Teofimo Lopez says drama is over, him and dad are good, they hugged it out
One of the mistakes we make most consistently in assessing matchups is interpreting behavior, examining history, running it through our personal filtration system, and assuming that our POV is standard.
Yes, our POV oftentimes IS standard…but for a Regular Joe. Very often, we forget, or in fact don’t really and truly grasp, how different the people we scrutinize are from us.
By the way, that doesn’t just go for athletes. The same mistake is made by journalists who cover, for example, politicians. A failure of imagination can render many a pre-fight analysis piece off-base, from the starting line.
That is my way of saying that it all might not mean anything…. But I admit, I was floored by the footage collected by ESPN, in part two of the Blood, Sweat and Tears promo series, which showed young Teofimo Lopez (15-0, 12 KOs) getting emotional when asked about his relationship with his dad.
Most readers know that Teofimo the elder is often quite intense, and some know that the boxer has dealt with family drama for awhile. There was drama aplenty on display in the BST video, which has notched 357,000 views in two plus days.
If you missed it, I recommend you watch.
You don’t have to be a boxing fan, simply a human with a heart, to be affected by seeing the 23 year old boxer leak tears as he admits that his dad’s intensity is sometimes over the line.
Now, that interview took place about a month ago. So, I won’t make the mistake of assuming that what we saw in that bit of video, edited down from hours of material, tells a whole story. It may well be that on this day, father and son were butting heads more than a bit, and the son was feeling raw when the camera light went on and the questions started.
But the contrast shown in that mini series is stark. One sees the Lomachenkos, and hears Vasiliy, and you are struck by what different animals they appear to be. To be sure, all four persons radiate intensity. But Papachenko doesn’t do interviews, almost ever, and the son, I will bet, won’t do them at all once he stops fighting. He does share some, understanding that is part of the contractual terms of the handsome purse he will receive. But not much. In “BST2,” Loma says that, “I boring and just about fight and what happens in the ring.” These two seem have a real good handle on the juggling, at being able to be father/son, and trainer/fighter. “He always stay for me, father,” the 32 year old man from Ukraine tells BST. On the day ESPN went to New Jersey and interviewed Teofimo, the juggling seemed to be a heavy challenge.
“The strain of their 15-0 record has taken its toll,” we heard the voice-over talent say.
“I love my father to death, man,” we then hear Lopez say, as we see dad stroking his son’s head, his hair, as the pugilist lays on the outside of the ring canvas.
“He ain’t perfect, but who is? My relationship with my father? Um…” He tries, then, to pivot, to get out of that corner, but he can’t. Moisture forms in his eyes. “It’s not the same…Yeah…not the same. I still love him, but…um…It’s not the same. I think that he got, um, too caught up with this whole boxing world.” There is a cut at that point. “I have an on and off switch for a reason,” he says, while we see the slow slide of a tear roll down his cheek.
“My father, man, I love him to death, don’t get me wrong, but this boxing world, man, you gotta make sacrifices. You gotta make a lot of sacrifices, that’s for sure. I’m hurt. I’m hurt. The relationship that we have, I mean, we make the most out of it. At least I do.”
I admired Teofimo so much when I saw that. His decision to be honest then, oh yes that takes courage. He could have yelled cut, told the shooter to stop rolling, walked away, collected himself. But he told the truth, at that moment, and God bless him for that.
“But I wish that my father could be my father sometimes. Rather than, just always my coach,” Teofimo continues. “What excites me is that when we’re in the gym, and in training, he’s my coach, but at least I still kinda feel it’s still my father, in some sense. And I think as time goes, I’m very excited for this fight, because maybe it might change, but maybe it won’t. I just think that’s just the way our relationship is now. But the thing is, with myself, is that I don’t let boxing get in between my relationships. I don’t always talk about boxing. I’ve learned now, that’s just my coach. It’s still my father, I think I got to a point now, I need what’s best for me, I can’t make him happy no more. I just gotta do something for me for once. My dad, man, I looked up to him. But I think now it’s time that I look up to myself, and I move forward.”
So, so heavy. Sounded very final, sounded like a decision had been made, and you have to wonder how much all that shit might weigh going in to fight night.
And here’s a crucial thing–maybe it won’t at all.
If I think about it and see it too much through my eyes, then I may be making a massive mistake. Because fighters are built different, physically for sure and sometimes, maybe even more so, mentally. Compartmentalizing can be key, and sometimes a pugilist needs that skill more than other times.
I wanted to follow up, and see if I could decipher a bit if there is a weight pressing down on Teofimo, if the family matters are taking up space in his brain that might hinder him against Lomachenko. So, I put in a question to Joe Tessitore, who interviewed the main eventers during the press conference which took place Wednesday at 5 PM Vegas time.
Potent snippets (“I still love him but…) played, and then Tess looked at Teofimo, who, by the way, has said he will graduate from 135 on Saturday.
“Have things smoothed out between you and your dad,” I asked Teofimo, through Tessitore. “I’m wondering if the dynamic could be a distraction leading into this bout.”
Tess wondered if maybe the relationship and its current status and a certain level of emotion could be a positive catalyst. “I love that man over there, I love him, to death, like I said,” the son said, as the dad, socially distanced, masked up, looked and listened.
“And I’m always gonna back him up. We are, like I said, the dynamic duo. I know that they wanna air this out come fight week, but I’m zoning that out. I talked to him already, we hugged it out. We do everything, that’s what a father and son relationship is. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the person who pushed me to keep going. I think he can say the same thing with his father. And I’m very thankful for that. I’m gonna do anything and everything I can. They wanna break me down, and they just can’t, they just can’t.”
Through it all, Loma sat still, he didn’t make a peep.
His hands were clasped in his lap, and he took it in. It didn’t look like his pulse had upticked a single point the whole time. And maybe that means nothing.
I’m going to take Teofimo at his word, keep reminding myself that these guys are not built like me. Lopez has gotten to this place because he’s special.
How special, that will be proven out Saturday night in Las Vegas, and on ESPN.
I’m hoping to see a superb prize fight, physical chess with pockets of contained and structured violence, and ebbing and flowing which leaves the outcome a question mark down the stretch.
And beyond that, I wish for both combatants to leave the ring with faculties intact, and also, after that, for Lopez the father and Lopez the son to figure out who and what they are to each other, in a way that best serves their hearts and their souls.