How Much Luster Has Teofimo Lopez Lost?

In a lot of ways, the rise of Lightweight world champion Teofimo Lopez couldn't have been mapped out any better.

In little more than 15 fights -- 16 to be exact -- Lopez moved all the way up the rankings, called his shot and beat one of the most skilled champions the sport has to offer. Truly, there are very few active fighters that can claim they've had much better a start (insert Josh Taylor screaming "hold my beer!").

Still, while valid, the above description of his accomplishments is an over-simplification of his work thus far.

In just twelve professional bouts, Lopez had already emerged as a star in the making, breaking out in a seven round destruction of Diego Magdaleno. At one point, Magdaleno appeared a solid prospect in his own right and many expected Lopez could struggle against the southpaw.

However, not only did he win in impressive style, he both promoted the event and celebrated in style. Immediately after stopping Magdaleno, Lopez celebrated with a bit of dancing and some taunting to boot. While some criticized his brash nature, more and more, fans were beginning to pay attention to the talented Honduran-American.

In many ways, "The Takeover" began right then and there.

Next, after beating a game Masayoshia Nakatani in the summer of 2019, he finished out the year with a title-winning knockout of the usually-durable Richard Commey. Prior to the win, many questioned if the fight was a year or so too early. After all, it was only his 15th pro contest.

He stopped the Ghanian in less than two full rounds.

While impressive up to this point, his next step would be the one to propel him moon in boxing. In the summer of 2020, it was announced Lopez would battle the Ukraine's Lomachenko, with the winner walking away with Teofimo's IBF Lightweight title as well as Vasyl's Ring Magazine, WBA and WBO titles of the same division.

Heading into the affair, Lopez was a +300 underdog. While some might have suspected he'd win the contest, not many were nearly as confident as the man himself. And on the night, he showed exactly why he had been so sure of himself this whole time, winning by comfortable margins on all three official scorecards.

At this point, the big fights and wins in the ring were beginning to catch up with the theatrics surrounding his encounters.

Naturally, a fighter wants to make sure he capitalizes on any sort of newly-acquired success, and Lopez was no different. Reports began to circulate that the unbeaten world champion was looking for a pay increase with promotional company Top Rank. And, quite naturally, Top Rank claimed they were already paying him more than he was guaranteed as a minimum by contract.

Making matters even more tricky was Lopez was hoping to implement this pay increase for a mandatory bout with IBF number one contender George Kambosos, a decent fight, but one perhaps not demanding the sort of financial incentive for which Lopez was searching.

However, that's not what newly-minted promotional outfit Triller believed. In fact, they thought the fight was worth quite the pretty penny.

When Lopez and his personal team were unable to agree upon the terms set forth by the promotional teams typically involved, the mandatory title bout had a purse bid set for February 25th of this year, and the "event" had a unique buzz going for itself. Which is not normal for a purse bid.

Purse bids usually are about as sexy as a one-legged stripper with an eye patch (to each their own), but this one was a bit different. When words got around that Triller, which has brought us such classic events like Jake Paul vs. Ben Askren, were interested in promoting the contest, fans began to wonder if a rogue promoter would swoop in and make a move.

They did -- and a rather bold move, at that.

Top Rank put forth a solid bid of $2.315 million for the event, and Eddie Hearn's Matchroom Promotions came in well over that mark with a total of $3.56 million. However, both would be put to shame by the bid of $6 million put forth by Triller.

With the 65%-35% split in favor of Lopez (meaning, he would net approximately $3,911,700, minus the 20% owed to Top Rank), it appeared Teofimo had made the right move when holding out for the best deal. For hours after the bid was announced, social media and boxing outlets alike were singing the praises of the fighter-turned-genius that had shaken up the game.

However, that's about the last bit of luck or good fortune that has gone the way of Teofimo Lopez in the last 9 to 10 months.

For starters, Lopez tested positive for COVID-19, ultimately disrupting his training camp and forcing a postponement to his Kambosos encounter, scheduled originally for June 25th. Eventually, the fight would be rescheduled, but Triller failed to find a date and venue that would stick. Literally a handful of dates were announced and eventually abandoned by Triller, who were inevitably found in default of its contractual obligation to stage the fight by the IBF.

In plain English, it meant Triller lost its roughly $1.2 million deposit and the second highest bidder (Matchroom) were given the opportunity to stage the contest.

Now, barring some sort of unforeseen bit of silliness getting in the way, Lopez is set to face Kambosos this Saturday at The Theatre in New York's Madison Square Garden, now live on DAZN instead of pay-per-view. It will mark over a year of inactivity for Lopez, who had fought regularly leading up to his title-winning performances.

Still, with all the of the effort and hard work put into the the build up in Lopez' career, one wonders how much luster has come off the gold. To some degree, you'd have to say the amount was considerable. Boxing is a fickle sport where fans care most about what you've done for hem recently, and Lopez has been out of site, out of mind as of late. In fact, when you've heard of him recently, it's been mostly in regards to yet another date announcement.

With time away, so many setbacks, falling ill and failed dates, you can't help but think that Saturday might be more than just a mandatory defense for Teofimo.

While he might not be able to regain all of his momentum with a single victory, Lopez certainly needs to get a win and put this whole mess behind him. And he needs to do so in style.

Lightweight, while a division full of fighters all seemingly incapable of fighting one another, is still loaded with potential threats to the crown of Lopez. If he is to stay at the weight and intends to showcase why he is still the man to beat, Saturday is just the moment to do that.

As mentioned, Lopez was a fighter that was initially noticed for his theatrical moments surrounding his fights. He eventually made it about the results of those fights. Now, he needs a little bit of both.

In this bout with a fighter most expect Lopez should be better than, Teofimo needs to win and look good doing so. He needs to put forth the sort of performance you'd expect of a confident kid that was willing to sit back and demand big bucks for a fight most would have considered a stay-busy encounter. Otherwise, to some degree, all that initial hard work could wither away.

In some ways, this has to be the sort of win that again puts Lopez in a position to make the most out of his next move. If you're Teofimo, you don't want to feel like you're taking a backwards or lateral step heading forward. You want this win to once again make you must-see TV.

Does this mean going out and making yourself vulnerable by fighting recklessly and foolishly? Of course not. Ultimately, winning is all that matters and will fix a lot of your problems. But if Lopez is to really reestablish himself as "The Takeover" of boxing, those big moments and big wins need to show up once again this Saturday.

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed. I appreciate any and all comments. Also, if you're interested, you can check out my predictions for Teofimo Lopez vs. George Kambosos here and Stephen Fulton vs. Brandon Figueroa here.

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