Teofimo Lopez figures to have several high profile and lucrative options moving forward following his huge win to unify lightweight world titles.
He won a unanimous decision over the favored Vasiliy Lomachenko, viewed by many as boxing’s No. 1 fighter in the world pound for pound going into their Oct. 17 showdown inside the conference center at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Lopez started fast and finished with a very strong 12th round to win by scores of 119-109, 117-111 and 116-112.
Lopez’s next move is not clear yet but Top Rank chairman Bob Arum, who promotes him, told BoxingScene that there will be plenty of options for his young star.
In addition to a possible rematch with Lomachenko (14-2, 10 KOs), whom Arum also promotes, the 135-pound division also boasts other exciting young fighters who would make for compelling bouts with Lopez, including Gervonta Davis, Ryan Garcia and Devin Haney. There is also Top Rank stablemate Felix Verdejo, a popular draw from Puerto Rico.
Lopez (16-0, 12 KOs), 23, of Brooklyn, New York, also has talked bout moving up to junior welterweight, where he could eventually challenge the winner of a likely fight for the undisputed title between Jose Ramirez and Josh Taylor, who are also both with Top Rank and likely to meet in the first half of 2021.
Arum said he will take his cues from Lopez before weighing in on what moves he should make and when.
“I want to hear what he and his father (and trainer Teofimo Lopez Sr.) have to say before I start giving advice because, obviously, the weight and everything. It depends on what weight he wants to fight at,” Arum said. “Once they tell me how they want to go I’ll tell them what the opportunities are in each weight class. I know he will want to go in February, as early as possible. January we have Shakur (Stevenson) slated. So, that’s his date. We got to get the football season over with and we’d give Teofimo the next spot up, which is February.
“His dream is to fight the Ramirez-Taylor winner but I’ll have to explain to him that the earliest possible that could take place is the end of next year because Taylor and Ramirez will fight in the spring and the winner is obligated to fight (mandatory challenger) Jack Catterall. Both guys committed (to fighting Catterall). Whoever wins has to fight Catterall.”
If Lopez elects to go to 140 pounds, Arum said he has opponents available for him other than Taylor or Ramirez, mentioning contenders Jose Pedraza, Jose Zepeda and Arnold Barboza Jr., each of whom is also with Top Rank.
And if Lopez decides to remain at 135 pounds for a bit longer, Arum said a fight he would like to make eventually is against Garcia.
“If Teofimo wants stay around at 135 to defend his title the biggest fight would be if Garcia beats (Luke) Campbell. For him to fight Garcia would be a huge fight given Garcia’s social media following. We have a great relationship with (Garcia) promoter Golden Boy.”
Garcia (20-0, 17 KOs) is due to square off with Luke Campbell (20-3, 16 KOs) for the vacant WBC interim lightweight title on Dec. 5 in a DAZN main event.
Arum said he would also have interest in putting together a fight between Lopez and Gervonta Davis (23-0, 22 KOs), who defends his WBA “regular” lightweight title against Leo Santa Cruz (37-1-1, 19 KOs) on Saturday night in the first Showtime PPV main event for each man.
“Davis has been, because of (promoter) Floyd (Mayweather), promoted pretty well, particularly in urban communities,” Arum said, acknowledging Davis’ drawing power. “So, that would be a pretty interesting fight.”
While Arum said that while Haney (24-0, 15 KOs), who defends the WBC title against Yuriorkis Gamboa on Nov. 7 – Lopez is the organization’s “franchise champion” -- is an excellent young fighter he does not view Lopez-Haney as that big of a fight compared to one against Garcia or Davis.
“Haney is not known outside of hardcore boxing fans,” Arum said. “He’s fought on a platform that doesn’t reach anybody. Unlike Haney, Davis has gotten eyeballs. Haney has not gotten eyeballs. That DAZN platform has virtually no subscribers. Right now Haney doesn’t have the eyeballs that the other two guys -- Garcia and Davis -- do.”
While Garcia also fights on DAZN, Arum pointed to his millions of social media followers and that he is a good draw at the box office.
Of course, Lopez fights on ESPN and Davis and Garcia fight on other platforms, so that would have to be dealt with.
“Right now, Teofimo is the big guy coming off the Lomachenko fight. He has the biggest network in ESPN,” Arum said. “So, therefore, a Garcia fight could be on ESPN. The Gervonta Davis fight could be on ESPN because we have a good relationship with Mayweather.”
Also, if a fight is deemed big enough, Top Rank and Premier Boxing Champions, which Davis is part of, worked together on the heavyweight title rematch between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder in February, which was a joint pay-per-view between their broadcasters, ESPN and Fox.
There is also the prospect of Lopez defending against Verdejo (27-1, 17 KOs), who has won four fights in a row since his upset loss to Antonio Lozada in March 2018. Verdejo now trains with Ismael Salas and the pairing appears to have clicked.
While Arum thinks Lopez will be back in February, he hopes to put on Lopez-Verdejo at Madison Square Garden in New York, where he hopes restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic will eventually be eased so that there can be spectators, in June on the weekend of the annual Puerto Rican Parade.
“That’s one thing we’re hoping to get done,” Arum said. “With the stallion, Lopez, if I told him he had to wait until June for the Puerto Rican Day Parade weekend, he would rebel. I can go to him with a February fight and then a June fight. If Lopez fought Verdejo in the Garden on Puerto Rican Parade weekend that would be madness.”
Dan Rafael was ESPN.com's senior boxing writer for fifteen years, and covered the sport for five years at USA Today. He was the 2013 BWAA Nat Fleischer Award winner for excellence in boxing journalism.