LAS VEGAS – While Teofimo Lopez has mandatory challenger George Kambosos Jr. up next, the unified lightweight world champion is also focused on fighting undisputed junior welterweight champion Josh Taylor after that.
Forget that proposed rematch with former lightweight champion Vassiliy Lomachenko, Lopez said.
Lopez will face Kambosos in a long-delayed bout later this fall, and then, as long as Lopez wins, he said his new contract with Top Rank promises him at least three fights in 2022. He aims to kick off the year with a showdown against fellow Top Rank-promoted Taylor.
If Lopez has his way, he said he would like to fight four times next year, but his main goal for 2022 is “definitely fighting Josh Taylor right away,” Lopez told World Boxing News during an interview inside the Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder III media center at the MGM Grand.
Top Rank and Teofimo Lopez Sr., Lopez’s father, and trainer, mentioned the possibility of Lopez first having a fight at junior welterweight in early 2022 against Arnold Barboza Jr. (26-0, 10 KOs) before going for the title, but the younger Lopez doesn’t want to hear any of that.
“That’s Top Rank talking,” Lopez said. “I make my own rules here. Top Rank, we’re partners, but at the end of the day, I deal with people from ESPN now.”
Because of the delay in the Kambosos fight, Lopez will be limited to just one bout this year, and it will have been a little over a year since he scored a major upset by outpointing three-division champion Lomachenko (15-2, 11 KOs) to unify 135-pound titles last October.
There was talk of a rematch, especially after Lomachenko returned and knocked out Masayoshi Nakatani on June 26 in a very impressive performance. Teofimo Lopez Sr. was ringside and said afterward that their side was willing to do the rematch with Lomachenko as long as it was the fight right after his son faced Kambosos. It was a plan endorsed by Top Rank chairman Bob Arum, but the younger Lopez said he is not on board with it.
“The ‘Loma’ rematch is definitely out,” Lopez said. “Had I lost, they would never have given me (a rematch). I was probably going to get $100,000 after this (if I lost) and be down on an undercard, and everybody forgets about me.
“Everything happened the way it did, and I won. I became undisputed world champion in the lightweight division in the four-belt era, and it’s all about doing bigger and better things. I’m not even shooting for the stars anymore at this point. I’m shooting for the Milky Way.”
That means moving up in weight to fight Taylor for the undisputed crown at 140 pounds.
Taylor (18-0, 13 KOs), 30, a southpaw from Scotland, became the four-belt undisputed junior welterweight world champion on May 22 when he outpointed fellow two-belt titleholder Jose Ramirez to unify the division. Taylor will defend those belts against England’s Jack Catterall (26-0, 13 KOs) in a homecoming fight in Glasgow, Scotland, on Dec. 18. If Taylor, the heavy favorite, wins, he would be there for the possible Lopez showdown he has said he is interested in.
Beyond a potential fight with Taylor, Lopez said he is game for anyone – except Lomachenko again – and he rattled off the names of the other significant fighters in the lightweight division.
“Whoever wants to fight me whether it’s Tank, Devin, Garcia, the world,” Lopez said of WBA secondary titlist Gervonta “Tank” Davis, WBC titlist Devon Haney, and Ryan Garcia. “I’ll fight anybody. My hands are always open.”
But first up is Kambosos in a fight that has lingered for nearly six months because of multiple delays and the IBF last week finding Triller Fight Club in default of the purse bid it won for $6.018 million in February.
Triller scheduled the fight for multiple dates in June before it was postponed due to Lopez coming down with Covid-19 a week before the show. Then Triller ticketed it for various other dates, including Oct. 4 and Oct. 5 at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York, before attempting to lock it in for Oct. 16. However, Kambosos (19-0, 10 KOs), 28, of Australia, declined to sign off on the new date and move to Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, unless certain conditions were met. Triller did meet those conditions, and the fight was called off.
With Triller out of the picture, the fight will be promoted by Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing, which was the second-place bidder at $3.506 million.
Under Hearn’s bid, both fighters are still looking at career-high purses. Lopez’s purse is $2,278,900 and Kambosos’ is $1,227,100. Matchroom Boxing is hoping to stage the bout in November, though that could be complicated because its broadcaster, DAZN, already has multiple boxing events scheduled in the month.
Lopez said he thought Nov. 13 at Madison Square Garden in New York was a possible date, but that appears unlikely because DAZN already has two cards on that date, a Matchroom Boxing event in England headlined by Kid Galahad’s IBF featherweight title defense against Kiko Martinez and a Golden Boy card in Anaheim, California, headlined by the Jaime Munguia-Gabriel Rosado middleweight fight.
Lopez is anxious to have the fight then because his wife is due with their first child at the end of November.
“I talked to Eddie Hearn the other day, and we’re just trying to make those things work,” Lopez said.
Lopez is not happy to have been unable to capitalize on the win over Lomachenko and be forced into such a long layoff, but he said he wasn’t angry at Triller.
“No, no, not at all, because at the end of the day, we’re probably going to meet again some other time, but I’m not talking about in my boxing,” Lopez said. “Maybe for something else. No hard feelings at all. I don’t burn my bridges. I always keep them open. My door is always open for anybody and everybody. Everything happens the way it needs to.”
Even when Triller was moving the fight from date to date to date, Lopez said he never worried about it too much.
“I already knew we were going to be good regardless. I always think of the positive rather than the negative,” the 2020 World Boxing News Fighter of the Year said. “(Triller) kept sabotaging the dates and kept sabotaging certain things. But I knew, worst-case scenario, it was going to go to DAZN, and when anything goes into DAZN’s hands, it’s always going to come to fruition.
“This is a real organized company that’s been in the game, Matchroom, and also DAZN. They know what they want, and they know what they’re doing and what they’re shooting for. Really, I’m just thankful.
“I think I’ve been more patient about it, but I am definitely looking forward to putting a beating on this guy (Kambosos). He screamed at my team and my mother when I wasn’t there and was dealing with my Covid situation when they were in Miami.
“My whole team had already gone to Miami (in mid-June), and I was on my way going there too, and I was already feeling something, so we did a Covid test, and it came out positive. I was devastated, and not only that, I was symptomatic.”
More than anything, the 24-year-old Lopez (16-0, 12 KOs) Lopez said he can’t wait to just get into the ring.
“I was looking forward to fighting back-to-back (in October and November). I was looking forward to Oct. 4 (one of the dates for the Kambosos fight) and then fighting in November,” Lopez said. “I was really looking forward to trying to get two fights before my son was born. But things happen the way they did.
“I’m only going to get one fight this year and we’re looking forward to a better 2022. But I’m ready right now.
“I’m walking around at 146. It’s not like I’m struggling here. I’m composed, taking care of my body, taking care of my mind.”