Teofimo Lopez set to undergo surgery on right hand Friday, expects to return in 2018
Teofimo Lopez, widely regarded as the best prospect in boxing, boarded a flight leaving his hometown, Las Vegas, around 6:45 p.m. on Thursday headed to Los Angeles.
That’s where he’ll undergo surgery Friday for the first time in his life, just 10 days before he reaches his 21st birthday. Dr. Steve Shin, a renowned hand specialist who serves as the team doctor for the Los Angeles Lakers, will perform the procedure on the lightweight prospect’s fractured right hand.
Lopez will have screws and a titanium plate inserted into his right hand, just below the pinkie finger, to straighten out a bone that was protruding through his hand.
Lopez (10-0, 8 knockouts) suffered the injury during the first round of his sixth-round stoppage victory over William Silva on Saturday in New Orleans.
“I’m nervous,” Lopez acknowledged during a phone interview with The Ring on Thursday. After all, going under the knife and being put under anesthesia, even for a hand procedure, can be a scary prospect. “I’ve never had hand problems at all in 15 years, never broken any type of bone in my body, so this is something new to me and kind of frustrating.”
He’s experienced swelling in his hands before, but eventually, it subsided. Not this time. It was throbbing pain from the opening round on, but Lopez dealt with it and put on another eye-popping performance on ESPN. He was fitted for a cast in New Orleans, and the most frustrating part for Lopez is that his timeline for a title shot will be now be delayed.
The former No. 1 amateur in the U.S. at 132 pounds was slated for another fight in September, but that’s off the table now. However, Lopez said that following rehab, Dr. Shin believes he’ll be able to return to the ring in late-November or December as he resumes his quest to become a champion.
“I just feel like it shows a sign of weakness, now they think my hands will be fragile,” said Lopez, who won’t be able to experience impact on his injured hand until October. “I don’t like showing any type of weakness, even during the fight, even when I was cut. I don’t like to give them that pleasure. It’s frustrating that i have to be on standby.
“I have to basically wait until I heal completely, less time for me toe fight. Instead of fighting twice this year now it’s only one time. Things like that is frustrating.”
The Brooklyn, New York, native is hopeful that his youth will accelerate the recovery process so Top Rank can start lining up tougher fights for him, one by one.
He represented Honduras at the 2016 Olympics, but didn’t medal. Shakur Stevenson won a silver in Brazil, and Michael Conlan earned bronzed four years earlier, and they had far more fanfare surrounding them when they signed with Bob Arum and Top Rank.
But it’s Lopez who is head and shoulders above them right now, and he knows it.
“I wish nothing but the best for those guys, but nobody’s on my level,” Lopez said. “When they mention those guys and put me in there with them, that’s not a category I should be in. Each fight I’m getting better, each fight I’m getting stronger. I’m not a man yet. I’m not even at my peak yet. I’m doing things people haven’t done in a long time. I’m ahead of my time.
“These kids, I’m going to be honest with you, Shakur and everybody, they already hit their peak. The way they’re fighting now, they’re going to fight that way for the rest of their career. I’m still developing, I’m still learning something new. With me you just don’t know.
“Even Devin Haney, I’m not in that category. I’m not in the category with those prospects. I may sound arrogant, but it’s the truth. You guys can put me with a contender, you can put me with a world champion, and I’ll still do the same thing (I’ve been doing) if not better. I believe that.”
Lopez may be braggadocios when it comes to his fistic ability, but he says he’s far from that outside the ring. He considers himself “as humble as it comes” in everyday life, and says he treats everyone the same.
And for now, he doesn’t have to worry about anyone bothering him while he’s out to dinner. But if he reaches the levels he swears he’ll attain, that day will come soon enough when it’s hard to grab a private moment.
And he’s anxious to get there.
“That’s the thing i was mostly frustrated about, now Top Rank will say since you hurt your hand, take it step-by-step and that’s the s— I hate,” he said.
“Me getting injured it makes the timeframe longer (to become champion), and it sucks, it’s very annoying. I see myself becoming world champion at the age of 21. Hopefully Top Rank, my next fight, it makes them be secure about it.
“I’ll make sure I’m special and I’m going to be the best boxer that ever lived, mark my words.”
Mike Coppinger is the Senior Writer for RingTV.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger