lopez, March 1, 2004, by Jennifer Long, Los Angeles Times.
Statistics
Real name Ernie Lopez
Nickname(s) Indian Red
Weight(s) Welterweight
Height 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)
Nationality United States American
Born 1945
Fort Duchesne, Utah U.S.A.
Died October 3, 2009
Pleasant Grove, Utah U.S.A.
Boxing record
Total fights 62
Wins 51
Wins by KO 6
Losses 10
Draws 1

Ernie "Indian Red" Lopez (September 24, 1945 – October 3, 2009), was an American professional boxer. He twice fought for the world welterweight boxing title, losing title bouts to José Nápoles in 1970 and 1973.[1] He was a missing person from 1992 to 2004 and was the subject of extensive press coverage in early 2004 when, after being selected for induction into the California Boxing Hall of Fame, he was found at a homeless shelter in Fort Worth, Texas.

Early years[edit]

Lopez was born on the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation in Fort Duchesne, Utah.[2][3] His mother was a Ute Indian, and his father was a Juaneño.[4]

Lopez attended Orem High School in Orem, Utah, where he chose boxing over football.[5] He married as a teenager and moved to Pasadena, California, where he boxed out of the Pasadena YMCA. He later recalled that he learned to box from his father and added, "But sometimes I learned when I watched my father hit my mother."[4]

Professional boxing career[edit]

Lopez became a popular boxer in Los Angeles during the late 1960s and early 1970s, fighting out of the Los Angeles Main Street Gym for much of his career. His brother, Danny "Little Red" Lopez, also went into boxing and became the world featherweight champion. Both of the Lopez brothers were managed by Howie Steindler.[4]

Lopez was given the nickname "Indian Red" because of his flaming red hair and Native American heritage. In 1968, when Lopez became the first Native American boxer to be ranked as the No. 1 contender in any weight class, Pulitzer Prize winning sports writer Jim Murray wrote:

I don't know how he is as a prize fighter, but Ernie (Indian Red) Lopez certainly is disappointing as an Indian. I mean, he doesn't look like something John Wayne would chase down the street shouting something about 'damned redskin.' 'Damned redhead,' maybe. But, Lordy, the skin is even freckled! Now, whoever heard of a red-headed, freckle-skinned Indian? ... 'What was your Indian name?' I asked Indian Red? 'Ernie,' he told me.[2][6]

Lopez had a career record of 51-10-1,[5][7] and fought bouts in England, Hawaii, Japan and Mexico. In 1967, Lopez wore an Indian chief's headdress into the ring in a match against Musahi Nakano in Japan. Lopez said, "I bought the thing at Disneyland to take over with me. ... I liked it so much I was going to keep it. But it turned out they have this custom in Japan where the fighters exchange gifts before the fight. Nakano gave me a samurai warrior's jacket and I gave him the headpiece."[2]

Lopez's three bouts against Hedgemon Lewis in the late 1960s drew extensive media coverage. Going into the first fight in July 1968, Hedgemon Lewis was undefeated in 23 bouts, and both fighters were considered top contenders in the welterweight class. Lopez won the first bout in a ninth-round knockout, which the Los Angeles Times described as follows:

Like Gen. Custer at Little Big Horn, Hedgemon Lewis got to wondering where all those Indians were coming from. And like his ancestors, Ernie (Indian Red) Lopez staged a fistic massacre Thursday night when he battered the previously unbeaten Lewis into a state of helplessness before a roaring turnaway mob of 10,400 at the Olympic Auditorium.[8]

Lopez won two out of the three bouts with Lewis. In 2004, Lewis said of Lopez, "He was aggressive and always on the attack. Ernie was a crowd-pleaser because he was a fighter. Period. He fought."[4] Actor Ryan O'Neal, who managed Lewis when Lewis fought Lopez, added, "Lopez was a warrior. He was also a gentleman, a decent man. But as a fighter, Lopez would hit the other guy so much he would become exhausted. Because of that, Lopez would always fill an arena, because he would give the fans their money's worth.... It was his heart that made him win."[4] Another writer said of him, "He was an aggressive fighter who knew only one direction: forward."[7]

Title bouts against José Nápoles[edit]

On February 14, 1970, Lopez got a shot at the world welterweight boxing title in a bout against Cuban Jose "Mantequilla" Nápoles in front of a sellout crowd at The Forum in Inglewood, California. Lopez was knocked down in the 1st, 9th, and 15th rounds before the bout was called as a technical knockout in the 15th round.[7] In 1971, boxing writer Dan Hafner said of Lopez:

