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How Teofimo Lopez Sr. found the lost ‘slick boxer Gordo’

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Teofimo Lopez Sr. and Jr. with the Ring Magazine lightweight title.

by Joseph Santoliquito | 

LAS VEGAS—Teofimo Lopez Sr. is better now. About seven months ago, that was not the case. Back in July 2023, anytime the subject was broached, his eyes would well up. His lower lip would quiver. “Junior,” as he is known to family and friends, had to battle the emotional pangs that tried to overwhelm him.

The 2020 BWAA Trainer of the Year is looking to be Trainer of the Year again. He knows his son, Ring and WBO junior welterweight world champion Teofimo Lopez Jr., well.

Lopez Jr. (19-1, 13 knockouts) will be defending The Ring and WBO junior welterweight world titles Thursday night against Jamaine Ortiz (17-1-1, 8 KOs) at the Michelob Ultra Arena inside Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. The fight will be broadcast live on ESPN, ESPN Deportes and ESPN+ at 10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. PT.

Standing there Monday night in the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino lobby, Lopez Sr. spoke openly about how he had to evolve as a trainer for his son to evolve as a fighter.

The first step was a hard self-reflective look at himself after the loss to George Kambosos in November 2021.

“I was the one holding my son back, and that bothered me,” Teo Sr. said. “I took his genius away. I made him a regular boxer. After the Kambosos loss, with the COVID-19 pandemic, and the problems with the wife, he was sick before the Kambosos fight. He should have never fought that night.

“Then, I took away all his ability. I took away his great ability to read an opponent. If you’re in the ring against my son, he can dissect you and read you in seconds. I took that away from him.”

Teo Sr. stressed the jab. He pushed “Gordo,” which means “fat” in Spanish because Lopez Jr. was a pudgy baby, out of him, wanting Lopez Jr. to jab every two seconds. It was a draining element to Lopez Jr.’s game.

“It’s what I was doing wrong,” Lopez Sr. admitted. “When you’re constantly on an opponent like that, it takes away the chance to see what your opponent is doing. When Gordo starts slipping and moving, and rolling backwards, then coming back with the straight right that you don’t see, and that jumping left hook, he’s unbeatable.”

That is the version that showed up June 10, 2023, before a sellout crowd at The Theater in Madison Square Garden. Lopez Jr. took apart rugged Scot Josh Taylor with a unanimous-decision victory. The boxing world got a chance to see a version of Lopez Jr., who the Lopez family refers to as “slick boxer Gordo,” for the first time in years.

“I had to see things better. After the Kambosos fight, I had to erase everything,” Lopez Sr. said. “It was killing me, because I was the one who kept telling him to throw the jab every two seconds, every three seconds and it was killing him. I was killing him. It’s like taking a gut punch, knowing what I was doing.

“I took away his ability to dissect and read, and then counter your moves. My son is a genius. I see it. Everyone around him knows it. He can see things and break things down that others fighters can’t do. I forgot about that. I watched how he was 17, 18, just destroying Shawn Porter and Yordenis Ugas with short moves, and blinding them.

“I wanted him to be more aggressive. We slowed a lot of things down. Once I saw the video, I told him what I was doing wrong. When he fights like that, he is too fast, is too adaptable and way faster than everyone. Slick boxer Gordo is unbeatable.”

Lopez Jr. is on weight. He is having fun. There has been a perpetual smile on his face.

“He is having fun again,” Lopez Sr. said. “If you’re throwing a jab every two seconds, I took his gift away. He is having fun again in the ring. We had a great camp. I don’t even know how he went 12 rounds against Kambosos. I keep saying my son is a genius. You see it. People don’t want to believe it, but I thought he convinced everyone when he beat (Vasiliy) Lomachenko, and then Taylor.

“I had to evolve. I had to pick up things other fighters cannot do that he can do. We go off on a tick. If someone touches an elbow, we can go off with an uppercut. With every punch, we have an answer. It’s why we made things look so easy against Taylor. We’re definitely looking sat three fights this year.

“Let’s see what happens. Gordo looks sharp. He looks fast. We did our last prep and we only have a few pounds to cut. He looks very motivated, and when he is plugged in and ready, he is unbeatable. He needed the last six months off last year. He needed to recharge and he is fighting Super Bowl week before the world. He is loving his life right now and everything is good.

“Boxing missed him.”

Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter who has been working for Ring Magazine/RingTV.com since October 1997 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.
Follow @JSantoliquito

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Naoya Inoue is the first Japanese boxer to win The Ring’s Fighter-of-the-Year honor in the publication’s 95-year history of the prestigious award.

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