He’s back! 86Boxing teamed up with Boxing Haven on Tuesday, November 10, 2020, for an exclusive discussion with non-other than the undisputed, and currently unrivaled, Lightweight champion of the world, Teofimo Lopez, 16-0 (12 KOs). Lopez currently holds the World Boxing Association (WBA) Super, International Boxing Federation (IBF}, World Boxing Organization (WBO), and Ring Lightweight Championships. Teofimo Lopez is currently the hottest name in boxing having dethroned Pound for Pound (P4P) Lightweight, Vasiliy Lomachenko of Ukraine. The win sent shockwaves around the boxing world as Lomachenko was regarded as the #1 P4P fighter in the world by many boxing pundits and fighters alike. 86Boxing interviewed Lopez at the beginning of 2019 and everything he envisioned pretty much came to fruition.
They say home is where the heart is. Having spent the first 18 years of my life in Arkansas, it’s definitely a 180 in comparison to Washington, D.C., where I currently reside. For that matter, Arkansas is a complete 360 in comparison to the largest city in the United States, New York, NY. In response to me asking whether he’d moved to Arkansas, “yes, fucking Arkansas,” stated Lopez. A long way from the grit and grime of the city. Of course, there is a logical reason behind this move. ” My wife has family in this area. I needed to getaway. A lot was going on in New York with COVID-19 and all.” This decision can certainly be respected. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that COVID-19 has pretty much changed the entire landscape of America, let alone sports. For Lopez, it was a necessary change for which he has reaped the benefits.
To circle back to the Lomachenko fight, there was a lot of talk as to whether Lopez was ready for this level of fighter given his young age and the fact that he was facing his stiffest test. While Lopez sought a fight with Lomachenko, he had questioned whether Lomachenko would accept and even considered moving up to Junior Welterweight (140lbs) by the end of 2019. A thrilling knockout of then IBF champion, Richard Commey, solidified one of his major goals of capturing a title. A fight with Lomachenko was then scheduled for early 2020, but COVID-19 forced a postponement. Lopez was eventually able to get his shot at Lomachenko and essentially took the first major step in securing his legacy at only 23 years of age. I asked Lomachenko how he felt about his future at 135 and whether a move to 140 was in the near term. Lopez did confirm that he intended to stay at 135 and defend his titles. “I felt a bit light. I like to have a bit more mass and come in a little bigger,” stated Lopez, “but camp went great.”
When Boxing Haven’s Slaven Ajanovic posed the question to Lopez as to whether he would rematch Lomachenko, Lopez made it abundantly clear in his response. “No,” stated Lopez. “There is no reason to fight him again, I beat him already and he should get back to 130. They didn’t have a rematch clause because they didn’t think I would win.” There is certainly some credence to the point Lopez made. Often, at this level, rematch clauses are almost a given. Lomachenko was confident his experience would see him through. Lomachenko has never been in a rematch as a professional and chances are he would have moved on. regardless of how close the fight was with Lopez. In this case, though, the script was flipped.
Slaven also asked Lopez what he thought of Lomachenko’s claims of a shoulder injury hindering his performance on that fateful fight night. “Well, even if it may have happened, he didn’t look like it affected him and I beat him fair and square,” remarked Lopez. “I came into the fight injured as well but you don’t hear me making excuses or complaining.” This was another point for which I agreed with Lopez. Making such claims after the fight doesn’t hold much water. I’m of the mindset that was Lomachenko truly hurt to the degree in which he couldn’t perform, he should have made this aware prior. I also know from having followed the sport, boxers often show up with nicks and injuries on both sides. Training camps can be taxing on the body and there is a mental element to a fighter’s notion of being 100%. I’ll also acknowledge that cases can vary.
Naturally, given the massive win, everyone is looking towards future fights and there has been no shortage of fighters chiming in and calling out Lopez now that he has become the recognized Undisputed champion at Lightweight. Having heard rumblings, I asked Lopez if he was intending to fight three times in 2021. “I don’t think we’re financially at the point where we can fight twice a year,” responded Lopez. “We’ll have to see, but three times a year is doable.” Lopez, like many, was coming off of the longest layoff of his career given the COVID-19 situation. Though, if you followed his social media feeds you witnessed the fact that he remained active in the gym.
Asked by Slaven his thoughts on Ryan Garcia and talk and social media bravado, Lopez responded “He should just stop talking and focus on the Luke Campbell fight.” Fair enough. Garcia is in the midst of what would be his stiffest contest thus far as a fighter and his first true test. In the days following this interview, Garcia’s fight with Campbell was postponed after Campbell tested positive for COVID-19. Then there’s Devin Haney and the notion that he holds the other major belt, the WBC Lightweight title, to which Lopez responded. ”No he doesn’t,” while laughing, “I’m the undisputed champion and his belt is insignificant.” This is about Devin Haney receiving his WBC title in 2019 by the WBC elevating Lomachenko to ‘Franchise’ champion in a move highly questioned by many in the sport. In dethroning Lomachenko, Lopez is widely recognized as the undisputed champion across the sport.
Having started boxing at the age of 6 and having inspiration from the likes of Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali, and Roy Jones, Jr, Lopez now finds himself in the mix to be mentioned amongst those greats. He has a mix of speed, power, ability, and IQ to pose problems for anyone he faces. Looking at the 135-pound division, there is no one that I’d say should be legitimately favored over Lopez moving forward. He is now the top dog but the buck doesn’t stop here. I asked Lopez to fast-forward to the end of 2021 and envision what he wanted the headlines to read in regards to Teofimo Lopez. His answer was simple, “the #1 P4P fighter in the world!”
Contributors: Slaven Ajanovic, Boxing Haven
Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank