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Teofimo Lopez: ‘I’m fast, I’m pretty, I’m smart, I’m the best fighter in the world’

Teofimo Lopez
Al Bello/Getty Images
Teofimo Lopez's next fight is moved from Triller to DAZN. Speaking exclusively to John Dennen, Lopez explains how a return to ESPN and a move up to fight Josh Taylor are all still to come in the American star's bid for greatness

TEOFIMO LOPEZ, ‘The Takeover’ will be televised, but not on Triller. Lopez will box George Kambosos, the mandatory challenger for his IBF belt, next. But the IBF ruled on Wednesday that Triller, after failing to stage the contest as agreed on October 4, will lose the promotional rights to this bout. Those now to pass to Matchroom, the company that put in the second highest in the purse bid earlier this year. It means DAZN will now broadcast the fight.

Lopez is eyeing potentially boxing at Madison Square Garden on November 13. Speaking exclusively to Boxing News, Teofimo said, “I’ve been very patient and thankful for it overall. I’ve got to be thankful for today.”

“I just take it day by day and what’s done in the dark will always come out in the light. It’s all about staying positive through it all. A lot of people were trying to talk down about me and my career and pretty much what I represent, the Takeover and stuff. But people are going to talk. People are going to talk. They’re not really going to do much for themselves but we are. And that’s the real truth to it. It’s so easy to point fingers at somebody. But it’s never easy for them to point it at their own self. A lot of things happened with Triller. They did something maliciously to us, they put us on the shelf, because I got sick and I had got Covid [causing the first postponement earlier this year] and they lost money from that. But when Oscar De La Hoya got Covid, they were okay with it. It’s just the cycle of life but I think God’s timing is always perfect,” he continued. “Overall I know a lot of people are looking forward to watching me fight and so am I. It’s been so long. It’s about to be a whole year. This wasn’t the plan… But I’ve been in the gym, as you can see. I’ve been staying in shape. I don’t stop. But I needed this time to be honest to take a step back and figure out who I am as person more and  what is really my purpose in this. Boxing is bigger than us and it’s bigger than me but it’s like what we leave behind is always going to matter more. So a lot of people tend to say that I’m a legend but I’m not there yet. I have a lot of work to do.”

He’s also rebuilt his relationship with promoter Top Rank. The Kambosos fight will be on DAZN and staged by Matchroom, after which Lopez will be returning to ESPN. “I can’t wait to go back to Disney, go back to my home at ESPN and it’s great to have these relationships with DAZN and so on and so forth,” he said. “The contract that I did with Top Rank wasn’t directly with Top Rank, it was with ESPN itself. A lot of people don’t know that though. It’s with Takeover promotions, ESPN and Top Rank Promotions. At 23 years young I did that. Because a lot of the networks they’ve seen what I bring to the table. I bring entertainment, I bring flourishment, I bring confidence, I bring uniqueness and I bring excitement. That’s what it’s all about.

“You’ve got to bring that good energy. It’s more than just getting your hand raised in a fight. You’ve got to do certain different things. We’ve all seen it. What made Muhammad Ali the greatest of all time – because of how he was, how he spoke, how he learned and how he took his time and then he made it happen in the ring. That’s out of confidence. A lot of people think that this is arrogance and cockiness but this is just strictly confidence and what I believe in. The same way I believed that I would beat Lomachenko and I beat him by unanimous decision in a 12 round fight, boxed him at his own game and I didn’t have to go and look for a knockout. I wanted to show the world that I’m different, I’m not just a puncher. I’m all of the above, I’m fast, I’m pretty, I’m smart, I’m the best fighter in the world.”

Lopez’s standing soared after he defeated Vasiliy Lomachenko last year. But the postponements of the Kambosos fight and the uncertainties of Triller staging the event have now kept him out of the ring for 12 months. He will put that frustration behind him and he has a plan for his future. Top Rank’s Bob Arum will resume working with Lopez once again after this next fight.

