Junior welterweight contender Teofimo Lopez (18-1, 13 KOs) headlined in the big room at Madison Square Garden for the first time with a hard-earned split decision win over Spanish southpaw Sandor Martin (40-3, 13 KOs) in a 10-round final eliminator for the WBC crown. One judge had the bout 95-94 for Martin, while two others had it 96-93 and 97-92 for Lopez.
The former lightweight king was originally scheduled to fight Jose Pedraza, but a non-COVID-related illness forced the Puerto Rican contender to pull out of the fight. Martin immediately accepted the opportunity on three weeks’ notice.
Lopez initiated the bout in usual fashion by taking the center of the ring and trying to control the action with his speed and power. But at the end of the round, the two accidentally clashed heads, which evidently broke Martin’s nose and bothered him for the rest of the fight.
Martin’s quick footwork also began to cause problems in the opening minutes, especially as he used his lead right hand to lure Lopez in. In the second round, Martin was successful with that strategy and even dropped Lopez with a counter right hook.
Lopez then spent the rest of the fight trying to attack Martin and counter him when he committed to his punches. Martin was successful in preventing Lopez from positioning himself to land combinations, but at times he was also more concerned with evading shots than exchanging with Lopez.
As the fight ended, Lopez appeared to fight with more urgency while Martin seemed to think he had the fight won.
Lopez said, “It’s so hard to fight somebody like this when they’re running the whole time. Every time this guy committed, I countered and got him every time. He just ran the whole time. It’s OK, though. We got a lot to work on. But first off, I want to thank God for this. No matter what it was. I apologize to everybody tonight. This is not how we perform. But, listen, our dancer partner was running the whole time.
“Every time that this man wanted to commit, I was countering him and tagging him. That’s why he was running the whole time. I felt great overall. I knew he was tired. He didn’t want to commit. He was staying on his back foot and just running around the whole time. But it is what it is. This makes it look good. These guys are going to want to fight me now. More than ever. Now this is great. Now I can actually have a good fight.
“We would love to fight Josh Taylor. We would love to fight Regis Prograis. Or even a rematch with George Kambosos. My whole thing now is just staying focused and staying devoted.”
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