Josh Taylor v Teofimo Lopez WBO and ‘The Ring’ super lightweight world title
‘ Scots wha hae wi Wallace bled,
Scots wham Bruce has aften led;
Welcome tae your gory bed, or tae victory ‘
By Gary Todd: When Josh Taylor walks down 7th avenue and in through the entrance to the Mecca of boxing, which is Madison Square Garden, his emotions will be running riot, and so they should be. Every boxer dreams of fighting in this historic and special place to join the past contenders and champions who gave their heart and soul to be scribed into the history annals forever.
As he makes the long walk through the corridors and down to the ring, Taylor will be thinking about the fights he has watched on the TV, and more than anything, he’ll be thinking about the Scottish great, lightweight champion, Ken Buchanan, who fought there in world title 15 round fights. Buchanan spilled blood there, and he won and lost there in fights that made him ‘ The Tartan Legend.’
Taylor would befriend Buchanan before he passed away and Kenny would tell him stories of old as they sat ‘chewin the fat ‘ around the kitchen table.
On the night, Taylor will be paying tribute to his friend by wearing tartan shorts and gown as he goes into battle in enemy territory.
Josh Taylor ( 19 -0 13 Kos) turned professional in 2015 after winning gold in the 2014 commonwealth games in Glasgow, fighting 4 fights a year and racking up an impressive record. His southpaw aggressive style and tremendous offensive punching were proving to be too much for all that faced him. Good fighters in Miguel Vasquez, Viktor Postol, Ryan Martin, and Ivan Baranchyk had no answer for ‘ The Tartan Tornado’ who would eventually win the Muhammad Ali trophy by beating the talented Regis Prograis ( 24-0 ) on points in the final of the super six competition in 2019.
In 2020 he would fight the unbeaten, hard-as-nails Thai boxer, kickboxer in London, and Taylor wasted no time in stopping the number 1 challenger to retain his titles.
There was a lot of talk about the Mexican, Jose Carlos Ramirez and Taylor fighting for the IBF, WBA, WBC, and WBO titles, and in May 2021, the two champions met in a bitter showdown for Ramirez to try and become the first boxer of Mexican descent to win the undisputed title and Taylor to become the undisputed champion after only 18 fights. In the fight, Taylor rocked Ramirez and knocked him down in round 6 and round 7 to win on points to become the undisputed champion of the world.
Teofimo Lopez ( 18-1 13 Kos ) made his debut in 2016 after representing his mother and fathers ‘old’ country of Honduras in the Olympic Games of that same year. He burst onto the lightweight scene and was touted as the next big thing, and himself and his father proclaimed he would be ‘ Taking over’ the division sooner than later.
The Brooklyn-born fighter was walking the walk and talking it up at every opportunity he got, hammering experienced fighters in Mason Menard, Diego Magdaleno, and Masayoshi Nakatani.
In 2019, he won the IBF lightweight title in explosive fashion by knocking out the highly regarded Richard Commey in two rounds, and it seemed like there was definitely’ a takeover’ in the 135lb division and there was only one man that stood in his way, and that was Vasiliy Lomachenko.
Covid 19 had affected the world in so many ways, and sickness and isolation stopped pretty much everything, yet there was still talk of putting on sports with no one in attendance and boxers fighting with only the officials there to officiate. It was crazy time, no matter where you were or what you were doing, and everyone eventually had to overcome the fear of the virus to carry on and live their lives.
It was October 2020 and Lomachenko and Lopez fought to unify the division and they fought with no crowd to cheer them on, and in the fight, Lopez took the fight to the Ukrainian , out boxing, using his jab and targeting Lomachenko’s body in a brilliant display of speed and boxing IQ that he just couldn’t adapt to , but despite having some good moments in the championship rounds, the man known as ‘ The Matrix’ looked out of it and was beaten by a wide points decision in Vegas.
