Teofimo Lopez lost to George Kambosos Jr on Saturday. He wasn’t knocked out on a fluky shot, and he wasn’t beaten by controversial decision by a referee or the judges. He was beaten because he was the second-best fighter in the ring for the clear majority of 12 rounds.
Teofimo was out-boxed and out-fought by Kambosos, who lived up to every word that pretty much nobody, myself included, believed he could live up to before the fight. I think most of us believed that Kambosos believed it, but listen, I’d seen him fight Mickey Bey and Lee Selby, and I just didn’t see how Kambosos could deal with Teofimo Lopez. I thought he was the level of fighter — by which I mean pretty good, but not that good — that Lopez had already feasted on, before he beat Richard Commey and Vasiliy Lomachenko and became a true boxing star.
Kambosos (20-0, 10 KO) beat Lopez (16-1, 12 KO) because he was better than him on the night. Maybe, in needing to hang on to something you simply want to believe, you will tell yourself that Lopez would beat him nine times out of 10 or whatever, that Lopez is still better, actually, because you’d already thought that before. In other sports where we saw great upsets that everyone should deeply respect on Saturday, brain gymnastics like this lead to professional devastation that Cincinnati has a better playoff case than Ohio State.
Kambosos won, deserved to win, and did so becauase he was better in the ring when it mattered. You play the games. You fight the fights. Sometimes, what you expect to happen doesn’t, and you were wrong about one or several things.
Repeat that if necessary. Teofimo Lopez might want to do so, too.
The 24-year-old Lopez did not come off well after the loss to Kambosos, interrupting the winner’s celebration and post-fight interview with DAZN’s Chris Mannix to say that “everybody knew” he won the fight — they didn’t know that, because he didn’t — and craft the absolutely bizarre theory that the forces of boxing’s political side or whatever conspired against him, which is generally not the case when someone is at least a -1000 favorite, the clearly promoted A-side of the fight, and one of the top stars in the sport.
There will be excuses made by Lopez and by supporters. They may point to a layoff of 13 months, which would hold more water if Kambosos didn’t have the exact same layoff, last fighting only two weeks after Lopez last fought. There may be further talk of him being drained making 135 lbs; hey, I believe him, Teofimo was saying back in 2019, over a year before he fought Lomachenko, that he didn’t think he’d make 135 comfortably much longer. But the idea that “they” were “draining him,” as he put it during his post-fight ramble, is nonsense. Who are “they”? Who was making him fight at 135 against his will?
Lopez has to take a hard look in the mirror, and also in the corner. Was he the best he could have been on Saturday? The answer there is a flat no, but why? Is it just the weight? If so, then move up. Is it something outside the ring? If so, that has to be dealt with before coming back.
Does he need a new head trainer? Most armchair coaches and fans are going to say he does. Sometimes fighters — even top fighters — need a change in the corner, just for a fresh set of eyes and ears, a new take on what they could add or tweak or overhaul. And if we’re being honest, Teofimo Sr presented very little by way of what anyone would consider good advice in the corner on Saturday.
Maybe Teofimo got ahead of himself, and Kambosos was dead right that Lopez had let his success and the win over Lomachenko go to his head, taking the “hunger” from him, taking the passion and fire that helped him upset the odds against Loma in the first place.
One thing’s for sure: Teofimo was really not focused going into the fight on Saturday. He might have felt like he was, but his emotions got the better of him and he never really recovered from an absurdly reckless first round where his over-aggression got him dropped; that first round attack was called “amateurish” by Jessica McCaskill giving analysis on DAZN, and she was right. Kambosos beat Lopez mentally before he beat him in the ring. He got under his skin and into his head, and it showed badly.
You could see at points in that fight — early, in the middle rounds, and late — that he was somewhat shell-shocked by what was going down. Not only did Kambosos not fold under high pressure early, the Aussie stayed calm, fought smart, and also ate the shots that did land. When Lopez dropped Kambosos in the 10th, George recovered smartly — he survived the rest of that round, didn’t give Lopez the chance to finish, and then came back strong himself in the 11th and 12th, when Lopez had very little left to give in the fight.
With all of that said — and I know it’s a lot to lead with, but there’s a lot to say here — I do think it’s important to give Teofimo Lopez some time. He just took a shock loss. He was stunned during the fight and no doubt after. The first loss of his pro career did not come to a man regarded as maybe the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport at the time, which Lomachenko was a year ago, but to a guy nobody thought could beat him. A his father insisted would be a “one-day wonder,” someone whose name would be forgotten after this fight.
It’s a massive hit to the ego, and it’s a tough pill to swallow. Lopez is young, he’s a passionate guy, he’s a competitor, and he expected to win. In the moment, he may have even felt he did. When he watches it back with a bit clearer a head, he may see what went wrong; deep down, he probably already knows many of the things that went wrong.
Lopez shouldn’t have his entire career or reputation buried and called fraudulent because he didn’t have the most “professional” reaction to what is unquestionably a devastating defeat. If he comes back in a week or a month or three months or whatever and is still talking about being robbed by the judges or whatever, worry then.
For now, give Teofimo a chance to shake it off and reckon with what happened. This is still a very talented young fighter, and he absolutely can still be a star fighter with what should be a long career with many more big fights to come.
Upsets happen. Top fighters lose shockers every now and again. How they deal with it and how they come back from it is what truly tells their story when all is said and done down the line.
I don’t think boxing necessarily lost a star on Saturday. I think it added one in George Kambosos Jr, and even if we don’t see an immediate rematch, we just might see these two throw down again someday.