How Teofimo Lopez Jr. got his genius back
His eyes welled up. His lower lip quivered. Teofimo Lopez Sr. was fighting back the emotion. He had a striking admission that he had been withholding for some time. It had been gnawing at the 2020 BWAA Trainer of the Year and he needed to get it out.
On Saturday, June 10, before a sellout crowd at The Theater in Madison Square Garden, Lopez Sr. watched his son, Teofimo Lopez Jr., take The Ring and WBO junior welterweight world title belts away from rugged Scot Josh Taylor with a unanimous-decision victory. The boxing world got a chance to see a version of Lopez Jr., who the Lopez family refers to as “slick boxer Gordo,” for the first time in years.
What Lopez Sr. had to release was, “I’m the one who had been holding my son back, and that had been bothering me,” he admitted. “I took the genius away from my son. I made him a regular boxer. After the (loss to George) Kambosos, and the COVID-19 pandemic, and the problems with the wife, and he was sick before the Kambosos fight, that took away all his ability. I took away his great ability to read an opponent. If you’re in the ring against my son, he can dissect you and read what you’re going to do in seconds. I took that away from him.”
Teo Sr. stressed the jab. He pushed “Gordo,” which means “fat” in Spanish because Lopez Jr. was a pudgy baby, out of him, wanting Lopez Jr. to jab every two seconds. It was a draining element to Lopez Jr.’s game.
“It’s what I was doing wrong,” Lopez Sr. admitted. “When you’re constantly on an opponent like that, it takes away the chance to see what your opponent is doing. When Gordo starts slipping and moving, and rolling backwards, then coming back with the straight right that you don’t see, and that jumping left hook, he’s unbeatable.”
He was making Taylor miss a lot. He looked like a vintage Roy Jones Jr.
“Once he adjusts to his opponent, he’s unbelievable,” the father said. “We knew Taylor would try to muscle him, and we knew he would come strong, and we worked on Gordo’s body. I stressed working on his legs, legs, legs. He was lifting 350 pounds. The way to beat Josh Taylor was to bully the bully. I made the biggest mistake by taking his talent away from him.”
Lopez Jr., 25, was a highly accomplished amateur who had a boxer-puncher style. Lopez Sr. took him away from the boxer side.
“My son didn’t even know what was going on, it’s why he asked himself, ‘Do I still have it?’” Lopez Sr. said. “I remember when Teo was destroying Shawn Porter, (Yordenis) Ugas, all these great, big welterweights in sparring when he was 17. To tell the truth, it’s like God sent me a message. Porter, Ugas, these guys were the best. I realized watching old video of my son that he was not committing. He was pulling back and dogging these guys. That’s when it sunk in that I took away his ability to think in the ring. I know he’s my son, so I’m obviously biased—but he’s highly, highly intelligent in and out of the ring.”
Fans saw that against Taylor. “Slick boxer Gordo” can beat anyone in the world at 140. In the two fights after the Kambosos loss, Lopez Sr. saw that. What further emphasized the point came in the first weeks Lopez Jr. was sparring for Taylor. He didn’t look good at all. It forced the father to unearth old video.
“Once I started watching video again, I saw the older version of him that boxed, and could hit and not be hit,” Lopez Sr. said. “We went back to having fun, to enjoying boxing again and people will continue seeing that version of him that people haven’t seen in a while.”
Lopez Sr. also noted that his son is not retiring. He agrees with everything his son says about the sport and how he’s been treated in the sport.
“My son wants to open a gym and his biggest priority right now is his son,” Lopez Sr. said. “I can understand everything my son is saying about boxing, and I see how he gets treated. I agree with him. But he goes through these times and always says he’s through after he gets treated like s—t. When he was a little kid, he would get pissed off after he got robbed and I had to chase him around.”
Lopez (19-1, 13 knockouts) was brilliant winning a unanimous decision over Taylor that was far closer to Quebec judge Benoit Roussel 117-111 score than the 115-113 scores from England’s Steve Gray and New Jersey’s Joe Pasquale.
Numerous sources close to Gordo stated the next goal is to fight Regis Prograis, hopefully in Madison Square Garden on Dec. 9, Heisman Trophy night.
“My son is going to be even better. I would love to see him as the 2023 Fighter of the Year, after my son beats Taylor and Prograis,” Lopez Sr. said. “After that, we’d like to go for the money and face Tank Davis in 2024. Tank is too small and short for my son. He has to go inside and knock guys out with his uppercuts. My son won’t let him in. He’s going to get battered doing that against Gordo. It won’t work. My son loves boxing. It’s a part of him. He wants to make more history. This is our year. The nightmare is over. We’re going to see the best Teofimo Lopez Jr. for a very long time.”
Teofimo Jr. was cautious about December. He admitted Top Rank had Madison Square Garden rented for a December 9 date featuring him.
“Not me,” he said. “Xander Zayas is going to be the next superstar in boxing. I told (Top Rank) they should reserve the Garden for him. When I get the love I feel I deserve from the fans, because I don’t want it or need it from people in boxing, we’ll see. But I’m retired. I know no one believes me but me.”
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter who has been working for Ring Magazine/RingTV.com since October 1997 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.