Teofimo Lopez has shed the title of prospect for a different title – that being the one wrapped around his waist as a lightweight champion. The 22-year-old’s performances in the boxing ring are not only dominant, but entertaining. His speed, knockout power and persona have put him squarely in the spotlight as 2020 begins.
Nicknamed “The Takeover,” Lopez is on the precipice of accomplishing one of his biggest goals — beating Vasiliy Lomachenko. It’s a fight that while not official, is likely to happen in the spring of 2020 and will be the biggest test for both competitors at their current weight.
ESPN caught up with Lopez days into the new year to discuss how he’s chased down his dream, adjusted his training and where he wants to go from here.
This interview was edited for clarity.
ESPN: What have the last two years been like?
Teofimo Lopez: It’s been a roller-coaster ride. Ups and downs, but truly a learning experience. So much has happened so fast. It seems so fast, but perfect timing at the same time.
It may not make sense, but everything has happened so fast — but it’s like I’m ready for them. It’s perfect and I’m just wondering what this year has in store for me — just like everybody else.
I’m curious what this year has for me. In two years, man, I can finally say now that I’m proud of myself. At least a little bit.
What’s Teofimo Lopez’s ideal 2020 and beyond?
Beating the top dudes in the division. In every division. From 135 to 140 and unifying and becoming undisputed champion. It’s going to be a big year. Dream big and you get it done.
After I beat Lomachenko, I’d be the undisputed world champion at 22 years of age, God willing, and then after that, somebody in the likes of Jose Ramirez or Josh Taylor at 140. Even Regis Prograis. Big names, top dudes that people probably fear. After 140, when I probably clear out that division, too, I’ll go to 147.
What’s it like to accomplish your dream of reaching the Lomachenko fight?
When you dream big, you can make those things happen, but you also have to put the hard work in, and the effort. It’s earned, not given.
Me and my father, who is my trainer, and my team worked very hard to get to this point. Every time I get into that ring it’s up to me whether I make these dreams happen or not. Fighting Lomachenko, honestly, has already written itself.
At this moment in the interview, a montage of Lopez on ESPN appears on the screen.
Where do you want that fight to be?
Lightweight world titleholder Teofimo Lopez talks about fighting at legendary Madison Square Garden. Video by Andres Ferrari
New York. It’s my home and the mecca of boxing, and I think that’s just a great place to have it in, but it ain’t really my say. Loma doesn’t want to fight in New York, so obviously it’ll be probably somewhere else. Probably in the likes of Vegas or Dubai or somewhere in Europe.
The last couple fights have been surreal and amazing at MSG. Every time I’m out there and fight at MSG, it’s just bigger than it was before. It’s a great feeling.
Where else do you want to fight?
If we do anything in Vegas, I’d like to do it in Raiders Stadium [Allegiant Stadium]. Honestly, the UK is a possibility, but they took my idea when they made the fight happen between Loma and Luke Campbell. Football stadiums, like Cowboys Stadium, would be huge and anywhere we can sell out arenas.
What has the transition to a team training approach been like?
The team has been great. It’s much better and it was much needed. This is big. We’re at a stage now in our career that we can’t do it by ourselves, we need a support team to be there to help us.
It’s a lot. It’s a lot of pressure for myself. It’s a lot of work to do. It’s a lot of work to do for my father, and he’s not getting any younger, so he needs the help as much as I do. You need to have the support team to make these weight cuts and everything in a professional and safe way.
How has maintaining your weight changed recently?
Teofimo Lopez said he wants to go up in weight after one more fight — possibly against Vasiliy Lomachenko — and clean up the 140-pound division. Video by Andres Ferrari
That’s why we had to bring more of a stable to help. My mother, she did a good job with me as my nutritionist, she made sure I was strong enough to do the things I was doing and maintain my weight, but when you have someone that has more of a knowledge and they’ve studied it throughout their whole life, you understand the ones and twos better. My mother just learned on her own and she did a fine job, but at this point in our career, we have to have more of a knowing type of team that understands this better. I was having difficulties making the weight.
My last fight versus Richard Commey, making weight was not difficult at all. I made it very smooth, but I know my body is ready to move up to 140. So it’s either this fight happens against Lomachenko or I defend the belt and I move on to 140.
There’s one more fight at 135. I pretty much wanted to just finish it off right now and go to 140, but things have been talked about [with Lomachenko] and I’m all-in for it. I don’t back off from any type of fight.
If anything, I’m the only one that’s actually going up and stepping to these guys. I think it surprises my opponents a lot. To them they think I’m young or inexperienced, but I go out there and I show the world, and them, that I’m not what you think I am. Don’t underestimate me… but I like when they do that — it makes it easier for me.
What’s your cheat meal?
Burgers, cupcakes — but not just any types of cupcakes, the mini cupcakes. Oreos and then Chips Ahoy cookies — the chewy ones. So good.
How often do you watch tape of yourself?
I don’t. If I look at myself, I think there’s a lot of things that I could work better on — and that’s a good thing — but I know within myself what I need to work on.
No highlights, nothing. I enjoy the day of the fight. After my fight, I just enjoy the time after. That night I celebrate with my loved ones and then the next day, to me, it’s already forgotten.
How long do you want to fight?
I really don’t have a plan of 10 years or 12 years. I know I’m young, so I know I’ll be 34 years old after a stretch like that and that’s still even young. I’ll just go with whatever God gives me. Whenever it’s time for me to hang it up, it’s because God wants me to. I’ll just go by that. Go with faith.
If you weren’t boxing, what would you be doing?
My parents think that if it wasn’t for boxing, I wouldn’t probably amount to anything. I think I’d be in the industries of business or something. I’m like my father as a hustler, but not in the way he used to do it.
How do you beat Lomachenko?
Tune in when the fight happens. The blueprint has always been there. I guess I just need to be the guy to show everybody because nobody else could do it.