The Next Floyd Mayweather? Teofimo Lopez Sets His Sights on Greatness

Kelsey McCarsonFeatured ColumnistOctober 8, 2020

Teofimo Lopez is a rising star heading into his biggest test.
Teofimo Lopez is a rising star heading into his biggest test.Mikey Williams/Top Rank

Teofimo Lopez loves being compared to the likes of Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Mike Tyson, but the 23-year-old from Brooklyn, New York, told Bleacher Report that he had something even bigger and better in mind for his future.

"My goal is to outdo Floyd...to outdo Mike," Lopez said. "It's to be better than they once were, and that's the motivation."

It's an incredibly lofty goal, but one the IBF lightweight champion of the world would seem to be on his way to accomplishing if he can pull off the upset win over unified lightweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko (WBA, WBC, WBO) on October 17 in Las Vegas.

Lomachenko vs. Lopez takes place live at The Bubble at the MGM Grand. Because of the worldwide pandemic, the fight won't be one of boxing's pilfering pay-per-view cards and will instead be televised live on ESPN.

"At least we're able to make this type of big fight happen so everybody could tune in," Lopez said. "I mean, 2020 has been a (expletive) year, but at least the boxing world will be able to get this one."

Lopez is one of the brightest young superstars in boxing today, perhaps even the shiniest diamond of a whole group that also includes stalwart talents Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia.

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But the phenom's next opponent, Lomachenko, is considered by most pundits to be one of the top fighters on planet earth right now regardless of weight class.

Damian Dovarganes/Associated Press

Lomachenko is ranked No. 2 on The Ring magazine's pound-for-pound list and No. 3 by the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.

Nicknamed "Hi-Tech" because of how much more advanced his ways are over the competition's, the 32-year-old from Ukraine has truly been one of boxing history's greatest savants.

Lomachenko compiled an absurd 396-1 record in the amateur ranks, won two Olympic gold medals and has already won world championships in three different weight classes since turning professional in 2013.

Truth be told, that spectacular list of accomplishments is at least one reason Lopez has been anxious to get his hands on Lomachenko so soon.

"I guess I have the mentality that it's how it should be, not to take a pretty much easier route," Lopez said. "I'm all about that it's better when you earn it the hard way."

The other reason? Apparently, Lopez's father and trainer had a run-in with Lomachenko in an elevator three years ago that didn't sit well with the Lopez clan.

That led to a heated confrontation between Lopez's father and future foe Lomachenko. It's a story that has already been told and retold many times, a trend that is sure to continue as fight night approaches.

It's the kind of storyline that makes for great copy for outlets like Sports Illustrated and even better promotional fodder for Top Rank and ESPN, but the fact that Lopez is taking the harder route to superstardom is way more important than the simple oddity of a father doing the talking outside the ring while his son handles the rest of the business inside where it counts.

Lopez daring to be great in such a way that he's taking on Lomachenko right now shouldn't go unnoticed.

In fact, a spotlight should be placed on the amazing feat Lopez is attempting to accomplish with his one and only boxing career.

As one of boxing's top young superstars, Lopez would be operating well within the confines of reason to steer clear of such a massive challenge for at least a few more years.

Not since boxing superstar Saul "Canelo" Alvarez dared to challenge Mayweather in 2013, when the Mexican was the same tender age of 23, has such a loftily celebrated young boxing champion gone so recklessly after such dangerous opposition, thereby going so wildly against the grain of commonly held practices.

In boxing, at least over the past few decades, it seems that promoters, managers and even the fighters themselves have been more likely to choose the easier paths over the harder ways.

Not Lopez.

Like Alvarez before him, Lopez has gone against the most common trope in the sport, and the stakes are higher than they ever could be otherwise because of it.

Lomachenko vs. Lopez is a big deal.

"We're champions, world champions...but this also takes us from superstars to mega superstars," Lopez said.

Indeed, rushing into such a big fight so soon could have dire consequences for Lopez, at least in the near-term future.

After all, Mayweather practically undressed Alvarez in that fight seven years ago, and the value of that loss could only be seen years later after Alvarez went on to win the rest of his fights.

Mayweather vs. Canelo
Mayweather vs. CaneloIsaac Brekken/Associated Press

Lopez knows all that already, and perhaps that's what makes him so special. It's one thing to be compared to boxing's all-time greats on the way up the ranks. It's quite another to accomplish the rare feats that made them who they were.

Lopez doesn't just want to be a boxing champion. Lopez wants to be an all-time great boxing champion, perhaps the likes of which boxing has never even seen before.

"I guess that's what makes me different," Lopez said. "I still have that old-school mentality of what I've seen growing up with other prime fighters and all-time greats like Muhammad Ali, Roy Jones Jr., Mike Tyson, 'Sugar' Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran and Floyd Mayweather, I mean, I idolized those guys so much...those were the guys that I used to just love watching."

Now, Lopez wants to outdo all of them. And in order to undergo that massive undertaking, he's forcing himself into what someday could be looked back at as a way-too-soon fistfight against a future Hall of Fame champion operating within his prime.

Lopez wouldn't have it any other way.

"You know, a lot of people are trying to steer away from facing tougher competition," Lopez said. "And I just look at it like they don't trust their abilities that much, or they don't believe in themselves as much. I have so much confidence that's been built throughout the years and throughout the experiences that I've gone through in my time."

        

Kelsey McCarson covers MMA and boxing for Bleacher Report and Heavy. Vasyl Lomachenko vs. Teofimo Lopez takes place at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas on Oct. 17. The main card starts at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN with prelims beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN+.

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.