Mario Lopez on Why ESPN+'s 'The 3 Knockdown Rule' Packs a Punch
If you want to see the face of Mario Lopez light up and reveal those signature dimples, ask him about boxing. The star’s passion for the sport shines through while co-hosting ESPN+’s exclusive series The 3 Knockdown Rule with ESPN journalist Steve Kim. The offshoot of their popular podcast kicked off with Deontay Wilder vs. Tyson Fury II in February.
The latest episode, “The Latino Legacy,” pays tribute to the legends and new blood making waves in the ring. The topic, in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, is near and dear to Lopez’s heart. Spotlighting the likes of Julio Cesar Chávez, Roberto Duran, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Ryan Garcia, the hosts also pay a visit to Oscar De La Hoya at his Golden Boy Promotions office.
Here, Lopez talks about the project, as well as Latinx representation in sports and entertainment. We also get an update on Peacock’s Saved by the Bell and when we can expect A.C. Slater back to school.
When was the moment you fell in love with boxing?
Mario Lopez: I grew up watching with my dad and grandfather. It was a bonding thing between my father and I. It traces back to when I was a kid. Then I got immersed in the sport by training at the Wild Card Boxing Club. I met my friend Steve Kim there. He is the best in the business in my eyes in regards to being knowledgeable about the sport and having a sense of humor. We started doing the podcast for fun. Then it turned into these opportunities where we’re doing these specials, which is very cool. As busy as I am, I look forward to doing them.
What does it mean to have this platform and help bring attention to the history of the Hispanic fighters?
It’s very special. I feel honored to be able to talk about it, especially on a platform like ESPN+. To have De La Hoya on and continue to raise awareness for the sport and the impact Latinos have made. It’s really cool. Ever since he got out of the Olympics in 1992. That’s how long I’ve known him. We’ve remained friends throughout. I’m happy and proud for all his success. He is still very relevant and important in the game.
How would you describe the state of boxing these days. Do you feel the sport has turned a corner after clawing to stay in the conversation amid MMA’s explosion in popularity?
Every year you hear about the death of boxing or that it’s hanging on life support. To me, I think it’s incredibly healthy. This pandemic definitely threw in a monkey wrench in a lot of plans for everyone. [Boxing] was one of the first things to come back. I think it’s one of the only sports where for me it doesn’t hurt the product as much [without a crowd] because it makes things very theatrical and dramatic. It’s the purest form of sport. I think with it’s global impact and all these different platforms. I think it’s in a healthy good place.
The next episode of The 3 Knockdown Rule highlights women in boxing. One could argue they don't get nearly as much attention as their male counterparts. When you look at MMA, you really appreciate what Ronda Rousey did and all the heavy hitters that came since.
It was important to focus on the ladies. They’ve done such a great job over the years, and I think there is some good up-and-coming talent. They are really making an impact on the sport. It has not been as fast as I think a lot of the ladies would like it to be. I think it’s heading in the right direction, and we want to recognize that. We had a great discussion with Laila Ali. She was sort of hinting at a possible comeback and looks back at some of the matches. We go over all the hottest female fighters in the sport.
Then you turn your attention to legendary boxing promoter Bob Arum and trainer of champions Freddie Roach.
We’re heading over to Wild Club Boxing Club on location. Connecting with my old friend Freddie Roach. We’re talking to Bob as well. The guy is 88 years old and sharp as a tack. He is incredibly important to the sport. He does such an awesome job and an inspiration to many.
You’ve been involved in the entertainment industry on both sides of the camera for a long time now. There has been such an outcry with many arguing the Emmys snubbed Latinx actors.What are your thoughts on all this?
I just did a special for Peacock for Hispanic Heritage Month [True Colors] that is going to be coming out next week. I think we’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. I think specifically in television, which is what the Emmys focus on, it’s probably the most impressive era. There is so much quality product. I don’t think it was exclusion on a deliberate basis. There is just a lot of great stuff out there. It just so happened some things didn’t get recognized. There is such an abundance of talented riches out there right now. I know there are a lot of people left out unfortunately.
When it comes to representation, having your hand in projects such as Netflix's Ashley Garcia: Genius in Love, you’ve certainly helped the cause and done your part.
I think the only way we’re going to make strides behind the camera is to tell our stories. Having [Latinx] showrunners is important. Here is the thing. I never want to hit someone over the head with a tortilla as I like to say. You just want to have universal stories. Great story-telling. And if someone just happens to be Latin for example, so be it. I think at the end of the day that is what is going to transcend and make sense for everyone.
Viewers can find you all over TV including Access Hollywood, which reached a milestone 25th season. What do you make of your longevity in the entertainment show hosting realm?
I love my Access Hollywood family. I’m so grateful to be on TV essentially two hours a day with Access Daily and All Access. I still love the world of entertainment. I love meeting these stars. I love TV. I love movies. I’m genuinely very appreciative and excited. It doesn’t get old. I think the people see that genuine excitement and passion I have. They respect that. I also grew up in this business, so they get that too. The people I talk to feel like they are talking to a friend and feel comfortable. As a result, I think they open up more than maybe they intended to.
Do you still have that bucket list interview?
Because I’ve been doing this for 11 years I completed my bucket list with every name I’ve ever wanted. Now there are up-and-coming great talent I may not have had the opportunity to interview. Though for the most part everyone I grew up loving and is a mega star I’ve ended up interviewing. Anyone you grew up loving. The first time I got to interview Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger or Al Pacino or Robert De Niro. Those ones you grew up with as a kid. They are all pretty special.
With all the delays due to COVID, when do you think we’ll be able to see Saved By the Bell?
We just finished shooting the last episode. The goal is for it to come out by the end of this year. Maybe a nice little Christmas present there. We were the first scripted show on the Universal lot that started production. Access Hollywood was the first show on the lot non-scripted. Then I did a Christmas movie. That was really the first real project in the COVID era. I feel like I’m a COVID pioneer in doing all this like I have. We only had three episodes to go before we shut down. We kept things the same. There really are no pandemic references as far as the storylines go.
Thanks to teasers, audiences have gotten a sense of what the show will be. Now that filming has wrapped, how do you think people will respond to the finished product?
We’re blessed with Tracey Wigfield, who I love and is super talented. She is the Emmy Award winner from 30 Rock. I thought she did an awesome job balancing nostalgia and this new generation. It’s definitely edgier and more hip and shot on film and a good production. Hopefully, people will like it. My character does some funny stuff. I think people will dig it.
I gather Saved By the Bell diehards will get some good Easter eggs, too.
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. That’s all I’ll say.
New episodes of The 3 Knockdown Rule drop September 22 and 29 on ESPN+