It was expected, now it’s official: Josh Taylor will defend the WBO junior welterweight title against Teofimo Lopez on June 10 in New York, with Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater hosting the event, which will air on ESPN.
The fight being made officially was accidentally kind of spoiled this morning on the Teraji vs Olascuaga stream on ESPN+, but about 11 people watched that.
Taylor (19-0, 13 KO) and Lopez (18-1, 13 KO) are two guys whose perceptions with the public have taken some big hits since a couple of years ago, when both were still on top of the world at 140 and 135, respectively.
Taylor, now 32, had beaten Regis Prograis in a terrific fight in 2019, and in May 2021, fully unified the division by beat Jose Ramirez in an undisputed championship bout in Las Vegas.
But his next fight saw him get a gift decision over Jack Catterall in Feb. 2022, and Taylor hasn’t fought since, with various negotiations and even set dates for a rematch with Catterall falling through. The two were last meant to fight on March 4, but Taylor pulled out late claiming an injury, and when Catterall decided to move on to a stay-busy bout later that month — which also didn’t happen — the power players made their move to do Taylor vs Lopez instead.
Taylor also was seen as “dragging out” the process of vacating belts last year, when he was known to have zero intention of fielding mandatory orders from the WBC, WBA, or IBF. It was believed he would either rematch Catterall or move up to welterweight, and in the end, neither thing was his next move.
Lopez, 25, beat Vasiliy Lomachenko in Oct. 2020 to unify three world titles at lightweight, plus a whole WBC situation that we’ve been over enough, and however you slice the “undisputed” claim, he was clearly the No. 1 guy at the weight with that win.
But after 13 months and various issues making his mandatory fight with George Kambosos Jr — Top Rank lowballing the purse bid, which Triller won and then could never put on, leaving it to Matchroom — Kambosos shocked Lopez in Nov. 2021 in a huge upset win.
Lopez didn’t fight again until Aug. 2022, and his wins last year over Pedro Campa and Sandor Martin didn’t exactly light the world on fire. After the latter, he was caught candidly questioning if he still had it, which he later tried to say was his great improv acting to fool all the suckers.
But while all of this suggests two fighters meeting when they aren’t nearly as hot as they were in late 2021, there’s also a potentially great fight here. If both of these guys rock up on form, this could be outstanding, and neither of them should be considered so “past it” that it’s a given that won’t be the case.
If not, then one guy might be, and the other guy’s career takes a big hit. So there’s a lot of intrigue here either way. This could be a dominant showing or it could be a tremendous matchup, and there’s going to be a lot of personality on display in the lead-up.