By Jim Maltzman: Teofimo Lopez wasn’t happy to learn that Vasily Lomachenko fought him with an injured shoulder last Saturday night in their unification fight in Las Vegas.
All the credit that Teofimo (16-0, 12 KOs) originally received from boxing fans has partially evaporated now with the news of Lomachenko having surgery last Monday to repair his injured shoulder.
Teofimo now needs to make up his mind about whether he should give Lomachenko (14-2, 10 KOs) a rematch so that he can prove to the doubting fans that he can beat him when he’s healthy or move on and live with his tainted win for the rest of his life.
It’s a tough choice that Lopez needs to make. If he takes the risk of fighting Lomachenko against, he could lose to him. Once that happens, the praise he’s receiving from fans will be gone in an instance. Teofimo’s 15 minutes of fame will have expired.
He’ll return to his old self and no longer be seen as the guy that beat Lomachenko. He’ll be in the same category as Buster Douglass.
Teofimo reacts to Lomachenko’s injury
“Loma had a certain game plan that I wasn’t going to fall into,” said Teofimo to Yahoo Sports. “I told my father, ‘They’re trying to take me to deep waters.’ I told him, ‘Don’t worry, I got this. I know what he’s trying to do.’
“It’s a fight, and everybody knows that if you’re a fighter and an athlete in general, you’re not 100% going into a fight,” said Teofimo when asked about his thoughts on Lomachenko having shoulder surgery.
“I wasn’t 100 percent going into this fight. I had minor injuries, and I actually got to get checked out now because of it going into this fight. But you know what?
As a true champion, I don’t make excuses, and that’s part of it. In everything, you’re going to get hurt in what you do with contact sports and anything like that.
“So you’re never going to be 100% going into a fight. For them trying to use and pull that card on us to say that’s the reason why I feel pity for him,” said Lopez.
The fact that Lomachenko’s shoulder injury was bad enough for him to require surgery suggests that it wasn’t a small thing.
Lopez’s reaction to Lomachenko’s injury is one of someone minimizing it. If Lopez wants to believe that, he’s fooling himself.
I know it must upset Teofimo to find out that his win wasn’t as special as he originally thought. Instead of admitting that Loma’s injury aided his victory, Lopez comes off as bitter and angry.
Lopez’s game plan worked to stifle Loma’s offense
“That’s what we wanted to do is make him feel my power [early],” said Teofimo about his game plan for the Loma fight. “My fast jabs, hard jabs. It was letting him know, ‘Every time you’re coming in, you’re going to get hit’ type of reaction.
Just having that distance. We know he’s short, and he needs to come in. He needed to jump in to get those shots. So I was countering him and getting the body.
It was working a lot. I noticed in the fifth or the seventh, I hit to the body with an uppercut, and he grabbed real tight, and then he started moving. I thought, ‘I hurt him.’
It’s hard to keep that pace going with someone that is always on the run. So he had his moments, but I won that whole fight. I did what I had to do.
He thought he was going to take me to the deep waters and gas me out, but I told you guys, I’m a shark,” Lopez said on him, foiling Loma’s game plan.
The game plant that Teofimo used only worked for part of the fight against Lomachenko, as it was effective in the second half. When Lomachenko went after him in rounds 7 through 11, he showed that his defense was ineffective, and his game plan was useless.
Like the Maginot Line, Teofimo’s defensive fortification proved porous when Lomachenko went on the attack.
Teofimo wants more belts
“I want more belts, I want more things, and I have bigger goals to achieve,” said Teofimo. “This was just one part of it to get to the next level.
“We know that just because you have it now doesn’t mean someone else can’t take it from you.
“We keep that in our mind always. My father taught me that. Having a great support team. Being what I was able to do last Saturday without a crowd with the least experience that I was able to bring out to the game to shock the world to outbox the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
At my age, we’re accomplishing a lot of things. This is just the beginning. These guys need me; I don’t need them. We are the kinds at 135. We own, and we run 135. I think a lot of them want to get a piece of the pie now,” said Lopez.
If Lopez wants additional belts at 135, he’s got many choices available to him. Gervonta Davis holds the WBA ‘regular’ lightweight strap, but that’s a belt that is considered lower than the one Lopez holds with the World Boxing Association. Devin Haney holds the WBC lightweight belt.
