What a difference a year makes.
Last October, Teofimo Lopez Jr. became the talk of the boxing world when he backed up the bold claims made by he and his trainer/father to upset Vasiliy Lomachenko and assume control of the lightweight division as unified champion.
At 23, Lopez appeared destined for superstardom and made his debut on just about everyone’s pound-for-pound list just 16 bouts into his pro career. With lightning-quick reflexes, one-punch power and the confidence to carry out such an unorthodox style built upon equal parts freak athleticism and IQ, the boxing world was Lopez’s oyster.
So how did we get to where we are today, some 13 months later, with Lopez licking his wounds following a shocking loss last Saturday to unheralded mandatory challenger George Kambosos Jr.? Whatever the specific reason one pinpoints from the outside looking in, Lopez could be on the precipice of an epic career free fall if the chaos surrounding his team and family don’t get cleaned up fast.
Lopez had no game plan whatsoever beyond reckless pursuit of a knockout for all 12 rounds despite being a monstrous betting favorite against Kambosos. He was dropped hard in the opening round and failed to adjust in any form to what his upstart opponent threw at him, even after rallying for a knockdown in Round 10 that he was never able to capitalize upon.
The 13-month layoff Lopez snapped entering the fight was anything but normal. After forcing a purse bid because he was unhappy with the minimum offer from promoter Top Rank, Lopez appeared to work the system in his favor when Triller Fight Club won the rights to broadcast the fight with an exorbitant bid of over $6 million.
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But the fight never came off and was ultimately delayed eight different times in almost comical fashion until Triller ultimately defaulted upon the bid. Lopez reportedly found himself cash poor after fronting the money for so many training camps that never came to fruition. But that was just the tip of the iceberg to Lopez’s mounting problems.
Whether it was for financial reasons, arrogance or more the result of a rudderless ship, Lopez failed to retain the services of both key assistant trainer Joey Gamache and the nutritional company he previously used to help cut weight. The loss of the former became a glaring one once adversity hit in the Kambosos fight where Lopez’s father and trainer failed to deliver any form of strategic or helpful advice in the corner.
Reports also began to surface after the loss as to just how troubled Lopez had become emotionally throughout the previous year’s promotional soap opera, which included heavy amount of partying while dealing with the dissolution of his marriage, all while his wife was pregnant with their son.
On Tuesday, Boxing Scene ran a feature that veered even deeper into the delusional mindset and bizarre antics of Lopez both before and after the Kambosos loss, which fans got a firsthand look at during Lopez’s irrational post-fight interview.
Nothing about Lopez’s meteoric rise was ever normal, from the carnival barking of his father to the constant drama behind the scenes involving his family, including a backstage altercation between Lopez’s wife, mother and sister just moments before he made the walk to the ring in his 2019 victory over Masayoshi Nakatani that saw the fighter openly distracted in an uneven performance that served unknowingly as the harbinger of doom that wouldn’t come to full bloom until Kambosos.
Considering what we know now about Lopez, it makes his comments from October that were provided during a media scrum in Las Vegas about how he considered suicide multiple times over the past year all the more concerning.
Lopez is young enough that the addition of time off, a new trainer and a hard dose of humility might be enough for the fighter once thought to be mature beyond his years to save his career following such a disastrous implosion. But sometimes in a young fighter’s rise, the toothpaste can’t be so easily put back into the tube.
Mike Tyson was just a few months younger than Lopez is today when he came up on the business end of the biggest upset in boxing history against James “Buster” Douglas in 1990. The loss wasn’t simply one bad night at the office, it was the consummation of a chaotic life spiraling out of control and, even though Tyson would go on to once again become heavyweight champion down the road, he was unquestionably never the same after the upset loss.
Here’s to hoping Lopez can find the much-needed peace he needs outside the ring as he exits the P4P top 10 in ways that might facilitate a successful return inside of it.
Dropped out: Teofimo Lopez Jr.
Honorable mention: Juan Francisco Estrada, Artur Beterbiev, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Yordenis Ugas, Jermell Charlo