NEW YORK – Richard Commey’s promoter respects Teofimo Lopez.
Lou DiBella still can’t see the brash, unbeaten lightweight winning the IBF 135-pound crown from his fighter Saturday night. DiBella expects experience against championship-caliber opponents to serve Commey well when they square off in a 12-round encounter ESPN will televise as part of a tripleheader from Madison Square Garden (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
“It’s a sensational matchup of styles,” DiBella told BoxingScene.com prior to a press conference Wednesday at The Garden. “It’s gonna be a good fight. Both of these guys engage. Both of them have power. I think Teofimo is a great prospect. I don’t think he’s ready for a man like this yet. I know this is a real fight, but I don’t think he’s ready for Richard.”
Japan’s Masayoshi Nakatani snapped Lopez’s five-fight knockout streak in Lopez’s last appearance. All three judges scored that fight for Lopez by wide distances (119-109, 118-110, 118-110), but detractors doubt Lopez for how he performed against Nakatani (18-1, 12 KOs) in that July 20 bout at MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland.
“I thought it wasn’t a great performance,” DiBella said. “And I thought it was largely inexperience against a better boxer, a slicker guy. He still won the fight, even though it was close.”
Commey-Lopez seemingly should end inside the distance.
Ghana’s Commey, 32, has knocked out 84 percent of his pro opponents (29-2, 26 KOs). Brooklyn’s Lopez, 22, has won 79 percent of his pro bouts by knockout (14-0, 11 KOs).
“He hasn’t been in with a puncher,” DiBella said of Lopez. “Your chin is not really tested until you’ve been hit on the chin by a real puncher. The thing about this fight is both sides can punch. Richard’s a puncher and Teofimo’s a puncher. It can’t be a bad fight. It’ll be a fun fight.”
The winner likely will earn a crack at Vasiliy Lomachenko in his following fight. Ukraine’s Lomachenko (14-1, 10 KOs), who’ll watch from a ringside seat Saturday night, owns the WBA and WBO lightweight titles and is the WBC’s franchise champion at 135 pounds.
Most sports books list Lopez as slightly more than a 2-1 favorite over Commey, despite that the defending champion has faced a higher level of opposition.
“Experience is a big advantage for Richard,” DiBella said. “But both of these men have fought in front of big crowds before. I don’t think it’s gonna be the moment that’s gonna overwhelm Teofimo. I think if he gets overwhelmed, he’ll get overwhelmed by Richard Commey. I know Teofimo since he was an amateur. And I was probably, and he will tell you, the first promoter to pay attention to him. I think his time will come, just not yet.”
Commey-Lopez will immediately precede ESPN’s main event Saturday night. In that 12-round, 147-pound championship match, Terence Crawford (35-0, 26 KOs), of Omaha, Nebraska, will defend his WBO welterweight title against Lithuania’s Egidijus Kavaliauskas (21-0-1, 17 KOs), Crawford’s mandatory challenger.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.