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From the hotel lobby to the ring — How the fight between Teofimo Lopez and Vasiliy Lomachenko came to be

From the hotel lobby to the ring -- How the fight between Teofimo Lopez and Vasiliy Lomachenko came to be
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Teofimo Lopez Sr. was in a hotel lobby in New York City in December 2018. The world didn’t know it yet, but when he ran into Vasiliy Lomachenko — the two-time Olympic gold medalist, three-division world titlist and boxing’s pound-for-pound king — and extended his hand, Lopez’s plan for his son was already in motion.

Lomachenko stared at Lopez, and, as the father explained to Mark Kriegel last year, that look sent a message.

I’m better than you. Your son is not at my level.

But Lopez Jr.’s success was telling a different story. After starting his professional career in 2016 by racking up some impressive wins, he promised to “take over” boxing and laid out his path for making that happen — by defeating Lomachenko.

The Lopez family has been calling out Lomachenko for the past two years, predicting victory. On Saturday night, predictions and callouts will yield to one of the must-see fights of 2020 as Lopez faces Lomachenko in Las Vegas. Here’s a look at how Lopez earned his shot against Lomachenko, and the knockouts and banter that paved the way.


Oct. 10, 2016: Top Rank signs Teofimo Lopez Jr. to a multiyear promotional contract.

“I think this kid is a real talent,” Top Rank founder and CEO Bob Arum tells ESPN at the time. “The [matchmakers] are really high on him. He’s a real strong kid and has a really big future as a professional. He’s a good fighter.”

Lopez, 19 at the time, is already comparing himself to some of the greats.

“I’m an entertainer — got to entertain,” Lopez says. “My style — I’m technical, very technical. I’m very smart when I’m in the ring, like Albert Einstein. I’m like a Sugar Ray [Leonard], Floyd Mayweather. I’m a boxer, but if the knockout comes, it comes.”


Feb. 1, 2018: Lopez introduces the slogan “The Takeover” on Instagram ahead of his fight on Feb. 3, 2018, against Juan Pablo Sanchez in Corpus Christi, Texas. Lopez went on to win an six-round unanimous decision in his eighth pro fight.


May 12, 2018: Lopez continues The Takeover with a first-round KO of Vitor Freitas. Lopez celebrates the victory with the “Take the L” dance from Fortnite. The fight is on the Lomachenko-Jorge Linares undercard at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York, and the talk about a possible fight between Lopez and Lomachenko begins.

“I love this. I live for this,” Lopez says. “I told you guys that this is ‘The Takeover.’ I’ve been training hard, and I’m always ready to put on a show for all the fans. I have the power to hurt people. I’m not here to play.”


July 14, 2018: Lopez scores another impressive TKO victory, this time against William Silva in Round 6.

“Man, what can I say? I told you I was going to take over,” Lopez says during the postfight interview.

Lopez fractures his hand during the fight and undergoes surgery afterward.


Early December 2018: A couple of nights before Lopez is scheduled to fight Mason Menard at Madison Square Garden, Lopez Sr. tells Mark Kriegel about running into Lomachenko in the hallway of the hotel where both fighters are staying.

“How you doing, Lomachenko?” Lopez Sr. says, offering his hand.

But then Lomachenko gives him that look.

Lopez Sr. starts screaming, cursing, making a scene.

“Yo, you ain’t gonna do nothing. We coming for you. F— you! Come Saturday we’re gonna steal the show!”

It upsets Teofimo when his father tells him. He can see Lomachenko, boxing royalty, disrespecting his father without having to say a word. It pisses him off, Lopez Jr. explains to Kriegel. Then again, his dad pisses him off, too.

“Why would you do that?” Teofimo says he thought. “Now I got to clean up your mess.”


Dec. 8, 2018: With his son fighting on the Lomachenko-Jose Pedraza undercard at the Hulu Theater, the elder Lopez tells Kriegel he is feeling the heat from Top Rank for insulting Lomachenko. Senior pulls his son aside before the walkout. “We gotta do something great,” he says. “You gotta look spectacular.”

Teofimo kisses his father on the cheek. “I got you, Dad. I’m always gonna have your back.”