It is the misfortune of Ernie (Indian Red) Lopez to come along when one of the all-time greats, José Nápoles, rules the welterweight division. The fiery, part-Ute Indian demonstrated beyond doubt on Thursday night that he is the class of the rest of the 147-pounders. In his smartest and possibly best fight of his career, Lopez pounded out a unanimous, one-sided 10-round decision over highly regarded Oscar Albarado and gave a masterful performance.[9]

Sugar Ray Leonard, who watched Nápoles fight Lopez, shared a similar opinion, "If it wasn't for Nápoles, Ernie probably would have been champion."[7]

Lopez got a rematch against Nápoles, and a second shot at the title, three years later on February 28, 1973—again in front of a sellout crowd at The Forum. The second bout proved to be a turning point in Lopez's life. Lopez had reportedly won the first six rounds, and Nápoles had cuts above and below his eye and on the bridge of his nose.[4] At the start of the seventh round, Nápoles hit Lopez squarely in the face, and Lopez fell to the canvas, where he lay unconscious for three minutes. After the knockout, Nápoles cradled Lopez's head and repeated, "Please wake up. Please wake up."[4]

Wanderer and missing person[edit]

Reports indicate that Lopez's life went into a tailspin after the 1973 loss to Nápoles. He fought two more bouts and lost both in technical knockouts. He was divorced from his wife and took to a life of wandering. His brother, Danny Lopez, said, "It was the losses to Nápoles and the divorce that sent Ernie into a tailspin. He was a hurt man."[3] Lopez's ex-wife also attributed the decline to the loss to Nápoles: "I think he lost confidence, his goal was destroyed. He was depressed and angry. We started having marital problems."[7]

For twelve years from 1992 through 2004, Lopez was out of touch with his family and was considered a missing person.[4] His ex-wife said, "The last time I saw him, he was kind of a street person. That was in 1992. He gave up all of his possessions and then went out in the world like a person wandering. It was really sad because he just gave up."[5]

Rediscovery and Hall of Fame[edit]

In early 2004, Lopez was selected for induction into the California Boxing Hall of Fame.[4] With the impetus of the Hall of Fame induction ceremony, a police officer with the Los Angeles Police Department agreed to assist Lopez's family in trying to locate him.[4] In February 2004, Lopez was discovered living in a homeless shelter in Fort Worth, Texas. When contacted by his ex-wife in 2004, Lopez stated, "I'm not lost. I'm right here."[4] On learning of his selection for the Hall of Fame, Lopez told the Los Angeles Times, "Why are they doing this for me? I wasn't good enough for the Hall of Fame."[4] Shortly thereafter, Lopez was re-united with his four children and 23 grandchildren.

Lopez's story became the subject of multiple newspaper and television stories, with reporters and television camera crews coming to the homeless shelter to interview him.[4][5][7] He told the Los Angeles Times at the time that he did not recall why he moved to Fort Worth, but he recalled "living with a church family in Missouri, shoveling snow for a hotel owner in Portland, Maine, sleeping in New York's Central Park, working construction in Florida and cleaning hotel rooms in Phoenix."[4] He told another reporter, "I've been all over the United States. Might have missed a few states, but it's sure a nice place. But I never stayed too long anywhere."[7]

Death[edit]

On October 3, 2009, Lopez died in Pleasant Grove, Utah from complications of dementia at age 64.[3]

Professional boxing record[edit]

