Luis Alberto Lopez had to work hard but he got the job done.
The 126-pound titleholder overcame a spirited effort from challenger Joet Gonzalez to retain his belt by a unanimous decision Friday night in Corpus Christi, Texas.
The official scores were 118-110, 117-111 and 116-112.
“We knew that Joet Gonzalez is a very dangerous fighter,” Lopez said. “He never stops attacking. He can take anything you throw at him. We knew that’s what he came to do and that he came with a lot of hunger to take the title away from me, but I also am very hungry to remain champion.
“… It was a very close fight. We know that Joet Gonzalez was coming forward. He wouldn’t take a step back. I know it was a tough fight, but I know that I won.”
Gonzalez fought with great determination and had many strong rounds but he couldn’t match the firepower of the more powerful Lopez, who was busier and clearly landed more punches.
According to CompuBox, Lopez landed 195 of 881 while Gonzalez connected on 146 of 670.
Neither fighter went down or was seriously hurt.
Lopez (29-2, 16 KOs) was making the second defense of the belt he won by outpointing Josh Warrington last December, making the Mexican a rising star.
Meanwhile, Gonzalez (26-4, 15 KOs) is becoming known as the guy who can’t get over the hump.
The Los Angeles fighter has now failed in three attempts to win a major world title, losing to champions Shakur Stevenson, Emanuel Navarrete and Lopez.
Gonzalez wasn’t pleased with himself afterward.
“I thought the scores should have been a little closer,” he said. “Overall, I am very disappointed in my performance. I felt that I could have done a lot better. By far, this is the worst performance of my title fights, even though I prepared to the fullest. I am truly disappointed in my performance.
“I felt like in the other world title fights I did better. I felt like I got hit less. I did feel like I landed some good shots, but I feel like I’ve could have done a lot better.”
In a preliminary fight, 154-pound contender Xander Zayas (17-0, 11 KOs) stopped Roberto Valenzuela Jr. (21-5, 20 KOs) in the fifth round of a scheduled 10-rounder.