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Teofimo Lopez, ’26 years young’, insists that he’s only getting started

 

Teofimo Lopez has packed a lot of ups and downs into his last five fights.

Up: The 140-pound titleholder stunned the boxing world when he outpointed pound-for-pound king Vasiliy Lomachenko to become the 135-pound champion and an overnight star at 23 years old in October 2020.

Down: He lost his titles by decision to George Kambosos Jr. in his first defense 13 months later, although we later learned he fought with a dangerous health condition.

Up: He bounced back to stop Pedro Campa in his first fight at 140 in August 2022.

Down: He struggled against clever, but limited Sandor Martin in his next fight that December, rising from a knockdown to win an unconvincing split decision.

Up: He gave a performance that rivaled his victory over Lomachenko, taking down previously unbeaten Josh Taylor by a unanimous decision to become a 140-pound titleholder and reestablish himself as a major force in the sport.

Lopez (19-1, 13 KOs) said the rollercoaster ride has allowed him to grow as a fighter as he prepares to defend his belt against Jamaine Ortiz on Thursday in Las Vegas (ESPN, ESPN+).

“I’ve been to the top before at 135, beating the most decorated fighter at the time (Lomachenko),” he said at the final news conference before the fight. “Nobody wanted to face him. Now we’re back again. I beat the guy nobody wanted to fight again (Taylor).

“So, I’ve looked it as I’ve gained it, lost it, and I’ve gained it back again. I know what it takes to be great, which means to respect the ring and respect what it means to be a champion.”

And Lopez will remind you that he’s only 26.

That means he has many big fights in his future, assuming he doesn’t endure too many more “downs.”

He would like to unify titles at 140, a plan that could include a showdown with fellow pound-for-pounder Devin Haney. And he has called out 147-pound champion and current pound-for-pound king Terence Crawford, which could be his ultimate challenge.

He acknowledges Crawford’s sublime ability but points out that “Bud” is 36, an age when mortal fighters typically are beyond their peak ability. That, he believes, makes that fight winnable.

In effect, by calling out the best in the business, he’s putting all the top fighters in and around his weight on notice. He’s convinced that his impressive victories over Lomachenko and Taylor are only a prelude to greater accomplishments.

“This is only the beginning for me,” he said. “I’m 26 years young. I’m not even in my prime yet.”

Story originally appeared on Boxing Junkie