Monday, June 12, 2023

Taylor-Lopez Thoughts

 The fight between Josh Taylor and Teofimo Lopez, while being an encounter between two recent undisputed world champions in the sport for Taylor's WBO Jr. Welterweight world championship at the Theater in Madison Square Garden on June 10th, was one that was overshadowed by comments made in the days that preceded the fight as both fighters made references to the possibility of inflicting serious injury on the other. Although this observer made his feelings clear in previewing this fight as to such comments and conduct, which I stand by, it unfortunately did overshadow what was a compelling bout between two of the sport's top stars and one that was regarded as one of the most anticipated encounters of 2023.

Despite my feelings regarding the conduct that preceded this fight, it was one that I was nevertheless looking forward to because of both the interesting clash of styles between the two fighters as well as the respective scenarios that each fighter found himself in, in coming into this bout off of performances in their respective last outings that the consensus was that both fighters had lost. As it would turn out, this would be another example of Teofimo Lopez' ability to go against the type of strategy that one would expect of a fighter known for his punching power and using a surprising tactical Boxing style and approach that proved to be effective. An approach similar in execution to the one that Lopez used in his unification bout with Vasyl Lomachenko in October 2020 where he fully unified the Lightweight division.

By using faints, lateral movement, and attacking in spurts at varying angles, Lopez was able to dictate how the fight was fought by keeping the champion Taylor off balance and unable to find a consistent rhythm. While the early rounds of this twelve round world championship bout were competitive and Taylor did have success periodically, Lopez' ability to time his attacks, be elusive, often attack in short combinations that Taylor had trouble defending against, and overall ring generalship was the story of this fight. Although likely not the most entertaining of bouts of you were one expecting Lopez to be throwing punches with knockout intention, Teofimo Lopez once again was able to show in this fight that he has more wrinkles to his Boxing strategies than only merely relying on the punching power he has demonstrated throughout his career.

A subplot going into this fight was the fact that this was Josh Taylor's first fight in over sixteen months as he had dealt with both injuries as well as elements of the politics that be in the sport, which ultimately led to him vacating three portions of what was the Undisputed Jr. Welterweight championship of the world before fulfilling his obligation to the World Boxing Organization (WBO) by facing Lopez, who came into this fight as the WBO's mandatory challenger in the 140lb. Jr. Welterweight division. It is hard to say whether any of the aforementioned factors, specifically the issue of inactivity ended up working against Taylor in this fight, but from this observer's view, he seemed lethargic and a few steps behind Lopez throughout the entire fight. This does not take away anything from the performance that Teofimo Lopez put forth here in ultimately winning a convincing twelve round unanimous decision to win the title and hand Taylor the first loss of his career, but perhaps the possibility of Taylor being overtrained and possibly struggling to get down to the 140lb. Jr. Welterweight limit might explain why there just seemed to be something off about Taylor's performance here. The possibility of him being unprepared for the approach that Lopez implemented is something to also consider.

Lopez now as a two-division world champion has thrown the 140lb. Jr. Welterweight division a curveball as some considered him an underdog to dethrone Taylor. While Lopez does deserve credit not only for his performance, but also his apologizing to Taylor after the fight for the remarks he made in wanting to kill him, it is hard to say where he goes from here. Lopez is going through some issues related to his personal life outside of the ring and even though this observer will not comment on those issues, it will likely take some of the focus and time away from potential fights that could be made including a potential unification bout with current WBC world champion Regis Prograis, who coincidentally has a title defense on June 17th in his hometown of New Orleans against Danielito Zorrilla, or a potential rematch with Taylor. 

Although Lopez did apologize for his remarks prior to the fight and Taylor accepted the apology calling it ‘Fun and Games,” this observer does not feel that way in that those comments do not belong in any sport, even one as flawed as Boxing tends to be at times. Going forward regardless of what might be going on outside of the ring in a fighter’s life, Lopez, Taylor and any fighter on every level of the sport needs to understand that the sport needs to be respected at all times including the obvious dangers that are associated with it. It is the responsibility of the fighters, especially those who are in the position as being fortunate to be at the top level of the sport, to represent it with the dignity and class that it deserves. While emotions tend to be high prior to any fight and no one knows what a fighter might be dealing with in their private lives outside of Boxing, it might be a good idea for those around fighters to advise them on conduct, what to say, and how to say it. Thankfully, there were no tragedies inside of Madison Square Garden on June 10, 2023, but when you look at the long list of tragedies that have occured on every level of the sport, it is far from “Fun and Games,” and the sport needs to be treated with the respect it deserves.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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