On Saturday, June 10th, one of the biggest fights of 2023 will take place in the Theater in Madison Square Garden in New York City, NY as undefeated WBO Jr. Welterweight world champion Josh Taylor will defend his title against former Undisputed Lightweight champion of the world Teofimo Lopez. While this fight, which can be seen here in the United States on digital subscription sports streaming network ESPN+ is for the WBO version of the Jr. Welterweight championship of the world, the interesting sub-plot is this is an encounter between two former undisputed world champions. One, Lopez having lost his title in the ring in the same venue where this fight coincidentally will take place, the other having relinquished portions of the undisputed championship in the 140lb. Jr. Welterweight division both due to injuries as well as the politics that be in the sport.
While Lopez has been unbeaten since moving up from Lightweight following losing the Lightweight championship to George Kambosos in November 2021, there are questions regarding how effective a fighter he is now as a Jr. Welterweight. In his last fight, Lopez earned a controversial ten round split decision over top contender Sandor Martin in December of last year. An irony that is also a coincidence is the champion Taylor is coming off a controversial split decision victory in defense of what was then the Undisputed Jr. Welterweight championship of the world against Jack Catterall in February of last year. The commonality between the two fights, many believe that both Taylor and Lopez lost those bouts.
While this observer will save any debates for those who will partake in them regarding those fights, it does nevertheless create a unique situation where two fighters are meeting each other for a world championship with the opinion of some fans and experts alike being that each are coming off fights they might have lost. Opinion and debates aside, what those two fights did do for both Taylor and Lopez is create a scenario where both fighters likely feel that they have something to prove. The fight itself also provides an interesting clash of styles.
Both fighters have shown in recent fights that they can do a little of everything. Most would likely say however, that this will be more of a classic scenario of a boxer in Taylor against a power puncher in Lopez. Teofimo Lopez is a fighter with knockout power in both hands that has throughout his career scored several highlight reel knockouts that seemed to come suddenly. Although the possibility of Lopez being able to do that should not be dismissed, we have yet to see that type of explosive power from him at 140lbs. Obviously, something else to keep in mind is Taylor is at the top of the division and this will likely be a significant test for Lopez in his third fight as a Jr. Welterweight.
Taylor meanwhile is a solid boxer/puncher, but can take a few rounds to find his rhythm. If Lopez begins this fight by looking to apply pressure on the champion, Taylor will not be able to dictate how the fight is fought. While it is logical to think that this will be the approach Lopez will try to implement early on, Taylor will need to find a way to be active with his offense, but try to be elusive at the same time.
Unfortunately, a part of the story of this fight has also involved some less than sportsman-like comments between the two fighters with each alluding to the possibility of wanting to inflict serious injury upon the other. Although some may dismiss this as hype tactics to draw interest in the bout, this observer should not have to remind either the fighters themselves, or the readers of this column as to the dangers that exist in Boxing and by extension all combat sports.
It may be the view of some that yours truly is possibly reading too much into comments prior to a fight and possibly taking it too seriously. While everyone is entitled to their opinion, I will always defend the sport of Boxing and in an already dangerous sport, comments alluding to wanting to seriously injure an opponent if not God forbid worse, hype tactic or not, should not be viewed as acceptable in any way, shape, or form. Whether fighters know it or not, they do represent the sport both in and out of the ring and comments like that not only do not belong, but more importantly give the wrong impression to those who are new to the sport and far too much credibility to Boxing's detractors.
When one has covered the sport for as long as I have, things like seeing serious injuries and, yes, even death occur is something that unfortunately comes with the territory. If any fighter however, thinks that using the possibility of something like that happening in an attempt to hype interest in their bout is acceptable, I suggest reaching out to the people who have been affected by one of the sport's numerous tragedies and ask them if they feel such rhetoric is acceptable. I would feel safe betting money I do not have that the fighters or anyone else for that matter that think such conduct is acceptable will have a change of heart once they hear what those who have been impacted by a tragedy that occurred due to injuries suffered in a Boxing ring, have to say. Bottom line, it is not something that should be used as a hype tactic, is not something to make light of, and is not something to joke about. The fighters who have given their lives to the sport and their families deserve better and so does Boxing.
"And That's The Boxing Truth."
Taylor vs. Lopez takes place on Saturday, June 10th at The Theater in Madison Square Garden in New York City, NY. The fight as well as its full undercard can be seen in the United States on digital subscription sports streaming network ESPN+ beginning at 6:10PM ET/3:10PM PT. ESPN+ is available through the ESPN app on mobile, tablet, and connected streaming devices/Smart TVs. For more information about ESPN+ including schedules, list of compatible streaming devices, platforms, Smart TVs, and to subscribe please visit: www.ESPNPlus.com.
(*Card and Start time subject to change *)
(*Check your local listings internationally.)
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