The child of divorced parents, Kenny Lopez Jr. always longed to have a more meaningful relationship with his father.
Boxing has brought the 2013 Central Valley High School grad and Kenny Sr. closer together.
“My relationship with my dad is 100 percent better now. If I don’t see him five days out of the week, I’m talking with him on the phone every day.”Kenny Lopez Jr.
“My relationship with my dad is 100 percent better now,” Kenny Jr. said. “If I don’t see him five days out of the week, I’m talking with him on the phone every day.”
Lopez, 24, plans to follow in his father’s footsteps in the near future by joining the professional ranks.
Kenny Sr. posted a career record of 24 wins, 19 losses and one draw with eight knockouts while fighting out of San Jose and Stockton.
His career spanned 22 years.
“He had a good run,” Kenny Jr. said. “He was 13-1 at one point. He was fighting on ESPN.”
Kenny Sr. hung ups his gloves after winning by unanimous decision against James Brock in May of 2005 at the Civic Auditorium in Stockton.
“My dad’s last fight was at 42 years old,” Kenny Jr. said. “I remember walking out with him. I was super young. He grabbed the microphone and retired after he won.”
Kenny Jr. didn’t plan on becoming a boxer.
He took up the sport as a hobby.
“After high school, I got into it to stay fit and out of trouble,” he said. “My dad was helping out at the gym. I started sparring. Next thing you know, I started fighting. I have surprised myself. I never thought I’d still be boxing right now.”
Kenny Jr. currently has an amateur record of 7-4.
“I love everything about it (fighting),” said Lopez, who played football and baseball in high school. “Boxing, you’re on your own. You don’t want to get beat. That’s why you work hard. You always have nerves. Fear sets in and you have to deal with it. It’s like a big exam coming up. If you win, it’s the most rewarding experience.”
Lopez placed first in the 178-pound light heavyweight division at the Golden Gloves Central California Regional Novice Tournament on Feb. 23 in Salinas.
“I trained super hard for it,” said Kenny Jr., who won by unanimous decision.
Lopez was supposed to fight for the title at the April 26 Golden Gloves State Championships but didn’t make the trip to Pasadena.
He took second by default.
“A week before, I injured my left hand in training,” he said. “My hand got super swollen. I was advised not to fight. I wanted to. But it wasn’t worth it. I could have messed up my whole career.”
Lopez had a forgettable debut at the amateur level in 2016.
He’s grown a lot since losing by second-round stoppage at the Maddux Youth Center in Modesto.
“I got beat really bad,” he said. “It made me want to work harder. I changed my lifestyle and sacrificed a bunch of stuff. I eat healthier now. My diet before was McDonalds and taco truck. Now, it’s chicken and veggies. I also cut out drinking and partying every weekend.”
Lopez currently splits time training at two different locations.
He works on his craft under his father’s guidance at Charlie Ray’s Boxing Gym in Ceres on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
“My dad is like my Mr. Miyagi,” Kenny Jr. stated. “He’s old school with his training methods. I listen to everything he says.”
Lopez spars with local pros and does strength and conditioning drills at the Oakdale Boxing Development Center in Oakdale on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
He also runs three miles a day, five days a week.
“I’m a gym rat,” Kenny Jr. said. “If I don’t stay busy, I’ll go crazy. I got my dad and coaches Leo Pagcaliuagan and Gabe Flores right next to me pushing me.“
Lopez outlined his plans for the future.
“I’m trying to get as many amateur fights right now,” he said. “I need to get more comfortable in the ring before I turn pro.”
“I’m a boxer,” Kenny Jr. added while describing his style of fighting. “I’m always thinking in the ring. I try to control the pace.”
Kenny Jr. wants to make a name for himself in the super middleweight division.
“My goal is to become a world champion,” he said. “It’s 100 percent possible. I got God and my family on my side. That gives me confidence.”
United by a common interest, Lopez has enjoyed reconnecting with his father.
“I have a real relationship with my dad now because of boxing,” Kenny Jr. said. “He’s taught me everything. He always reminds me how the sport is and to respect it.”