Friday, September 22, 2023  |



Ring Exclusive: Teofimo Lopez Jr.’s genius plans to be on display against Josh Taylor

November 23, 2021; New York, New York, Teofimo Lopez works out for media at the Church Street Gym during the open training sessions for the November 27, 2021 at Madison Square Garden. (Photo by Ed Mulholland/Matchroom).
Fighters Network

There is an underlying tranquility that takes over “The Takeover,” Teofimo Lopez Jr., when he’s away from boxing. He’s 25 and at times, he’ll admit, still very combustible. That’s mostly for show. It’s mostly for the cameras and the mics, and anything else that someone may jut in his face for a soundbite.

Lopez plays along. He always has. He likes to be underestimated. He likes to play the fool for the media’s amusement, which in many ways amuses him.

There is genius in Teofimo Lopez Jr. that he’s reluctant to openly acknowledge. It’s his hidden secret, a source of his success.

So, go ahead, look by him, which many have, when he faces Ring Magazine and WBO junior welterweight titleholder Josh Taylor this Saturday at the Hulu Theater in Madison Square Garden, broadcast live in a Top Rank event on ESPN (10 pm ET/7 pm PT).

Seventeen months ago, Lopez (18-1, 13 knockouts) almost died in the very ring he’ll be stepping into Saturday night. He knows he was better than George Kambosos when he lost the undisputed lightweight world championship in December 2021. He knows he should not have been in the ring in the first place.

But the ring has been his one sanctuary, the place where he could show who he truly is—the guy whose brain synapses ignite like fireworks, which in many cases puts him four or five moves ahead of what his opponent is going to do next. It’s why he has to constantly move, constantly think, constantly scheme, and constantly work.

His brain will not let him rest.

A smile creases the corners of Lopez’s mouth when this topic is broached. He playfully warns his inquisitor, “Don’t blow away all of my secrets.”

There has definitely been a change since the Kambosos loss. It’s a glaring, easy difference: Making 140 is easier than the painful way he had to cut down to make 135 a few years ago.

“The five pounds has been a change. I feel much better. My body feels happier, and when my body feels happier, my spiritual and mental states are in good condition,” Lopez told The Ring in an exclusive interview this week. “A lot of things right now are things I enjoy. It’s still hard to make 140, but not as excruciating and painful as it was to make 135. I still haven’t watched a replay of the Kambosos fight.

“I still don’t consider that as a loss. It was a learning point. I almost died. People forget that. The prime lesson I learned was the side of business that I wasn’t experienced in in the sport of boxing, and I am the life, and the death of my career. Everything comes down to me and how I evolve.”

Lopez likes to constantly evolve. He writes every day. He knows how powerful his tongue is.

“I get excited about challenges, and I have to admit, I’m a lot calmer,” he said. “I look at my life and I’m having fun. I can’t even (believe I’m) fighting right now. I need someone to pinch me. I think I’m dreaming. That’s how relaxed I am this close to this fight. Taylor knows what he’s about to get into.

“I like tough guys. Taylor is a tough guy. We’ll see how tough he is when he gets into that ring with me. I faced giants before. There’s nothing I have to be too concerned about. I concern myself with me and what I have to do.”

Taylor (19-0, 13 KOs) will be the largest opponent Lopez has faced. He is also exceptionally talented. His resume doesn’t so much cause you to raise an eyebrow—it screams at you, considering Taylor has beaten: Previously undefeated Ryan Martin (TKO 7), followed by previously undefeated Ivan Baranchyk (UD 12), followed by previously undefeated Regis Prograis (MD 12), followed by previously Apinun Khongsong (KO 1), followed by previously undefeated Jose Ramirez (UD 12), followed by previously undefeated Jack Catterall (SD 12).

That’s a combined 133-0 for his last six opponents.

The 32-year-old Scottish southpaw had some trouble in his last outing against Catterall, suffering a cut left eye, down in the eight and deducted a point late in the fight for punching after the bell.

Is Taylor worn out? Has the deadly, silent opponent of age caught up to him?

Lopez will work on revealing that Saturday night.

“This guy is going to bring the best out in me, and I hope I bring out the best in him, so he has no excuses after I beat him,” Lopez said. “My weight is right where it should be. I got into New York late last week after training in Florida. What people will see new in this fight is the 2018 version of ‘The Takeover.’

“In 2018, it is when the takeover started, and people have seen that version before. What is new about that version will be a far more mature, more patient version of the 2018 takeover. He will not bait me into traps. I’m too smart for that.

“I’m still writing. I write every day, or every other day. Maybe when I’m 32 there will be a Teofimo Lopez Jr. book.”

He looks at his relationship with boxing like a marriage. There have been more highs than lows, and the sport can be jealous and demand his time. He’s streamlined his corner. It will be just his father, Teofimo Lopez Sr., talking. Gerardo Gomez will be working as his physical therapist and Richard Hill will be his first-time cutman.

He made a big change in sparring. He’s sparring more and using it more practically. For the first time, he is becoming a reflection during sparring of what he plans on looking like against Taylor.

“The atmosphere has changed, and I felt I was being followed in Las Vegas, and I didn’t need that,” Lopez said. “I feel good, and I feel safe on the East Coast. I was in Fort Lauderdale during Spring Break, and I become far more disciplined (laughs) in and out of the ring than I used to be. This is longest time I’ve abstained in six years (laughs). It’s growth. I’m learning, and growing, and I’m really looking forward to everything coming my way, including beating Taylor.”


Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter who has been working for Ring Magazine/ since October 1997 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.
Follow @JSantoliquito