Assuming there are no further complications of a positive COVID-19 test, or not making weight, Teofimo Lopez will defend the unified lightweight titles at Madison Square Garden Saturday night against his rival, George Kambosos Jr.
So a year and one month later, after dethroning Vasyl Lomachencko via unanimous decision, at a closed door MGM Grand Arena bubble in Las Vegas, it appears all systems are go.
I have stated previously, because of so many obstacles, this lightweight title defense has become meaningless. Between a lucrative purse bid that went to newcomer Triller and ended with Matchroom Boxing, there have been questions when this fight would occur after five false starts.
Lopez tested positive for COVID-19, and the original June 19 date in Miami was cancelled. It went back-and-forth. Kambosos Jr. and his team not content with logistics of where, when, but came to terms when Matchroom took over the fight after initially coming in second with the purse bid.
The lightweight title, part of a competitive division, became meaningless over the past year despite the outstanding competition that want a shot at the titles. Of course, for Teofimo Lopez, the titles are significant and he intends to continue this takeover.
And to the few and exciting fighters that comprise this lightweight division, including a WBC anointed title in the hands of Devin Haney, the titles and Teofimo Lopez are a target.
That takeover is a confident and successful title defense that could lead to unifyng the junior welterweight titles in the hands of Josh Taylor, a fight that would draw interest. Taylor, though, could have a mega fight in store with WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford, who successfully defended and put Shawn Porter in retirement.
All of the politics is in the hands of promoters, the fighters, and alphabet soup sanctioning organizations. Assume Lopez wins, and Taylor could be on the horizon, though Haney has been on his trail and that could be another mega fight for the sport next year.
Also, Lopez and Kambosos Jr. have no promotional ties with Mathroom and if were not for promoter Eddie Hearn the fight could still be on the table.
Either way, 24-year-old Teofimo Lopez and with Brooklyn roots returns home to the Garden. He says the mission will continue and become the new people’s champion following the footsteps of Muhammad Ali.
Promoter Eddie Hearn and Matchroom, with the DAZN streaming network, saved this fight. Lopez, a Top Rank- ESPN fighter, took the title defense to a purse bid that Trilller won. The cancellations, sustaining a huge financial loss, along with logistics, and Triller said they had enough.
But Lopez (16-0, 12 KO’s) with power was patient and he anxiously stayed in condition as the animosity continued with Kambosos Jr. and it became personal.
“I’m thankful that DAZN has picked up the fight,” Lopez said this week when he arrived in New York. “I’m thankful for Eddie Hearn and everyone that has played a role in this one. I’m in the zone and on DAZN. It’s a blessing to be here but it’s time to start putting people in their place, and time they sit down and be humble.”
Yes, a Thanksgiving holiday weekend of boxing in New York City. Madison Square Garden was more than pleased to host the title fight and undercard. After a long hiatus, boxing has returned to the Garden, though, Lopez will be fighting in the adjacent Hulu Theatre that seats over 5,500 fans.
Regardless of my opinion about meaningless titles at stake, Lopez and Kambosos Jr. are no strangers to drama. Throughout this contentious back-and-forth drama, Lopez and Kambosos Jr. have thrown more than one insult at each other.
Both fight camps were separated after insults and words were said about families at the Tuesday media workout sessions and Lopez’ father has become very vocal about this takeover.
“The amount of disrespect from him, you disrespect my mother? I told them, I warned him., his manager, don’t talk about my family,” Lopez said. “Once you cross that line, that barrier, [expletive] his manager Peter Khan and [expletive] George Kambosos Jr.”
Then again, during this takeover, Lopez has become accustomed to using foul language. There are those who question the foul mouth and claim his ego has gone too far. Regardless, it’s a personality that comes with a prestige of holding the titles.
And I will never doubt or question the skills and mindset of Teofimo Lopez. He worked hard to become a young and new superstar in the sport. He was the underdog against Lomachencko and took care of business.
Undefeated in 19 fights, IBF mandatory challenger, the Austrailian, Kambosos Jr., has stated the jet lag, all the back-and-forth, has never been an effect on his conditioning and preparation. He has good speed, power, and knows how to use the ring.
More so, Kambosos Jr. is not intimidated about the fight in Lopez’ backyard. He loves New York and is taking in the moment. He came dressed for business at the final presser Wednesday afternoon and of course there were fireworks at the podium.
“I’ve always been ready since June, he is not,” Kambosos Jr. said about Lopez. “My speed and the way I move and explosive power and shots that I land and throw the punches in bunches and the combination punches that I have in my artillery, and my stamina and my fitness is just too much for the kid.”
“Before he got COVID on June 19, he said he was going to knock me out within three, so what’s changed?”
Kambosos Jr, said Lopez has been saying he will knock him out in the first round. What changed, though, they will finally meet and that’s the important thing.
Rich Mancuso: Twitter @Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso