18 Jul 19
San Gabriel Valley Tribune
Thirteen fights and he’s talking like this.
Barely three years as a pro and he’s giving you his road map.
He’ll beat Masayoshi Nakatani Friday night in Oxon Hill, Md., and then he’ll beat Richard Commey for his first title, and then he’ll totally shock and astound Vasyl Lomachenko, probably the world’s best technical boxer, for lightweight supremacy.
After that, the takeover spreads to the 140-pound division.
“I’ve been fighting for 17 years and my face still looks like this,” said Teofimo Lopez, undefeated and unmarked, closing in on his 22nd birthday.
Well, the nose isn’t exactly straight.
“The nose, you know, that comes with it,” Lopez said, laughing.
“A lot of people think I just come forward, but they haven’t seen anything yet. If you want to come forward, I’ve got something for you.”
Lopez’s dad and trainer is Teofimo, too. “I’m the fourth or the fifth or something like that,” the son said.
Senior makes Junior seem reticent. The two were at Pechanga Resort last month to watch Commey defend his IBF title against Ray Beltran.
“I thought Commey would have trouble getting through five rounds with my son,” Teofimo Sr. said. “After tonight, I don’t think he’s going to get through one.”
So far Lopez has covered every bet.
He has been scheduled well, but Diego Magdaleno has fought for featherweight titles, and Lopez took him out in the seventh round.
He does backflips in the ring and he has worn Kyler Murray’s jersey and he did a Fortnite dance when he dispatched Edis Tatli.
He is part of a Now Generation that includes Vergil Ortiz at 140 pounds and Shakur Stevenson at 126. If he has occasional problems getting under 135, it’s not because he’s eaten his words.
Bob Arum owns Top Rank. He promotes Lopez and Stevenson and he also landed Tyson Fury, the 6-foot-9 Pied Piper who is leading the heavyweights back into the light. Arum is 87 but he is borrowing youth from his clients. He recently circled the globe, watching his fighters in Kazakhstan and Tokyo.
Arum is masterminding Lopez’s accelerated schedule. After all, Lomachenko’s first pro fight was Orlando Salido’s 56th, and Salido’s gnarly know-how got him a victory.
Lopez won the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials but Carlos Balderas had already won the amateur World Series and had the spot in the lightweight division. Lopez then became a one-man team for Honduras, where his dad is from, and got to the final of the Continental tournament, earning him the right to a dubious first-round loss to France’s Sofiane Oumiha.
Promoter Lou DiBella was in Rio de Janeiro that day and told Lopez, “You got jobbed.” Miguel Diaz, the cutman who represented Top Rank, recommended Lopez to the home office.
And so it began, although it really began in a New York gym when Lopez was four. Senior had a job driving limos. He dropped off his son for a few minutes.
“When he came back, the coach had already taught me a couple of combos,” Lopez said. “My dad couldn’t believe it. I’d been involved in taekwondo and soccer, and that helped me, but when I started boxing, that was it. It wasn’t generational. It happened naturally.”
[related_articles location=”left” show_article_date=”false” article_type=”automatic-primary-section”]“My wife and I had daughters,” Senior said. “I wanted a son so bad. I had all these blue things in the truck. When it came out a boy, I was ecstatic. He came out with his fists clenched. Then he peed in my face.”
The two would train at Gleason’s Gym in New York, or Red Hook, but Senior tells stories of looking at his son through small gym windows, because he wasn’t allowed in. The father-trainer is an enduring figure. It works sometimes, it doesn’t work sometimes, but it always drips with emotion. For every Kenny Porter (Shawn) or Angel Garcia (Danny), there are 20 dads who have to be asked to leave the corner.
“He has always told me, ‘You’re the one they need,’’’ Junior said. “He has always wanted me to entertain. As far as boxing goes, he tells me not to get hit. Keep your jab. Everything else will follow. I hated training with him but then I loved it. When I did lose as a kid I thought I’d disappointed him. He’s outspoken. He says what he has to say.”
As Commey walked out of the Pechanga ring, Senior said he was using the Mike Tyson mold for Junior. “Just in the sense of being a destroyer,” he said. “I told (director and gym owner) Peter Berg, hey, you gotta make a movie about this kid.”
The previews are already out.
Boxer Teofimo Lopez celebrates his fifth-round knockout of Edis Tatli during their lightweight fight on April 20, 2019 at Madison Square Garden in New York. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)