LAS VEGAS — After 36 minutes of sustained brilliance, Teofimo Lopez spoke the words that all boxing fans should want to hear: The bigger the fight, the better. He wants them.
If that means a bid for a second consecutive undisputed championship, something unheard of in the four-belt era, Lopez would be down for it. A fight against Devin Haney? Tell him where to sign.
It’s Lopez who calls the shots now, though, after a dominant and one-sided victory Saturday over Vasiliy Lomachenko at the MGM Grand Conference Center in their bout for the undisputed lightweight championship.
Lopez won by scores of 119-109, 117-111 and 116-112 to claim the WBC lightweight franchise belt and the IBF, WBA and WBO lightweight belts.
It was a remarkable performance by a remarkable young fighter, who did the boxing world a lot of good on a lot of fronts. The 23-year-old Lopez is an affable, colorful and likable young man outside the ring who has pulverizing punching power and a boxing IQ that is among the best in the game.
Lomachenko is a dour and largely unapproachable fighter who makes little effort to communicate with fans in the U.S., where he’s become a wealthy man. He’s 33 years old, not getting any better and a win by him would have been more of the one- and two-word answers he’s become known for giving.
Lopez and his father/trainer, Teofimo Lopez Sr., have had more than their share of battles, but they’re never shy and they always put on a show.
“He deserves everything he’s getting, because he went through a lot to get here,” the elder Lopez said.
Lopez Jr. first sought the fight with Lomachenko in his second year as a pro, when Lomachenko was already a two-division world champion after a 396-1 amateur career that included two Olympic gold medals.
He was never intimidated and was unwavering in his belief, first echoed loudly and often profanely by his father, that he would beat Lomachenko and become the man in the sport.
On Saturday, he didn’t use the thunder in his hands to secure his wins; he used his mind, his legs and his high boxing IQ. He outboxed the sport’s master boxer, putting round after round in the bank.
He won the first seven rounds on all three judges’ scorecards. Julie Lederman gave him 11 of the 12 rounds and while that seemed a bit wide, it was clear when the final bell ran who had won this bout.
“We talked the talk and we walked the walk,” Lopez said after improving to 16-0 with the biggest victory of his life. “My father doesn’t talk [expletive] just to talk [expletive]. He believes in my abilities and I’m smart when I’m in there. Facing a guy like that and doing what I did, you guys haven’t seen nothing yet.”
The good news is, there is a lot of good things to come. Lopez suggested he’d be more than open to fighting the winner of the Jose Ramirez-Josh Taylor fight which will be early next year for the undisputed super lightweight title.
If he went that route and won, he’d become the first boxer in the four-belt era to win an undisputed title in more than one division. He mockingly referred to Devin Haney, who holds a version of the WBC title, “as a two-time email champion,” but said Haney would be on his hit list if there was support for it.
No matter which fighter he was asked about — Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia were other names that came up — he quickly said yes.
That’s the Lopez difference. That’s the cockiness he brings to the game that benefits the fans. He’s not going to let a fight marinate, as promoter Bob Arum once so infamously said, and he’ll especially not make fans wait six years to see a mega-fight if one bubbles up for him.
He believes he’s the best and knows there’s only one way to prove it.
“This new generation, you have the likes of Shakur Stevenson, you have the likes of Jaron ‘Boots’ Ennis, you have the likes of so many other guys, young fighters, I have a list I grew up with and this is the new generation,” Lopez said. “We’re bringing back what the old school was: Fight the best and push each other.
“I’m not here to pick and choose who I want to fight because I want to defend my title and protect that 0. Everyone wants to be like [Floyd] Mayweather, but if you want to be like Mayweather, you’ve got to be like ‘Pretty Boy’ first. You have to fight those guys where they don’t think you’re going to win. You have to fight those young guys who are undefeated in good fights in order to make those types of millions.”
Lopez went off later on a diatribe, saying he doesn’t get sponsors and doesn’t understand why he doesn’t get respect from boxing writers.
If you can’t respect him now, after he blew Lomachenko out and then said he’d fight anyone, anywhere at any time, then there’s no fighter you can possibly respect.
If you didn’t already have a favorite fighter, Teofimo Lopez Jr. should be your guy.
He is, what boxing should be.
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