No one could match a backflip, jersey or one of the simplest functions of Heiman pose boxing. Lopez defeated Vasily Lomchenko by unanimous decision to win three of the four major lightweight belts (and the WBC franchise belt), and when the lightweight name was announced inside the MGM Grand Convention Center in Las Vegas on Saturday night, despite Zero to fans. And the ovation it deserved indicated that a new era in sports had officially arrived.
Teofimo Lopez is Boxing’s next superstar.
He achieved that position with a clear margin with wins over Lomchenko – ESPN’s No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter, as the judges competed 117–111, 119–102 and 116–112. Now, at the age of 23, Lopez is a unified lightweight champion, and the performance she showed during her rise in sports now matches her ring achievements.
“I’m a fighter,” he said in a post-fight interview on ESPN. “I must dig deep. I knew he was coming. I can’t give it to him.”
Lopez (16–0, 13 KOs) controlled the action for the first seven rounds until Lomchenko found his offense. And after faltering during the back end of the fight, Lopez raced into the 12th round and responded to Lomchenko (14-2, 10 KO) by digging deep and putting his shape on the east wing.
Lopez did not hesitate to face one of the toughest challenges in the game, and that finish gave Lopez a reward that was worth the risk. Prior to this weekend, Lomchenko had intercepted nine of his final 11 opponents, and was arguably the most prominent boxing fighter. Lopez wanted a challenge to face someone like Lomchenko, even if it meant risking an undefeated record. Lopez cited some historical greats of the game, who chose that approach.
“He didn’t care,” Lopez said at the pre-fight press conference. “They just wanted to do a show for the fans and they wanted to show themselves and prove that they are the best in their division. And that’s what comes.”
By doing so, and winning, the charismatic, marketable and sociable Lopez accelerated her way into boxing superstardom and progressed significantly in the path of being one of the sport’s most attractive fighters.
For years, Top Rank looked for ways to build Lopez’s brand as he laid the foundation for his professional career. For the past two years, Lopez stole the show at Madison Square Garden for the presentation of the Heisman Trophy on ESPN, and he delivered on both occasions.
Not only did he win, including a second-round TKO over Richard Comey for the IBF belt, setting the Lomachenko opportunity, but he celebrated the victory with a backflip wearing the Heisman winners’ jersey. He knew that being a good award winner meant being a great showman.
This was true during the construction of the fight against Lomchenko. Lopez was vocal in her trash talk before the bout. While some feelings of dislike may be valid, Lopez more or less acknowledged that this was the role that should have been played to create some drama around the title fight.
Teofimo Lopez broke his unanimous decision victory over Vasily Lomachenko, saying that he would have to dig deep if he wanted to win. He also previews what might happen next for him.
“I’m not trying to get under his skin,” Lopez said. “I’m just being cheeky. That night, he wants to get it out on me, great. I’m trying to get it out, that too. It’s a good fight. At the same time, we’re gonna promote the damn fight trying.
With a win over Lomchenko, Lopez’s combination of marketism and his trail craftsmanship gives him one of the highest ceilings in the game. Others such as Gerwanta Davis and Ryan Garcia certainly have a large fan base and name recognition, but none of them have the type of victory that Lopez won this weekend, and his performance on Saturday One can easily close the gap in terms of popularity and recognition.
And as Lopez continues to advance in weight and pursue big names in weight and stature over the next few years, his appeal will only increase with more top-tier performances. If he moves up to junior welterweight, he could take on two other top-ranked fighters Jose Ramirez or Josh Taylor, who in 2021 could hold all four major 140-pound title belts.
Just as he was not afraid to step up to the challenge of fighting Lomchenko, Lopez does not hesitate to take on any boy.
Lopez said, “I’ll be near Josh Taylor in the morning,” and then at night near Jose Ramirez.
That joke summarized why Lopez has the brightest futures in the game. For years Lopez has displayed elite levels of charisma. On Saturday, he said that with a win over arguably the world’s best boxer.
Takeover is complete. And Lopez’s time at the top is just beginning.