Teofimo Lopez 1-on-1 with Kevin Iole

Yahoo Sports' Kevin Iole talks to former undisputed lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez, who is moving up to the 140-pound division to face Pedro Campa on Saturday in Las Vegas. Lopez last fought in November and lost his belts in a split decision to George Kambosos Jr. The former champion discusses his loss to Kambosos, his return to the ring at a higher weight class and why Campa is just a "stepping stone" to bigger and better fights at super lightweight.

Video Transcript

KEVIN IOLE: Hey, everybody. I am Kevin Iole. Welcome to Yahoo Sports. On Saturday, it is the return of Teofimo Lopez at Resorts World in Las Vegas. And joining me right now is the former undisputed lightweight champion, Teofimo Lopez. Teo, how are you, my friend?

TEOFIMO LOPEZ: I'm doing great. Thank you for the introduction. You're the first one that calls it like that. And that's what it is-- former undisputed lightweight world champion moving on to 140 become a two-time undisputed world champion. Thank you, Kevin. Thank you for everything. I appreciate you always, my friend.

KEVIN IOLE: You know, I saw yesterday. I got a kick out of the post you put on Instagram, the picture underwater of you in that imitation of Muhammad Ali. How did that come about? Where did you do that at? And who shot that for you?

TEOFIMO LOPEZ: Oh, my guy-- actually Anthony [INAUDIBLE] So I'm actually doing docu now where I'm actually wanting to have people come in to get to know me in a better-- in a better personal way, you know-- so you know, behind the scenes and stuff like that. And we took that up in HealthQuest up in New Jersey.

So that was nice. You know, it was very nice to have that moment and do that shot but also, you know, at the same time, work out-- do my swimming, do my drills, and you know, just really moving forward from there, you know. It's been a blessing in disguise. You know, this loss didn't break me. It just made me stronger.

It made me who I am today, you know, mentally, physically, and emotionally. So we're just moving forward from then. And of course, you know I got to-- I got to, you know, Ali, Bomaye, You know? You know, that's what it's all about. And--

KEVIN IOLE: I have pictures on every one of these walls here of Muhammad Ali. So I'm-- anything that has to do with Muhammad Ali I'm into.

TEOFIMO LOPEZ: Absolutely. And you know, that's the blessed thing about it, man. That guy definitely-- he shook the world. And he continues to shake the world, even when he's not here. But he's here in spirit.

KEVIN IOLE: Well, you shook the world when you beat Vasiliy Lomachenko. And maybe you shook the world again when you lost to George Kambosos your last time out. You know, and no disrespect to Kambosos, you know, who is a tough guy and a hard fighter. But I think the way you performed in that fight was what shocked everybody. Like, when you look back on that, why weren't you, Teofimo Lopez, why were you a different guy that night?

TEOFIMO LOPEZ: Oh, my health. You know, health is wealth. And really just the amount of complications, the amount of injuries I had-- and on top of that, I didn't even know that I had a ruptured esophagus.

And I had a ruptured tear in my chest area during going into that fight, you know. But I noticed that something definitely was wrong, you know, even with the flash knockdown. Because that wasn't a big punch.

It wasn't a hard shot or anything. It was honestly just the weight drain and everything that I felt. I honestly, I just couldn't believe it. So I got back up. I smiled.

I was like, OK, it is what it is. And-- but the thing is that a lot of people don't understand, it's like-- it's weird. It's weird. How to I-- how can I explain this? It was easier for me to keep throwing punches and coming forward like I was doing than doing what I normally do is box, breathe, control, time the guy, and do those things.

Because I couldn't breathe. It was so hard to breathe that it was better just to keep going. And it's so weird how that came about. However, you know, everything played out the way it did. And I'm just grateful for the way the turnaround was.

KEVIN IOLE: Why do you guys-- you know, because to me, it's like-- you know, you said health is wealth. Why didn't you cancel that fight? Because you know, I know you had a crazy 2021 with that Triller debacle and everything else.

But you know, if you're sitting there and you cannot breathe, what is the most important thing for anybody? But of course, a fighter, you know, you have to be able to breathe for 36 minutes in a hard fight. I mean, I don't understand why you went forward with the fight given what was going on.

TEOFIMO LOPEZ: Because I'm entertaining. You know, I'm someone that's a performer. You know, they're paying me to go out there. And I'm having time. You know, time is something that people don't get back.

