Teofimo Lopez entered the battle for the WBO super lightweight title on Saturday at The Theater at New York’s Madison Square Garden with a loss and a pair of ho-hum wins over B-level opposition.
In addition, his mental state was at stake after bizarre comments he made about death, both about killing Taylor and possibly injuring himself. His father also harassed him and clearly had a negative influence on him in a haunting interview with ESPN.
When the fight started, Lopez fought like he hadn’t worried and pulled off a dominant unanimous decision victory over Taylor. Lopez just overwhelmed Taylor. Lopez was busier, he was smarter, he landed the better shots and he was in complete control.
It was the kind of performance he put on in Las Vegas in 2020 as he routed Vasiliy Lomachenko to become the undisputed lightweight champion and move up the pound-for-pound list.
Lopez won by scores of 115-113 twice and 117-111 on Saturday, but the outcome was never in doubt after some exciting early rounds. Lopez landed hard shots, hit in combination and ran Taylor into shots.
As his dad said aloud after the weigh-in, he badly out-scored Taylor, who had been the undisputed super-lightweight champion, before giving up three of four belts after a controversial win over Jack Catterall last year.
But Taylor was still clearly the man in the division going into the fight, and was about a 2-1 favorite as all the late bet money poured in on him.
Lopez showed no signs of performing anywhere near this level, but it was just an indication of the sheer amount of talent he possesses. If he had a normal personal life and his father did not constantly bother him, who knows what he would be capable of? After his last fight, a mediocre win over Sandor Martin, he asked if he still had it. On Saturday he showed that he can do it.
“I’m so thankful right now,” said Lopez, who apologized to Taylor for saying he wanted to kill him in the ring. “It’s been a long, long time. We just beat the No. 1 man, [the] No. 1 champion, lineal world champion, Josh Taylor. [He is] the former undisputed world champion, [so I’m the] two-time undisputed world champion, Teofimo Lopez.”
Taylor had no complaints and said he lost to the better man. And that was already clear in the third round.
Lopez lost his belt in the same ring to a very ordinary lightweight, George Kambosos. After the fight, it emerged that Lopez had a medical condition that could have killed him, but he still fought unwisely and lost his belts.
But he made a 140-pound statement with the best performance anyone has ever delivered against the previously undefeated Taylor.
“Josh Taylor, man, he’s a tough guy, man, and I can see why he beat so many fighters,” Lopez said. “But you have to counter the counter puncher, you have to, you have to outsmart the guy and, and get in there, you know, and I, and I did that. I think I’ve done it, I think I’ve done enough, and this is what it’s all about.
“I’ve questioned myself for a good reason. You guys don’t understand. I’ve always been my worst critic, and you’ve glimpsed it.”
He then turned on the megawatt smile that, combined with his punching power, made him an immensely popular fighter, and asked the audience a question.
“I have to ask you one thing, and one thing only: Do I still have it?”
The answer to that was obvious. And if he could ever get some peace in his life, well, it’s not hard to imagine him doing a lot of remarkable things in the only place he finds peace: the ring.