Lopez scores an eye-opening first-round KO of Mason Menard in just 44 seconds. After the victory, he promises to win a world title in 2019.

“2019, it is ‘The Takeover,'” Lopez Jr. says. “‘The Takeover’ has begun. In 2019 you will see me with a strap that says world’s champion. We’re in the stage of my career where we can change boxing and bring it back. You all haven’t seen anything like me in a long time.”

Says Lopez Sr.: “It was like God spoke to me again.”

Father and son watch the main event from a lounge in the Garden. Lomachenko — still recovering from shoulder surgery — goes the distance to beat Pedraza.

Teofimo turns to his father. “Dad,” he said, “You got in his head.”

Later in the month, ESPN names Teofimo its 2018 prospect of the year.


Feb. 2, 2019: Lopez continues his takeover with an impressive seventh-round knockout of Diego Magdaleno at The Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas.

“Teofimo Lopez, whether you hate him or you like him, you’re still going to watch him,” Lopez Jr. says. “What I’m doing right now is entertaining. [In] 2019, we’re ready right now [to fight for a world title]. We have to work in the gym. There’s always room for perfection.”


Feb 19, 2019: Lopez tells Max Kellerman that he wants to face the world titleholders.

“If [the fight with Lomachenko] happens, it happens,” the boxer says. “What we are looking for is a world title. Who has a world title right now, Lomachenko has a world title, Richard Commey, he has a world title, Mikey Garcia has a world title, but he’s at 147 right now. … We are here to fight the world champions, we are here to win the world title, it doesn’t matter who it is.”

Lopez also tells Kellerman that Lomachenko is predictable.

“I feel like [Lomachenko] does the same thing over and over again when it comes to footwork, moving to the same side. There’s three or four ways to beat Lomachenko. … But I can’t say.”


April 12, 2019: Lomachenko beats Anthony Crolla, and at the postfight news conference Lomachenko is asked who would be the most difficult to fight and in what order, among Garcia, Lopez and Luke Campbell.

Lomachenko says: “I think the [hardest] will be Campbell, second place is Mikey and … second Mikey,” ignoring Lopez completely.

After the fight, Lopez’s father told FightHype.com: “[Lomachenko’s performance was] terrible, terrible, to me. When we throw jabs, we throw jabs to kill you. Anybody that throws jabs like [Lomachenko throws], I don’t really like it. Everybody is looking for a great performance, and what you got to bring into a great performance, you better bring a thrill, you know, and everybody was just quiet throughout the whole performance. He knocked the dude out, but you got to go in there, not respect Lomachenko. You got to go in there and try to take the fight off him. … My son goes in there, you know, to whup your ass, he does it from the beginning. We are not gonna let Lomachenko just do anything like that.”

Asked about how they are going to get a fight with Lomachenko, Lopez Sr. says they are going to get a win by KO in a title fight and then go for Lomachenko to complete The Takeover.

“We are fighting in a co-main event on pay-per-view, which I don’t remember Lomachenko being in any pay-per-view card,” Lopez Sr. says. “My son only has 12 fights, and in his 13th fight we are in the co-main event of a big card, which is the [Terence] Crawford-[Amir] Khan fight in New York City, which is the best scenario, I mean, knock the guy out, in New York, like he’s always done. He’s been in New York five times already, five knockouts. It’s gonna be the sixth knockout in New York, and we are just gonna make it devastating and entertaining, like what everybody wants, you know.

“Lomachenko said he doesn’t want to fight my son unless he has a belt, so we are going to bring the belt, and then you know what you are gonna see? You are gonna see him drop to 130 because he’s scared of my son, and I know that already. … My son is going to take this guy [Lomachenko] out in less than three rounds.”


April 19, 2019: Lopez shows confidence ahead of his fight against Edis Tatli, telling ESPN’s Mark Kriegel he’s the best fighter in the world.

“You guys haven’t seen nothing yet.”

When asked who’s the best fighter in the world between himself, Crawford and Lomachenko, Lopez gives an emphatic, “Me, because I am. I’m just that great — people coming to see me.”

When Kriegel asks Lopez what is going to happen in the fight with Tatli, Lopez predicts what actually takes place.

