IBF lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez has made it clear that a showdown with Vasiliy Lomachenko (who holds the WBO, WBA and WBC “franchise” titles) is the fight he is targeting. The target date was May 30 at Madison Square Garden in New York, but with sporting events all around the world being postponed due to the coronavirus, it looks as though that fight will be tabled for a later date.
But even before boxing began to shut down, Lopez (15-0, 12 KOs) who won his belt in December by blasting out Richard Commey in two rounds, was growing impatient with Lomachenko.
“We were waiting, particularly on Loma and his team for the fight,” he told ESPN on Thursday afternoon. “I think he was being mad difficult with certain things, negotiation-wise. He wanted a bigger cut, he wanted a bigger percentage, such and such.”
Lopez continued: “So it was pretty much going back and forth, now this happened, and apparently they sent Loma back to Ukraine, back home. So I don’t know, honestly, I’m just frustrated about all this and about how he handled things and how he’s doing things.”
For Lopez, this would be a defining fight in his young career, which began in November 2016, and a matchup that has been prophesied by his outspoken and boisterous father, Teofimo Sr.
“I try to make these fights happen for the fans, the fans are the ones that win at the end of the day. But honestly, we’re not going to wait on this guy,” the native of Brooklyn, New York, said. “We gave him everything he needs and everything he wants and now he’s complaining about New York, he wants it in Vegas, he wants it in Cali. It’s been annoying.”
Egis Klimas, who represents Lomachenko, confirmed that his client was in Oxnard, California, from March 7 to March 16 before going back home: “He’s working out and preparing for whatever is going to happen. We’re waiting for a deal.”
Lopez, 22, is quickly growing out of the lightweight division, and he’s made it clear that his days at 135 pounds are numbered.
“I’m not going to just be there like a sitting duck and just wait on this man,” he said. “Obviously, I’ve been saying for a while now that I want to move up to 140 — and that is still on my mind. The only thing keeping that from happening and existing is the Loma fight. If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t occur, it’s not on me. It’s just difficult at times like this because of how things play out and how things are.”
But Klimas insisted, “I think everything is agreed to on our side, we were just waiting on a venue.”
The manager admitted he was very disgruntled by the scorecards handed in against Vladimir Nikitin when he faced Michael Conlan at the Garden on the same night Lopez won his title, and vowed in the immediate aftermath to never bring another boxer to New York. He has since changed his tune.
“We can fight [Lopez] in his bedroom,” said Klimas, who made it clear that the reason why Lomachenko flew into the United States at the beginning of March was to begin preparing for May 30.
For now, both Lomachenko and Lopez are like every other boxer, sidelined and awaiting word on when they can resume their careers.
“I figured when they canceled March 14th for Shakur Stevenson, and they canceled March 17th for Mick Conlan, that’s when I knew, I was like, ‘I’m next. We’re pretty sure, we’re next,”’ Lopez said in regard to his date. “And we’re not canceled but we’re pretty much just postponed ’til further notice.”
“This coronavirus thing screwed a lot of things up, not just in boxing, but NBA, every sport, and in general, everywhere. So this is something very serious, obviously, and hopefully things get better.”
Bob Arum, who promotes both boxers, said he really has no updates at this moment.
“I mean, I’m not a genius, there are no answers because I’m not going to bulls— anybody,” Arum said. “There are no answers because I don’t know. I’m not going to make stuff up to make people happy.”
Top Rank, like every other promotional outfit in the sport, has been forced to wipe clean a whole slate of fights that will eventually have to be rescheduled.
“If we start planning for June, who know if there’s going to be a June? What do we do with May? We don’t know,” Arum said. “So to plan and tell guys to start preparing like you’re going to fight in May, that’s counterproductive because we don’t know.”
Arum added, “We are a little cog in this whole wheel, that if the NBA doesn’t know, if Major League Baseball doesn’t know, how the hell do we know?”
When things do resume, Lopez is anxious to get his career back up and running.
“This is 2020, and I haven’t fought yet, and we’re already in March — and I fought in December,” Lopez said. “I’m trying to fight at least a good two, three times this year, and who knows how long this virus is going to last, and how long this situation is going to last and push us back?
“All this stuff, honestly, let’s just see, the whole thing now, you really can’t do much at times like this. It’s unpredictable. You have to really just sit and wait.”