Teofimo Lopez’s ‘Takeover’ of the lightweight division has been a goal of his since turning pro in late 2016. As catchy, or unrealistic to his critics, as that phrase is, Lopez has spent his pro career proving doubters wrong.
Lopez has decimated opposition thus far, passing the eye test, but will face a significant step-up in opposition when he faces IBF lightweight titleholder Richard Commey at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
The 12-round bout will headline a three-bout telecast on ESPN (9 p.m. ET/ 6 p.m. PT).
Lopez (14-0, 11 knockouts), who will be fighting across the East River from his home in Brooklyn, New York, exploded onto the boxing stage, dominating his opposition before ending matters in spectacular fashion. His knockout victories are followed by a Fortnite dance and a backflip in the center of the ring, displaying emotion and some narcissism at the same time.
There was no backflip and dance after his last bout on July 19, defeating Japan’s Masayoshi Nakatani by unanimous decision in a clash of unbeaten contenders. With the victory, Lopez became the mandatory challenger to Commey’s IBF title.
Commey (29-2, 26 KOs), who is originally from Ghana and now resides in the Bronx, New York, has won his last five bouts after losing close split-decision losses to Robert Easter and Denis Shafikov in 2017. Lopez is the slight betting favorite, but some critics believe Commey might be too strong and experienced.
Lopez scoffs at the notion.
“People make me laugh,” Lopez told Boxingscene earlier this week. “You cannot satisfy the critics. I go 12 rounds (with Nakatani) and I looked in great shape, but people were saying it was my worst performance. I needed those obstacles of facing a tall fighter who moved. I did it all that fight. I boxed. I moved forward. Everything happens for a reason though.”
Saturday will not be Lopez’s first fight inside the big arena at Madison Square Garden. The 22-year-old battered and stopped Edis Tatli of Finland in round five.
Despite the atmosphere of a near or sellout arena and with the stakes so high, Lopez is confident he will not get sucked into the moment.
“It’s not my first rodeo fighting at Madison Square Garden,” said Lopez, who represented Honduras at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. “Everyone is looking forward to knockout artists at the top of their game facing each other. It’s a big fight. It’s huge.”
“Commey is a strong fighter. He has power in both hands, but so do I. We’re mentally and physically prepared for whatever he brings to the table.”
Lopez has also enlisted the services of former contender Joey Gamache to work alongside Lopez’s father and trainer, Teofimo, Sr.
The younger Lopez is grateful to have had his father in his corner since he was a small child. Despite the family dynamic and recent conflicts, Lopez has continued to lean on his father for advice or for important aspects of training and planning.
He hopes to fulfill the dream both have had of winning a world title belt Saturday.
“My Dad means the world to me. He’s never given up on me. He’s made mistakes and I’ve made mistakes, but overall, we continue to work well and together. My Dad has made me who I am and I look up to him. I’m proud of him. He’s made me a smart champion.”
Should Lopez win, there is talk of a unification fight against Vasiliy Lomachenko, who is also promoted by Top Rank. That fight could take place in March or April.
There are other potential fights that could take place in 2020 or the following year as he could face WBC titleholder Devin Haney or unbeaten Ryan Garcia. Those fights would have to take place soon as Lopez might make his way up to 140 pounds.
Whoever Lopez fights, he wants to prove he is the best in the ring and in the lightweight division.
“’The Takeover is everything. I’m coming to destroy everyone’s dreams. It’s going to be heartless 2020. I’m taking over everyone’s soul. I’ll be that dark side that people don’t want to fight against. I’m going to start that boom (Saturday night).”
“I’m happy right now. I can’t wait.”