Teofimo Lopez hasn’t looked like the same fighter who beat Vasiliy Lomachenko in any of his three appearances since his career-defining win in October 2020.
Josh Taylor sensed Lopez’s last fight – a 10-round, split-decision defeat of Spanish southpaw Sandor Martin – could’ve gone “either way.” Australian underdog George Kambosos Jr. upset Lopez by split decision two bouts before his closely contested fight against Martin on December 10 at Madison Square Garden in New York.
As flawed as he considers Lopez (18-1, 13 KOs), Taylor has trained for the explosive version of the Brooklyn native that beat Lomachenko by unanimous decision to become a unified lightweight champion 2½ years ago at MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas. Scotland’s Taylor (19-0, 13 KOs) realizes that he didn’t look his best in his most recent fight, either, thus he hasn’t underestimated Lopez in advance of their 12-round, 140-pound title fight Saturday night at The Theater at Madison Square Garden.
“I take nothing from him,” Taylor told BoxingScene.com. “You know, people can have bad fights. You could have bad nights. I had a bad night my last fight, you know, so it can happen to people. It happens to the best of us. I don’t take nothing from him. I’ve been preparing for the best Teofimo Lopez that turned up and got the win against Lomachenko and his previous glory in fights before then. His form he was on up until that [Lomachenko] fight, I’ll be looking and preparing for that version of Teofimo Lopez, not the ones that turned up against Sandor Martin and [Kambosos].”
Taylor, 32, is listed as a slight favorite over Lopez, 25, entering a main event ESPN will broadcast as part of a doubleheader scheduled to begin at 10 p.m. EDT.
Taylor hasn’t boxed since his controversial split-decision win against English southpaw Jack Catterall in February 2022 at The SSE Hydro in Glasgow, Scotland.
Lopez has been much more active than Taylor, who will end a 15-month layoff Saturday night. He has won twice – the aforementioned defeat of Martin (40-3, 13 KOs) and a seventh-round stoppage of Pedro Campa (34-3-1, 23 KOs) last August 13 in Las Vegas – since Taylor barely beat Catterall.
Taylor became boxing’s second undisputed 140-pound champion of the four-belt era in May 2021, when he edged previously unbeaten Jose Ramirez (28-1, 18 KOs) by unanimous decision in their 12-round, 140-pound title unification fight at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas.
The left-handed Taylor gave up the IBF, WBA and WBC titles following his debatable defeat of Catterall (27-1, 13 KOs). The former undisputed champion therefore will defend only the WBO junior welterweight title against Lopez, who is the mandatory challenger for that belt.
As dangerous as he considers the powerful Lopez, Taylor is confident he’ll exploit Lopez’s technical flaws.
“He makes a lot of the same mistakes over and over and over again, so he’ll be getting exposed on fight night,” Taylor said. “He’s improved a bit, but he still makes a lotta fundamental mistakes that I plan on punishing him for.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.