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Josesito Lopez fighting to save Riverside cross

November 29, 2012|By Lance Pugmire
  • Josesito Lopez, left, delivers a punch to Victor Ortiz during the ninth round of a WBC welterweight boxing match in June.
Josesito Lopez, left, delivers a punch to Victor Ortiz during the ninth… (Jae C. Hong / Associated…)

Riverside’s Josesito Lopez landed the richest payday of his career as a replacement foe against the larger and more powerful Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in September.

Lopez lost the fight, but the determination it took to take the bout is at play again in a civic battle.

A Washington, D.C.-based group advocating the separation of church and state has threatened to sue the city of Riverside should it continue to own land on Mt. Rubidoux, where a large cross stands.

An online petition campaign is underway urging the city not to sell the small parcel of land where the cross stands. The matter will be on the City Council agenda in January, according to the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

Lopez is giving voice to the cause.

Since the age of 12, Lopez, now 28, has run the five-mile route from his home to the cross and back.

“If the city sells the property, they could bring down the cross … that cross is a symbol of my hometown, I’ve run up that mountain to that cross since I’ve been a boy, and look at what it’s done for me,” Lopez said.

Lopez (30-5, 18 knockouts) produced one of boxing’s strongest performances of the year by upsetting former world welterweight champion Victor Ortiz in June at Staples Center, breaking Ortiz’s jaw.

It represented a peak for the man who endured the loss of his father, Jose Sr., to a prison term nine years ago on a drug trafficking case.

After running to the cross with his father before the legal trouble, the younger Lopez returned religously.

“It’s a great accomplishment getting up there, beyond the top of the mountain to touch the cross,” Lopez said. “I always made it the goal to touch it. I’ve had some good memories about getting up to that cross.”

Pausing to reflect about his father. Anticipating the coming fight. Praying to achieve where he is now, on the cusp of another big fight early in 2013.

In late December, Jose Sr.’s prison term in Big Springs, Texas, ends, and the younger Lopez on Wednesday shipped his father a package of clothes he can wear leaving the lockup.

“I’m working on plans right now, to go rent a resort in Mexico and spend time with my mom, dad and siblings,” Lopez said.

In the interim, he’ll attend a function giving away presents to children at the Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital on Wednesday. For information, call (800) 825-5437.

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