Three decades removed from sellout crowds at the Blaisdell Center for pure kickboxing events headlined by the likes of Dennis Alexio, many in the Hawaii combat sports world believe that Waianae teenager Joven Lopez could be the next big thing.

The 17-year-old rising senior at Waianae High School had recently been selected to represent Team USA at the World Association of Kickboxing Organization’s Youth World Championships this fall in Italy. However, after an incident was reported to the World Association of Kickboxing Organization in August, WAKO suspended Lopez, until further notice, from competing in any WAKO USA events, including the Junior World Championships.

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At 12-0 with three national titles and one international crown, Lopez has victories in multiple weight classes, including his current 140-pound division which included a victory in the Trinity Kings 10 card held in June in Kapolei.

Long term, unlike “Hawaiian Kickboxer” Max Holloway, Lopez has aspirations to stay in the kickboxing world with K1, Glory, and ONE Championship being lucrative landing spots. But of course, first thing’s first: He’s out to capture another world.

“It really means a lot because not too many people my age has the opportunity to do this type of stuff,” Lopez told KHON2 sports director Rob DeMello. “There was a lot of great fighters that came out of Hawaii, so I’m just trying to follow in their footsteps and seeing how good I am right now just motivates me more to become, try to become better at this sport because I want to be something big and show out for Hawaii and put on for Hawaii.”

According to his striking coach, Mike Talalotu of Westside Striking, Lopez is wise beyond his years in the ring.

“His fight IQ, that’s what separates him from everybody else,” Talalotu said. “His fight IQ and his hard work.”

The WAKO Youth World Championships will start on September 30 in Italy.

If you’re interested in learning more about Joven’s journey, details will be posted at the Westside Striking Instagram account.