48 Wins (24 knockouts, 24 decisions), 13 Losses (6 knockouts, 7 decisions), 1 Draw [1]
Result Record Opponent Type Round Date Location Notes
Loss 7-2 United States Kenny Louis KO 1 07/07/1987 Tennessee Omni New Daisy Theater, Memphis, Tennessee, United States
Loss 38-3-1 United Kingdom John Stracey TKO 7 29/10/1974 England Royal Albert Hall, Kensington, London, United Kingdom Referee stopped the bout at 2:25 of the seventh round.
Loss 27-4-1 United States Armando Muniz TKO 7 26/07/1973 California Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, United States
Loss 74-5 Cuba Jose Napoles KO 7 28/02/1973 California Inglewood Forum, Inglewood, California, United States WBC/WBA World Welterweight Titles. Lopez knocked out at 1:36 of the seventh round.
Win 15-16 Mexico Jose Luis Baltazar KO 5 10/11/1972 California Los Angeles Sports Arena, Los Angeles, California, United States
Win 59-25-6 United States Manuel "Speedy" Gonzalez RTD 5 12/10/1972 Nevada Sahara Tahoe, Stateline, Nevada, United States
Loss 73-12 United States Virgin Islands Emile Griffith UD 10 30/03/1972 California Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, United States 4-5, 4-5, 2-5.
Win 28-4-1 Mexico Sal Martinez TKO 3 20/01/1972 California Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, United States Referee stopped the bout at 1:28 of the third round.
Win 39-4-1 United States Oscar Albarado UD 10 28/10/1971 California Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, United States 8-3, 8-2, 10-1.
Win 16-2 United States Manuel Fierro UD 10 16/09/1971 California Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, United States 7-2, 7-2, 9-0.
Win 22-21-2 United States "Dangerous" Danny Perez TKO 2 08/07/1971 California Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, United States
Loss 68-11 United States Virgin Islands Emile Griffith MD 10 03/05/1971 Nevada Nevada Sports Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States 45-47, 46-46, 45-47.
Win 40-42-3 Ghana Peter Cobblah MD 10 20/01/1971 Nevada Silver Slipper, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Win 13-9-2 United States Cipriano Hernandez UD 10 10/10/1970 California Valley Music Theater, Woodland Hills, California, United States 9-1, 9-1, 8-0.
Win 20-15-1 Mexico Ruben "Sandwich" Rivera KO 6 03/08/1970 California Sacramento, California, United States
Win 25-17-3 Mexico Manuel Avitia KO 8 08/07/1970 Nevada Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Loss 62-4 United States Jose Napoles TKO 15 14/02/1970 California Inglewood Forum, Inglewood, California, United States WBC/WBA World Welterweight Titles. Referee stopped the bout at 2:38 of the 15th round.
Win 28-1 United States Hedgemon Lewis TKO 10 04/10/1969 California Los Angeles Sports Arena, Los Angeles, California, United States Referee stopped the bout at 2:33 of the tenth round.
Loss 27-1 United States Hedgemon Lewis UD 10 10/07/1969 California Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, United States 4-7, 5-6, 4-5.
Win 72-11-2 Mexico Chucho Garcia UD 10 13/03/1969 California Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, United States 8-2, 8-1, 11-0.
Win 26-20 United States Brad Silas KO 1 18/02/1969 California Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, California, United States Silas knocked out at 2:35 of the first round.
Win 40-12-1 Mexico Raul Soriano TKO 9 30/01/1969 California Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, United States Referee stopped the bout at 2:25 of the ninth round.
Win 7-27-3 Mexico Polo Corona PTS 10 31/07/1968 Nevada Silver Slipper, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Win 22-0 United States Hedgemon Lewis TKO 9 18/07/1968 California Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, United States Referee stopped the bout at 1:48 of the ninth round.
Win 32-10 United States Gabe Terronez UD 12 30/04/1968 California Selland Arena, Fresno, California, United States 7-2, 11-0, 11-0.
Loss 33-12-1 Mexico Raul Soriano UD 10 03/03/1968 Mexico Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico
Win 14-1 United States Bob "Robert" Murray UD 10 08/02/1968 California Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, United States 6-2, 7-1, 8-1.
Win 21-19-1 United States Doug McLeod KO 4 20/11/1967 Nevada Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Win 23-16-2 Mexico Jose Valenzuela TKO 10 12/10/1967 California Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, United States Referee stopped the bout at 2:35 of the tenth round.
Win 29-3-3 Japan Musashi Nakano KO 3 08/08/1967 Japan Nagoya, Aichi, Japan Nakano knocked out at 0:47 of the third round.
Win 5-2 Mexico Andy "Speedy" Gonzalez KO 7 06/07/1967 California Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, United States California Welterweight Title. Gonzalez knocked out at 2:58 of the seventh round.
Win 2-2-1 Guam "Dr." Phil Robinson PTS 10 13/06/1967 Hawaii Honolulu, Hawaii, United States
