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Lopez's punishment doesn't fit crime

Imagine getting a speeding ticket and being thrown in jail for a year. The punishment certainly wouldn't fit the crime. There is a price to pay, of course, but a year in a jail would be a massive overreaction.

The same thing goes for what the Puerto Rico Boxing Commission unjustly did to Juan Manuel Lopez this week when it suspended the former featherweight titleholder for one year, fined him $10,000 and ordered him to perform 100 hours of community service.

For that heavy, heavy punishment you'd think that Lopez must have done something super-serious, like blatantly foul his opponent to the point of injury, physically attack an official or fix a fight. Something bad. Really bad.

What did Lopez do that was so severe? He had the book thrown at him for irresponsible remarks he made about referee Roberto Ramirez Sr. after a 10th-round knockout loss in his rematch with Orlando Salido on March 10.

The absurdly harsh punishment simply doesn't fit the crime.

During an interview with Showtime's Jim Gray, literally minutes after having his brain scrambled by Salido's powerful punches, Lopez said something stupid. He claimed that Ramirez had a gambling problem, clearly suggesting that the reason Ramirez stopped the fight was because he had action on the bout.

Those were brief but terrible words, uttered with zero proof. Yes, Lopez made himself look like an idiot. And, yes, he deserves to be punished in some capacity.

But to take away his livelihood for an entire year is a monstrous miscarriage of justice.

Let's keep a few things in mind, most notably that Lopez was probably concussed during the interview.

I covered a 2001 fight in which heavyweight David Tua obliterated Danell Nicholson in the sixth round. After Nicholson came around, he spoke to the media at ringside and was asked about the knockdowns he had suffered. He had no recollection and became argumentative, denying what had happened when told. The point is, Lopez should be shown mercy because even though what he said was dopey, there is a very reasonable chance that he really didn't know what he was saying.

Furthermore, Lopez has publicly apologized multiple times to Ramirez for what he said. He didn't wait weeks to make amends. He didn't wait to be punished and only then say he was sorry. He did it within a day or two of the fight, realizing that he had made a mistake.

One of Lopez's apologies came at a news conference a few days after the fight: "I want to apologize again, now in public, to Roberto Ramirez for the comments I made after the fight against Salido. I'm embarrassed for all that happened and I want Ramirez to forgive me. I don't remember what I said; I'm ashamed. I saw the fight and, really, I was hurt. Roberto made a good job in stopping the fight. I apologize again to Ramirez and to all the fans in Puerto Rico and around the world."

And Lopez expressed remorse yet again after he was suspended.

"I recognize my comments were so bad," Lopez said this week. "I apologize to the referee, the commission and to the fans. I just want to continue my career and the vindication of my name."

The suspension is freakishly out of whack with the norm of fighter discipline, especially when you consider that Lopez has no particular history of doing or saying anything unsportsmanlike.

There are numerous cases of fighters committing far more egregious acts and being punished, but not nearly as severely as Lopez has been.

Remember Zab Judah's in-ring meltdown after he was knocked out in the second round by Kostya Tszyu in their 2001 undisputed junior welterweight championship fight? Judah lost his cool. He threw a stool at referee Jay Nady and shoved his glove into Nady's neck after the loss. Putting your hands on an official and throwing large objects is serious.

The Nevada commission rightfully fined Judah $75,000 and suspended him for six months. But not a year.

Remember when Antonio Margarito was caught trying to fight Shane Mosley with loaded hand wraps before their 2009 welterweight championship fight? Tampering with gloves or wraps is one of the most heinous crimes a fighter can commit. Yet Margarito, who had his license revoked by the California commission, had to sit out for only 16 months for a crime that is 100 times worse than Lopez's.

And what about the drug cheats? Numerous fighters have been busted for using banned substances, but year-long suspensions are unheard of. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., for example, tested positive for a banned substance after a November 2009 fight with Troy Rowland in Las Vegas. Chavez was suspended for seven months and fined $10,000. Mosley has admitted to using steroids and has never been punished.

Yet Lopez, for saying something moments after being knocked out -- which he quickly apologized for -- has had his career taken away from him for a full year.

And what in the world is up with the Puerto Rico commission ordering community service? Isn't that another massive overreach? Isn't that something a criminal court hands out when somebody commits an actual criminal offense?

It's not like Lopez can just go elsewhere to fight, either. Commissions around the United States will honor the suspension unless Lopez appeals to the Association of Boxing Commissions and wins. Lopez does plan to appeal the ridiculous punishment.

"Definitely, we are going to appeal the Puerto Rico Boxing Commission decision, because it is too much time," said Lopez's co-promoter, Peter Rivera of PR Best Boxing Promotions.

It is indeed too much time. Way too much time.