For two years, IBF lightweight titlist Teofimo Lopez Jr. and his outspoken father, Teofimo Lopez Sr., have been asking for a fight against unified champion Vasiliy Lomachenko. After extensive negotiations and public comments regarding an impasse, a deal was finally reached on Wednesday night and the two will fight on Oct. 17 to unify three of the world’s lightweight belts.
With Lopez Jr. so vocal about wanting this fight, many had pointed the finger at him for the delay in this matchup not taking place. In boxing when you ask for something so loudly, the expectation is you take it under any circumstance.
Social media was filled with criticism and Lopez Jr. was accused of having more bark than bite.
Was the boldest young boxer in the world suddenly balking?
Teofimo Lopez Jr., the ducker.
Lopez addressed the boxing universe in response, posting on Twitter, “The fight is going to happen. Stuff like this sometimes takes a little longer to happen and that’s why it’s called ‘negotiating’ for a reason.”
Lopez was angered by the perception over the past week, but is happy to have that piece of the negotiations behind him.
“People need to stop sticking their nose in things they don’t understand,” the 23-year-old titleholder said to ESPN after finalizing the deal. “I was just more frustrated about the fact that [I knew] the fight was going to get made, it was just — how are we going to get this done? Obviously, there were numbers thrown at me, that I knew that with ESPN and everything, once [those details] came to the table, it was different. That’s all.”
Lopez Jr. (15-0, 12 KOs) defeated Richard Commey by second-round TKO in December to win his title, and immediately after, the conversation turned to a possible unification fight with Lomachenko.
In his heart, Lopez Jr. knew the fight against Lomachenko was destined to be.
“We were going to make the fight happen, of course. It was just a matter of who’s getting what,” said Lopez Jr.
“They’re throwing out bulls— like that Lomachenko put out part of his cut to make the fight happen with me, and give me something like $800K out of his check.
“That’s false, and I hate the fact that people are throwing it out there and making it sound like he dug into his own pocket. C’mon man. … I wouldn’t allow it, I wouldn’t want to accept something like that.”
“This is the fight that’s going to make my son a superhero. He’s going to be like Superman.”
Teofimo Lopez Sr. on his son’s fight with Vasiliy Lomachenko
With no live audiences allowed to attend sporting events — meaning no money from ticket sales — due to social distancing guidelines and regulations in most of the country because of the coronavirus pandemic, a significant revenue stream was shut off for both sides and promoter Top Rank.
Originally, the Lomachenko-Lopez Jr. fight was discussed for late spring at Madison Square Garden in New York. But that was before the pandemic.
“I think that sanity prevailed,” Top Rank CEO and founder Bob Arum told ESPN. “I don’t blame anybody here, if this was ordinary, normal times, the fighters would’ve got what they believed the fight was worth, more money.
“But again, we had to make them understand that I don’t have a live gate, which was at least two, three million dollars. I couldn’t do it on pay-per-view because I don’t have an essential element — the closed-circuit [showings], all the bars and places are closed. Who’s going to buy it?”
With pay-per-view not being an option, the fight is now on a major network on prime time and will play to the largest possible audience.
“I’m excited for the fans, I’m extremely excited and I think it’s going to be one that everybody needs to tune in and watch. I mean, what better way for everyone, it’s going to be on free TV, it’s going to be on ESPN, the best platform in sports,” said Lopez Jr.
Of course, there is still a fight to be won, and it looks to be a monumental task for Lopez Jr., given Lomachenko’s status in the sport. Lomachenko isn’t just considered the best 135-pounder in the game, but the best pound-for-pound prizefighter on the planet.
And it’s not just Lopez Jr. on the spot, but his boisterous father that demanded this fight even when his son was just a highly regarded prospect who fought on Top Rank undercards.
“It’s not going to even last three rounds,” said the elder Lopez after getting the news that the fight was agreed. “When that monster hits him with the first punch, you’re going to see a hurt dog without no legs. He’s done. The first punch is going to change the whole fight. He’s going to wish he was never in that ring.”
“Two years ago, you remember when I started this, you know why? Because that’s what God put in my head. That’s what God put in my head and I know we had to beat him,” said Lopez Sr. “And let me tell you something … there never had been nobody in the world predict a world championship [for Teofimo] in [just] 15 fights, and then fight Lomachenko in our 16th fight.”
For Lopez Sr. this isn’t just a prediction, but a prophecy.
“This kid is from another planet, this kid is not normal. We’re gifted,” he said.
As talks during the negotiation slowed down, Lopez Sr. worried that the fallout from not making the fight would have a long-lasting negative impact on his son’s career.
“I told him, ‘I’ll give you my percentage, bro’, I don’t care about money,” Lopez Sr. recalled. “This is what we did this s— for — for the glory. You can ask for anything you want after this.”
It’s not out of the norm in boxing for a father to think his son has a special talent. Lopez believes young Teofimo is beyond that realm. It’s why he had targeted Lomachenko.
“This is the fight that’s going to make my son a superhero,” said Lopez Sr. “He’s going to be like Superman.”
What Lopez Jr. perceives as slander the past couple of weeks has given him extra motivation.
“We’re going in there to make a statement,” said Lopez Jr. “It’s always been personal. But now I have a chip on my shoulder from more things to make it that much more personal, just that extra.”
So what will happen the night of the fight when he faces one of the most decorated and gifted boxers of this past generation?
“You will see a 23-year-old become an undisputed world champ. Simple as that,” said Lopez Jr.