I mean, I'm having 5,000-plus people at the Hulu Theater, you know, getting double vaccinations and going out of their way to come and watch me fight and to see me perform, you know? And It's like, what do I do? You know, the amount of postponements-- eight, nine postponements-- you know, I would have postponed after the weigh-ins.

You know, I would have canceled the day of the fight. I mean, that would have broke so many more people, you know? That would have been like, oh, what excuse this kid has now?

And it's not an excuse. You know, none of this was. And it's just-- but you know, everything played out the way it needed to. You know, I don't know why there were so many postponements leading up to that fight. However, you know, everything happens for its reasons.

I learned from this. I learned that my health is everything, even if it has to disappoint the fans and everyone out there, you know? I do everything. I'm a die hard at boxing-- not just a boxing fighter, but I'm also a boxing fan. I want to give the people what they need, what they want to watch.

KEVIN IOLE: Yeah.

TEOFIMO LOPEZ: Yeah, so I'm just-- I love what I do. And I have a passion for it. I'll die in that ring for it for all my people out there. I realized, though, you know, now that I have a son, I have to be there for him.

So I got to think more about those things as well. You know, I'm just-- I just turned 25. So I have time. You know, JK Rowling, she was broke at 23. Disney filed for bankruptcy at 23.

Jeff Bezos was 23 flipping hamburgers. So you know, I have time, you know, at McDonald's. So I have time, you know. And I'm just focused on, what else can I do now moving forward?

KEVIN IOLE: You know, you said something interesting. You said, you know, I'm not making excuses. And so I want to run-- I want to bring up two points. You know, and I think you lost a little bit of fans over this.

And I want to get your reaction to it. After you beat Loma in, you know, I think the greatest night of your career, Loma had surgery. And I did a report on it.

And I tweeted my story out. And you said-- he had shoulder surgery. And you said, here we go with the excuses. You criticized him for having surgery. But then after--

TEOFIMO LOPEZ: I had surgery too, though.

KEVIN IOLE: Well, you said, here we go again.

TEOFIMO LOPEZ: I had-- I fought him at the same time. And I was injured. I had a complete torn ligament on my right foot fighting Lomachenko, plus I had complications with my elbow-- well, no, my wrist-- sorry, with my wrist, which I actually just finally got done getting surgery on. And the thing is, like-- see, that is one thing when it comes to that, right?

That's a injury within itself. We could fight through that. But when it's health conditions-- when it's, like, asthma, when it's-- when you're having asthma for 12 rounds, when you're having bronchitis in those 12 rounds and in the early stages of pneumonia-- come on, guys. Common sense, that's not an excuse. That's a life-threatening situation right there.

When I got to the hospital, I had trauma surgeons all around me deciding whether they're going to open me up to stitch me back up or leave it and see how I'm going to heal. You know what I'm saying? These are life-threatening things. And they had to make a executive decision to figure it out. Because it's a 50/50 chance that I will survive that.

You know, so these are the things that-- that was not an excuse, guys. That is literally life-threatening. I don't ever make excuses. The only thing I probably [MUTED] myself up with was going and taking this fight for a ungrateful-ass people in this world. That's it-- performing for ungrateful-ass people that haven't done [MUTED] in their life.

I'm sorry. They haven't done nothing in their life. And they complain. And they point the finger at everybody else and say, we're not humble. But it's just a reflection of self, you know? And I've realized that.

KEVIN IOLE: And I get that. I mean, you know, hey, I don't get it on the scale. You get it. But of course, we all get it. You know, you're in the public eye. And you get--

TEOFIMO LOPEZ: If you guys did get it, then it wouldn't be an excuse. It's literally, hey, kudos to that kid for at least going out there risking his whole life for us, and giving us a show regardless, and making it even fighter of the year, upset of the year, making those things happen for the people. You know, those are the things that you guys don't really think.

Because a lot of people are small-minded, short-minded people. See, I'm not even in the-- I don't even want to be in the 1% club no more. I'm shooting to be in the 0% club, the only club.

KEVIN IOLE: What do you mean by the 0% club?

TEOFIMO LOPEZ: The 0% club, the only club, the only club where you're only allowed because you're in the God's path. Those 1% people in this world and the 1% in this club, that 1% club is so many entitlement people. Sorry to say it. There's so much entitlement. And it's like you've got to be a specific way of this, and that, and the third.

