Teofimo Lopez Jr. doesn’t view his next fight as merely a one-off event on another platform; rather, the starting point for a new chapter in his career.
The mudslinging between the undefeated lineal lightweight champion and career-long promoter Top Rank continues to dominate headlines, almost as much as news of the financial terms for his next fight. Brooklyn’s Lopez will face IBF mandatory challenger George Kambosos Jr. (19-0, 11KOs) later this spring, with the bout to take place on a Pay-Per-View event presented by Triller Fight Club, who assumed control of the bout after submitting $6,018,000 at a recent purse bid hearing.
“ESPN knows them and how much I love my relationship with them and the platform. Of course, they’re upset. They’re disappointed in Todd duBoef and Top Rank and this is what happens, man,” Lopez explained in a recent interview on Sirius XM’s The Ak and Barak Show with co-hosts Akin Reyes and Barak Bess. “I look at it like this—I know what I’m worth.
“As long as they—if [Top Rank] could have treated us with respect, they could’ve done things properly like we should have in this business, then we wouldn’t be in this situation right now. Honestly, God’s got better plans for me right now and it’s going towards Triller.”
The massive bid submitted by Triller CEO Ryan Kavanaugh far outpaced offers from Matchroom Boxing ($3,506,000) and Top Rank ($2,315,000), in fact exceeding their combined total as revealed during the Zoom conference call last Thursday.
It served as an exclamation point to more than three months’ worth of negotiations, taking place shortly after Lopez’s 12-round unanimous decision win over Vasiliy Lomachenko last October to become the WBA/IBF/WBO lightweight titlist and the division’s lineal champion. The 2016 Honduran Olympian also secured 2020 Fighter of the Year honors, eager to repeat in 2021, though of the realization that his year would begin with a previously ordered mandatory title defense versus Kambosos.
Top Rank founder and chairman Bob Arum didn’t make any secret of his disinterest in paying Lopez more than what the company felt the fight was worth to air on an ESPN platform. Nor did the Hall of Fame promoter mask his disdain over Matchroom managing director Eddie Hearn attempting to pursue the rights to the fight and for it to stream live on DAZN.
Details of a side conversation between Top Rank and DAZN were ultimately leaked in a recent story published by The Athletic. An e-mail exchange revealed an inquiry from Top Rank president Todd duBoef on whether DAZN—through Hearn—really planned to bid on the fight, calling it a “brazen act by DAZN, particularly after [Top Rank] cleared ESPN programming off of May 8 for DAZN’s Canelo [Alvarez] v [Billy Joe] Saunders big event moving our scheduled event to later in the month.”
The Top Rank event to which duBoef referred is the undisputed junior welterweight championship between unbeaten, unified titlists Jose Ramirez and Josh Taylor. The four-belt clash was originally targeted to take place May 8 in Las Vegas—the same date as, and rumored hosting city for Alvarez-Saunders—only for Top Rank to have since announced that the blockbuster showdown will now air May 22 on ESPN and ESPN+.
According to The Athletic’s Mike Coppinger, a follow-up email was generated between parties on the DAZN side, referencing the “favor” granted in moving Ramirez-Taylor off of the May 8th date.
David McWater, Lopez’s manager was also quoted in the story in offering his disappointment over the attempt to manipulate the purse bid hearing. The 2020 Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) Manager of the Year spent several weeks negotiating the fight with the team representing Australia’s Kambosos.
Given the disparity between what Top Rank was offering and what Team Lopez felt was fair compensation, advancing the fight to a purse bid hearing proved to be in Lopez’s best interest.
“We are very excited that the free market has spoken,” McWater told BoxingScene.com of the outcome, for which Team Lopez will be entitled to 65%— $3,911,700—of the winning bid. Top Rank is entitled to a 20% cut of the purse, leaving Lopez with well north of $3,000,000.
“This right here will set the tone because my fight will be [the] main event,” suggests Lopez. “If we can hit two million pay-per-view buys, I’m on the cusp of becoming a pay-per-view star.”
Despite the career-best payday for Lopez, the series of events leading to this point also leaves a bad taste in his mouth. The turn of events has the 23-year old eager to break free from his current promotional contract which is still valid for another 3 ½ years.
“I see myself within this fight or my next fight, I’ll be a free agent,” believes Lopez, who plans to take legal action in efforts to terminate the existing contract. “There’s so much proof to get out of this Top Rank contract and they gave me the golden ticket. Todd duBoef gave me the golden ticket by doing so. They already dug a bigger hold than needed to.
“Takeover Promotions will be in effect and it’ll be Takeover Promotions times a network, God willing. That’s what I’m looking forward to—ESPN, PBC (Fox or Showtime), Triller… the list can go on and on, DAZN. There’s so many guys and I know that I bring all that to the platform.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox