Lopez apologizes for remarks about referee

Juan Manuel Lopez is at least trying to remove his foot from his mouth by apologizing for his surprising accusation toward referee Roberto Ramirez Sr.

On Saturday night in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Orlando Salido knocked out Lopez in the 10th round of a sensational fight of the year candidate to retain a featherweight title. Salido also knocked out Lopez in their first fight last April to win the title.

Lopez complained about an early stoppage in the first fight, which was understandable because it was an iffy one –- he was throwing a punch in return after eating one when it was called off in the eighth round. But in Saturday’s rematch, Ramirez saved Lopez from possible serious injury with his humane and perfect stoppage.

Lopez was out on his feet and very shaky after surviving a brutal knockdown in what had been a brutal fight. Ramirez gave Lopez every benefit of the doubt after he beat the count, taking a second or two to assess Lopez’s condition. But Lopez was in zero condition to continue and Ramirez waived off the fight.

Afterward, in his interview with Showtime’s Jim Gray, Lopez, through a translator, made a bizarre accusation toward Ramirez, claiming that somehow the fight had been stopped because Ramirez was a gambler, clearly implying that he had a vested interest in stopping the fight because of a wager.

Lopez’s remarks were scandalous and, at least from reading my Twitter feed and seeing the comments from the Fight Freaks that flooded my post-fight ESPN.com chat, his reputation took a serious, serious hit. All the heart in the world that Lopez showed in the great fight with Salido did not make up for his sourest of grapes, especially since Ramirez is a very experienced referee who has worked many world title fights and has a good reputation.

Lopez, perhaps still concussed when he made the comments in the minutes following the fight, issued a statement Sunday to apologize for his remarks. Here is what Lopez had to say:

“I want to apologize to Roberto for the comments I made after the fight against Salido. Roberto is one of the best referees in the world, he did a great job and I appreciate him for protecting me because I was definitely hurt. Everyone knows how much I trained for this fight and all the sacrifices I made because I wanted to give a great victory to Puerto Rico. Maybe, in my frustration for failing my country, I said things that right now I don’t remember and I want to delete, and again, I want to thank Roberto for his work.

“Also, I want to give the credit to Salido for his victory and thank to him for coming to my country to give me the rematch. There was a great fight as all of the fans could watch and I want to thank all the fans for their support. I want the fans to know that I have some things to (accomplish) in boxing and I’ll be back soon.”