Teofimo Lopez entered Saturday’s WBO lightweight title fight at the Madison Square Garden Theater in New York City with a loss and a pair of ho-hum wins against B-tier opposition.
On top of that, his mental state was in question after bizarre comments he made about the death, both about killing Taylor and potentially hurting himself. His dad also bullied him and clearly impacted him negatively in a haunting interview with ESPN.
Then when the fight started, Lopez fought like he had no worries in the world and earned a dominant unanimous decision victory over Taylor. Lopez simply overwhelmed Taylor. Lopez was busier, he was smarter, he landed the best shots and he was completely in control.
That’s the kind of performance he gave in Las Vegas in 2020 when he routed Vasiliy Lomachenko to become the undisputed lightweight champion and climb high on the pound-for-pound list.
Lopez won by scores of 115-113 twice and 117-111 on Saturday, but the result was never in doubt after a tight first few rounds. Lopez was landing hard punches, hitting in combination and walking Taylor into shots.
As his father said aloud after the weigh-in, he badly outed Taylor, who had been the undisputed light welterweight champion before giving up three of four belts following a controversial win over Jack Catterall the last year.
But Taylor was still clearly the man in the division going into the fight, and was pretty much a 2-1 favorite as all the late betting money poured in on him.
Lopez showed no signs of performing at this level, but that was just an indicator of the huge amount of talent he possesses. If he had a normal personal life and his father didn’t constantly harangue him, who knows what he might be able to do? After his last fight, a mediocre win over Sandor Martin, he asked if he still had it. Saturday, he showed it.
“I’m so grateful 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 coming. We just beat the No. 1 ranked guy, [the] #1 Champion, Lineal World Champion, Josh Taylor. [He is] the former undisputed world champion, [so I’m the] the undisputed double world champion, Teofimo Lopez.
Taylor didn’t complain and said he lost to the best man. And it was clear from the third round.
Lopez lost his belt in the same ring to a very ordinary lightweight, George Kambosos. It came out after the fight that Lopez had a medical condition that could have killed him, but he still fought recklessly and lost his belts.
But he made a statement at 140 pounds with the best performance ever against previously undefeated Taylor.
“Josh Taylor, man, he’s a badass, man, and I get why he’s beaten so many fighters,” Lopez said. “But you gotta counter the counter-puncher, you gotta, you gotta outsmart the man and, and get in there, you know, and me, and I did that. I think I’ve done it, I think I’ve done enough, and that’s what it’s about.
“I questioned myself for a good reason, you don’t understand, I’ve always been my own worst critic, and you get a little taste of that.”
He then flashed the megawatt smile which, combined with his punching power, made him an extremely popular fighter, and posed a question to the crowd.
“I just have to ask you one thing, and one thing only: do I still understand?”
The answer to that was obviously obvious. And if he could ever find peace in his life, well, it’s not hard to imagine him doing a lot of remarkable things in the one place where he finds peace: the ring.