By Cassandra Cousineau of LVSportsBiz.com
Teofimo Lopez (16-1, 12 KOs) is 25 years old. Yet he handles a boxer’s burden of truth years ahead of him. Imagine needing to prove you belong in the conversation of worthy champions after just one loss.
It was a big loss in which he gave up four belts to dethrone George Kambosos. But Lopez, the former prodigy, returned to Las Vegas to step up and make his super lightweight debut at 140 pounds. He is scheduled to face Mexican-born Pedro Campa inside the Resorts World Events Arena on Saturday.
As he prepares to make his highly anticipated return to the ring tonight as a headliner for Top Rank Boxing, his greatest enemy may be the one who resides within. The battle for mental well-being has consumed the Brooklyn-born fighter, one he has publicly acknowledged as essential to his overall quality of life.
“Take care of yourself, love yourself. Apart from everything my sport brings to the table, everything I’ve done in sport. I mean, I’ve been in the game for 21 years now,” Lopez said. “So my work ethic doesn’t change. I’m only growing, I’m only getting better, but you can’t forget yourself. I have to take care of my mental health first and foremost.
One of Top Rank’s most bankable fighters, Lopez is outspoken, a treasure trove of hot holds that evolves into a powerful puncher. Along with the presence of his father/trainer Teofimo Sr., who is no short of bold remarks, and junior is the perfect combination of marketing gold and athletic potential.
As with all things boxing, wrapping this budding star was complicated by outside distractions. Over the past two years he has married, divorced, become a father and continues to be estranged from his mother and sister.
When LVSportsBiz.com asked Lopez this week what he learned about the grind to get back on top, he playfully replied with rap song lyrics, “Don’t call it a comeback. I have been here for years.
The work ahead is no joke, however. Debuting at 140 pounds this week means he will tangle with fighters who possess more experience and are naturally adept at matching his physical prowess.
The talented young boxer nicknamed himself “The Takeover”. and quickly ascended to the top of the 135-pound division with a viral knockout over Mason Mernard.
A victory over veteran champion Richard Commey secured the IBF title, then came the big win – a decisive win over pound-for-pound legend Vasiliy Lomachenko inside the MGM Grand Arena bubble during the COVID 2020 sporting shutdown .
Subsequently, he became the unified champion, holding the IBF, WBA and WBO titles.
He then lost his WBA, WBO and IBF world lightweight titles to Kambosos Jr. in his first unified title defense held at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City in November 2021.
The loss wasn’t just a professional nightmare, it nearly withered the Lopez to the brink of self-harm.
In October 2021, ahead of the Tyson Fury vs. Deontay Wilder trilogy in Las Vegas, he revealed to reporters, “People say what the sacrifice is. People think that sacrifice kills people. But sacrifice is really just love, and it starts with you. This is what happened to me. I took a step back and I was like, man, I’m really thinking about killing myself. That’s how it got serious. Not once. Not twice. Maybe three times. I was like, this is not right. Why am I going to want to kill myself with the blessings I receive? »
The financial blessings of a colossal salary were murky for the Honduran immigrant-born fighter, as the Kambosos event was delayed multiple times due to a positive COVID test from Lopez and promotional complications set by a scholarship offer from $6 million lost by the promoter he signed with. Top Rank, and won waving upstart Triller.
Prior to the fight, Lopez suffered what was later revealed to be pneumomediastinum, with profuse air in the retropharyngeal space.
He forced himself into the ring with air pockets surrounding his chest, heart and neck, caused by a tear in his esophagus as he rehydrated after the weigh-in.
It would later be revealed that his doctors labeled it a life-threatening condition. Dr Peter Constantino told ESPN’s Mark Kriegel: “He’s lucky he’s not dead. I mean, really lucky.
Now he’s back to try his hand at headlining Las Vegas, the mecca of boxing. However, if it were up to Lopez, the location would have been on the east coast. “I really wanted to push this flight to Miami. I guess things didn’t work out that way. When asked why it didn’t work out, Lopez replied, “I don’t really want to discuss why it happened because it’s controversial.”
As his professional story unfolds in Las Vegas on Saturday, we asked Lopez what he wants people to know about him as a man.
“I am a real man. We’re not just a one-hit wonder. We are here forever. I was not created by man. I am self-taught. I am as real as possible. The faker this world gets, the less we see around us and that’s what they hate. But, God will always prevail, God will always win, no matter what. He continued, “People may not like the truth, and if they don’t, then let it kill them.”
Her journey to mental wellness is just that, a journey. Lopez always seeks clarity and peace in her mind. All the while, he has to take care of cases against Campa at Resorts World. He is a massive -2500 betting favorite at BetMGM and Campa is +1000.
“With the grace of God, I have to take care of my mental health every day. I am already the best in the world at 140 and on Saturday night I will go and remind the world of that.
Tickets for Lopez vs Campa are still available at the Resorts World Events Center in Las Vegas and the fight can be streamed on ESPN+.