Teofimo Lopez will defend his super-lightweight world title belt against Jamaine Ortiz this week, but it’s inescapable that the two-weight champion has bigger fish to fry.
Lopez put in the performance of his career to dethrone undisputed fighter Josh Taylor at Madison Square Garden last year to claim his WBO belt at 140lbs – and after already defeating another elite fighter in Vasyl Lomachenko in previous years, the 26-year-old has another scalp in mind.
He has been engaged in a war of words with the undisputed welterweight champion Terence Crawford in recent weeks – with the IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO belt holder dismissing Lopez and telling him to worry about fighters in his own division.
But Lopez – who faces Ortiz on Thursday night in Las Vegas – hit back at Crawford for overlooking him and urged him to arrange a fight with him next after he’s had his rematch against Errol Spence Jr, claiming it was a ‘great time’ to organise the bout.
‘To be honest, it’s up to his team,’ he told Mail Sport. ‘He has a contract with Errol Spence Jr, they’re going to have to do another fight. When he’s finished with that, we can cement me and him facing each other.’
Teofimo Lopez is preparing to defend his WBO super-lightweight title against Jamaine Ortiz
On Crawford’s words, he added: ‘I’ll let Crawford get his five minutes of fame. I’ll say it like this. Don’t tell me I have to worry about anything when I’m the king and I defeated the undisputed champion Josh Taylor at 140. All I’m saying is, I’m just following you bro. Don’t tell me I have to follow other guys.
‘I know the skills I have. [Crawford] is almost at the end of his prime and I’m not even in my prime. This is a great time for this fight to happen and I leave it to the higher divine.’
Lopez had previously risked the wrath of Crawford by claiming his American rival only faced ‘handicapped fighters’ in his career – that most of the elite opponents he had fought were battling injuries.
‘The Takeover’ reiterated that he had respect for Crawfight as a boxer – but doubled down on his initial claim and insisted that Crawford was ‘on his way out’ while he was ‘not even in my prime’.
‘Crawford is a hell of a fighter, I won’t take that away from him. He can say he’s a two time champion. However, I am not going to allow the illusion of – you fought every fighter who was injured. When you know you’re fighting an injured fighter, your confidence levels go up. Is it confidence or is it cockiness?
Lopez put in one of his best ever performances to dethrone Josh Taylor last summer
He has been engaged in a war of words with welterweight champion Terence Crawford
‘If you’re saying you’re the best – and I know I’m the best – let’s make the fight happen. I don’t understand what the commotion is all about. Boxing fans should be excited. I know one day we’ll face each other.’
Earlier this month, Lopez was called out by the father of Devin Haney, who told him to forget chasing a fight with Crawford and instead face his son.
‘Listen, act like you got some sense. You hear that money counter in the background. Act like you got some sense, and we can make Haney vs. Lopez for that 140-pound unification,’ Bill Haney said on social media.
‘Yeah, baby. Act like you got some sense, and stop talking about Bud Crawford. You don’t want none of Bud Crawford, and you don’t deserve none. Knock it off, talk like you got some sense,’ said Bill Haney.
Lopez was certainly amused when this was put to him – questioning why the No 1 fighter at super-lightweight would be calling him out and claiming he needed to ‘stay relevent’.
‘Isn’t [Haney] the number 1 guy at 140? Didn’t he beat the best guy [Regis] Prograis? You know why they’re calling me out? Because they’ve gotta stay relevent. They’ve gotta stay in the loop.
He has also been talking up a fight with Devin Haney – but claims he turned him down
Lopez also revealed that he called Haney personally to set up a fight before being dismissed by his rival, who became a two-weight world champion by beating Prograis at 140.
‘If the fight presents itself we’ll take it,’ he added. ‘I went out of my own way and texted him [about a fight]. He said “I’m my own boss, I don’t want to talk to you”.
‘I said that sucks because I thought as grown men we can make it happen. That’s how Crawford and Spence made it happen. Who really wants to fight Teofimo? We’ll see after we fight Ortiz. I want every single person to be there because they need to feel this energy.’
But before any talk of Crawford or Haney, Lopez must focus on the task at hand. He insists talk of face either man has not unfocused him in the slightest as he prepares for what he believes is the biggest fight of his career.
‘I’m feeling great, I understand the magnitude of it all,’ Lopez went on. ‘This is much more difficult than any other fight I’ve had. It’s not discrediting Taylor or Lomachenko it’s just that this fight means more than all those because this defines where I’m at now.
I’ve been studying Jermaine Ortiz. The situation with Crawford has not unfocused me whatsoever, I’m just a fighter who likes to fight the best and look forward to a phenomenal stampede career at the end of my life.
Lopez believes Ortiz will be his toughest fight yet despite facing Taylor and Vasily Lomachenko
‘I want to take the next chapter of my life to greater heights. My goal is to become 2024 fighter of the year. Once you beat the king, you are the king. Everybody else wants the crown.’
Last summer saw Lopez briefly retire and spend quality time with family before quickly reversing his decision after the WBO threatened to take away the world title he so impressively won against Taylor.
Since then he has rarely been out of the limelight and among his spats with high-profile stars has also been an exchange with Matchroom Boxing chief Eddie Hearn – who claimed that Lopez was not capable of selling more than 4,000 tickets for an event and that he was not a box office draw.
Lopez hit back calling him a ‘fluke’ and a ‘liar’ – before Hearn responded again, saying he was ‘f***ing deluded’ and ‘on another planet’.
The Brooklyn-born fighter explained their long-running feud, saying he was upset that Hearn attempted to discredit his career that he had worked his whole life for.
The boxer said he has become ‘the king’ in his division and wants to be 2024 fighter of the year
Lopez has been involved in a feud with Eddie Hearn, who claimed he was not a box office draw
‘He’s lying to everyone out there because he has his establishment set in boxing. Enough is enough, I need to set the record straight. I’m not mad at the man. How dare you lie about the accolades I have accomplished and the box office numbers I have done.
‘Last year when I fought [Sandor] Martin, we hit past 950,000 views on ESPN. Madison Square Garden wanted me to come back in December. i said no because I needed time to spend with my son. In 2023 when I said no, not only did they lose the venue, when it came to the viewership, it didn’t even hit 500k views. That’s a 50 per cent deficit without Teofimo.
‘I am what I am, I’m an underground king. I need to defend my career because I worked hard for it. Eddie Hearn got his career from his own father. He wouldn’t be anything today if it wasn’t for his father. Teofimo is where he is because Teofimo made it happen.
‘You’re playing with my son, because anyone who wants to lie to the media about my career is trying to hurt my son and I’m going to take it that way. It’s time I humble everyone with respect. I’m not here for those games anymore. Either set the record straight about what I’ve done or shut up and watch entertainment happen.