'I'll humble Lomachenko': Teofimo Lopez interview
Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images
Rising lightweight Teofimo Lopez talks to James Lupton about his family, Olympic disappointment, his controversial celebration vs Diego Magdaleno, why he will "humble" Vasiliy Lomachenko, and much more!
Many fighters are bred from broken homes, poverty and gang life. Fighting to survive is natural for such boxers, making fighting in the ring easy.
Teofimo Lopez has no story of a ghetto life upbringing or a misspent youth to tell, instead he thanks God for how lucky he was to be brought up in such a loving and family-oriented environment.
“It was good, I mean it was nothing too crazy. I never had the hard, poor life or anything like that," he told Boxing Monthly. "There was always food on the table. I was brought up as a good child. My family was good, my mother and my father to this day are still together, thank God. I’ve had it good, man.”
Brought up by his Honduran parents Teofimo had the honour of representing his parents' homeland at the Olympic Games. But Lopez did not feel the sense of pride that an Olympian should.
The Olympic Games were a dream for the young man from Florida, however it was his dream to represent Team USA, a dream that was shattered.
“The reason was because of AIBA and USA boxing," he explains. "I won the US Olympic trials so I did everything [needed] to represent the USA at the Olympics for the 2016 games. What had happened was due to AIBA and USA boxing I feel like AIBA had decided to have somebody else to represent the USA, and this guy didn’t earn the spot.
"He literally got the spot given to him and USA boxing allowed it. I had no other choice but to represent my parents' home country, Honduras, despite me winning the US Olympic trials which is the biggest thing to win here in the US before fighting in the Olympics. I got screwed, hard.”
In the lightweight competition at the Rio games Brooklyn-born Lopez lost via a unanimous decision to Sofiane Oumiha of France, a verdict which brought a chorus of boos from the crestfallen crowd in attendance. What should have been the pinnacle of this young man's career was ruined by what he labelled as corruption.
“Absolutely, it sucks," he says. "After all those years that I’ve trained hard to fight in the Olympics and they say ‘no, we want this guy to go.’ He doesn’t even deserve it. Why? Because he didn’t fight in the Olympic trials, they gave him the spot before that. They knew he was going to lose when it came to fighting at the trials, and of course, they knew he was going to lose when he had to fight me. They decided they had to find another way to get this guy in and they did. It sucks.
“I knew that after the Olympic Games I’d turn pro. I was excited that it was almost done. Honestly, it was a relief after the Olympic Games after they cheated me. It’s too corrupted, too much drama. Look what happened to AIBA, they dropped the president and on top of that, they suspended all those 36 judges and referees.
"They knew what they were doing, they were cheating and doing everything for money. Everything happens for a reason, now look where we’re at, 12-0, 10 knockouts and people are already saying Teofimo Lopez is the next pay-per-view superstar.”
In his last outing, Lopez caused controversy. Former WBO world lightweight title challenger Diego Magdaleno was the step-up bout required at this stage but Lopez put a stop to the challenge posed by ‘Mr Superb’ in the seventh round, albeit after encouraging the referee to put a stop to the bout for numerous rounds prior to the concluding stanza.
“If it was in a different state I think they would’ve ended it a lot earlier," he argues, "in Texas, I feel like they don’t care about the fighters as much as they need to. They’re not as cautious. They were supposed to stop that fight rounds before I finally ended up stopping him badly. The guy was taking too many punches, it was just bad for him.
“A lot of people say that I could’ve finished him by the third [round], some said by the second. The thing is that people don’t understand is people want to see me go rounds in the ring, maybe the whole fight to see how I look, my stamina and things like that.
"People need to understand that the more rounds I go, the worse it is for the [opposing] fighter and the better it is for me. That’s exactly what happened, after every round it just got worse and worse and worse for Magdaleno and look what happened.
"I ended up taking off this guy's head. I threw two hooks and laid him flat, he couldn’t get up from that and I was hoping he wouldn’t because the referee was still counting. I was like ‘what the hell are you doing? Stop the fight already!’ That’s how it is in Texas, they don’t stop the fights.”
We have seen many life-changing tragedies in boxing, one of the most recent being Adonis Stevenson, Lopez has the utmost trust in his corner to keep his health at the forefront of their decision making.
“When you have a team, they are there for your interest, for you," he points out. "Well, my team are always going to be there for me, making sure I’m ok. That’s a team, they are looking out for my best interests. They should’ve taken him out early, it was the cornerman’s fault and the referee's fault. The referee was not really doing his job, because he has seen the number of beatings I was giving this guy, he should’ve stopped it for the sake of his safety, his health.
"His cornermen, they just didn’t care about Magdaleno and they just wanted him to keep going. If he would’ve got up in the seventh round after those two left hooks and that knockdown they probably would’ve still had him keep fighting. It’s sad. That’s why I love the team I have, we know it’s not going to happen but if that day was to come I know my father would say: ‘no, enough is enough.’”
Controversy ignited once the fight had ended. Lopez was pumped up, an over-ecstatic victor perhaps, and his celebrations over the limp body of Magdaleno almost sparked an in-ring, mass brawl.
