Eddie "The Animal" Lopez is Still Around

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Contrary to popular belief, former heavyweight boxing contender Eddie "The Animal" Lopez is not in jail and he is certainly not dead. When he does decide to venture out in public, he can usually be found riding his beach cruiser in Highland Park. To persons not partial to the boxing world, Lopez is best known for his three feature film roles, all released in 1979, in which he played himself. He was a boxer at a kid's camp in "The Main Event" starring Barbra Streisand and Ryan O'Neal. He was also given the role of a corner man in "The Champ" starring Jon Voight and Faye Dunaway. In his third and most famous role that year, Lopez played a boxer in a speaking role he landed in "Rocky II." Lopez says the Rocky II role is his proudest. "They were really good people," he says. "I hung out with Sylvester Stallone off set and I forged a really good friendship with Burgess Meredith back then." 

For boxing patrons, Eddie "The Animal" Lopez is famous for his record of 25 wins (17 by knockout), four losses and two draws. His knockout percentage was 54.84%. During his prime, Lopez was a heavyweight contender, though he never got a title shot. "I was number five in the world but I was always worried about making my next house payment," he says. Lopez beat South African Jimmy Abbott, who was 12-0 at the time, but lost in title elimination fights to top heavyweights Tony Tucker, Gerry Cooney, Big John Tate and Marty Monroe. Of all his fights, Lopez says it is his draw with Leon Spinks that still hurts him to this day. "They gave me an eight-day notice to get ready for that fight, but Leon was in camp for six weeks. I lost 30 pounds in eight days just to get ready." Lopez says they went toe-to-toe, but Spinks evened him in the end due to his own lack of time to prepare for the fight. "Of all my fights I would say Leon was the toughest in terms of being the busiest," he says. "Leon was a small heavyweight just like me. Plus he was from the projects and I was from the projects. It just makes for better fighters."

In 1980, Muhammad Ali had just lost his belt and set out to prove he was "still a force to be reckoned with" by agreeing to two tune-up bouts for a title shot, one of which was supposed to be against Lopez who had just came off his loss to Spinks. Ali said at the time, "This 'Chicano' belongs back on the streets of East L.A. and does not belong in the ring with someone with the class of Muhammad Ali." Lopez countered with, "I can't believe this fat and slow old man wants to get in the ring with me. He couldn't punch two months ago when I sparred with him, so what makes him think that he can punch now?" Lopez agreed to a $150 thousand purse, compared to Ali's $1.25 million payout, but the bout never happened.

Lopez was raised in the Ramona Gardens housing projects of Boyle Heights, where "Big Hazard" ruled the turf. He moved to Highland Park when he was 13 years old. "My first manager was a guy named 'Bobby' who was a lieutenant in the police department," Lopez says. "The boxing people didn't want him around, so he stepped out. I still wish we could have stayed together." Lopez says he had other good managers, like a guy named "Jesus" from his early days as a professional, but things went downhill from there. "My next manager, 'Bazooka,' was a cheapskate," he says. "That guy didn't give me a fight for six months and didn't even kick me down any money to get by with either." Lopez keeps words about his final trainer to a minimum. "Ralph was a bad manager. We had too many conflicts. I give him credit for putting me in the top 10, but he never got me my title fight." Asked for his final manager's last name, Lopez replied, "I don't want to tell you, or else we both might end up dead."  

Lopez says the harmony between manager and fighter is essential to success as a professional fighter, and that the naysayers can be mistaken when it comes to passing judgement on former fighters. "The manager and the fighter is supposed to be a team," he says. "People are real simple minded when it comes to boxing. They don't know the inside game. I would find out later that a fight I got $25 thousand for was actually a $100 thousand fight. How come I never even knew out about the other $75 thousand in the deal?"

Asked for some parting words, Lopez says that people should not be so quick to rush judgement on fighters who turned to drinking or even worse after their career. "If you have a conflict with the person that manages you, it might just lead you to drink or use drugs," he says. "If the guy that's giving you your fights is working against you, all is lost." For those still in doubt, Lopez offers a simple comparison. "If anybody has anything to say, or a negative thought about my career, just look at the success of Chris Arreola," he says. "I never got a title fight, but Chris Arreola got it twice. But go and ask yourself as a boxing fan who deserved it more," he says. "There were a lot of ham-and-eggers out there who went a long way because they had the right fighter/manager combination."

With the interview concluded, LA1 News had to ask the obvious question: Just where did "Animal" get his notorious nickname? "Ricky Tavera (former board member of the International Youth Boxing Club) was watching me fight one day and the boxing writer for the Herald Examiner was sitting right next to him," he says. "Ricky shouted out 'That guy's an animal!' and the writer thought it was actually my name. That same day he wrote a story about me." Lopez says that his own mom stormed into his room the next morning with a copy of the Herald Examiner in her hand. "She hit me on the head with it demanding to know what this 'Animal' name was all about." 

<a href="http://youtube/r5rIm8sVr5s" Play a video file of "The Animal" talking about how he got his name.</a>
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