Teofimo Lopez flexes on the scale during the weigh in ahead of his NABF & WBO International junior welterweight fight with Pedro Campa, at Resorts World. (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS—Teofimo Lopez Jr. loves large stages. The Ring/WBO junior welterweight world champion has had a habit throughout his career of coming up large on large platforms. He beat Vasiliy Lomenchenko, when no one thought he would. Last June, he came back to beat the former undisputed 140-pound world champion Josh Taylor—again, when no one thought he would.
Lopez (19-1, 13 knockouts) embraces defiance.
He’s ready to take his brand and moxie global in the whirlwind of Super Bowl week this Thursday, when he defends the titles for the first time against someone he beat as an amateur, Jamaine Ortiz (17-1-1, 8 KOs), at the Michelob Ultra Arena inside Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.
Lopez took time off after the Taylor fight, saying he was going to retire. No one believed him, not even those closest to him. He just needed time away from the ring to sort out a few matters before recalibrating his focus once again on boxing.
“I’m not done with my message for the next generation,” Lopez said. “What I thought was it, was not it. There is a message to the next generation of boxers and I’m very big with my son, so out of the ring, my message is bigger. I have a message to my son and kids like him coming that I have to deliver.
“I’ve come back for the greater good of boxing, while these other fighters are doing it for themselves. My son just turned two and he says ‘Boxing (laughs).’ The bigger reason why I am back is my son. I can’t waste the gifts the Lord has given me.”
Lopez, 26, stressed he believes in being a role model. He is highly intelligent. He is very underestimated, and as he gets older, he has learned to slow the world around him down a little more, and a little more.
He admits there were times when he would lose control of himself.
“The reason why is everything was new to me, and I didn’t know how to accept it or deal with it,” he said. “I would have moments when I would see these fighters doing things, and I would lose it, saying to myself, ‘They just don’t see things the way I see things.’ I was serious in Madison Square Garden that night in June when I said I was done.
“I’m one of the few that I say what I’m going to do and do it. A lot of things are settled right now. I can always work with people. I don’t like it when people try to take advantage of me. I want a greater ownership of Teofimo Lopez Jr. I have the Ring championship—the most prestigious belt of all. I want to be treated as someone more than a world champion boxer. I want to open doors that bring more sponsors in.
“Professional athletes get used. I realize it is part of life. You have to face it. You have to keep moving forward. I want to own a greater piece of me. I had to go through what I did when I lost to (George Kambosos Jr.). He doesn’t want a rematch with me.”
Lopez is constantly with his son, Teofimo Liam Lopez V. He’s in the gym with him, he may be ring side Thursday to watch his father.
“I didn’t miss boxing, boxing missed me,” Lopez said. “Boxing did wonders for me, I have to do good things for boxing. Boxing is a dysfunctional family and we are all together.”
Lopez said his primary concern is defending the Ring championship. There are no sanctioning fees involved and he is universally recognized as the 140-pound world champion. Teofimo V will be experiencing his first training camp with his father.
His dad is looking to be the 2024 Fighter of the Year again and raise his brand in the combat sports arena while raising the awareness of boxing.
“Boxing is a universe, it’s why I love it,” Lopez said. “You can do anything in boxing. I would like to face Gervonta Davis later this year, and then maybe Terence Crawford, if he stays at 147. I’m right on weight for this (Ortiz fight), at 146. I’ll make 140 easy.
“My biggest goal is to make my image bigger. I would look at Tank sometime this summer or in the fall and Crawford sometime in the winter. That’s the goal. But it is boxing, who says what will happen?”
He was brilliant against Taylor.
During the buildup for the Taylor fight, he conceded, “I wanted everyone to think I was crazy, I was out of my mind, and a lot of people fell for it,” he said, laughing. “I learned that everything is in my hands. I have a responsibility to myself, and mostly, to my son. I have to be my son’s superhero. I can’t let him down.
“I was crying for four days prior to this contract. It’s a lot to handle. If your mind is not right, I would not have been able to perform the way I did against Taylor. Think about it. I continue to fill an empty glass. I empty it and fill it up again. I’ve gone through the boxing Illuminati barrier and survived.”
As for the 27-year-old Ortiz, Lopez said he has had a great training camp. He enters the fight with a razor-sharp edge and the confidence in knowing he beat Ortiz before.
“I want to do what Oscar De La Hoya and what Floyd Mayweather did with my Takeover Promotions,” Lopez said. “This will be our first promotion. We’ll have our own merchandize booths in the arena. Top Rank has their thing, and I get to promote myself. I’m thinking about action figures and bobbleheads.
“The fans will see more entertaining things this week. I’m going to win. I beat him before. I’ll beat him again—and I’m having fun again. It’s been a while since I was able to say that.”
Joseph Santoliquito is hall of fame, 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.
READ THE “BEST OF 2023” ISSUE OF THE RING. SUBSCRIBE NOW TO UNLOCK EVERY FEATURE AND ACCESS MORE THAN 10 YEARS OF BACK ISSUES.