“When Triller made the bid before, we didn’t think the Kambosos fight was worth more than we in effect bid. We have a budget. So the relationship went off the tracks a little bit. After that we patched it up and Teofimo signed a new contract with Top Rank which lasts for the next four years after the purse bid. I talked to Eddie [Hearn, Matchroom promoter] and he intends to do that [Kambosos] fight. He was the second highest bidder, we were third. I’m quite content with Eddie doing the fight because he’s a good promoter and it’ll be a good promotion. He’s looking to put it on at the beginning of November,” Arum told Boxing News.

Arum’s ire is reserved for Triller. “Somebody like Triller, who’s never done a fight, comes out of no place, puts a couple of dollars in to get registered as a promoter and puts in a bid and then has no follow through,” he said. “There’s no barrier to entry.

“Terrible [for Lopez]. It’s a time after he scored the most important victory of his career in beating Lomachenko.”

Arum also points to the ghastly event Triller staged that saw Evander Holyfield, the faded 58 year old legend, getting knocked out by former MMA fighter Vitor Belfort. “That was criminal. Forget the money they spent, Holyfield was approaching 60,” Arum said. “He could die and they ended up paying him to take a fight on one week’s notice 10 million dollars. And God knows what they paid stupid ass Trump [Donald Trump was on that broadcast too]. So they had no money for the Teofimo fight… You can’t blame [the fighters] for asking to put the money in escrow and if you’re legitimate and you’re going to pay the fighters, why wouldn’t you put it in escrow?”

Lopez will still receive a significant payment from the deposit Triller had to put down for the IBF purse bid. That will be almost $800,000 going to him, with his payment from Matchroom the one-off fight on DAZN still to come. “I just got 800k for this fight without even fighting, from Triller. I’m still getting money from it. In reality I’ll probably go home with five or six million,” he said. “I feel like everything happens for its reasons, everything always happens for its reasons and I think this is just a reason for me to realise certain things in myself that I needed to do, so that way I’m prepared for this battle that comes up and I’m prepared mentally for the things that come after.

“I’m trying to do something a little bit different. Meaning just trying to invest and take care of the kids out there, the new generation that I admire and I look up to. That’s why this is the Takeover. Why we call ourselves the Takeover is because we’re taking over boxing in a very harmonious way. Because the sport needs to be lifted again. It has to be re-lifted. It cannot be a circus. Our sport is not a circus.

“My soul is pure, my heart is pure, my mind is correct and I’m just looking for great things this year.”

Lopez wants to represent himself well and resume his position as one of the sport’s leading boxers. To do that he wants big fight after big fight. He’s already thinking of moving up to take on Josh Taylor, the super-lightweight world champion in his very next fight after Kambosos. “I love the UK, I need to fight there,” Lopez said. “I see that, [boxing Josh Taylor] after this fight.”

If they each get through their next fights, Arum, who promotes both men, wants to make Taylor-Lopez next at 140lbs.

“I’m very confident on that. What do I have to lose? I don’t have nothing to lose here. People say [so] because I’m the top dog. Whatever, no, I’m always going to treat myself like the underdog, I’m always going to treat myself like I’m not good enough, because that’s the mindset,” Lopez said. “What made the greats? They didn’t stop after one championship. They kept going. I’m not going to stop after getting four belts or five belts or six belts or seven. I want more and more and more. But I am going to be satisfied with what I do with it. That is from legacy to becoming a successful man and a successful business.”

“I keep myself focused on the goal that I have in mind and there’s a fine line on that. You’ve got to be willing to do what 99% ain’t willing to do. That’s Teofimo now. I’m in that one percent club. But everything takes time. Rome wasn’t built in a day. A tree doesn’t grow over night, the pyramids weren’t built in a day. Everything takes time, it’s like puzzles. That’s how life is, that’s how life works,” he concludes. “There’s a new era. Just like everything, everything changes, everything grows. I’m not here to be Mayweather. There’s only one Mayweather, there’s only one Muhammad Ali, there’s only one of every fighter… So be you. That’s all I can say.”

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