For a man known for emphatic celebrations after the match, a raised hand made a louder statement than anything else Teofimo Lopez has done in the ring.
No backflip, jersey or Heisman bag could match one of the simplest actions in boxing. Lopez defeated Vasiliy Lomachenko by unanimous decision to win three of the four biggest lightweight belts (and the WBC franchise belt), and when the lightweight name was announced inside the MGM Grand Convention Center in Las Vegas on Saturday night, despite being invalidated by fans and the ovation it deserved signaled that a new era in the sport had officially arrived.
Teofimo Lopez is the box’s next superstar.
He cemented that status with a win over Lomachenko ̵
“I’m a fighter,” he said in an interview after the fight on ESPN. “I have to dig deep. I knew he would come. I can not give him that.”
Lopez (16-0, 13 KOs) controlled the action in the first seven rounds until Lomachenko found his offense. And after faltering during the back end of the match, Lopez gathered in the 12th round and responded to Lomachenko (14-2, 10 KOs) by digging deep and imposing his size on the former featherweight.
Lopez did not shy away from facing one of the toughest challenges in the sport, and this finish gave Lopez a reward that was worth the risk. Before this weekend, Lomachenko had stopped nine of his last 11 opponents and was without a doubt boxing’s most dominant fighter. Lopez wanted the challenge of meeting someone like Lomachenko, even if it meant risking an unbeaten record. Lopez cited some of the sport’s historical greats who chose that approach.
“They didn’t care,” Lopez said at the pre-match press conference. “They just wanted to create a show for the fans and they wanted to show and prove (for) themselves that they are the best in their division. And that’s what it’s about.
By doing so and by winning, the charismatic, negotiable and lovable Lopez accelerated his path to boxing star city and made significant progress down the road to being one of the sport’s most lucrative warriors.
For years, Top Rank has been looking for ways to build Lopez’s brand as he built the foundation for his professional career. For the past two years, Lopez stole the show in Madison Square Garden on the heels of the Heisman Trophy presentation on ESPN, and he delivered on both occasions.
Not only did he win, including another round of TKO over Richard Commey for the IBF belt, creating the Lomachenko opportunity, but he celebrated the victories with backflips while wearing the jerseys of the Heisman winners. He knew that being a good prize man meant being a great showman.
It stuck during the build-up to the match against Lomachenko. Lopez was vocal in his trash before the match. While some of the feelings of may not be legitimate, Lopez more or less admitted that it was the role that had to be played to create some drama around the title fight.
Teofimo Lopez breaks down his unanimous victory over Vasily Lomachenko, saying he had to dig deep if he wanted to win. He also looks at what may be next for him.
“I’m not trying to get under his skin,” Lopez said. “I’m just obviously. Come that night, he wants to take it out on me, great. I’m also trying to take it out on him. That’s what makes it a good fight. the cursed battle. “
With the victory over Lomachenko, the combination of Lopez’s negotiability and his pugilistic craft gives him one of the highest ceilings in the sport. Others like Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia undoubtedly have a bigger fan base and naming, but none of them have the type of win that Lopez got this weekend, and his performance on Saturday could easily close the gap in terms of popularity and recognition.
And as Lopez continues to move in weight and chase down bigger names in weight and stature over the next few years, his appeal will only increase along with more top-level performance. If he goes up to junior welterweight, he could take on Jose Ramirez or Josh Taylor, two other Top Rank fighters who could hold all four big 140-pound title belts in early 2021.
Just as he was not afraid to take up the challenge of fighting Lomachenko, Lopez is not shy about taking on any of them.
“I get Josh Taylor in the morning,” Lopez said, “and then I get Jose Ramirez at night.”
This joke summed up why Lopez has one of the brightest futures in the sport. For years, Lopez has shown elite levels of charisma. On Saturday, he matched it with a win over arguably the best boxer in the world.
The takeover is complete. And Lopez’s time at the top has just begun.