And it's like-- that's not how it's supposed to be, you know. And the irony I find into all the people at 1%, in the 1% club, the irony I find in this-- really, Kevin Iole-- is this. It is the fact that with all the books that they have read and with all the books that they have-- they've learned, they got their knowledge from, and all this stuff, and the research, they judge a book by its cover.

KEVIN IOLE: Mm-hmm.

TEOFIMO LOPEZ: You know, that's the irony I find in this. You know what? Because I'm Latin, or because I'm this or that, or because I have crooked teeth-- I mean, I don't care. This is who I am.

So I don't want to be in the 1% club. I'm shooting to be in the 0% club, the only club. And that's what we're shooting for now. You know, coming back in this August 13 against Pedro Campa, you know, we're focus on bigger and better things. This guy is a stepping stone.

But we've got to push forward and give the guys-- and give everyone a show. I'm here to give ESPN a show. I'm here to give Top Rank and give them that structure that they need. You know, I'm here to perform. And that's what I'm going to do come August 13, Saturday night, live on ESPN.

KEVIN IOLE: Two other questions I want to ask you-- one about your goals in the division and the other one about just, you know, sort of where you are personally. I know you've had a lot of things going on in your personal life. How do you keep that out and focus on boxing so that all the stuff that's distracting you outside the ring-- we all have stuff, right?

Everything goes on in our lives that the public doesn't know about. I do. You do. Everybody else does. How do you put that aside and perform like The Takeover you used to perform as he was a young, carefree kid coming up?

TEOFIMO LOPEZ: Oh, man. I'm still that same kid, you know. Even when it came to that fight against Kambosos, I was still that kid however-- just trying to survive throughout that-- those conditions. And for moving forward, honestly, it's just all about-- I meditate, man.

I get closer. I connect with the universe. I connect with God, you know. I just do all those things that are going to help my sanity, especially in today's world, where everything's all on the phone, you know?

So I take my time to really enjoy the fruits of God's labor. You know, I really come out to that point. You know, and I just connect more with-- I just ground myself more, you know.

And then I spend time with my son, give him that-- give him that love that I can give him, you know, that I learned from my previous life, and from my upbringings, and just, you know, doing the best I can as a father, as a brother, as a son, you know, doing the best that I can as a man myself-- and not only that, as an idol for everyone out there, you know? But I tell everyone that wants to be like Teofimo or be in this position, do not be like me. Be better than me.

KEVIN IOLE: What did I call you in the Olympics? The Honduran Idol. That's what I said in the Olympics in 2016. Hey, last question and I'll let you go. Here's what I want to know.

Like, the division you're in, 140 now, is an interesting division with a lot of good fighters. I think, if I'm not mistaken, Josh Taylor and Catterall have got a rematch set up. What's your hit list? In what order do you want to go after people?

TEOFIMO LOPEZ: Oh, man. If I really was to say who I would like to face, next would be Josh Taylor. I mean, he's the one that has majority of the belts right now. You know, he has the WBO, IBF, and the "Ring" magazine.

So beating him would be awesome, you know, just competing with him in that standpoint, you know? However, you know, he has his own reasons of why he's not fighting until November. He's saying he's getting married. So I'm like, man, hurry up with your wedding. Get eloped.

Let's keep going, you know. Let's make these fights happen for the fans, really. You know, so if I had to say, it would be Josh Taylor. And then [? we'd ?] see who else is there around. You know, it's going to be many fights to be made, especially with myself.

KEVIN IOLE: You know who would be a good fight with you is Regis Prograis. You and Regis Prograis would be a hell of a fight.

TEOFIMO LOPEZ: Oh, yeah, absolutely. You know, and I'm actually happy that he's fighting for the WBC now against Jose Zepeda. I think that's going to be a great fight. We're going to see two southpaws going at it. You've got a Mexican style. You've got Prograis, who's a dog.

He has that Louisiana in him. He has that-- he has that push. So I believe that is going to be awesome overall, you know, just to see how this turnaround is, you know. But first things first. I got to make my mark and let them know and let it be known that I'm here to take over their division, 140.

KEVIN IOLE: Well, that is him. That is The Takeover himself, Teofimo Lopez Saturday night at the Resorts World in Las Vegas on ESPN. You can catch him in his fight against Pedro Campa. Teofimo, always good to talk to you. Best of luck to you, my friend.

TEOFIMO LOPEZ: Always. You know it. And to everyone, let's take back The Takeover August 13, live on ESPN. You don't want to miss it. We're bringing back everything and more. Let's get it-- the backflips and "Fortnite" dances. Woo!