Teofimo Lopez has a big fight coming on June 10, when he faces WBO junior welterweight titleholder Josh Taylor in an ESPN main event from Hulu Theater in New York.
It will be a chance for Lopez (18-1, 13 KO) to bounce back from three straight performances that have ended either in defeat or a lot of questions even in victory, and win a world title in a second division at age 25.
But it’s no easy mark, either, even if Taylor (19-0, 13 KO) is coming off of probably the single most controversial decision of 2022, and has gone from a four-belt undisputed champ to a one-belt, semi-inactive fighter.
Teofimo spoke with The DAZN Boxing Show about that fight, what it means to him, and also his strong belief that Vasiliy Lomachenko will beat Devin Haney when those two fight on May 20 in the lightweight division.
On how he feels at 140 vs 135
“I feel a lot stronger. My power is still there, obviously, speed is there. It’s just all about the, uh — I gotta stop pressing these fighters, man. It’s not what I do. I’m a different kind of fighter. I was always a boxer, you know what I mean? I can do all the things, all those traits, but I need a good dance partner, and June 10th, I’ve got a great dance partner in Josh Taylor, so I’m looking forward to that. It’s gonna be a great fighter.”
On wishing he’d fought Sandor Martin differently
“Yeah, but that’s what it is. That’s why I take these challenges and face fighters like that, so I found out, ‘What is it that I need at the next level, to be better for the next fight?’ And what does that come with? Challenges. But challenges bring the greatness out of you every time.
“I knew I was going to defeat him, that’s guaranteed. It was just how I performed, I wasn’t happy. I didn’t listen to my coach, who’s my father, I didn’t listen to him directly with the instructions. I could have knocked him out in the seventh round, had I did the movements he needed me to do for Sandor Martin.
“But it is what it is. I’m young, I’m 25, this is part of the growth of boxing. That’s why I love it. I don’t like boxing, I love boxing because the art of it — you never stop growing, you never stop learning from it.”
On being caught on camera asking his team if he still had it
“You guys got a little bit of a glimpse of who I am in the gym, you know what I mean? The greatest of all times, we doubt ourselves because we know we’re really great. It’s not about the doubt part, it’s just, like, ‘I could do better.’ Always and always do better. That wasn’t my best. You guys just got a little fraction. I’ve been doing that since I was six years old, I used to talk down to me all the time, because I’m my worst critic.
“For everybody else trying to use that for ammunition, where you at? You can’t question me. I can question me, because I know where I stand. I know where I stand in this world, I know where I stand in my sport. So when I ask myself, ‘Do I still got it?’ Fuck yeah, I know I still got it, but I gotta tell myself that so it motivates me. That’s that Mamba Mentality nobody else has. I won the fight and I wasn’t even happy with it, so what does that tell you? I’m never gonna be satisfied.”
“Only the greats will understand it, and all these other people, they like to be normal. I don’t like to be normal. Normal is boring.”
[Lopez is speaking about the incident caught on camera after the Martin fight in December, where he asked his team, ‘Bro, do I still have it, man? Do I still got it?’ Not long after, Lopez claimed it was an act to get people talking.]
On whether he’s upset about fighting Taylor for one belt instead of earlier for four
“In our eyes, it’s like this, he’s got The Ring Magazine (belt), which is the kingpin, it’s the lineal belt, right? When you have that belt you are guaranteed No. 1 in your division. This year marks the 100th year of The Ring Magazine belt, Jack Dempsey won it in 1923, we’re in 2023, that is what it is, right there. 100 years. And I’m fighting for that.”
“It’s not just for the WBO, which was [created] in 1988, after all the other three belts, along with the Ring Magazine. You gotta know what you’re doing, you gotta know what you’re representing. No one beat Josh Taylor, even though we all could say it was a controversial (decision) against Jack Catterall, but he got his hands raised.”
On what he thought of the Taylor vs Catterall decision
“It don’t matter no more. It don’t matter. No matter what it is, his record is still undefeated. ... I look at it like this, he let go of those other three belts, but he still has the WBO and The Ring Magazine.”
On whether Taylor motivates him more than Lomachenko did
“I’m tired of hearing everybody say I’m the guy that beat — like, ‘Oh, that’s the guy that beat Lomachenko.’ No, I’m the guy that beat every fighter that everyone thought I couldn’t beat. Every champion, every — I go for that, that’s what I went for. You’ve got all these other fighters that are great talents, right, but who are they fighting? People make it seem like they’re fighting world class champions. They’re following the books of what Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather used to do, not what ‘Pretty Boy’ Mayweather used to do, or had to do to get there.”
“Of course (Taylor) motivates me. I’m tired of hearing that, but what happens when I beat Josh Taylor? Oh, that’s the guy that beat all the great champs. He went after all of them.”
On potentially fighting Devin Haney at 140
“He’s gotta pass Lomachenko first, my man. ... I think I’ve got Lomachenko winning that fight (with Haney). The reason I say that, it’s just the punch IQ that this man has and what he does. He’ll get you tired. Even though Devin has the conditioning for it, you gotta commit. You can’t play defense with Loma, you can’t. You gotta attack with all means necessary, and I don’t think Devin’s got that dog in him to do it.”
“The size difference is not gonna matter. Loma’s fought bigger guys than that. I mean, think about it, two-time Olympic gold medalist, he’s had 400-plus amateur fights, he’s been in the pro game, three-division champ. He’s fought tall, small, all the guys you can think of. I just don’t think — even though Devin has a good jab, he’s too scared to commit all the way with it.”
On Haney impressing against George Kambosos Jr
“Kambosos, come on, yo. Kambosos? Everybody saw him as lunch food, but when I beat Loma, where was everybody at? Nobody wanted smoke. Nobody. Don’t tell me that, man. Yo, Kambosos beat a wounded Teofimo, a guy that was at his last. I should have put him down in the 10th round, you feel me? And Devin don’t know how to finish a guy. Devin hurt Kambosos, just by me seeing the highlights, and he couldn’t even finish him. So he don’t got that dog in him. You either got it or you don’t, and I don’t believe he got it.”
“We’re definitely gonna see, and I can’t wait, because God’s gonna humble (Haney). I cannot wait because all you guys need humbling. Everyone. It happened to me and I did it the right way, everybody needs that humbling, and I cannot wait because this is the year for me, this right here, the youngest active Hall of Famer at 25, I don’t care what they say. I don’t care. Two divisional world champion, undisputed world champion two times, first male, not Crawford. Where’s Crawford at? Not Spence. Come on, man. Listen, man, I don’t need a — the accolades speak for itself, and the boxing Gods are gonna help me win this fight against Josh Taylor. That’s it, man.”
[Note: I cut out a bit from earlier where Lopez was deeply confused about being undisputed champion at 140 if he beats Josh Taylor, while also knowing Taylor only has one of the four recognized belts still, but I feel like I have to at least note it now because of how he breaks this down at the end here.]