Teofimo Lopez defends the WBO super-lightweight championship against Jamaine Ortiz in Las Vegas, live on Sky Sports in the early hours of Friday morning; Lopez has genuine ambitions of moving up another division to challenge the undisputed welterweight champion Terence Crawford
Friday 9 February 2024 05:51, UK
When Teofimo Lopez called for a fight with Terence Crawford, the Brooklyn man meant every word.
Crawford is an undisputed world champion in the weight class above Lopez and, after he dominated Errol Spence, Crawford is widely regarded as the best boxer, pound-for-pound, in the sport.
When Lopez publicly targeted Crawford, the latter issued an irritated response on social media. But it is a fight that Lopez, the WBO super-lightweight titlist, genuinely desires.
"If you look at my track record, everything that I talk about, I walk it as well. We don't just talk the talk to amp something up, we want to walk the walk," Lopez told Sky Sports.
"And I just had to remind him I'm the biggest cat in the world, absolutely and because of that we face fighters, great champions and I look forward to facing a fighter like him after this fight [against Jamaine Ortiz] however that pursues itself."
He added: "This is not a publicity stunt here. I think that if you look at my record and everything it shows, it shows that I really choose to face the best.
"Because that's what 'The Takeover' is. What would I be if I didn't do these things? Who would I be if I didn't face the best? That is the only way I become greater."
For his own future, he takes inspiration from boxing's history.
"The main guy that stands out of the four [kings] was Roberto Duran," Lopez said. "Regardless of whether he lost to all of them, he faced all of them and that right there is what I'm trying to bring back to my own beloved sport of boxing.
"So that the next generation, they really see what it takes to be a champion, a true champion in life, is by facing the best guys.
"Whether you think you're ready or not, that's the only way you find out is by going in that square circle and seeing it firsthand."
A fight with Crawford isn't such an unexpected goal for Lopez when you consider that he has beaten the best of the division at both lightweight and super-lightweight.
In 2020 Lopez sprang an upset when he beat Ukraine's brilliant Vasiliy Lomachenko. Though he then surprisingly lost the WBA, WBO and IBF lightweight belts to George Kambosos, he excelled again last year.
In June he became the first pro boxer to beat Josh Taylor, the Scotsman who had previously gone undisputed at super-lightweight.
By the time he boxed Lopez, Taylor had vacated three of the four titles he'd held but he never lost them in the ring and Lopez delivered a standout performance against him at the Madison Square Garden Theatre in New York.
"It was a great event, great experience. I learned a lot with Josh Taylor. I can see why he beats a lot of those fighters and why he was the kingpin of 140lbs and I really appreciate having that type of fight with him," Lopez said.
"I will not discredit Josh Taylor for what he has done in his career. He has a lot of skills. He has deserved it the hard way and I wish him nothing but the best moving on in the near future for himself.
"I needed that. I needed the motivation. I needed to question myself back when I faced Sandor Martin so we could have a top, top performance like we did in 2023 against Josh Taylor."
That result alone has established Lopez at the pinnacle of the 140lb weight class, although Devin Haney, who moved up to win the WBC title, would dispute that.
"Whether they like it, whether they don't, that is none of my concern. You look at the rankings, the No 1 fighter is Teofimo Lopez in the junior-welterweight division," Lopez said.
"Maybe we [him and Haney] will do a unification bout. That's up to them on their side.
"For myself, it's about legacy."
For Lopez, the next task is to defend his world championship in Las Vegas, live on Sky Sports in the early hours of Friday morning, against Jamaine Ortiz, an old amateur rival.
"It's a great turnaround to see how much he's grown and how much I've grown as well," Lopez said of his challenger.
"He showed his grit [when Ortiz fought Lomachenko]. He showed his hunger and they had a great gameplan.
"However Lomachenko is Lomachenko, he is who he is for a good reason. However, it did show that this guy's a tough competitor and we must not for one second overlook it."
But Lopez of course remains confident. "This right here sets the tone to show that I mean business," he said.
"They [other opponents] will not take this fight after what I do with Jamaine Ortiz.
"I'm not even in my prime," he added. "I can say this, people that fear Satan - he got nothing on me.
"I'm going to terrify every single person."
Watch Teofimo Lopez vs Jamaine Ortiz on Sky Sports Arena or Sky Sports Main Event from 1.30am on Friday