By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Teofimo Lopez is as unapologetic as he is brash.
The elite lightweight prospect hopes his confidence doesn’t turn off fans, but he has no intention of dialing down the bravado. The Brooklyn-born boxer firmly feels he is on the cusp of superstardom.
All Lopez believes he needs is a high-profile opportunity to prove what he says. Whether that chance comes against Vasiliy Lomachenko or a less skillful 140-pound champion, Lopez disagrees with those preaching patience for a 2016 Olympian who has just 10 professional fights.
Lopez didn’t say anything negative about promoter Top Rank Inc. during a recent interview with BoxingScene.com. The Las Vegas resident clearly is growing impatient, however, while waiting for a title shot.
“Stop BSing me,” Lopez said. “Everybody keeps saying that I’m overrated and things like that. Fans are gonna talk. You know, you’re gonna have the haters, of course. But at the end of the day, people still wanna see how I’m gonna perform after my injury. So it’s just like nothing changes, guys. I’m not gonna change. I’m only gonna get better. For me, that’s what I would say. It’s the takeover and come Saturday night, it’s just gonna look much better than my last fight.”
The 21-year-old Lopez will fight Mason Menard on Saturday night in his first action since having surgery to repair a fracture in his right hand.
Lopez (10-0, 8 KOs) sustained that injury during the first round of his eventual sixth-round knockout of William Silva in his last fight, July 14 at Lakefront Arena in New Orleans. Brazil’s Silva (26-2, 15 KOs) lost by knockout for the first time in 12 years as a pro.
Former WBO lightweight champ Ray Beltran (35-8-1, 21 KOs, 1 NC) and Devin Haney (20-0, 13 KOs), another top prospect, have beaten the 30-year-old Menard (34-3, 24 KOs) by knockout and TKO, respectively, in two of his past four fights. Lopez is favored to become the fourth foe to stop Menard inside the distance.
Lopez is anxious, though, to test his surgically repaired hand while wearing smaller gloves than in sparring. Surpassing these mental and physical hurdles would make him encourage promoter Bob Arum and Arum’s decision-makers to get him a 135-pound title fight as soon as possible.
“Top Rank can do whatever they please to do, and they can have a great idea of what they want,” Lopez said. “But sooner or later, it’s not gonna last long, where they’re gonna have to get me a title fight. I may sound arrogant or obnoxious or whatever you wanna call it, but that’s because of my skill set. Nobody, none of you guys have seen anything yet, and you guys are already impressed with me. I’m just being real here. I have not shown everything or anything yet. I’ve given you guys some part of me, but not all of it, because no fighter has brought it out of me. And I don’t think any fighter will.”
Lopez-Menard will be the first of three bouts broadcast by ESPN on Saturday night, starting at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT. In the main event, Ukraine’s Lomachenko (11-1, 9 KOs), the WBA lightweight champ, and Puerto Rico’s Jose Pedraza (25-1, 12 KOs), the WBO champ, will meet in a 135-pound title unification fight.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.