Teofimo Lopez never envisioned encountering Jamaine Ortiz in the professional ranks, not even after their closely contested fight at the 2015 National Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions.
Lopez outpointed Ortiz in the 132-pound final nearly nine years ago at Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino. The Brooklyn native, who then resided and trained in South Florida, went on to represent Honduras at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro before embarking on a pro career during which Lopez won world titles in two weight classes by the age of 25.
Las Vegas’ Lopez will oppose Ortiz, of Worcester, Massachusetts, on Thursday night at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino’s Michelob ULTRA Arena, a short drive from where they met as amateurs in May 2015. Their higher-profile fight for Lopez’s WBO junior welterweight title is not a rematch Lopez anticipated because he didn’t see the same sort of potential in Ortiz that he felt he possessed.
“I didn’t even expect him to make it this far,” Lopez told BoxingScene.com. “So, for him to do this now is good for me. It lets me know that I’ve gotta stay on my toes, especially with a fighter like him that I faced in the finals. I believe that one thing him and I agree on is that the national Golden Gloves is the toughest tournament in all of amateur boxing.”
Ortiz (17-1-1, 8 KOs) has only lost to Vasiliy Lomachenko in 7½ years as a professional. Lopez upset Ukraine’s Lomachenko (17-3, 11 KOs) by unanimous decision two years before Ortiz faced the three-division champion in October 2022, but Lopez was upset himself by Australia’s George Kambosos Jr. in his following fight 13 months later.
Lopez (19-1, 13 KOs) moved up from the lightweight limit of 135 pounds to the 140-pound division after Kambosos beat him by split decision in their 12-rounder in The Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York. The former unified lightweight champion is 3-0 as a junior welterweight, including his decisive defeat of Scottish southpaw Josh Taylor (19-1, 13 KOs) in their 12-round fight for Taylor’s WBO belt June 10 in The Theater at Madison Square Garden.
Lopez hoped to fight former WBC/WBO 140-pound champ Jose Ramirez on Thursday night, but Ramirez (28-1, 18 KOs) parted ways with longtime promoter Top Rank Inc., which also represents Lopez, and signed with Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions. Once Ramirez turned down Top Rank’s lucrative offer to fight for Lopez’s championship, Lopez’s handlers settled on the 27-year-old Ortiz as an opponent for his first defense of the WBO 140-pound championship.
“[Ortiz] came up to me at the same arena that we’re fighting at, when David Benavidez fought ‘Boo Boo’ Andrade [on November 25],” Lopez recalled. “And he said that he wants his lick back. He came up to me and said, ‘I want my lick back. Let’s make the fight happen.’ And we couldn’t get no other opposition with us. We couldn’t get the big names in the boxing world … this is the guy that wants it, so we’re gonna give it to him.”
DraftKings sportsbook lists Lopez as a 7-1 favorite to win a main event ESPN will televise as part of a doubleheader scheduled to start at 10:30 p.m. ET (7:30 p.m. PT). The understated Ortiz is unfazed by those wide odds as a rematch he always believed would happen draws near.
“When I was on the rise in the professional ranks,” Ortiz said, “I knew I was gonna see him again.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.