Teofimo Lopez and George Kambosos Jr. had conflicting premonitions prior to their lineal lightweight title fight on Saturday.
Lopez said that he had already seen how the fight was going to end, a left hook knockout in the very first round. His father disagreed only slightly, saying that he had envisioned a right hand doing the job. Lopez said that the result was inevitable, it had already occurred in his mind, all he had to do was go out and realize it.
Kambosos said that while staring out the window of his 39th floor hotel room overlooking Madison Square Garden that he had a vision that he would hurt Lopez in the first round. He stopped short of offering any conclusive predictions beyond that.
When competing athletes tout their visualizations, ultimately only one can be vindicated. The Lopez family has long touted themselves as clairvoyants, people with the supernatural ability to manifest exact results that they had dreamt up. To this point in his pro career, the results had always been favorable, allowing Teofimo Jr. and Sr. to announce each time that their prophecy had come true.
“I believe a lot of his stories are delusional,” said Kambosos prior to the bout.
When the bell rang to begin the fight, Lopez darted across the ring and started firing wild power punches. He fought like a fighter trying desperately to fulfill a lofty prediction, while Kambosos fought like someone with the confidence that his would be realized.
But there was something more at play than just the desire to actualize the boxing version of Babe Ruth calling his shot and hitting a home run to dead center field—predicting the exact punch that he’d knock his opponent out with in the very first round. Inside of Lopez, there seemed to be a swirling collection of rage, paranoia and loneliness creating a storm he was desperately trying to shelter himself from with training and self-help mantras.
Lopez entered pre-fight broadcast meetings with DAZN commentators alone, sitting in a folding chair as Azinga Fuzile answered his final questions. In the midst of Fuzile’s interview, Lopez just started talking. seemingly happy to be away from the chaos of the weigh-in and keen to just find a friendly ear.
“I like how you guys have treated me. Much better than everyone else,” he said, gesturing broadly. “Energy is my language.”
Teofimo Sr. eventually joined, and what ensued was a frenzied conversation that saw Teofimo Jr. range from the verge of tears to fantasizing about violence, from saying he “hadn’t done sh!t in boxing” and having to be reassured by his father to claiming that no man except his newborn son would ever be able to beat him.
Lopez at one point offered that he would want to kill a man in the ring “if it were legal,” and that he would have to stop himself from elbowing Kambosos while he was on the mat, although it’s what he truly wanted to do.
“People don’t understand how much pain I got. This is the only time I get to let it out. I really want to hurt people,” said Lopez.
He described the tumult in his personal life. A split from his wife while his first child was just days old, and a dwindling fortune, claiming that a month prior he had just $20,000 in his account, prior to sponsorship dollars coming in for the Kambosos fight, which he claimed he manifested. For many, if not most, this would be a comfortable amount of liquid cash, but Lopez had last year made a reported $1.5 million in one night.
“I get to go in hell. Beat the hell out of them. Kill those demons, then get the f--- out. A lot of people don’t know when to turn off their boxing switch,” said Lopez. “This is war. This is spiritual war. Every time I’m out here, I’m out here slaying these demons. Ain’t nobody gonna take my soul.”
The demons he described seemingly sometimes referred to actual demons, other times to define personal struggles. He frequently cited parties that had or were holding him back, from USA Boxing to promoters to a more nebulous “they.”
As his emotions began to boil over, every once in a while he would return to therapy-speak about gratitude, positive energy and personal freedom. When he was finally peeled away from the table, he left the room yelling “f--k the government.”
Far before Lopez hit the mat in the first round after walking into a huge overhand right from Kambosos, things appeared to be falling apart for him.
Throughout the fight, Teofimo Sr. played to the crowd and when in the corner, assured his son that he was doing well, as ringside observers watched him lose rounds to Kambosos. In the tenth round, Lopez nearly bailed himself out, dropping Kambosos with a right hand of his own before the bell thwarted his ensuing onslaught. When Lopez sat on the stool, his father was still on the floor, his back to the ring, jumping up and down with his arms in the air.
Kambosos recovered, winning the next two rounds convincingly, and ultimately the bout by split decision. After the scores were read and the belts awarded to Kambosos, Lopez gingerly accepted handshakes and an embrace from his opponent, but seemed reluctant and eager to end the interaction. As Kambosos posed for photos and began his interview with DAZN’s Chris Mannix, Lopez sat on the top rope, dancing and waving to the crowd as if he had indeed won.
When Kambosos started to discuss his turnaround in the 11th round, Lopez hopped down off the ropes and just started talking over him, just as he’d done to Fuzile a day prior. He said that everybody knew that he won the fight, that “the referee” knew he won the fight seemingly with an inference that he was part of a conspiracy against him. He said he felt he won the fight 10-2. He also suggested that, despite his insistence prior to the fight that making 135 was no particularly difficult for him, “they” had been making him fight at lightweight against his will. The crowd at the Hulu Theatre, which was previously ravenously in support of him, clad in Lopez gear and draped in Honduran flags, loudly booed him and began to file out of the venue.
“I think you’re a bit delusional, mate,” said Kambosos, who despite Lopez’s antagonism took a kind approach to dealing with his ranting opponent, telling Lopez that what matters most was their children, that he would be happy to have a rematch in Australia, and generally not engaging with his hysterics.
Fighters toe a narrow line between confidence and delusion in general. The goal of becoming the toughest man on the planet is a preposterous one to choose to chase as a vocation. Fighters prior to fights are frankly expected to lie and tout their abilities to absurd levels, but after fights be humble to the point of self-deprecation. There exists a creamy middle in terms of post-fight attitude following a losing effort that is palatable to observers where the fighter praises their opponent, offers that they think they might have won but also suggests that they might be wrong in their assessment and will go back and watch the tape.
Teofimo may eventually come around to that place, just as Deontay Wilder did following his loss to Tyson Fury in their third bout, but he was nowhere close to it in the immediate aftermath of the fight.
The moment that encapsulated Lopez’s sad decline best came when DAZN cameras stopped rolling. With fans mostly filed out of the venue and DJ Dubbz had dropped his volume to elevator music decibels, Lopez instructed the few crew members remaining in the ring to back away. He then did his traditional backflip celebration, the one he’d done for the fights he’d won.
He stuck the landing, but there was no one left there for him. Just as he’d feared, everyone was now gone.
Corey Erdman is a boxing writer and commentator based in Toronto, ON, Canada. Follow him on Twitter @corey_erdman