“I don’t regret anything I did," he says. "Things were talked about, Magdaleno made it a little personal. When I talk shit, sorry for my language when I talk smack to fighters I talk directly to the fighter. I don’t say anything to their family, about mothers about fathers any of those things. Magdaleno made it personal. He talked about my parents' home country and it hurt my father. What was done, was done. I know now in the future we are going to control our emotions more and do things differently.
“I didn’t hold back, we could tell it got to them. Jessie Magdaleno tried to come in [to the ring] and hit us and I knew if I hit any of them it was going to be chaos right away. Everybody would’ve jumped in and it was gonna be a whole big drama. I don’t like any of them but I don’t need to be doing that and getting suspended. I made sure I didn’t fall into what they wanted me to do, which was start a fight.”
Looking ahead Lopez will be back on the canvas facing off against former European champion Edis Tatli, a Finnish boxer with a 31-2 record who unsuccessfully challenged Richar Abril for the WBA lightweight title in 2014. Tatli is ranked as high as number three with the WBO, and represents another step-up opponent for Lopez.
“My fathers been watching him as there have been talks about him. I don’t really watch anybody that I fight, I just listen to my father who is my coach and he tells me what to do and what’s the game plan for that fight. All I have to do is execute it during fight night.”
Without any disrespect, Tatli was not the name most people wanted Lopez to face off against. Rumours had circulated that a possible showdown between Lopez and either Devin Haney or Luke Campbell could materialise - oppnents who most believe would offer him a stiffer test.
Lopez, however, is dismissive of a potential Haney fight, branding their past sparring sessions as one-sided and claiming ‘The Dream’ would be an easy win for him.
“Devin Haney has a lot to learn. He’s still young and he’s not there yet. Devin Haney, when we sparred he just threw one punch, a jab, that’s all he was throwing. Every time the kid wanted to commit I hurt him. Every time he wanted to commit I countered his countering. It’ll be an easy win if we were to fight but I don’t see that fight happening. I don’t think they will take the fight.”
A test against the Briton, on the other hand, could well be on the horizon. “Luke Campbell has been WBC silver champion and he’s mandatory for the WBC world title. Luke Campbell is an excellent fighter, a strong fighter. We’ve sparred numerous times and we always give each other good work.
“Maybe a fight with Luke Campbell but not a fight with Devin Haney. I know a lot of people want to see us fight and I would gladly take the fight because that would be an easy win. I already know the kid is going to be fighting from a distance and running, he’s not going to be boxing.”
A WBC world title shot currently hangs in the balance with the boxing world waiting to see whether Mikey Garcia vacates, but what about the other world champions?
A showdown with IBF ruler Richard Commey is another bout that Lopez does not see likely to come to fruition after the Ghanaian labelled Teofimo his ‘friend’ after they posed for selfies together.
“I didn’t know about the guy until he fought Robert Easter, that’s just me being honest. We fought on the same card when I fought Diego Magdaleno and he seems strong and hungry. I don’t know if they’ll take the fight [with me] because afterwards, we went back to the lobby, he wanted to take a picture with me and people were like ‘oh are we going to see a fight between Lopez and you?’ He was like ‘no, no, no, no he’s my friend.’ I was like ‘oh man!’
"Top Rank would have to negotiate on that. Richie Commey is with Lou DiBella and Lou DiBella knows what kind of fighter I am, I don’t know if he’ll put his fighter at that risk. I don’t know the future so it could be a possibility that we fight.”
At the top of the lightweight food chain, of course, sits Vasiliy Lomachenko, who faces Britain's Anthony Crolla in April.
“I think a lot of the fans were surprised," Lopez says of the pound for pound king's next bout. "They thought a fight between me and Lomachenko was going to happen at the time, or a fight with him and Gervonta [Davis]. They want him to fight either me or Gervonta Davis, so people seeing Anthony Crolla [surprised them] even though he’s earned his spot as mandatory for the WBA.
"I think it will be a good fight, I hope that Anthony Crolla trains really hard for this and he’s focused and positive mentally. A lot of these guys who fight Lomachenko, they are already defeated before they get in the ring because too many people say high things about Lomachenko, hi-tech hi-this. He’s nothing, he’s absolutely nothing, hopefully Crolla is different and he doesn’t respect Lomachenko.”
Lopez disregards Lomachenko as the kingpin of the division and tells Boxing Monthly he will humble the Ukrainian.
“They would think about how he moves side to side, well he moves to one side to be honest not even side to side. They just respect him too much, they're scared. Scared of opening up to him because he’s going to throw so many punches at them the moment they open up.
"They get scared and fold, the moment you get a fighter that actually throws [punches] at him and doesn’t stop that doesn’t care he ends up getting bruises all over his face and starts getting hurt. Lomachenko thinks he’s a God in this sport, if we were to ever fight I’d show him he’s no God.
"There’s only one God. I can tell by the way Lomachenko carries himself that he’s not a humble dude, I’ll humble his ass. I don’t respect him, that’s the difference between me and all these other fighters they put him on this pedestal. Do you know where I put Lomachenko? As a fucking cockroach and I can squash him.”
Is Teofimo Lopez the real deal or just another kid with a dream?
Whichever it may be let’s enjoy the journey while it lasts.
Lopez vs Tatli is on the undercard of the Top Rank-promoted Terence Crawford vs Amir Khan show on 20 April at Madison Square Garden.