Teofimo Lopez: ‘Tonight’s my first main event…and it won’t be my last’
Masayoshi Nakatani is the only thing that stands between Teofimo Lopez and a world title shot.
With potential showdowns this fall against IBF titleholder Richard Commey and early next year against Vasiliy Lomachenko, it seems Lopez might be overlooking the unbeaten Nakatani.
“You can’t overlook anybody. He’s 18-0, with 12 knockouts for a reason.”
Lopez squares off against Nakatani tonight at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland. The fight, along with the junior welterweight title eliminator between Maxim Dadashev and Subriel Matias, will stream live on ESPN+ (10 p.m. ET/ 7 p.m. PT).
At Thursday’s weigh-in, both Lopez (13-0, 11 knockouts) and Nakatani (18-0, 12 KOs) weighed in at 134.4 pounds. Dadashev (13-0, 11 KOs) weighed in at 139.2 pounds, while Matias (13-0, 13 KOs) weighed 139.8 pounds.
Lopez has seen his popularity grow in the sport over the last several months due to his fan-friendly, aggressive style and post-fight celebrations in the ring. The 21-year-old Lopez did not disappoint in his most recent bout on April 20, when he knocked out Edis Tatli of Finland.
Lopez is the significant favorite when he faces Nakatani, who will be fighting outside Japan for the first time in his career. Nakatani will have a height advantage and has stopped seven of his last eight opponents.
“We trained really hard for this and each fight,” Lopez told RingTV.com in a recent interview. “It doesn’t matter whether the odds are for or against us. He knows how to fight. It’s my next challenge to fighting again. We always prove (naysayers) wrong. We show them how easy it is.”
Top Rank, which promotes Lopez, has done its part in exposing Lopez to boxing and sports fans. A “SportsCenter” feature on Lopez aired Thursday night on ESPN, further promoting tonight’s fight.
Lopez has also recently fought across the country, including three times at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New Orleans and the Dallas area. Tonight will mark the first time Lopez will headline a Top Rank card.
“It’s great,” said Lopez, who is trained by his father Teofimo Sr. and managed by David McWater. “I want to be global. These are the things that we have to do. Fighting in (the Washington) D.C. (area) is another way of (reaching) the fans, whether it be Latinos, Ukrainians, everyone from different worlds. It’ll be my first time fighting at the MGM National Harbor, in the D.C. area. I’m just excited. It’s my first main event. And it won’t be my last.”
Lopez has come under criticism for being too brash and cocky. His post-fight celebrations have also been criticized for being excessive.
Immediately after his knockout victory over former world lightweight title challenger Diego Magdaleno, Lopez made a digging motion as Magdaleno laid on the canvas. Magdaleno’s brother, former WBO junior featherweight titlist Jessie Magdaleno had to be restrained from going after Lopez inside the ring.
Lopez, ranked No. 5 at 135 pounds by RingTV.com, has also made it be known that he considers himself to be the best lightweight in boxing, even though Lomachenko holds The Ring Magazine championship, along with the WBA and WBO titles.
“I am the best lightweight in boxing. ESPN has me (ranked) number eight. I don’t see myself there. I see myself as number one. I’m always going to look at myself as the best. With these fights and opportunities that they give me, we will prove to everyone and we will show them that Teofimo Lopez is not here to talk and get famous.
“I don’t pay attention (to what critics say). That’s an opinion. That’s their opinion. It’s not a known fact. It doesn’t matter to me. Honestly it’s bullshit. It’s a mosquito. I try and swat it away. People favor what they see. The thing is, 13 fights. After Nakatani, 14 fights. After Commey, 15 fights. Win a world title. Going into my 16th fight, fighting Lomachenko for all four belts. That will be his highest payday and biggest fight he will ever have. I’m here to prove to everyone that I’m the best. That’s what it’s all about.”
Francisco A. Salazar has written for RingTV.com since October of 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (California) Star newspaper, BoxingScene.com and FightNights.com. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @FSalazarBoxing.
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