FEBRUARY 12, 1979
He is at an age when some of his boxing contemporaries are still in the ring. flailing wildly in search of one last mega-payday. But excluding a lapse of reason in 1992 that was truly momentary—he lasted barely one round in an ill-conceived comeback light against Jorge Rodriguez—Danny (Little Red) Lopez, 44, hasn't heard the siren song luring him out of retirement since he hung up the gloves in '80. Why not? "Oh, I've always had other things going on, spending time with my sons, playing golf. My wife, Bonnie, and I have been in our house in Chino Hills [Calif.] for about two years, and I still haven't gotten around to fixing up the backyard," says Lopez. "We had some guys put in a patio, but I still have to lay down topsoil, plant grass and all that other stuff."
The former WBC featherweight champ always seemed cut from a different cloth than his colleagues. Part Mexican, part Irish and part Native American, Lopez spent his teenage years on an Ute Indian reservation in Utah before becoming a skilled and popular fighter, able to deliver—and absorb—crushing punishment. He knocked out 39 of his 48 career opponents and successfully defended his belt eight times between 1977 and '80 before losing to Salvador Sanchez and then retiring six months later, feeling he had accomplished as much as he could. "Indian Red? He was very talented, very strong and very brave," says renowned fight doctor Ferdie Pacheco. "You couldn't go to one of his fights without seeing a great fight."
Upon retirement Lopez, who earned nearly $1.5 million during his career, eschewed the fast life of a champ, preferring instead to escape to the mountains for a day of skiing or camping with Bonnie and their three sons, now ages 19, 23 and 25. Today he continues to earn a living with his hands. A construction worker, he wields a sledgehammer, lays pipe and digs trenches in the Los Angeles area. "I'm still definitely a boxing fan, especially of Oscar De La Hoya, but I've moved on," says Lopez, who says he weighs 20 pounds more than his fighting weight of 126. "Sometimes I get a little upset that I missed the boat fighting for big money," he adds, "but I have a lot to be thankful for," especially when he compares his fate with those of Sanchez, who died in an auto accident, and nemesis Bobby Chacon, who suffers from dementia pugilistica and spends his days collecting recyclable cans. By having emerged unscathed from boxing, Little Red still stands apart from the crowd.