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30th July 2020
By: Noah Abrahams
The IBF lightweight champion and perhaps the next Prince Naseem, a professionally undefeated Teófimo López burst onto the boxing scene with enormous potential and a unique style.
Today celebrating his 23rd birthday, ‘El Brooklyn’ began throwing punches aged just six-years-old. Following in the footsteps of the greats before him, Lòpez first embarked on his journey to stardom when competing at the Rio Olympics. His movement resembling Muhammad Ali and his heart that of a lion, López welcomed Brazil as an opportunity for publicity, a hot prospect globally on display.
Whilst not a southpaw like Naseem or more notably Vasyl Lomachenko (the reigning WBA, WBO, and WBC ‘franchise’ lightweight victor), López looks set to achieve what appeared unthinkable when he was knocked out of the 2016 games by France’s Sofiane Oumiha in the first round of the tournament.
Born in Brooklyn to Honduran immigrants, López chose to represent his father’s homeland on the world stage. Fighting out of Honduras’ corner with Teófimo López Sr as his trainer, he concluded an exciting 170 fight amateur career (150 wins with 20 defeats) at the Olympics.
Although an unsuccessful chapter in the life of a young and hungry fighter, this stepping stone to the beginning of a fresh professional era was utilized perfectly – introspection from the competition a valuable asset moving forwards. Talent spotted by Top Rank Promotions three months post a sour South American experience, López signed papers with Bob Arum, the businessman investing in permanent class over temporary form.
From undercard to main event, the road to stardom began in Las Vegas on November 5th, 2016. An evening that Manny Pacquiao fans have fond memories of, the ‘Pac Man’s’ victory against Jessie Vargas followed a debut knockout for López. Comfortably easing his way past fellow debuton Ishwar Siqueiros in two short rounds, the ‘Brooklyn Brawler’ had the first of 12 stoppages under his belt.
Off the mark and under the radar, education complimented a string of important results in 2017. A year on from the Olympics and enrolled in Shawn Porter, Luke Campbell, and Guillermo Rigondeaux fight camps, López applied the skills learned to hand defeats to those competitors a champion must fight on the way to the top.
Beating the likes of Daniel Bastien by knockout in New York, Christian Santibanez by unanimous decision in Tampa and Josh Ross by technical knockout in Florida, López was leaving his imprint on the division and looked the bookies’ favorite to conquer lightweight boxing.
In sport, as in life, one never quite knows what’s around the corner. The beginning of 2018 proved just that. When Lomachenko moved up from super featherweight, the game changed and so did López.
We now know that on 3rd October this year, López and Lomechenko will almost certainly go to battle for a unification fight of the decade at the MGM in Las Vegas. But how did the Honduran American win the IBF belt missing from the ‘Matrix’s’’ collection?
The journey to the world title began for López when rival ‘Loma’ headlined Madison Square Garden on 12th May 2018. When he knocked out opponent Vitor Jones within 64 seconds on the undercard, the world watched in awe and Lomachenko in fury. The López Sr prodigy stole the show and subsequently enraged the Ukrainian, who beat Jorge Linares for the WBA lightweight belt a few hours later.
Patterns in boxing are common. Both current lightweight world champions fought in the Olympics, fill opponents with fear and can finish a fight in under two minutes. Contending for knockout of the year as 2018 drew to a close, López stopped Mason Menard in 44 seconds on a familiar undercard – Lomachenko vs Jose Pedraza for the WBO lightweight belt at Madison Square Garden. The breeze ‘Loma’ felt as he defeated ‘Sniper Goldo’ was López breathing down his neck.
Climbing the rankings, 2019 was the year that a childhood dream would be achieved. Handing IBF number three in the world Masayoshi Nakatani the first loss of his career in July, the Brooklyn pugilist earnt the right to challenge Ghana’s IBF titlist Richard Commey for the world championship.
In 2019 López was named ESPN’s Prospect of the Year. The highlight in an explosive four-year career, however, was undoubtedly the second round of a statement victory on 14th December 2019.
Savagely destroying Commey with speed, destructive power, and unique athleticism, López blew the African away, proving himself to be one of the only men that stands a chance of beating Lomachenko.
Knocked down 45 seconds into the second round with a killer right hand and pinned onto the ropes seconds later, Commey said after a brutal technical knockout that: “Teófimo did great and capitalized on the opportunity for the title.”
Over eight months since being crowned IBF lightweight king, finally a return to the ring for López appears likely. With the coronavirus showing no signs of imminent reprieve across The Pond, however, boxing fans continue to hold their breath for a bout as highly in demand as perhaps even Anthony Joshua vs Tyson Fury.
Will Teófimo López echo Top Rank legends Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather and Miguel Cotto in unifying his division? Or will Lomachenko make a mockery of his doubters?
We’ll find out soon!
“Boxing is temporary. My legacy is forever.” – Teófimo López