Teofimo Lopez shuts down his critics, resets his career with win over Taylor
On Saturday, like the proverbial phoenix rising from the flames, Teofimo Lopez damned his critics by wrestling The Ring and WBO junior welterweight title away from Josh Taylor’s grasp.
Lopez, still only 25, was a 6/5 (+120) underdog entering the fight but after three rounds he began to go through the gears, finding his groove and for large swathes of the middle portion of the fight he dominated Taylor in startling fashion, snapping the defending champion’s head back with pinpoint accuracy. This was particularly true in round nine, when he worked Taylor over and had him hurt.
The tough Scot had his moments. He’s too good not to. But those were fleeting moments, and by the time the championship rounds arrived if felt as though “The Takeover” was in full effect.
Taylor responded well, but Lopez, like he did against then pound-for-pound king Vasily Lomachenko in October, 2020, closed strongly.
At the end, it appeared clear who the victor was. Lopez outlanded Taylor 152-82 and was justly awarded the unanimous decision 117-111, 115-113 (twice). The latter two scorecards were too close for comfort. It was shocking to hear that had Lopez not won the 12th round on two of the judges scorecards, he wouldn’t have won the fight.
Interestingly, Lopez, who moved to 19-1 (13 knockouts) with this win is 19-0 under the Top Rank banner, the lone loss was on a Matchroom show against George Kambosos Jr.
Ultimately, Lopez reminded us just how rare a talent he is.
The Ring crowned him Prospect of The Year in 2018. He followed that by impressively taking out battle-hardened Richard Commey in two-rounds to claim the IBF title and then shocking Lomachenko to become undisputed lightweight champion.
He endured a really difficult 2021 with the oft-postponed Triller fight with Kambosos Jr. in which he lost. The collapse of his marriage and an often-tumultuous relationship with his father added more drama to his life.
The bounce back wasn’t nearly as impressive, beating fringe contender Pedro Campa (TKO 7) and suffering the ignominy of getting off the canvas in a real struggle to controversially edge past Sandor Martin (SD 10) last December. That led to even him asking himself ‘do I still have it?.’
He looked to have seen better days. That’s not to say Taylor, who was coming of 16-month hiatus after getting married and suffering a foot injury, looked less than impressive struggling past Jack Catterall in February 2022.
However, entering the contest Taylor was universally picked by the experts in The Ring’s Fight Picks by a margin of 21-0. The consensus was that while Teofimo was undoubtedly talented, he’s also erratic.
This writer wrote in that article that “in terms of pure talent Teofimo was a 9 or a 7 depending what version showed up, while Taylor was a steadier 8. I believe the less hectic lifestyle would win Taylor the fight.”
Turns out Lopez brought him A game.
It seems that being pressed and challenged with his back against the wall brings out the best in Lopez. The world is once again his oyster.
In the heat of the moment after the win Lopez promptly said he retired, but he’ll be back. Much like Tyson Fury, Lopez needs boxing. It’s his drug of choice, the thrill of it boasts his ego.
Now we need to see if he can kick on or if he’ll suffer a similar drop off like he did against Kambosos.
The options are rich and bountiful:
A fight against undisputed lightweight champion Devin Haney would be hugely appealing.
A possible rematch with Taylor, who said he’d like a second go-around, is also possible. Although one wonders whether Taylor will decide to move up to welterweight. He’s toyed with the idea of a while, and now at 32 it may be time.
Personally, I’d like to see him face Jose Ramirez. I think it would be easy to make as both are promoted by Top Rank. It would be a big event and I think the fight would deliver. If the best version of Lopez turns up, I think Ramirez would be made to order but if he took his eye off the ball Ramirez has the style and work ethic to be a nightmare of Lopez.
There’s also the likes of WBC titlist Regis Prograis, IBF ruler Subriel Matias, uber popular Ryan Garcia, a long simmering grudge match with Arnold Barboza etc.
But, for now, Lopez can bask in ramming this win down the naysayers’ throats – and there were a lot of us. Well done, Teofimo. You once again showed us why they have to fight the fights.
Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected].