Nothing “Thrilling”: Teofimo Lopez and COVID

Top Rank Boxing

Miami- Unfortunately the Takeover for unified lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez has gone a different route and it’s not something to brag about. This takeover is about COVID and a vaccine that Lopez failed to take which pushed back his first title defense a second time.

Lopez, who spent a majority of his youth learning the sport growing up in Brooklyn, apologized to fans and promoters of Triller Fight Club after a positive COVID test caused a cancellation of his mandatory title defense against George Kambosos Jr. The fight was supposed to take place Saturday at the LoanDepot Park here in Miami.

Lopez was not feeling well last week at his home in Las Vegas. Tuesday, as final preparations in Miami were in place for another Triller Fight Club Pay Per-View event, COVID developments caught everyone off guard. This was not the takeover that Teofimo Lopez has been known to talk about.

The first date for Lopez’ title defense was scheduled June 5th and pushed back for any number of reasons. Perhaps it was attributed to the Floyd Mayweather Jr.- Logan Paul PPV exhibition that took place the following evening at nearby Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.

So now Lopez-Kambosos Jr. and 11 other fights, along with the entertainment that comes with a Triller promotion, has been rescheduled for August 14 at a venue to be determined. LoanDepot Park is not available because the Miami Marlins are scheduled to play the Chicago Cubs in the evening.

The issue is developments and implications that put a dent on a major fight show that was to conflict with others Saturday night that included TOP Rank/ESPN, Matchroom/DAZN, and PBC/Showtime, that highlighted Jermall Charlo defending the WBC middleweight title vs. Juan Montiel at the Toyota Center in Houston.

The apology came Wednesday morning after the Tuesday afternoon alert about Lopez not being able to compete because of COVID. The questions and answers are difficult to comprehend as promoters, fighters on the undercard, event personnel, and members of the media were on the verge of arriving in Miami.

Said Lopez on his social media accounts: “I am devastated to disappoint so many people. I know the sacrifices we have all made to get here. I believe I am doing the right thing. I don’t want to infect anybody. The most powerful thing I can do is protect those I love and love the sport of boxing and all of the athletes, fans, trainers, promoters. And my sponsors.”

But, Tuesday, many involved in this promotion were in town. As was the situation with others, I received word via a text message as my flight touched down at Miami. The culprit, Teofimo Lopez, wasn’t in Miami and reportedly isolated at his home in Las Vegas.

Lopez was in isolation with many questions to answer that did not come with his statement and his disturbing failure to receive a COVID vaccine. Also and very much in question, if Lopez was detected with COVID last week, what led Triller to officially call off the festivities and four days prior to the fight card?

Yes, Lopez was the headliner. There were also reports that the promotion was not doing well at the box office and digging into a financial hole. In boxing standards that is not good, and keep in mind this was a purse title bid and main event that went to Triller.

Last week, it was announced that Lopez made amends with his promoters at Top Rank and is reported to have a pay-per-view fight set in October and return to the ESPN/Top Rank platforms.

Triller, as I was informed, was anticipating to have Lopez as one of their main attraction fighters on future cards. Along the way, Bob Arum and Top Rank continued to have contracted rights to the lightweight champion.

Under agreement, Top Rank as part of the purse bid was to receive $800,000 or more from the reported $3.3 million and career high purse that Lopez was earning for his first title defense that was announced for another date.

But this gets more interesting, and of course this only happens in boxing. I have been informed that Lopez was in isolation last week at his home in Las Vegas where he was training. That can explain his absence from appearing on the ESPN televised boxing card from Las Vegas on Saturday that highlighted Shakur Stevenson easily winning the WBO interim junior lightweight title.

It was announced, Lopez was retraining to the ESPN/Top Rank platform and with a lightweight title PPV defense in October. However we never heard or saw him. Though, last week and as of Sunday, the champion was posting training videos and preparation for this title defense against Kambosos.

And this sadly shows again how boxing can be mean and brutal to all involved that goes beyond the promoters, fighters, event personnel, and members of the media that were in Miami.

If Lopez stood by his explanation, the vaccine would have protected those he loves and his devotion to the sport. If so, of course, we would not be in this predicament of a championship pay-per-view card of boxing and a major title defense of having to wait for another day.

More so, this has delivered a message that COVID is still here and displays more of a need to get the vaccine. For fighters and all athletes there is a priority and they are not invincible.

Arum said to my colleague Keith Idec of Boxingscene.com “There was no reason why before he (Lopez) went into training that he didn’t get vaccinated. No reason. If he had gotten vaccinated, he wouldn’t have lost his payday. So I feel sorry for him.”

“Now Teofimo, you know, he was off with this Triller thing and so forth,” Arum said. “There was no reason why before he went into training that he didn’t get vaccinated. No reason! if he had gotten vaccinated, he wouldn’t have lost his payday. So, I feel sorry for him, but the fight will happen.”

“But again,” Arum continued, “this is different from when we first went into the bubble last June and we had every other fight with a guy getting COVID because nobody really knew how to handle it. But now, with the vaccination, anybody gets COVID, shame on them. Shame on them, because they hadn’t taken the time or they hadn’t, for some crazy reason, decided not to get vaccinated. That’s nuts!”

Teofimo Lopez was no different from others that are stubborn about being invincible. Unfortunately, his title defense awaits another day and it may not occur with Triller as much as they say it will.

Boxing will go on this weekend and there are plenty of fights to choose from. However, Teofimo Lopez and Triller Fight Club won’t be fighting in Miami. Instead, they will attempt to recover from this loss that will be recorded in the books as a cancellation due to COVID.

Comment: Twitter @Ring786 Facebook.com” Rich Mancuso

About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich has covered countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and BoxingInsider.com, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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