Does Teofimo Lopez still have it? Ortiz test awaits
Plus, Munguia closes in on Canelo, Kenshiro, Buatsi and Belfast
On the posters they’ve pitched him as the greatest showman. An entertainer on the major stage. However, Teofimo Lopez’s fragile mental state has led him down some dark alleyways. Often the ring provides a welcome solace from the pressures of everyday life.
Following his rough-and-tumble struggle with sprightly southpaw Sandor Martin, the New Yorker was heard asking if he still had it. “It” refers to the wow factor. The fizz of a talented operator fighting at the peak of his craft.
A solid outboxing of Josh Taylor returned a resoundingly positive answer to that question. That said, Teo’s mood blows hot and cold. It appears his confidence does, too. Later apologising for saying pre-fight that he wanted to kill Taylor, ‘The Takeover’ needs that spiteful edge to his work. Distasteful verbals often provide an additional motivation.
Lopez has a tendency to underestimate opponents. This came back to bite him in the George Kambosos fight, where the Aussie had a career-best night and Lopez a career-worst night. The ‘take over’ that started with Lomachenko was all too brief as he was taken over in turn by a buoyant Kambosos (who fights Loma next on the lightweight merry-go-round).
No doubt, Lopez's next opponent, Jermaine Ortiz, will come to fight. Lopez is an elite-level danger when he gets into his groove and senses weakness. He may opt to step off and use his superior boxing ability here.
The last time Top Rank and ESPN combined for a Thursday night affair, it was to accommodate the Las Vegas Grand Prix. That main event on November 16 resulted in a sleepy 12-round clash between Shakur Stevenson (since retired, remember him?) and Edwin De Los Santos.
This time, the Super Bowl unsurprisingly takes precedence over boxing. Only fighting twice a year (max), Teo cannot afford to lull the fans over.
Lopez’s WBO super-lightweight title will be on the line against Ortiz. Possessing the power to hurt an opponent who is game and encouragable, Lopez will have more than enough to cause damage and force a possible late stoppage.
Teo on points after 12 entertaining rounds is the safer pick. Does he still have it? At this level, for sure.
Another man in need of a stand-out display is Keyshawn Davis, who faces Jose Pedraza over 10 rounds. Davis has skills to burn but looked a little negative towards the end of his win over Francesco Patera before his victory over Nahir Albright was changed to a no-decision after sleepy Keyshawn received a backdated ban, allegedly for a marijuana violation. Provided he’s woken up in time, the 24-year-old will have too much freshness for battle-hardened former champ Pedraza.
Davis calls himself ‘The Businessman,’ but it’s 11-0 baby-faced banger Abdullah Mason, not out of his teens yet, who looks the business. Prospects George Acosta (narrowly beaten once in 18), Charlie Sheehy (a Californian great white hope who may not make the grade) and Alan Garcia (heavy-handed ‘Kid Kansas’ aged 21) also get slots to showcase their respective abilities.
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Jaime Munguia moved one step closer to an all-Mexican clash with Canelo after a ninth-round stoppage over John Ryder. England’s ‘Gorilla’ alluded that this would be his last fight should he lose and he fought with class and toughness as expected. Ryder was dropped multiple times during the bout but never stopped pitching and had moments of success all the way to the point Tony Sims threw in the towel. “If Canelo gives us the chance it would be an honour to share the ring with him,” Munguia stated after the bout.
Lewis Crocker used every ounce of his additional weight advantage to bully and beat down Mexico’s Jose Felix. Boxing in front of his hostile Ulster Hall faithful, Belfast has been crying out for a star to replace Carl Frampton and Mick Conlan. ‘The Croc’ has the brute strength and ferocity to satisfy any local bloodlust. Felix was undersized and dropped first to body and later to head. Crocker’s next assignment may well be against…
Paddy Donovan, who dismissed Williams Andres Herrera but not without a scrap. The Argentine visitor was plucky enough. Soaking up early pressure, he came on strong in the middle rounds. Those turned out to be his final rounds once Donovan found the body and put paid to Herrera’s trip to Northern Ireland. Paddy possesses a wide array of skills. Add toughness to the skilful Limerick man’s repertoire. A fight between him and Crocker (both were respectful when asked about it) would be something to behold.
Mean intentions: Crocker will seek to punish opponents like Donovan
Kenshiro Teraji just about tidied up business in Japan. The unified light-flyweight king won a majority decision victory over devastated challenger Carlos Canizales. Each man tasted the canvas in a terrific mid-afternoon brawl on ESPN. While Teraji is a wildly exciting boxer, he sits a rung below the current stars of Japanese boxing. Lacking the technical refinement of Naoya Inoue and defensive nous of Kazuto Ioka, Teraji prefers a swashbuckling, brain cell-squashing style that is big on fan excitement yet low on longevity.
Dan Azeez and Joshua Buatsi will clash over 12 rounds for the British light-heavyweight title on February 3. This fight was supposed to take place last year before an injury forced Azeez’s withdrawal. It feels like Buatsi has been trading water for a while now and needs a big performance. Beating Azeez impressively would be a statement.
Adam Azim has been pulling up trees as a young pro and he gets the chance to build on a European title win over Franck Petitjean by defending against former king Enock Poulsen. The Danish challenger (originally from Zambia) showed himself to be a bit of a character when he climbed between the ropes to stare down Azim after the Petitjean win. This should be tasty until Azim stops him.
Media Credits: ESPN, Top Rank, Belfast Telegraph.
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About Steve: Experienced boxing writer, author of 8 books and podcaster of over 500 eps. 20 years in the sport. Covered hundreds of shows for newspapers and Boxing News magazine. Chief video script writer for Motivedia channel and BN+. For enquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org.