By Bill Tibbs
On December 8th, undefeated Teofimo Lopez Jr. (10-0, 8 KO’s) will make his 4th appearance at New York’s Madison Square Garden when he faces off against Mason Menard (34-3, 24 KO’s).
Lopez picked up the WBC Continental America’s title in his last bout 5 months ago and will be looking to add the vacant NABF lightweight strap to his collection after this bout.
While Lopez, considered one of boxing’s hottest fighters, is facing the much more experienced fighter in Menard, he will be the favourite heading into the bout.
Lopez has been a much talked about fighter since turning pro in November of 2016. In recent interviews he has insisted he will be a champion before 2019 is done and simply refers to his career ascension as “the takeover” referencing the fact he is confident that he will become one of boxing’s major stars before long.
While some might accuse Lopez of being the latest hot prospect with the gift of gab, it is hard to argue with the Las Vegas-residing fighter. Lopez has impressed, and looked experienced beyond his years, in backing up his confident predictions so far in his undefeated professional run.
Lopez, who was born in Brooklyn, New York and raised in Davie, Florida can box, has power, has a good defence and is as fan friendly as they get.
He is becoming increasingly popular for his customary post-win back flip and victory dances that have entertained audiences and become a bit of an internet craze.
But make no mistake, dance moves aside, Lopez knows that his in-ring performances are paramount to his goal of a title shot in the first half of 2019.
After competing in the 2016 summer Olympics Lopez signed with Las Vegas based promotional powerhouse Top Rank and has been lighting up the 135-pound division ever since.
With Teofimo Jr. recuperated and rested after suffering a hand injury in his July win over William Silva in New Orleans, Maxboxing caught up with father and trainer Teofimo Lopez Sr. to get his thoughts on his son’s upcoming MSG date and their title goals for the coming year.
Asked about his son’s hand recovery and recuperation, it sounded like all was good to go.
“He’s hitting harder than ever right now, his power is crazy”, said Teofimo Sr. “I’m telling you, my son is hitting harder than ever, he is sparring with 160-pounders in camp and he has to hold back on them, he’d take them out otherwise. His hand has been good for over a month now. If my son isn’t taking you out it is because he is playing around with you. That is what he was doing in his last fight, the Silva fight. I said to him, ‘enough of this, take this guy out, let’s get this done’ and he just went out and stopped him. He could have stopped him anytime but he was just playing with him and this was with a broken hand”, he said.
Asked about a title shot in 2019, something Lopez Jr. has been very vocal about wanting to achieve before his 22nd birthday in July, Lopez Sr. said that is exactly what the plan is – a world title before his 22nd birthday.
“We want a title shot before his 22nd birthday in July and Bob (Top Rank’s Arum) has said he’ll get us the title shot. The only way we wouldn’t get one is if the other champions are too scared to fight my son. I’m telling you my son is on a whole different level”, said Lopez Sr. “And trust me when I say this, as the competition gets better he’ll get even better. He has an easier time with better fighters. There isn’t a fighter out there who can touch my son. He might fight for the title that Mikey Garcia vacates, if he does that, but it doesn’t matter who he fights or for what title, there isn’t fighter out there that beats him”.
Asked about the possibility of a fight with P4P star Vasyl Lomachenko, who is also promoted by Top Rank, and it seems that Lopez Sr. doesn’t have a lot of confidence that the fight will happen anytime soon.
“Look, I don’t think that Lomachenko wants any part of my son”, said Lopez Sr. “Actually, you know what, he would fight my son, he is a fighter and he would fight him but his trainer and manager don’t want any part of my son”, he said. “Have you seen them beside each other, my son is too big and strong for Lomachenko”, continued Lopez Sr. “My son is a huge, strong 135-pounder and he would walk through anything Lomachenko throws at him. My son fights at 135 but has the power of a junior middleweight or middleweight”.
And, if he couldn’t get the title shot at 135 in the time frame they want would he consider going up to 140?
“Of course, are you kidding me? There isn’t a guy at 140 pounds who can touch my son”, he said, “all those guys at 140, my son beats them easy. Everybody hears this and says ‘this is just his dad talking’ or whatever, but I don’t care, I know the truth. Listen, he has God-given gifts and he’s simply the best out there. He has the best parts of Tyson, Sugar Ray Leonard, GGG, Floyd, Andre Ward, those kinds of fighters, all the best of them in him. Everything I have predicted about my son has come true”, he said, “and it will continue that way”.
But, first things first, he has to get by experienced Mason Menard in New York on December 8th.
“Look, he’ll take this guy out and he’ll take him out early, mark my words”, he said. “His power is just crazy right now, he’s hitting harder than ever and he is looking to make a statement in New York. If any bout goes 2 rounds you are done because once my son has you figured out, you are finished, there is nobody who will beat him”, he said. “He takes the first round or two to figure things out, take a look at you and then it’s over, he’s got you figured out and you will never, I mean never, beat him,” said Lopez Sr. “This kid Menard, there will be no messing around here, my son will finish it early, I promise you that”, he said.
And, then it title time in 2019.
“It’s crazy what we have planned in the future”, said Lopez Sr. “My son is learning and getting better all the time. He’ll get a fight in the new year with maybe Ray Beltran, someone like that, and then it’s on to a title. And, trust me, he’ll just look better and better as he gets tougher competition. He is going to be the biggest star in the sport and there is nobody that can beat him. People will say ‘that is just his father talking about his son’, or whatever, but believe me, there isn’t a fighter out there in his weight class, or even close to his weight class that can touch him”, he said.