Teofimo Lopez is confident and no fluke as the unified lightweight champion. Months after his stunning win over Vasyl Lamachencko, the titles are not unified because Devon Haney holds the WBC designated belt.
But we will leave that WBC technicality for another day, regardless the unified champion is Teofimo Lopez as was advertised. His takeover has another plan to take all the belts at 140 and make history.
No fighter in the illustrious history of the sport has unified titles in two weight classes with exception of Claressa Shields in the female ranks.
Lopez, with Honduran roots, learned boxing growing up in Brooklyn. Lopez is in command, and has superstar status written all over him. After bypassing his promoters at Top Rank, and with the first title defense going to a purse bid, Teofimo Lopez is playing the role of a superstar.
He has boxing in his hands. In the ring those hands are quick. His father leads him and is also in the corner. There is charisma that includes a victorious somersault in the ring. He has become a talker.
When they talk bad about Teofimo Lopez, he says “I have the belts.” At times, that talk has caused the boxing world to await his next challenge and some will say, perhaps, Lopez talks too much. The talkers don’t appreciate his style and claim the ego is too much.
But he plays the role of a champion and does it well. Boxing needs this charisma and fans gravitate to his style.
There is no denying the hard work and determination got him a reported purse of $3 million for his first title defense against George Kambosos Jr., the mandatory challenger scheduled for June 5, at a venue to be determined, It will be a significant platform as headliner for The Triller Fight Club.
Lopez’ defense follows another legends fight that sees the return of 58-year old former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield taking on Kevin McBride. You can say this is another “Triller” because of the purse bid but where does Lopez stand with Top Rank, that holds his promotional contract the next three years?
“At the moment we’re not focused on that right now,” Lopez said about his contract situation.
Lopez is in an adversarial state of mind. Defending his title and moving to the next one is what he had in mind when almost coming to blows with Kambosos on a podium during a Zoom press conference Friday afternoon in Atlanta.
He challenged his opponent and said the fight will end within three rounds. The IBF belt was conspicuous by its absence, and Kambosos, 19-0 from Australia, made notice to that. Didn’t matter to Lopez who had the other belts with him.
He said to Kambosos, “Closest you are coming to these.”
“This is someone who is in front of me,” Lopez said. “He is in my way. I gotta move him to the side. Everybody wants to see who I fight next. We have a hell of a platform (Triller). It’s a whole new era for the modern day of boxing. It’s great for boxing, for all of us.”
Triller is the new kid on the block that combines a night of boxing and entertainment with major stars from the rap industry. The renowned “Snoop Dog” is co-owner of the promotion and the platform is enabling fighters to earn a lucrative purse on pay-per-view.
In late November, Triller, on their initial show, saw 1.3 million viewers purchase the PPV to see Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. come out of retirement. The bout resulted in an eight-round draw that was recorded as an exhibition.
But Teofimo Lopez fights on the record. He is as real as it gets, and those in boxing see him as the top lightweight in a division that has more than one superstar.
“I’m not in my prime yet, but I got to make a statement,” Lopez said. “I’ve been in the big leagues. Been in there with guys that have experience. Me and my father. dynamic duo, we only bring others. End of the day I’m only getting better.”
Lopez said the Lomachenko fight made him better and that Kambosos will not know what hit him. He made reference to those hands that hit hard, but the questions will persist. Is this a one fight deal with Triller? Will Teofimo Lopez remain in control of the lightweight division?
“When you win everyone loves you,” Lopez said. And that’s what matters with this new platform for Teofimo Lopez.
A TRILLER FOR YOUNAN: Junior Younan sat out last year due to managerial and promotion issues. The Brooklyn super middleweight got the call from Triller and had a successful return to the ring Saturday night on their second pay-per-view card from the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Atlanta.
Younan (16-0-1, 10 KOs) won an eight-round unanimous decision over Jeyson Minda (14-5-1, 8 K0s) despite having one point deducted and two from Minda. Younan said he hurt his right hand in the fourth round.
“It was an opportunity to get back in there,” Younan said. “Meant a lot to be in there after so long. The right is my bread and butter punch.”
It wasn’t a pretty fight. Yonan, more suited at 160, came in at 174 which was contracted. He intends to return in a few months at 160 and perhaps on the undercard of the Teofimo Lopez main event.
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