LIGHTWEIGHT champion Teofimo Lopez tested positive for coronavirus and was developing symptoms on Tuesday. It means his bout against George Kambosos that was due to take place on Saturday (June 19) has now been postponed. The whole card will be moved back to August 14.
Previously Thomas Gerbasi spoke to Lopez about the Kambosos fight, the thought of rematching Vasiliy Lomachenko and more. Read the interview below:
IT was a quick but telling Twitter search on world lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez. On June 3, more than two weeks out from his scheduled June 19 headlining bout against George Kambosos Jnr, typing in Lopez’ name at noon eastern time came back with the result “50 tweets in the last hour.”
“They’re talking about me?” laughed Lopez. “Oh man, that’s insane. I’m just doing my part and I don’t even know it. That’s that dedication, and I’m just focused. But I’m very appreciative of everyone tuning in and just showing love. Mentioning my name, that alone is something that I’m very thankful about. I guess we’re on the right track.”
None of the tweets were from Lopez. They were just posts from fans and his fellow fighters talking about his place in the boxing world, his career-best win over Vasiliy Lomachenko last October, his future prospects, and even a couple about the Kambosos fight. And whether fan or foe, it was a reminder that the 23-year-old from Brooklyn had arrived. “I’m just thankful and grateful to be here,” he said. “It’s been a long road, but a beautiful, hard journey, and there’s so much more I can do. But my whole thing is, every day I wake up, if I do get a day to wake up, I’m blessed. I have to keep that mentality, being thankful for what I do have today and not taking it for granted.”
That’s not as easy as it sounds, and the annals of boxing history are filled with the stories of those who got too much too soon and weren’t able to handle it. In Lopez’s case, many believed the idea of fighting Lomachenko was a bad idea after just 15 pro fights, not even considering how it would affect him if he actually beat the Ukrainian star.
But this was an obsession for Lopez and his father/trainer Teofimo Snr, a fight they chased for a couple of years until they finally got their chance in the ring, and after 12 rounds, all that could be said is that Lopez gave the master boxer a boxing lesson as he took all the belts via unanimous decision. The domination of Lomachenko was the culmination of a quest, and when it was over, the new undisputed champion refused to let the moment pass him by. “All the hard work paid off,” he said of the thoughts racing through his head when he finally got some time alone.
“Undisputed, just that alone, becoming undisputed champion in the lightweight division, the first one in history to do it and the youngest to do it in the four-belt era, this is the best time of my life. But it came from hard work, from not giving up and by staying focused on the bigger picture.”
Lopez pauses, then quotes Bruce Lee: “It’s like a finger pointing away to the moon; don’t concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory.”
“That’s one of the best quotes,” Lopez beams. “So it’s the bigger picture. I’m not looking at the smaller things. I’m looking at longevity. Boxing is temporary; anything can happen in this sport. We’ve seen many tragedies happen, but it’s a blessing to carry all those belts that I dreamt of as a little kid. And at 23. I’m not even 24 yet.”
Not 24 yet, but a mature and thoughtful young man who appears to have all the tools to handle life at the top. And if he needs any reminders, he gives them to himself while meditating and keeping a journal. “I write in it every morning, or every other morning and I write down the things I need to thank God for,” Lopez said. “I’m very pleased to be where I’m at. I’ve seen so many things and it’s all about what I do with it now.”
Listening to Lopez The Undisputed (ignoring the by now infamous chaos created by the WBC), and you almost forget about the fiery up-and-comer who was wrecking opponents left and right, infuriating fans and media for his post-knockout celebrations, all the while saying anything and everything to draw Lomachenko into a fight. But that guy is still in there, and all it takes is a hint of talking about a rematch with the man he took the belts from to bring it out.
“A lot of people think I’m ducking or scared of him, and it’s hilarious to me,” said Lopez. “Me and Lomachenko could fight 10 times and I’ll beat him 10 times. Do you know why? Because I took his heart. In that 12th round, those championship rounds, it’s no longer about that mental state anymore. Those championship rounds are all about who wants it more, and when I stepped up to the plate in that last round and I pushed on him, he took a step back. So we both know that when the going gets tough, the guy that’s really gonna push more is gonna be Teofimo each and every time. He’s gotta say what he has to say, he has to say all these lies about it being a draw and so on and so forth. His team was telling him to do those things to motivate him again because he lost his confidence.”
Lopez apparently has enough for both of them, and despite Lomachenko blaming everything except global warming on his loss, it’s clear that the New Yorker has moved on. These days, the talk is about Lopez joining with Haney, Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia to create the modern-day version of the series that earned Roberto Duran, Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns and Sugar Ray Leonard recognition as boxing’s Four Kings back in the 80s. It’s an intriguing notion, one that would require several moving parts working in sync to pull it off, but while the boxing world (and the fighters) debate the possibility of a new Golden Age, lost in the conversation is Australia’s Kambosos, an unbeaten contender who has focused on Lopez the last few years the way Lopez focused on Lomachenko. That makes him a live underdog when the two meet at LoanDepot Park in Miami, especially if the champion’s mind is elsewhere. But he insists this is not the case.
“I keep myself motivated, and that makes a dangerous fighter,” said Lopez. “I don’t need nobody to motivate me. I already get the support and all that on top of it, but I know what I have to do and I know that at 23 years young, there’s so much more I can do. I haven’t even hit my prime yet, which is ridiculous; it’s crazy and I gotta thank the boxing gods for it and I have to thank God for it. I’ve also got to thank all those past legends that paved the way for me, and I thank all of them because I couldn’t be where I’m at today if it weren’t for seeing them and seeing their true talent.”
As for Kambosos, Lopez is well aware that the challenger is now where he once was. He knows how hungry a fighter can get when he finally sees the finish line in sight, and how getting the opportunity to fulfill a dream can make a good fighter great, even if only for one night. “I put myself in everybody’s shoes,” he said. “I was putting myself in Lomachenko’s shoes when I was fighting him and expecting him to probably go real hard in the fight, and he did the best that he could, but we stopped him from doing a lot of things. And the same thing goes and applies for George Kambosos. This is somebody who has the opportunity to collect all the belts all at once and become undisputed world champion in the lightweight division. This could change his life, and he’s getting a big payday for it, too. So it’s a win-win for him if he can get that other part done.”
Lopez laughs, confident that while Kambosos will get his payday and plenty of notoriety on the way to fight night, he can’t let him get “that other part” done.
“That’s the part that only he can do – not his trainer, not his cutman, nobody else but him,” said Lopez. “It’s going to be me and him and every time you put him in front of me, I will beat him. I will find a way. That’s my mentality. This is the biggest fight of his career and the biggest fight that he’s ever had. I know that he’s pushing hard, but it’s a whole different pedigree. It’s a different magnitude coming into this fight, and I put myself like I’m the underdog.”