Mario Lopez, the actor, has never strayed far from Mario Lopez, the athlete.
Growing up, Lopez was introduced to wrestling, a sport he continued throughout his high school years. Boxing was also a part of his youth, but it quickly took a backseat to his flourishing grappling abilities and budding acting career.
But as a young adult, he circled back to boxing.
“I’ve been involved with boxing for a long time,” Lopez said during an interview with Hayabusa. “I grew up watching [boxing] and training a little bit, but after I got busy with wrestling and acting in high school, I took a step back. But then after high school, in probably my early 20s, I started doing it a lot because I was shooting right by Wild Card Boxing Club, so I started going all the time, fighting in Freddie’s ‘Smokers.’”
That Freddie is world-renowned boxing trainer Freddie Roach at his Wild Card Boxing Club. It was a way for Lopez to get away from stardom and to clear his head. It has since grown into an integral part of his life.
“I needed an outlet,” Lopez said. “I’ve always loved one-on-one sort of contact. I’ve been friends with a lot of fighters (Oscar) De La Hoya is a friend of mine and a business partner now so we've had a lot of fun together. I’ve called a lot of fights and I’m immersed in the sport.”
For me it's a more therapeutic. It’s a big stress relief.
If he’s not hosting or interviewing some of Hollywood’s biggest stars on the TV show Extra, you can find Lopez and co-host Steve Kim on their weekly podcast, The 3 Knockdown Rule. Their show delves into topics in and around the world of boxing.
Combat sports has given Lopez, 45, a number of tools he has used in his everyday life.
“For me it's a more therapeutic. It’s a big stress relief. I always say I work out more for sanity than for vanity. Guys like to play golf and I feel like, ain’t nobody got time for that,” he said laughing. “I don’t have time for that. Five hours? It’s fun once in a while, but I just need a little more of the physical element and I like the competition. It’s one-on-one. I don’t want to have to worry about anyone else for my success. And you can do things one-on-one (in boxing) on your schedule and my schedule is unpredictable and fluid. I've always liked the simple contact. Plus you're learning a self defense, it keeps you in shape.”
In the ring, Lopez considers himself a puncher-boxer. He likes to keep the pressure on sparring partners and not allow them to get comfortable or into a rhythm. Occasionally, he’ll step into the ring with someone a little too eager and overly aggressive.
“Every once in a while that’s a little fun,” he said. “You weather the storm. You gotta come back and you can always learn from everyone, so I look forward to that. But I try to keep to my game plan and approach no matter who it is.”
The father of two has passed on his passion for competition and grappling to his young son, Nico. Since there were no wrestling programs near his Southern California home and his son, at the time, was too young for boxing, Lopez introduced Nico to Jiu Jitsu. That was about two years ago. It has now grown into a father-son activity.
You never stop learning in both jiu jitsu and boxing. They're both sort of the physical version of Chess.
“I started taking him to Jiu Jitsu at like 3-years-old and I'm seeing him roll around and he likes it and I see the other classes and I'm like, it looks kind of fun, so I figured I might as well learn while he’s learning so I can help him,” Lopez told Hayabusa. “We can train together, so because of him I got involved. Now I like it!”
Lopez has earned a blue belt in the gentle art and credits his wrestling background to his growth in the martial art.
So why is all the dodging and absorbing punches in the boxing ring, and mental Chess on the mat worth it?
“What makes it worth it is how I feel afterwards. I feel I accomplished something,” Lopez said. “You get an incredible workout. I’m learning something, a skill. You never stop learning in both Jiu Jitsu and boxing. They're both sort of the physical version of Chess. You continue growing and it makes me feel young. I’m 45 so it makes me feel young. It keeps the young energy and gets all of my aggression out, too.”