Again, this is another lower-level title. As for Ryan Garcia, if he beats Luke Campbell on December 5th, he’ll capture the interim WBC belt. For Lopez to win full titles that mean something, he’ll need to move up t 140 and take on the Jose Ramirez vs. Josh Taylor fight winner.
Ryan Garcia, Haney & Tank have to earn Lopez fight
“That’s not going to work. They’re going to have to do their part,” Lopez said about the other top lightweights that want to fight him. “We did our part, and we got the job done.
“We did things they didn’t want to do, and we stepped up to the plate and chose to do that, and we got the victory.
“What I would like to do is unify at 140, and collect another and become the first two-time, back-to-back undisputed world champion in a four-belt era.
Absolutely, that’s what I look forward to. The winner out of [Josh] Taylor and [Jose] Ramirez would be awesome for all the fans, and hopefully, we’d have some fans for 2021.
This is about influencing a new generation, and I’m the leader; I’m the captain of the ship. We finally did that. I definitely put on a new way for the new generation to step up to the plate.
Instead of marinating anything, taking the fights, you need to become the all-time best in your division. I’m really looking forward to that, and hopefully, we’re influencing others in the new generation to do.
“Honestly, I don’t think they’ve shown enough yet, not just to me, but in general with the boxing fans,” said Teofimo on Gervonta Davis.
“The only thing we’ve seen is Tank go the distance with a washed-out [Yurirokis] Gamboa. And now we’re about to see Devin Haney go in the ring with him. With Gamboa, we have Tank fighting Leo Santa Cruz,” said Teofimo.
The chances are high that all those top lightweights will win, and they’ll have earned a fight with Lopez. He can stay at 135 and face one of them or move up to 140 and take a stay busy fight while he waits on the outcome from the Joshua Taylor vs. Jose Ramirez fight.
Teo to wait until the smoke clears
“I just think when the better competition kicks in, and we see what they can do,” said Teofimo about the other top lightweights. “When adversity hits them, then that’s when we realize that we can make a fight happen. You need two partners to make a good dance.
We did our part, and now it’s about what we see what these guys do next. We can’t overlook Leo Santa Cruz [against Tank], we can’t overlook Luke Campbell [against Ryan Garcia], we can’t overlook Gamboa or any of these guys whoever they’re fighting.
So they’ve got to worry about their guys first before they step inside the ring with me,” Teofimo said.
Lopez’s good news is he won’t have to wait long for him to find out the results of the other top lightweight’s next fights. Gervontaa Davis is fighting Santa Cruz at the end of the money on October 31st.
Ryan Garcia and Luke Campbell will be battling on December 5th, and Devin is fighting Yuriorkis Gamboa on December 7th. If Haney, Garcia, and Davis all come out victorious, it means that Teofimo will need to decide which of them he wants to fight.
His promoter Bob Arum has already said that he wants Ryan Garcia as his next opponent. So if Teofimo agrees with that choice, he’ll be his next opponent.
Teofimo talks about wanting respect
“I’m just a fighter earning his respect, give me my respect,” said Lopez. “I think right now people are more in shock of what I did and how easy I made it look compared to how they thought it would be,” said Teofimo when asked why he ended the post-fight news conference on a negative note.
“I think the fact that they’re trying to downgrade or any type of thing making it seem like it was a draw or any type of thing.
“That’s what I hate about decisions is that everyone has an opinion about a decision and the scorecards. The scorecards are out of my hands. What I do is what I do.
“I know I won, but everyone knows that the winner was me. Here was no question about it. Whether people want to talk about the scorecards, that is not my job. I did my part.
“So if they want to scream of b*** about somebody else, do it to the judges if you want. I did my part. And I came out there. I said I was going to come out victorious, and we did that. We made history.
“So I think that’s the main thing. Don’t downplay the fact that I just made some big things happen right now, and I just put on for the newer generation.
“So if anything, instead of trying to curse me or bash me, you should be thanking me. That goes for everyone,” said Lopez.
The way Lopez lectured the media at the end of the post-fight news conference was just off-putting. He threw them all in the same category as people who weren’t giving him credit or his victory over Lomachenko, which made him look like a poor winner.