Teofimo Lopez remains on the hook to honor a mandatory lightweight title defense, though a recent ruling handed down will at least limit how far he will have to travel for the occasion.
The oft-postponed showdown between Lopez as the defending lineal/WBA/IBF/WBO lightweight champion and mandatory challenger George Kambosos Jr. of Australia will move forward under the current timeline in place, the IBF has ruled on Monday. The New Jersey-based sanctioning body declared that the current timeline will remain intact and with Triller Fight Club to still take the lead per the original purse bid terms.
However, the defending champion is no longer required to travel abroad—or anywhere that leaves him subject to a 14-day quarantine period—in order to honor said agreement.
“After considering the written submissions from [both] camps the IBF has ruled… the IBF will not default Triller on the Purse Bid at this time,” Daryl J. Peoples, president of the IBF told legal representatives for both parties via official letter, a copy of which has been obtained by BoxingScene.com. “There is no IBF rule that governs the timeframe a bout must take place after a rescheduled bout.”
“The Lopez vs. Kambosos bout must take place on or before October 17, 2021. The Lopez vs. Kambosos bout must take place in a location and venue that does not require quarantine.”
The ruling does not specify a location for the eventually rescheduled bout, although a report from ESPN’s Mike Coppinger suggests that it will ultimately remain in the United States as originally planned.
The legal team representing Brooklyn’s Lopez (16-0, 12KOs) previously filed a complaint in efforts to have the bout scheduled as early as August 14, the originally announced rescheduled date following a fallout from the planned June 19 Pay-Per-View event. Lopez was unable to go through with the June 19 bout after testing positive for Covid, leaving Triller—who won the purse bid back in February with an offer of $6,018,000—to endure a multimillion loss with the canceled event.
Upon the canceled show came the announcement from Triller that the event would be rescheduled for August 14. That date was quickly changed to September 11, before a subsequent revealing of plans to stage the event on October 17 in Sydney, Australia.
That part is when Lopez put his foot down, initially refusing to wait that long to defend his title and refusing to travel to a location requiring two-way 14-day quarantine periods. Both points were addressed by Lopez’s attorney, Patrick English who sought for the IBF to declare that Triller defaulted on the terms of the original purse bid. Lopez signed a contract stating his agreement to fight on June 5, just outside the original parameters of the 90-day window that came with Triller claiming promotional rights to the fight.
The decision to move the event from June 5 to June 19 came without an amended contract, cited by English as part of an alleged bait-and-switch pattern exhibited by Triller. With that came the decision to proceed with caution regarding future planning for a fight that has been nearly a year in the making.
Some protection has been offered in that regard, as Triller is pressed with a new deadline to finalize terms for this contest.
“The contracts for this bout must be executed and submitted to the IBF as soon as possible but not more than 15 days following this notification,” ruled Peoples. “If Triller fails to submit the contracts for this bout by Tuesday, August 24, 2021, the IBF will recognize the next highest bidder who will be given 90 days to stage the bout.”
Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing was the next highest bidder, submitting an offer of $3,506,000 in hopes of staging the event on DAZN at the time. Top Rank, Lopez’ promoter submitted a bid of $2,315,000 in efforts to present the fight on an ESPN platform.
Top Rank has outlined a plan to move forward with those plans should Triller default. Hearn has yet to publicly comment on his plans to serve as promoter of record should the opportunity arise, and did not respond to a previous inquiry by BoxingScene.com seeking comment.
In the event that Triller fully complies with the ruling, both boxers will be obligated to proceed with the fight. Lopez is not permitted to pursue another fight while the title still remains in his possession, nor can Kambosos entertain another bout without sacrificing his place as mandatory challenger.
“If the Champion fails to comply with this order, the title will be declared vacant,” confirmed the ruling. "If the Challenger fails to comply with this order, the Champion may begin negotiations with the next leading available contender."
Mexico's Isaac 'Pitbull' Cruz would be the benefactor in either scenario, as the currently ranked number-two contender for the IBF lightweight title.
Lopez won the IBF title in a 2nd round knockout of Richard Commey in December 2019. He added the WBO and WBA titles following a twelve-round, unanimous decision win over Vasiliy Lomachenko last October at MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas. The feat came two weeks prior to Kambosos (19-0, 10KOs) being installed as the IBF mandatory challenger following a twelve-round win over former featherweight titlist Lee Selby last Halloween in London.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox