Monday, June 24, 2024

Can Claggett Upset Lopez?

The career of two-division world champion Teofimo Lopex has been one marked by highlight reel knockouts and an expedited rise up that saw him go from rising star, to a world champion, to an undisputed world champion rather quickly. As most know, his reign as an undisputed world champion was short in losing the title in his first defense following successfully unifying the crown with a decision victory over Vasyl Lomachenko in October 2020, to then unbeaten top contender George Kambosos in November 2021. As the rise up of Lopez was quick, so too would be the rebuild process.

A rebuild process, which began in August 2022 and saw him move up in weight to the 140lb. Jr. Welterweight division, to win two bouts before defeating the previously unbeaten Josh Taylor in June of last year to win the WBO Jr. Welterweight world championship. Lopez’ second reign as a world champion began with his first title defense of the WBO crown earlier this year when he scored a twelve round unanimous decision over Jermaine Ortiz. Unfortunately for Lopez, the victory over Ortiz was not one that could be considered as a crowd pleaser. This was due to Ortiz simply not being willing to engage with Lopez and thus the result was a dreadful fight to watch where the champion simply did what he had to do. 

Now with that victory over Ortiz in February behind him, Lopez prepares to return to the ring on June 29th against current WBO number ten rated contender Steve Claggett at the James L. Knight Center in Miami, FL, which can be seen in the United States on digital subscription sports streaming network ESPN+. Claggett, who will enter the bout unbeaten since 2021, is a former Canadian Welterweight champion, a veteran of forty-seven professional fights, and will come into what will be his first shot at a world title riding a nine fight winning streak.

Despite having more experience than the twenty-one fight veteran Lopez, Claggett, who has won thirty-eight of his forty-seven fights, is likely viewed as a significant underdog going into this fight. In addition to being a former Canadian Welterweight champion, Claggett, a native of Calgary, Alberta, has won several regional titles in the Jr. Welterweight division including the North American Boxing Association (NABA) and WBO international titles in his career, Although these titles are not given much of a platform or credibility by some, the really is those titles do serve as a means of elevating a fighter into the world rankings amongst Boxing’s respective world sanctioning organizations and could lead to an opportunity like the one that Clagget has now. 

The main hurdle at least on paper for the challenger is he has not had the opportunity to show what he can do against fighters that would be deemed on world level and as such, this is viewed as a significant step up in caliber of opposition again Lopez, who despite being at a disadvantage in terms of overall experience, does have a significant edge in terms of experience at the top level of the sport. While Claggett does have seven defeats and two draws coming into this fight, he has only been stopped once in his career and that could prove to be an asset against a fighter known for his punching power such as Lopez.

How can Claggett find success and potentially score an upset in this fight? Claggett is a well-balanced boxer/puncher that has shown the ability to do a little of everything in his fights. Though the challenger has scored twenty-six knockouts in his career, the best strategy in this fight might be to implement a tactical strategy with an emphasis on counter punching. This was something that George Kambosos was able to do against Lopez and was able to score a knockdown of Lopez in the first round of that fight on the way to scoring a split decision over him. 

Claggett must keep in mind even if he is able to have some success and potentially win some rounds early in the fight that Lopez does have the power that can turn and end a fight suddenly. Simply put, he needs to be both cautious and tactical from start to finish and should also try and avoid trading punches with Lopez given the champion’s power. Something the challenger should also keep in mind is though he is not known for his Boxing ability, Lopez has also shown the ability to be a very skilled boxer on occasion, such as in his bouts against Vasyl Lomachenko and Josh Taylor. Neither Lomachenko nor Taylor were prepared for Lopez to implement a tactical Boxing strategy and were unable to make adjustments in the midst of battle. With Lopez’ ability to also box having been displayed more than once, Claggett needs to be prepared for that approach in addition to being leary of the champion’s power. 

While some may view this as a “Stay Busy" fight for the champion and may not give Claggett much chance in the fight given that he has yet to progress beyond a regional championship level, one should keep in mind that Boxing is and has always been a sport of opportunity. It is indisputable that Claggett is taking a step up here, but it may simply be a case of a fighter not getting the benefit of getting an opportunity against notable fighters, more so than a perceived difference in skill level that may show itself in this fight. One thing Lopez should keep in mind as this fight approaches is, despite the fact that George Kambosos was unbeaten at the time he fought him, there were some who did not take him seriously even though he was a mandatory challenger at the time. 

Like Claggett, Kambosos had succeeded on the regional level of the sport prior to getting his opportunity. Kambosos was able to take advantage of his opportunity and has since become a two-time world champion in his career, with his first coming by beating Lopez. Lopez should remember what happened to him the last time he faced a fighter, who was not given much chance or regard by some fans and others in the sport. Whether Steve Claggett can have a similar outcome as Kambosos remains to be seen.

“And That's The Boxing Truth." 

Lopez vs. Claggett takes place on Saturday, June 29th at the James L. Knight Center in Miami, FL. The fight as well as it’s full undercard can be seen in the United States on digital subscription sports streaming network ESPN+ beginning at 5:45PM ET/2:45PM PT. 

ESPN+ is available on mobile,tablet, and connected streaming devices/Smart TVs. For more information about ESPN+ including schedules, list of compatible streaming devices, platforms, and Smart TVs please visit:

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