Teofimo Lopez promises to ‘strike straight through’ George Kambosos in the long-delayed first defense

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Teofimo Lopez celebrates with all his belts
Teofimo Lopez defends his lightweight world titles in New York this Saturday against George Kambosos

The night he became the world’s United Lightweight Champion, Teofimo Lopez would never have imagined he would spend more than a year on the sidelines.

The American climbed the mountain to sell pound-for-pound Vasiliy Lomachenko and add the WBA (Super) and WBO titles to his IBF belt 13 months ago in Las Vegas.

It was a punch-perfect performance from the then 23-year-old and made him the man to beat in the division. As the talk of an immediate rematch with Lomachenko cooled, the IBF ordered Lopez to defend his titles against mandatory challenger George Kambosos.

But then the problems began.

As united champion, Lopez was unhappy with his promoter’s offer to stage the match. Lopez wanted a bigger paycheck from Top Rank, but the American promoters refused to shake it, and Lopez’s first title defense went to a purse, and in a bizarre turn, Triller, a social media and music streaming service, won the broadcast rights with a huge bid of 6 mio.

Then, after several delays, which included Lopez having to withdraw from a match date in June after getting Covid-19, IBF Triller stripped the rights and awarded them to the second-highest bidder, Eddie Hearns Matchroom. And so it is under the Matchroom banner that Lopez is finally – nine months after the rights were originally granted – fighting this weekend in New York.

“You’re only as good as your last performance, but I feel it’s been too long of one last performance,” Lopez said on BBC Radio 5 Live boxing podcast.

“It’s been something. During that time, I just took the time to really focus on myself. I can not believe it though. Nine months? Time flies.

“I’m a little disappointed. I did not manage to fight as many times as I had hoped to fight this year.”

Now Lopez wants to return to work and aims to follow the example of Floyd Mayweather, who ended his career as a world champion in multi-weight and undefeated in 50 matches.

“You have to have that vision and mindset. A perfect example is Floyd Mayweather,” Lopez said.

“The blueprint there is, to stay focused and dedicated and train as if you are bread and you have never had anything. If you can not quite get it, you lose quickly.”

On top of the repeated postponements, Lopez’s father became well over a week before the match. “Every time I hold him, I get fascinated. I want to do it fast so I can get back to my son,” the New Yorker said.

Kambosos wants other ideas. The Australian is unbeaten in 19 pro matches and is four years older than Lopez at 28 years old.

He’s a big underdog against Lopez, especially with the prospect of massive rallies against people like WBC champion Devin Haney and WBA (Regular) champion Gervonta Davis, who threatens the American in 2022.

“From him you do not know what you are getting,” said Kambosos. “You get a lot of lies, that’s a fact. It does not bother me. He has all the belts.

“He’s the big star at the moment. He’s the big celebrity. He’s trapped in the big lights. That’s fine.”

Nor has any love been lost between the two camps.

Both fighters share their father’s name. Lopez is being trained by his father, and Lopez Sr. really touched on training on Tuesday as he was involved in a minor melee with Kambosos Sr.

After a lot of push and push and some colorful language, Lopez Sr. was escorted out of Church St Boxing Gym in Manhattan. But there was an equally heated press conference on Wednesday, which at times turned into a screaming match between the two sides. Kambosos will be hopeful that the burning build-up is a sign of nerves from the Lopez camp.

Lopez says he expects an “alaction-packed match” and has dismissed talk that he is thinking of future matches and taking the victory over Kambosos for granted.

“It’s about heritage, glory,” he said. “At the end of the day, you can not have the big fights without beating the guy in front of you first.

“I do not overlook these fighters, I face, I see through them. I do not look around them, I see through them. And I strike right through them.”

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