Teofimo Lopez Sr.: ‘My son is the future of boxing’
On May 12, undefeated lightweight prospect Teofimo Lopez, 8-0 (7), returns to the ring when he faces off against Vitor Jones Freitas, 14-1 (8).
The bout will be one of the support fights for the highly anticipated main event that will see pound-for-pound star and WBO junior lightweight king Vasiliy Lomachenko do battle with Jorge Linares as the two champions battle for Linares’ WBA lightweight title. The undercard will also feature unbeaten, fast-rising, female lightweight star Mikaela Mayer, along with popular, Irish featherweight Michael “Mick” Conlan.
Lopez, who was born in Brooklyn, is excited to return to New York to make his third appearance at Madison Square Garden and, once again, show fight fans why he is considered one of boxing’s hottest prospects. While he is only eight fights into his career, thus far, there are a lot of people in boxing who are very excited about the Davie, Florida-raised Lopez and many are predicting big things for him in the not-too-distant future.
Lopez came into the pro game with a strong amateur resume. He turned pro in November of 2016, after representing Honduras at the 2016 Summer Olympics. He also won the 2015 National Golden Gloves and is a six-time U.S. National champion.
He caught the attention of Top Rank’s matchmakers Bruce Trampler and Brad Goodman. To say these two have seen a few good fighters in their day would be an understatement of epic proportions. So to catch a second look from them, one has to bring something special to the table and both were very high on Lopez from the start.
By 2017, Lopez was voted on numerous polls as one of the best prospects in the sport, including “Prospect of the Year” by Yahoo! Sports.
This will be the second straight fight in which Lopez will be facing an experienced fighter who should be a serious test for him.
In his most recent fight, Lopez, who shows a man-strength and maturity in the ring that belies his 20 years, beat 44-fight veteran Juan Pablo Sanchez over six rounds and, on May 12, will face Bahia, Brazil’s Freitas, who has only lost one of his 15 professional bouts.
UCNLive.com caught up with coach and father Teofimo Lopez Sr., to get his thoughts on his son’s upcoming bout and where he sees Teofimo Jr. on his 2018 ring journey.
Bill Tibbs: Hi, Teofimo. Thanks for taking a minute to chat.
Teofimo Lopez Sr.: No problem, Bill.
BT: Your son is making 135 pounds comfortably these days?
TL: My son doesn’t smoke, drink, do drugs, none of anything like that. He is in the gym all the time. He runs all the time. He’s 139 pounds right now and he fights at 135 pounds. He is always in shape and makes weight easy. My son was like Floyd (Mayweather Jr.), always in shape, always at a good weight. He is very disciplined and always has been.
BT: He is about a year-and-a-half into his career. Is Teofimo where he hoped he’d be by now?
TL: He is excited about where he is at right now. In actuality, we are ahead of where we thought he might be, at this stage of his career. You have to understand from how he got robbed in the amateurs, he feels like he has something to prove from the amateurs. You know, if he had gotten what he deserved in the amateurs, maybe he wouldn’t have the strength and determination that he has now. If he had gotten everything he deserved in the amateurs, maybe it would have been better but maybe it wouldn’t have been as good, in some ways. It’s been a rollercoaster ride, at times, ups and downs. Nothing was given to him; he had to earn everything the hard way in the amateurs. I trust God’s plan; I learned not to question God’s plans a long time ago. So we just took the attitude, ‘OK, we’ll show them in the pros because of the way USA Boxing treated us in the amateurs.’ Nothing came easy to us in the amateurs. We had to go the hard way for everything. But wait, Bill, I’m telling you – and I’m not saying this because he is my son but he is the future of boxing; I’m telling you.
BT: Does he watch other young fighters at all coming up?
TL: He doesn’t watch anybody. He never watches tapes of fighters; I have to do that. He doesn’t compare himself to any of the fighters around him. There is nobody on the Top Rank roster like my son. People say that I say that because he is my son but the reality is that he is dong things nobody else is doing. He is doing things not many people in the history of boxing can do at this stage of their career. He is fighting tough guys, experienced guys. Often the announcers at his fights don’t point out the reality of how he well he is doing and how experienced the guys he is fighting are. People don’t hear this stuff and they don’t know this. They are also way off with the punch stats. Teofimo punches at about 80% accuracy in his fights. And his defense? Look, everybody gets hit on some level in boxing but it is very hard to hit Teofimo cleanly and, with his catch-and-shoot style, he wears fighters down each minute of the fight. He freezes them in the ring; he freezes them mentally. They try to hit him and they get countered and hit hard, every time. They can’t do a thing with him the ring and it frustrates and freezes them up. He breaks them down mentally while he is breaking them down physically.
BT: There are a lot of expectations of Teofimo. Many see him as a future champion. Does he feel the pressure at all?
TL: Teofimo has nothing to prove. All these other guys signed to Top Rank have pressure and lots of expectations on them but not Teofimo. He has no pressure because of what happened to him in the amateurs. And he is going to be the next youngest world champion for Top Rank. I know (WBC super middleweight titlist David) Benavidez did it but you’ll see Teofimo as the next youngest world champion for Top Rank. Look, in the history of boxing, nobody has fought like my son in the beginning of their career. And he loves the big stage. Some of these guys freeze up, get nervous, not my son. He loves the big stage. He is always relaxed and ready to entertain the crowd and perform. He loves the big stage and is so relaxed all the time; he always has been. He was made to be a champion. He was born for this.
BT: What do you feel is Teofimo’s greatest strength as a boxer?
TL: Oh my God (laughing); his greatest strength is his boxing IQ, without question. He is just perfecting his catch-and-shoot style right now. He is playing chess in there while others are playing checkers. His speed and accuracy is also developing all the time. We learned a lot from Floyd but we are at the stage where we want to go beyond that. Floyd fought much differently in his early career, where he got hit more but, later, he changed his style to get hit less and frustrate his opponents. But we want to go beyond Floyd. My son is speed, accuracy, angles, power and an unbelievable boxing IQ.
BT: You clearly feel that, despite having less than 10 fights, and at only 20 years of age, he is more than ready for a title shot?
TL: Fighting a real world-class fighter or a world champion would be even easier for Teofimo because he can read them easier. Fighting a fighter who isn’t as good is less predictable and awkward, can be tougher for him than a real world champion. Wait ’til he fights a world champion; he’ll look better than ever. As the competition gets better, you will see my son look better every time. He’s going to be explosive and exciting in New York.
BT: Despite some great press and recognition, Teofimo isn’t a fighter you hear others in the division calling out.
TL: Nobody calls out my son. Nobody wants to fight him because they know what he’ll do to them. He’s been destroying world-class fighters in the gym since he was 16 or 17 years old. Sometimes we have trouble getting guys to spar with us. Lots of time, if I’m in the gym, the other trainers don’t want me to video any of the sparring because they don’t want people to see what Teofimo is doing to them.
BT: What can fans look forward to in New York City on May 12?
TL: Bill, oh my God, he will be explosive, so explosive. He is getting better all the time. He will blow the audience way in New York. Top Rank is working on building him there because he grew up in Brooklyn. He’s gonna be the most explosive guy on the card in New York; the fans will love him. There are gonna be big things happening for Teofimo. He’s ready to be on top of the world. My son is the future of boxing.
BT: Thanks for taking the time to chat, Teofimo. Best of luck in New York.
TL: Thank you, Bill.