Teofimo Lopez wants nothing more than to fight Vasiliy Lomachenko next.
But if their promoter, Bob Arum, attempts to stage their lightweight title unification match without fans, Lopez won’t accept it. Arum obviously wants as many fans as possible in the venue for Lomachenko-Lopez because it’ll create an immeasurably better atmosphere and tickets sales would significantly increase overall revenue from the event.
Once fights can be scheduled again, coronavirus-related restrictions initially could prohibit fans from attending boxing matches and other sporting events. That strange scenario doesn’t interest Lopez, the unbeaten IBF lightweight champion.
“That wouldn’t happen,” Lopez said during SiriusXM’s “The Ak and Barak Show” recently. “I wouldn’t accept the fight if that was the case.”
Brooklyn’s Lopez (15-0, 12 KOs) meant what he said about possibly passing on his high-profile fight versus Ukraine’s Lomachenko (14-1, 10 KOs), which was tentatively scheduled for May 30 at Madison Square Garden in New York.
“Yeah. I mean, it ain’t the same without the fans,” Lopez explained. “I mean, if we’ve got LeBron out here saying it as well, it ain’t the same. The atmosphere – what makes New York and Madison Square Garden a place that I love – cuz you’re not gonna get the type of audience in New York. You’re not gonna get those Brooklyn fans. You’re not gonna get that energy anywhere else.
“When you go out there, you’ve got all the people from Cali, they come out. You’ve got people from the East Coast coming out, New Jersey. You’re not gonna get that energy. And that brings more of a bigger audience. That makes it just that much more fun. It’s a drug that I’m addicted to. And if it ain’t no [fans], it’s pretty much considered a sparring match.”
Lopez clearly considers fan engagement an important component to fight night, so significant that he can’t count competing in an empty venue as an acceptable plan. Such prominent fights as Lomachenko-Lopez probably wouldn’t be the type of events Arum would consider staging without fans in attendance, but Lopez emphasized it’d be a deal-breaker for him.
“Yeah, I’ll turn it down,” said Lopez, who has not yet agreed to financial terms to fight Lomachenko. “Everything I do is for the fans. Everything I love to do, and why I get so excited when I’m in there, is because of the fans. They bring that energy out for me. You know, whether it’s in Cali, whether it’s in Vegas, it don’t matter where. It’s just, for me, I devote everything to the fans. So, it’s gotta be done with the fans. Somehow, some way.”
The 22-year-old Lopez told BoxingScene.com recently that he thinks his showdown with Lomachenko could be pushed back to sometime in the fall because of this pandemic. Lopez hopes that’s long enough away from now that fans can attend boxing matches by then.
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves yet,” Lopez said. “Let’s see what happens. You know what I mean? Yeah, we’ve gotta stay positive. Maybe something changes, but if not, then yeah, we’ve gotta adapt to it. But we don’t know anything yet. All we can say is that we’ve just got opinions or we just kinda feel like this might happen and such and such. But we don’t know anything. Who knows, man? Maybe this whole thing could just die out by tomorrow, or who knows?”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.