There was plenty of beefing going on between Teofimo Lopez and George Kambosos Jr at the Tuesday media workout to hype Saturday night’s Matchroom main event on DAZN. So what was that all about?
You may have seen some video snippets going round. In one version from Boxing Social, you hear and see Teofimo’s dad “Junior” explain that someone on Team Kambosos put their hands on him, and that set him off some.
“We’re gonna fuck up your son, you stupid motherfucker,” the father of the 16-0 champ shouted.
An off-screen voice promises “I’m gonna fuck you up good” — it may have been George Sr — and then the camera catches George’s dad pointing and threatening. I couldn’t make out what he said, there’s music playing in the background and his Australian accent made it harder for me. A beefy member of the entourage points and yells, “Fuck you,” at Junior, while 25 feet away and with 15 people in between the two parties.
Junior isn’t backing down, countering that George has an MMA guy for a coach.
“Shaddup,” a Kambosos backer yells, and Junior stalks and simmers. “Fuck this motherfucker,” he growls. “First round, motherfucker, what you gonna do when my son puts you down?” Junior tells a handler that he’s only pissed because someone put hands on him.
Back in the day, the elder Lopez didn’t shy from confrontation and sometimes sought it out. Born in 1968, he came of of age in a New York City which “featured” much more grit than seen now.
Junior Lopez is a capital C “Character,” and not universally adored by the masses. He can be combustible, it’s fair to say, though he’s done well to moderate some of those rough edges in the last couple years. The hotel back-and-forth with Vasiliy Lomachencko he once described made the fighter’s dad a focal point when word spread.
During a half-hour chat last night, there are a few times Junior shares a point of view, or a critique about another fighter, and he asks me to please not mention that. He’s better in handling the political side of the sport now, isn’t as likely to have his temper spill over and say some things he might regret tomorrow, or 30 seconds after saying them.
Here’s how chronicler Mark Kriegel put it in a 2019 ESPN piece which laid out for those interested the back story which makes me understand Junior Lopez quite a bit better than if I just took in his antics a couple times a year with no context aids.
“If (Junior’s parents’) intention was to make him a good kid, they failed miserably. By the time (he) was 10, he was robbing houses and selling nickel bags of oregano he passed off as weed. With his father’s physicality and his mother’s temperament, he was already a feared streetfighter.”
In the 70s and the 80s, you may have heard the older folks tell you, shit still got sorted the old fashioned way, through impromptu battles, or even planned rumbles, like what you read in “The Outsiders.”
Junior’s dad died when the kid was 14, and his mom deteriorated after that, passing away when he was 17. So he’d funnel his sadness and fear and anger at the brutal indifference of heaven into a place he felt comfortable — a zone of fighting.
Understandably, some would argue, Junior drifted, and even after little Teofimo came out in 1987, he chose the easy wrong over the hard right too much.
“(Junior) was a drug dealer, his territory along Fourth Avenue, from Sunset Park to Bay Ridge,” Kriegel shared.
When the younger Teofimo was five, his family moved to Florida, and pop still operated in shadowy endeavors. “But him and my mother always did what they had to for the family,” the boxer told the ESPN journalist.
The mother, Jenny, is still in the picture today, which is no small feat. Jenny and Junior have negotiated life’s bumps, been bruised by it, but stay a union.
On Tuesday, Junior’s changed persona was tested.
“Kambosos Sr got physical with me, I was about to swing but they grabbed my ass,” he explained. “That’s better because it could have become a legal situation.”
And why was he feeling hyped like that? “We’re just bringing it back without even really trying, what boxing used to be — the tension, the hate , the quarrels, the real shit. It just happened without me thinking about it.”
I appreciated that, because I don’t think the sport is served when so many fighters are businessmen first, boxers second. This boxing is called a “sport,” but frankly that’s not a proper designation, because the stakes are as high as could be. Every year, a few athletes lose their lives from head trauma absorbed during a prize fight. Think of it that way, and Junior’s intensity becomes more understandable.
“But I’m thanking God this thing happened, because it went viral,” he said. “But that’s sell-out stuff, I’m not really thinking about that, I’m talking real shit.”
He sure was when he looked at Kambosos in the ring at the gym.
“The motherfucker can’t even jump rope. Can’t even jump rope, that piece of shit,” he continued as he advanced toward the ring, and security perked up. It was suggested that Junior remove himself; as he walked to the exit, a burly security man between him and the Kambosos crew, Junior invited the elder Kambosos to join him outside — not to share a smoke, to trade hands.
“Come outside, motherfucker,” Lopez said, as he went out onto the sidewalk, where his blood went from boil to regular simmer.
Hours later, he had a solid handle on what happened and why, and gave me a prediction for Saturday’s fight.
“First round KO. But it definitely won’t go past three! Kambosos is scared, he won’t have his legs in the first round,” Junior said. “Just tell everybody they can’t miss this fight, it’s about sold out. But,” he said with a chuckle, “I made it hotter.”