Next up was the brawler from Australia, George Kambosos Jr. Kambosos had done enough by fighting anyone, anywhere, and after years of sparring in training camps with Manny Pacquiao, and battling through life, waiting for his chance, he knew this was his chance at glory. In the fight, the smaller Kambosos came out hard and fast and fought like a desperate man, knocking Lopez down in the 1st round.
There was talk of Lopez being sick in camp and also having difficulties making the weight, and it showed. He was definitely off, but he still looked dangerous and, at times, outclassed Kambosos with his boxing skills and punching combinations. Kambosos kept pushing and fought the only way he knew, and in the 10th round, Lopez decked the Australian, making it close going into the final rounds. In the end, it went to the scorecards, and Kambosos won by a split decision in New York and changed his life forever.
This would be his last fight as a lightweight. Lopez came back some 8 months later and fought a dominant performance, knocking out Pedro Campa in 7 rounds. With more talk, Lopez was calling out the top guys in the super lightweight division, and next up was the tough European champion Sandor Martin. It was clear that the Spanish fighter wasn’t at all intimidated by Lopez, and although the New Yorker came out aggressively, the man from Barcelona matched him with his own boxing ability, and in the 2nd round, he knocked down Lopez with a hard right hand. Lopez recovered and fought back to make it a tough but close fight. Lopez winning a split decision. Questions were asked if he had the chin and the power at 140 to challenge the big boys.
While Lopez was being dissected by many across the pond, the former undisputed super lightweight champion Josh Taylor was being doubted, and he had his own questions to answer.
Taylor had achieved so much in his career at super lightweight, and it seemed that making the weight year after year, fight after fight, was taking its toll on him, and when you’re a champion, there is always someone around the corner, waiting to take what is yours. Jack Catterall ( 27 fights 26 wins 13 Kos 1 loss) had been fighting as a professional for 10 years.
He won the WBO European light welter title, the WBO Intercontinental light welter title, and the British light welterweight title. The guy could fight. Like Kambosos, he was patiently waiting for his chance, and in February of 2022, after stepping aside deals, disappointments, and covid, he finally got his shot against Josh Taylor.
On paper, Taylor had height, reach, and physical advantages, and he had a much better resume and big-fight experience. At the weigh-in, it was a bitter confrontation, and it was clear there was no respect for either fighter. Taylor looked weight drained, and in the fight, it showed as his timing and balance were off, and he didn’t use his jab or his size to his advantage, and Catterall boxed brilliantly, counterpunching Taylor, leaving the proud Scotsman frustrated and breathing heavy. 2 southpaws clashing making it an awkward affair. It was a tough fight to score, but after the 12 rounds, Taylor got the nod by a split decision. Many at ringside thought the English boxer had done enough to win, particularly by knocking Taylor down in the 8th round.
With both champions fighting each other and both arguably fighting to each make a statement to anyone who doubted them, this clash is set to be a classic.
Can Taylor make the weight one more time? Lopez will be the more natural at 140 but can he take the power?
At 32, Taylor will be the older man by seven years. Taylor will have height and reach advantages and he will need to use his jab to establish the tone of the fight. Taylor will want to fight inside, whereas Lopez will try to fight from the outside and stick and move, counterpunching all night long. Taylor has to dictate the pace and use his footwork and jab, and always finish with the hook. I think being aggressive and throwing the right hand to the body and the uppercut, and finishing with the right or left hook to Lopez’s head will be Taylor’s key to victory.
Lopez has dazzling footwork, he punches from all angles and has decent punching power, and he is a counterpuncher.
Fighting at home, fighting for his future, can Teofimo Lopez silence the critics.
Can Josh Taylor emulate what his hero ‘ the tartan legend ‘ Ken Buchanan did all those years ago, fighting at the garden to solidify his own legendary career?
Taylor by 7th round TKO.
Gary Todd is an acclaimed international best-selling author with his books on boxing. He has been involved in all aspects of the sport of boxing for over 30 years. Go to garytodd.org for information on his latest book, “Annie’s Boy”
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