Win 8-16 United States Ed McGruder PTS 10 22/05/1967 Nevada Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Win 17-17-4 United States Frank "Too Sweet" Jennings TKO 8 20/04/1967 California Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, United States Referee stopped the bout at 2:15 of the eighth round.
Win 37-14-5 United States Johnny "Quest" Brooks PTS 10 27/03/1967 Nevada Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Win 30-24-4 United States Benito "El Presidente" Juarez PTS 10 06/03/1967 Nevada Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Loss 16-5-2 United States Adolph Pruitt UD 10 12/12/1966 Nevada Silver Slipper, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Loss 31-12-5 United States Johnny "Quest" Brooks SD 10 19/09/1966 Nevada Silver Slipper, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Win 31-11-5 United States Johnny "Quest" Brooks PTS 10 22/08/1966 Nevada Silver Slipper, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Win 34-11-5 Panama Tito Marshall UD 10 21/06/1966 Nevada Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States 47-45, 49-43, 47-43.
Win 27-6-2 Cuba Jose Stable UD 10 09/05/1966 Nevada Hacienda Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Win 27-10-4 United States Johnny "Quest" Brooks UD 12 04/04/1966 Nevada Hacienda Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Win 19-7-3 United States Al Grant PTS 10 28/02/1966 Nevada Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Win 2-2-2 United States Mel Fields TKO 3 14/02/1966 Nevada Hacienda Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Win 12-16-1 Mexico Memo Lopez KO 6 31/01/1966 Nevada Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States Lopez knocked out at 2:14 of the sixth round.
Win 26-33-5 United States Al Andrews PTS 10 17/01/1966 Nevada Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Win 25-15-2 Mexico Pulga Serrano TKO 4 20/12/1965 Nevada Hacienda Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States Referee stopped the bout at 1:32 of the fourth round.
Win 8-2-1 United States Armand Laurenco Laurinco KO 1 06/12/1965 Nevada Hacienda Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States Laurinco knocked out at 2:47 of the first round.
Draw 8-2 United States Armand Laurenco Laurinco PTS 6 09/11/1965 Nevada Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Win 13-12-3 United States Billy "Boggy" Marsh PTS 6 01/11/1965 Nevada Hacienda Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Loss 12-1 United States Don Minor UD 12 22/12/1964 Nevada Hacienda Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States North American Welterweight Title.
Win 6-2-1 United States Chappell Funnye KO 8 19/10/1964 California Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica, California, United States
Win 5-0 United States Bernie Magallanes PTS 6 29/09/1964 Nevada Castaways Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Loss 11-3-1 Mexico Jesse Armenta KO 9 04/07/1964 Mexico Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico
Win 3-1 United States Joe "Prime Minister" Clark PTS 6 12/06/1964 Nevada Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Win 22-8-6 Mexico Andres Herrera PTS 6 30/03/1964 California Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica, California, United States
Win 0-2 United States George "Putting" Green KO 5 10/03/1964 Nevada Castaways Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Win -- Trini "La Bamba" Lopez PTS 4 03/03/1964 California Valley Garden Arena, North Hollywood, California, United States
Win 9-4-1 United States Mickey Davitt KO 1 13/02/1964 California Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, United States
Win 3-3-3 United States Carl "The Snarl" Moore KO 3 04/02/1964 Nevada Castaways Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Win -- United States Armand Laurenco Laurinco PTS 6 21/01/1964 Nevada Castaways Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Win -- United States John Coopride KO 2 24/06/1963 Utah Fairgrounds Coliseum, Salt Lake City, Utah, United States Coopride knocked out at 1:04 of the second round.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Indian Red turns up after vanishing act". San Diego Union-Tribune. 2004-03-07. 
  2. ^ a b c Charles Maher (1969-07-04). "Indian Fighter". Los Angeles Times. 
  3. ^ a b c Keith Thursby (2009-10-05). "Ernie 'Indian Red' Lopez dies at 64; welterweight fought before sellout crowds at the Forum". Los Angeles Times. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Diane Pucin (2004-03-04). "Back From the Brink". Los Angeles Times. 
  5. ^ a b c d Robert Morales (2004-03-01). "A WELCOMED RETURN FOR LOPEZ". Daily News (Los Angeles). 
  6. ^ Jim Murray (1968-07-18). "Red Flunks Indian Test". Los Angeles Times. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Pete Alfano (2004-03-06). "Onetime welterweight boxing champion resurfaces in Texas shelter". Knight Ridder Tribune News Service (from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram). 
  8. ^ Frank Finch (1968-07-19). "Lopez Scores KO in Ninth to End Streak by Lewis". Los Angeles Times. 
  9. ^ Dan Hafner (1970-10-29). "Indian Red Easily Whips Albarado". Los Angeles Times.