By Jake Donovan
As Mikey Garcia (39-0, 30KOs) continues to prepare for his March 16 challenge of unbeaten welterweight titlist Errol Spence Jr., there remains heavy interest as to what his plans are with the World Boxing Council (WBC) lightweight title which remains in his possession.
For now, the WBC is taking a wait-and-see approach—as BoxingScene.com previously reported—to give Garcia a chance to decide at which weight he chooses to campaign after the Spence fight.
Meanwhile, several divisional players continue to plot their own next moves. England’s Luke Campbell patiently awaits his owed title shot, which at some point will have to be enforced.
One contender on the rise, Teofimo Lopez Jr. decided to take his act directly to Mexico City where he joined reigning WBC 140-pound titlist Jose Ramirez and representatives from Top Rank Inc. on Thursday afternoon to take part in a press conference held to honor the WBC’s 56th anniversary.
Lopez (12-0, 10KOs) is fresh off of a one-sided 7th round stoppage of Diego Magdaleno earlier this month in Frisco, Texas. The feat officially graduated the 21-year old knockout artist from prospect to contender.
“In just 12 fights I have already moved to number 5 (WBC-ranked lightweight) in the world,” noted Lopez, a Brooklyn-bred boxer who represented Honduras in the 2016 Rio Olympics. “It is in my plans for this year to become a world champion.”
His next fight won’t be for the title but certainly one that will continue to move him in that direction. Lopez will next appear on the undercard of the April 20 Pay-Per-View headliner between Terence Crawford and Amir Khan at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
The bout will mark his fifth fight on MSG property, having previously fought twice in the main room and twice at Hulu Theatre. None have lasted very long, in fact lasting just 11 minutes combined in two each 1st round and 2nd round knockouts.
Lopez is just one of several young boxers under the Top Rank banner, along with Ramirez—fresh off of a 12-round win over Jose Zepeda in his 2nd title defense last weekend—whom the company deems as can't miss future stars.
“You talk about the top stars, Vasiliy Lomachenko will be fighting April 12 at Staples Center (in Los Angeles) and then Terence Crawford fights April 20 at Madison Square Garden,” explained Carl Moretti, vice president of operations for Top Rank. “In the not-too-distant future, these two gentlemen here will be talked about on pound-for-pound lists.
“It’s great to have that kind of talent. We develop character, not characters.”
Lopez has character for days, along with a world of talent and what many have already identified as that certain “it” factor in targeting future superstars. Having already run through the prospect phase of his short career—appropriately hailed by BoxingScene.com as a frontrunner for the 2018 Prospect of the Year—he’s already leading a path of destruction in his rise as a lightweight contender.
“Hopefully, over the next 6-9 months there will be clarity as to what happens with the title,” Moretti offered as a loose timetable for when Lopez will challenge for the WBC belt, also known as ‘The Green Belt’. “As you can see, the green looks wonderful on Teofimo Lopez. That is our goal and if we have to fight Luke Campbell, (former 130 pound titlist) Javier Fortuna or whoever, we don’t care.
“We’d just love to have the opportunity for Lopez to fight for the title. Then eventually, the fight to make would be a unification fight with Lomachenko in 2020. Right now, (Lopez is) fighting on April 20 and that’s the most important fight of his career—the next one. After that, we will take care of business.”