'El Elegante' bringing savvy back in fight against Gallardo

Patrick Lopez, right, is keen on putting his boxing skills to good use after losing a war of attrition to Fernando Angulo. Scott Foster/Fightwireimages.com

He was born on St. Patrick's Day, but that doesn't explain his name. I doubt that there was much corned beef and cabbage being served up in Patrick Lopez's hometown of El Tinaco, Venezuela.

Still, the pot of gold may be waiting at the end of his boxing-career rainbow. Lopez just needs a fighting chance to reach for it.

"I started boxing when I was 10 years old," Lopez said. "I was playing baseball. … One day, my father came and took me out of the field and said, 'You're the one who's going to be a fighter.'"

So fight he did. He's fought very well, too.

"His nickname is El Elegante," explained his trainer/manager, Julio Pena. "They call him that for the way he fights."

The first time I saw the southpaw lightweight in the ring, he wasn't so much elegant as he was lethal. He floored a 10-win fighter named Christian Lozada two times in the first round (the second knockdown was for the full count).

Elegant? I don't think Lozada was comparing Lopez to a Park Avenue tea party after that outing.

"He is very slick, and he moves very fine. He's got good boxing skills," Pena said in describing his charge.

This week, Lopez will have a chance to shine on "Friday Night Fights." Lopez (12-1, 10 KOs) is taking on sturdy veteran Juaquin Gallardo (18-6-1, 5 KOs).

Lopez was supposed to fight on May 31, but his opponent, Nasser Athumani, never got on a plane to fly to the fight. Maybe Athumani heard about the power instead of the elegance.

Lopez's previous outing on "Friday Night Fights" was a thrilling grudge match against Fernando Angulo of Ecuador.

"Unfortunately, we had a bad night in that fight with Angulo," Pena said. "Patrick got carried away. He knew that if he had boxed the guy, he would have whipped him."

That didn't happen. You see, for a time, Lopez trained in the same gym as Angulo (who trains in Venezuela) and had a falling out with Angulo's cornerman. That bad blood carried over to the fight.

"The other guy was insulting him, talking from the other corner," Pena said. "He would say from the other corner, 'Patrick is getting tired.' So to show the guy that he was not tired, Patrick decided to stay right there and go toe-to-toe. That was not our plan, but sometimes you have to lose in order to learn."

In this fight, Lopez plans to show his full skill set. It is a well-developed arsenal of speed, power and ability, crafted through years in the amateurs.

"I had 280 amateur fights," Lopez said. "I lost 16. I won 16 national titles in Venezuela."

Lopez participated in the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games. He won the gold medal at the 2003 Pan American Games, topping unbeaten pro Lamont Peterson in the quarterfinals.

The loss to Angulo can be easily dismissed. Angulo had been in the ring against very good talent. One fight before, he went the distance with Juan Diaz, and emotion was running high that night against Lopez.

There is no room for error on Friday -- not against a capable underdog like Gallardo. If Lopez wins impressively, he's right back on track. If he loses, elegance will be out of style.

Joe Tessitore is the blow-by-blow announcer for ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights."