Teofimo Lopez Jr. always sensed he was on borrowed time at lightweight even after reaching the pinnacle of the division.

The brash Brooklyn native enjoyed an impressive stretch, quickly advancing from 2018 Prospect of the Year to his first major title one year later. Just one fight after that came the biggest win of his career, outpointing pound-for-pound entrant Vasiliy Lomachenko to claim the lineal/WBA/IBF/WBO/WBC “Franchise” crown along with 2020 Fighter of the Year honors.

For all the riches that the 135-pound division had to offer, it also provided the worst night of Lopez’s career—a twelve-round loss to George Kambosos Jr. last November 27 in New York City. Despite the setback, the goal entering the fight always remained the same—to move on to the next chapter of his career, which comes one division north and his sights set on collecting more hardware.

“My priority is to go out there and win those belts,” Lopez told BoxingScene.com. “My priority is to be the main champion in two weight divisions. It doesn’t matter if it’s Josh Taylor, if it's Jose Zepeda and I don’t know why anyone’s scared of that guy. But it doesn’t matter who it is, I don’t give a flying ‘F.’ I know who I am.

“If anything, they’re more scared of me. I can already see that. The eyes don’t lie, Chico. It’s all about just pushing forward. Whoever they put in front of me, I’m gonna beat them.”

Lopez (16-1, 12KOs) begins that journey on Saturday, when he faces Mexico’s Pedro Campa (34-1-1, 23KOs) atop an ESPN telecast from Resorts World Las Vegas. The fight is his first since the split decision defeat to Kambosos, after which he was hospitalized and diagnosed with pneumomediastinum, a condition in which air leaks from the lungs or airway into the mediastinum.

It was believed that Lopez entered the fight with a small esophageal tear, as he was complaining of shortness of breath prior to the pre-fight weigh-in. There was no turning back at that point, not for a fight that was delayed by several months, including a canceled June 19 date when Lopez—a longtime asthmatic—tested positive for Covid.

For the defending champ who represented Honduras in the 2016 Rio Olympics, the only move was to go through with the fight as his last piece of business at lightweight.

Lopez has since left the division behind, to where he no longer keeps tabs on his fellow young guns such as undisputed lightweight champ Devin Haney (28-0, 15KOs), secondary titlist Gervonta Davis (27-0, 25KOs), with whom he was constantly aligned. The 24-year-old even kept himself occupied during Haney’s coronation when he thoroughly outboxed Kambosos to become undisputed champ earlier this June in Melbourne, Australia.  

“To be honest, I never bothered to watch,” claimed Lopez. “At the time they fought, I was in New York City at that time. I just put on my headphones, rented a city bike and rode around the city. No point in watching something that’s gonna put me to sleep when I can do something that brings peace and pleasure.

“In the sport of boxing you have to understand the business. It was already decided that Devin Haney was going to win, so what’s the point of watching something you already know is going to happen. It’s definitely going to happen again when they have that rematch.”

Haney is on course to face Kambosos again this fall, while openly discussing plans to face Lomachenko—whether before the Kambosos rematch which he insists is not finalized, or one fight later if he chooses to stick around at the weight.

What his plans are remains of no concern to Lopez. In fact, the only other fighter among the prematurely hailed ‘Four Kings’ of the lightweight division whose name remains attached to his own is rising contender Ryan Garcia (23-0, 19KOs) who has now fought above the 135-pound limit in two straight fights.

Garcia claimed after a sixth-round knockout of Javier Fortuna—for which he weighed 140 pounds—that he may never return to lightweight. The conversation has since reverted back to dedicated plans to next face Davis later this year. However, Oscar De La Hoya—Garcia’s promoter and founder/chairman of Golden Boy Promotions—made a point to mention his intentions to be ringside this weekend to scout Lopez. De La Hoya hopes to sit down with Bob Arum—Lopez’s career-long, Hall of Fame promoter who also promoted ‘The Golden Boy’ for much of his Hall of Fame career—to discuss the potential superfight.

It will undoubtedly have to take place at 140, where Lopez has his sights set on becoming a two-division champ.

“No way I’m ever going back to 135 unless I want to commit suicide,” noted Lopez, who has only fought outside of lightweight two times, both coming earlier in his career. “That’s not in my interest. It seems like these other fighters are realizing, 135 ain’t as interesting now that Teofimo ain’t there anymore. Now these guys are already talking about moving to 140.

“I love how God works. During that time, I was sitting back and recovering longer than fighters usually would. So, I sat back, let everyone observe and decide who is that star, who is that “it” factor. I see that everyone at lightweight is sad. Everyone seemed to be like, ‘Damn, Teofimo is that guy.’”

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox