There's a special Thursday fight night on this Super Bowl week, as recognized junior welterweight champion, Teofimo Lopez defends his WBO title against Jamaine Ortiz at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. This card will be spotlighted in front of a national prime time audience on ESPN.
It's a fight that the talented Lopez is expected to win. He is listed at right around a 7-to-1 favorite.
But much of the chatter heading into this bout is if the temperamental Lopez will have the needed focus to not just defeat Ortiz, but to beat him handily. It's a legitimate question given the fact that Lopez did lose in stunning fashion to George Kambosos as a prohibitive favorite not-too-long ago.
Lopez promises he will not have a letdown on this occasion.
“Before all of this and before I fought Josh Taylor, I used to take a break. I used to not really train so much. I used to not always be in the gym. But after I got everything back and became a two-division world champion, I started staying in the gym," stated Lopez (19-1, 13 KOs) "My trainer, who is my father, always wanted me to stay in the gym. So, I started doing that last August.
"Since then, I’ve gotten faster. I’ve gotten much stronger. My I.Q. is much sharper. And it’s because I haven’t stopped training since August of last year. And I’m not going to stop. After I beat Jamaine Ortiz, then I will keep staying in the gym.”
Currently, Lopez is not only the Ring Magazine junior welterweight champion, but 10th on their pound-for-pound list. Which means that he is considered among the very elite in the sport. He is in rarefied air alongside the likes of Terence Crawford, Naoya Inoue, Oleksandr Usyk, and Canelo Alvarez. But one thing that has truly separated those boxers is their consistency in performance. In other words, for years, they have beaten everyone that they are supposed to. They simply don't have bad nights -- or any excuses.
All they do is win, over and over again in dominant fashion.
Talent is not the issue for Lopez, never has been. It's everything else. While in many respects he has mastered the sport of boxing inside the ring, it's the business outside of it that he hasn't quite gotten a grasp on. After his early career-defining victory over Vasiliy Lomachenko, he and his team proceeded to get lost in the Trillerverse, then basically lost a year on his career, which was then capped off by the defeat to Kambosos in 2021.
Mikey Williams/Top Rank
Then after his sparkling performance against Taylor last June, he capitalized on that new-found momentum....by announcing his 'retirement' (yeah, he really got us with that one). It would be his only appearance in 2023.
But now he returns, for what you hope is one of a few outings this year as he builds his case for fights that will satisfy him financially. At his best, he's not just one of the most lethal boxer-punchers in the game, he's among the most entertaining.
“The end result is that ‘The Showman’ is returning. There will definitely be a knockout. It’s not going the distance," Lopez promised. "I’m not going to leave it in the judges' hands at all. So, everyone tune in, and get your popcorn ready."
Lopez in the past has been spectacular. Now the question is: can he be consistent?
“It’s been a long journey. And I know what it takes. I don’t want to be known as a fighter who knows how to get to the top but doesn’t know how to keep it. So, I want everyone to tune in so they can see how much I truly love the sport of boxing.”
BLOOD, SWEAT AND TEARS
Here's a look at the pre-fight feature put together by Top Rank which previews Lopez-Ortiz:
This weeks episode of 'the 3 Knockdown Rule', Mario Lopez and I discuss this bout, and Tyson Fury post-poning his upcoming showdown against Usyk, alongside the 'Ask Mario' segment and 'Final Flurries'. Click on the Linktree to subscribe on your preferred podcast platform:
The co-feature on ESPN on Thursday night will have lightweight prospect Keyshawn Davis stepping up against two-time world champion, Jose Pedraza...Also on the undercard (which will be streamed on ESPN+) is the talented, Abdullah Mason....John Ryder, who recently was defeated by Jaime Munguia, has announced his retirement from the ring....I can be reached at email@example.com.....