“What you guys are gonna see is not just speed, power, but ring IQ,” he says. “That’s the whole thing: I’m a technician when I’m in there. It’s all about entertainment, man, watch the celebration, the Fortnite dances, everything coming together, and finishing with a backflip and calling it a night.”


April 20, 2019: Lopez demolishes Tatli in a fifth-round KO on the Crawford-Khan undercard, and two days after the fight he posts on Instagram: “We came, We saw, We conquered! #TheTakeover”

“I want a world title shot next. That’s what I want. We promised to take over the show, and once again, I took it over,” Lopez says after the fight. “I’m ready for [world titlist] Richard Commey or the [potentially vacant] WBC title. As long as it’s for a title, I am ready to go. No one can take my power.”


June 29, 2019: Knowing he needs to win a world title to solidify the idea of fighting Lomachenko, Lopez posts a photo of himself with then-potential opponent Commey with the caption reading, in part: “See you soon.”


July 16, 2019: Lopez and his father are guests on the 3 Knockdown Rule podcast, hosted by Mario Lopez and Steve Kim. Teofimo Lopez Sr. calls Lomachenko “terrible” once again.

“Everybody glorifies this guy, and that’s one thing that [Teofimo] doesn’t understand. The guy [Lomachenko] is terrible,” Lopez Sr. says. “We’re going to take this guy out in less than three rounds, I’ll say it right now.”

Lopez Jr. isn’t too complimentary of Lomachenko either.

“He had a huge amateur background, he has a huge amateur pedigree and all that stuff,” he says. “He paved the way. Don’t get me wrong. You can’t take that away. But it’s the fact that, did anybody really know him as much as they do now? No. It’s because we mentioned him and everything like that, and we’re hot now.”

Added Lopez Sr.: “He hasn’t done nothing.”

Lopez Jr. is days away from facing Masayoshi Nakatani, but he and his father keep going at Lomachenko, trying to get the fight done.

“People want to see this fight, and they call it a megafight,” Lopez Jr. says during the podcast, as if he’s talking directly to Lomachenko.

“My dude, you’ve been a two-time Olympic gold medalist, multiple weight division champion and all that, yet you still can’t get a pay-per-view fight?”


July 17, 2019: Two days before the Nakatani fight, Lopez Jr. shares with ESPN his three-fight plan, which includes a victory over Nakatani, a fight against Commey for the IBF lightweight title and then Lomachenko in a unification fight.

It ends up being a very accurate plan.

“What I see in my son is the best fighter that ever lived,” Lopez Sr. tells ESPN. “That’s the way I see my son. I will never lie about my son. If my son sucks, he sucks and he wouldn’t be in this sport.”

Lopez Jr. understands what his father is trying to do and doesn’t see it as pressure.

“There’s times … I’m like, dang, he put me in this position,” Lopez Jr. says. “All right, I gotta back him up. … I’m not gonna make nobody make fun of my father.”


July 19, 2019: Lopez wins a unanimous decision over Nakatani, but he doesn’t look good in victory against the tall and lanky fighter. Is he ready for the top fighters at 135 pounds? Is he ready for a title shot?

“I just need little tuneups. It’s part of the process. I’m thankful right now,” Lopez says after the fight. “It was my first main event. It was 12 rounds. Am I proud of it? No, but I’m proud that I showed everyone I could go 12 rounds.”

Lopez had earned a title shot against Commey, the IBF titleholder. The Takeover was a step closer.


Dec. 14, 2019: An incredible second-round TKO victory over Commey to win his first world title erases every doubt about Lopez’s talent.

One right hand puts Commey down. Lomachenko is next.

“I’m at a loss for words right now. This is a dream come true,” Lopez says after the fight. “[Commey] is a bad man. His shot could’ve done the same to me if he hit me with that shot.

“You all know who I want to fight next — 2020 is going to be a big year. ‘The Takeover’ has arrived, and you haven’t seen anything yet.”

Lomachenko, who is ringside, tells ESPN reporter Bernardo Osuna after Lopez’s victory: “Now he’s a world champion. Welcome to my club. I see you in April.”


May 19, 2020: After extended discussions, it is clear that Lomachenko and Lopez have their eyes squarely on each other. There’s nobody else in the picture, and both fighters state they are willing to fight even without fans.

