Teofimo Lopez promises there’s a method to his madness.
As he prepares for a Thursday night bout against Jamaine Ortiz in Las Vegas, the now 26-year-old boxer addressed his brief retirement and concerns over his mental health following some disturbing comments made in the weeks leading up to his last win over Josh Taylor.
In various interviews, Lopez accused his promoters at Top Rank of favoring “black fighters” over him and took shots at the ESPN boxing commentary team calling his fights. He was also caught on camera talking to his team about whether he still had it or not, and then later stating that what he loved most about boxing was he “could kill a guy and get away with it.”
Now eight months removed from his last fight, Lopez fired back at calls for him to drop out against Taylor and explained that everything he said was done with a purpose in mind.
“None of that is valid,” Lopez said on The MMA Hour about concerns over his mental health. “They don’t really know me. The boxing world could be boxing, but you can’t have boxing without the best fighter that knows and respects the sport. See, a lot of these fighters, and a lot of these fighters and analysts and all that, don’t know s*** about boxing. They really don’t. I only wanted to come back here to educate the next generation and how it works.
“When you think about it, these people don’t know me. I’ve mastered one thing. I should get an Oscar after all this because if they want to call me crazy, then I’ll definitely act crazy. They want to call me insane, I’ll definitely act insane. Does it mean that I am? Absolutely not. No. But you’ve got to know how to work the media. How do you do that? Just always let them keep talking about you in different ways. There’s no such thing as bad publicity. It’s only bad when you get caught up with DWI or a DUI or anything like that. That’s bad publicity. However, when you’re doing stuff that people are just talking about, it doesn’t matter. They all talk. I think it’s just because people are scared to see my greatness.”
Lopez said he was ultimately putting on a show and had everybody in the world watching.
“You never know what I’m going to give these people,” Lopez said. “I might just moon everybody come [the next] press conference. You just never know what I’m going to give you. That’s the beauty of it, is it not?
“If anyone is watching this, any combat champion, any athlete, do what you want to do. You’ve got them in your hand. They don’t got you by the hand. You’ve got them. How you play them? They play themselves so you’ve got to play them. I love stuff like that.”
As far as announcing his retirement after his win over Taylor this past June, Lopez says that wasn’t a publicity stunt or an emotional decision made in the moment.
Instead, Lopez said he was serious about calling it a career in that moment, especially as he sought more time with his family versus the months he spent away during a training camp.
“I had every intention to f****** pull out of this s***,” Lopez said. “I had every intention. Because it’s just like the NFL, s*** is getting scripted.
“I could go into a political state, however that’s not going to do me anything. I’ll probably just say it in a more personal state. That’s just being with my son. I fought three times in the 10 months prior to that so I didn’t get to really see my son. I missed his first steps. I missed his first crawls. Me, as his father that the Lord blessed me with, I want to embrace that and enjoy that. Fatherhood, I believe, is the best hood in the world. That’s really why.”
Now that he’s officially back, Lopez promises he’s excited to get back to work, and that starts with the fight against Ortiz, which takes place just days away from a Super Bowl that’s also happening in Las Vegas.
Lopez feels like he’s earned the right to compete on “the biggest stage,” even if he wasn’t as excited about the choice of opponents.
Ideally, Lopez says he would like to face stiffer competition moving forward, including a potential showdown with a champion from a bigger division.
“There’s only one guy on my list — and that’s my hit list — and that’s Terence ‘Bud’ Crawford,” Lopez said. “We’re only one weight class apart. He’s the kingpin of the 147 division, I am the kingpin of the 140 division. So why not? Shouldn’t the best fight the best? However, I’m going to say here, Terence ‘Bud’ Crawford likes to go after guys that are not the same or they’re injured.
“I’ll say right here, a lot of the fights he has had, he’s faced injured fighters. Now he wants to face someone — what are the chances of Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez? Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez is on the decline. Saul, if he likes it or not, it is the truth. He’s had his ride, now he’s starting to depreciate. We can see it. He’s getting heavier. He’s getting hefty. Real flat-footed. He’s not as light as before. So who’s going to want to jump on that? Terence ‘Bud’ Crawford. Because it looks good, he beats the face of boxing — however, you fought a guy that’s on the decline.”
Lopez believes Crawford has avoided the more dangerous fights available to him and instead looked for opponents dealing with injuries and other physical ailments. Still, he hopes Crawford hears his callout and accepts the challenge.
“Why can’t you fight me?” Lopez said. “I’m new and I’m fresh and I’m clean. Why can’t we fight? Why can’t you shut up the young buck?”