“In talking with Lomachenko and Lopez, neither of them want an interim fight,” Arum said. “So we would plan to do that in September, with or without an audience.”

Lopez Sr. reiterates the desire to go for Lomachenko sooner rather than later.

“One hundred percent,” he says. “We don’t need no tuneups. We are focused with Lomachenko. That’s all we want is Lomachenko.”


July 22, 2020: Lopez Jr. records videos that are posted on Instagram and Twitter in which he calls out Lomachenko and tells him to “bring my belts.”

Aug. 12, 2020: The Lomachenko-Lopez lightweight unification fight is officially announced for Oct. 17 on ESPN.


Aug. 13, 2020: Lopez Sr. predicts a third KO victory for his son, saying that the fight is going to make Teofimo “a superhero.”

It’s not going to even last three rounds,” Lopez Sr. tells ESPN after the fight is announced. “When that monster hits him with the first punch, you’re going to see a hurt dog without no legs. He’s done. The first punch is going to change the whole fight. He’s going to wish he was never in that ring.

“Two years ago, you remember when I started this, you know why? Because that’s what God put in my head. That’s what God put in my head and I know we had to beat him. And let me tell you something … there never had been nobody in the world predict a world championship [for Teofimo] in [just] 15 fights, and then fight Lomachenko in our 16th fight.

“This kid is from another planet, this kid is not normal,” he said of his son.

While Lopez Jr.’s purse for the fight is less because fans aren’t able to attend, Lopez Sr. persuaded his son to take the fight, saying that not making it could have had a long-lasting negative impact on his career.

“I told him, ‘I’ll give you my percentage, bro’, I don’t care about money,” Lopez Sr. recalls. “This is what we did this s— for — for the glory. You can ask for anything you want after this.”

And a victory will go a long way for Lopez’s legacy as well.

“This is the fight that’s going to make my son a superhero,” Lopez Sr. says. “He’s going to be like Superman.”


Sept. 8, 2020: Lopez Jr. says on ESPN’s First Take that he plans to finish Lomachenko.

“Everything that this man does that they say, [making opponents quit], he’s decreasing. … He’s already on his way out, and it’s showing,” Lopez says. “Your body can only take so much, so much damage, and I guarantee you, we are going to put some damage on this man.”


Sept. 29, 2020: Lopez Sr. tells ESPN that through their talk they’ve been able to rattle Lomachenko and that his son will knock him out on Oct. 17.

“Lomachenko doesn’t know what is coming. He is very nervous. I know that we are going to win that fight before my son enters the ring, because that is my job — I have to get inside Lomachenko’s head,” Lopez Sr. says. “He has never spoken well of any boxer and now he says that my son has a high IQ in boxing, and before he did not say that. I know I’m in his head.

“And my son is not the same boxer who beat Commey — he is a boxer who believes more in himself. Destroying Commey, a person that no one has ever knocked out before, a strong boxer, good jaw, and the way we destroyed him gave my son more confidence, even though my son always has the confidence. Lomachenko would never have done that to Commey, ever. That fight would have been won by Lomachenko, of course, but he would have won on points — he would never have knocked him out the way my son did.

“My son got rid of Commey quickly, and that’s what we are gonna do with Lomachenko, as well.

“I already predicted the fight’s not going six rounds, and that’s just the way it’s going to go,” the elder Lopez says. “We’ve been right all these times, and we’re going to be right on this fight, too. There’s no way a 126-pounder is going to beat my son. It’s just impossible.

“[My son] is going to look way better than all the other fights he has fought. This guy Lomachenko, he’s going to make us look good, and I can’t wait. I told everybody the better the fighter is, the easier the fight it’s going to be for us.”


Oct. 12, 2020: Lopez Jr. says that no matter what his father says, he knows it is because of the confidence he has in him to deliver in the ring.

“I love my father,” Lopez Jr. tells ESPN, “but it isn’t about proving his prophecy. He talks whatever he wants to talk. He made this bigger than it needed to be — I think everyone needs to congratulate him on that part. But really what it is, it’s just that he knows what I’m all about. He talks what he talks, he’s very confident about it because he sees in me what no one else sees in me, yet.”





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