Teofimo Lopez favors his talent over Masayoshi Nakatani’s experience in their main event which streams live on ESPN+ July 19 from MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, MD
There have been a few bumps along the way for brash, undefeated Brooklyn-bred Lightweight Teofimo Lopez. Running a “#Takeover” campaign at just 21-years old in a gritty, “take no prisoners” sport like boxing is going to attract some opposition. If one fighter claims to be taking over, then naturally some other fighters are likely to feel like the ground they’ve gained is being threatened. Conflict arises.
So when the “Takeover” warning is repeatedly said over ESPN’s megaphone, it helps to be 13-0 with 11 knockouts. Quite a few of those coming in explosive attention-grabbing fashion.
However, has Lopez upgraded his oft-perceived surly Takeover brand a few weeks out from his headlining bout on the ESPN+ streaming app?
The 2018 Prospect of the Year briefly joined ESPN’s on-air commentary team during IBF Lightweight champion Richard Commey’s title defense versus veteran and former champion Ray Beltran back on June 28. His hair was longer. His praise for the combatants was handled as well as one of his finishing sequences in the ring. And his self-promotion was measured. He even joined the victor, Commey, in the ring for a photo where afterwards he congratulated the Ghanaian.
CHECK OUT TOP RANK NEWCOMER AND UNBEATEN PROSPECT TYLER MCCREARY (15-0-1, 7 KOs), IN A RECENT INTERVIEW WITH BITE DOWN BOXING, DISCUSSING HIS MOVE TO SUPER FEATHERWEIGHT IN HIS UPCOMING BOUT ON THE LOPEZ-NAKATANI UNDERCARD.
Who knows exactly what’s the reason behind the subdued Lopez with the longer hairstyle, along with the exemplary maturity displayed recently while in front of cameras, microphones or while on a phone interview. Maybe the new look is the after effects of exchanging marital vows with his bride back in April per a multi-photo post on Lopez’s Instagram account dated May 18.
While Lopez is looking the part and saying all of the right things the past month, expect to see a familiar power-punching exhibition in the ring Friday night in Oxon Hill, Maryland as the 2016 Olympian (Honduras) takes on Japan’s Masayoshi Nakatani. Everything the Takeover mantra represents and has been building for the past year is on the line. A shot at the reigning IBF champion Commey, and a potential undisputed Lightweight title fight versus the Vasiliy Lomachenko-Luke Campbell winner in late-2019 or early-2020.
Nakatani (18-0, 12 KOs) is a taller fighter, he’s held a Japanese title since January 2014, and his ring experience includes several 12-round decisions among his defenses. Surely he’s motivated by the recent one-sided second round TKO victory by his countryman WBA “regular” Middleweight Ryota Murata versus American Rob Brant in Osaka, Japan – an early morning ESPN+ live stream on July 12.
In contrast, Lopez could face some unknowns Friday should the 12-round bout, an IBF Lightweight eliminator, reach beyond the seventh round.
Lopez-Nakatani and the IBF Junior Welterweight world title eliminator between unbeaten 140-pounders Maxim Dadashev and Subriel Matias streams live on ESPN+ — the industry-leading sports streaming service — starting at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.
Middleweights Esquiva Falcao and Jesus Antonio Gutierrez clash in the featured bout on the undercard slated to stream live on ESPN+ beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT.
Two days before his first main event as a pro, at a media workout at Old School Boxing, this is what Lopez had to say.On Friday’s fight
“I see myself as a performer in the ring, and I am coming to the MGM National Harbor to put on a show. I have respect for Nakatani because he is undefeated like me, but nobody is going to stand in my way.”
On the future
“This is what my father and I have worked for since I started training as a young kid. He envisioned this type of success for me, and here we are, headlining a card on ESPN+ one win away from a world title shot.”
“We all know what is at stake on Friday. But if you think too far ahead, you get careless. Nakatani is my only concern right now. After Friday night, we can talk about the future. Nakatani has been fighting 12-rounders since before I turned pro, so he has a lot of valuable experience. I believe my talent will outweigh his experience.”
“I say this before all of my fights — I go in there to take over the show. I’m a main event fighter now, and that won’t change. When people watch me fight, they put down their phones because they don’t want to miss anything. For the boxing fans living in the Northeast, come down and watch me fight. And if you can’t make it down, check out the best show of the weekend on ESPN+.”
On his role as an entertainer
“I do all of that stuff — the backflips and the Fortnite celebrations — because I want to entertain. I want people to remember my name. I’m a fighter, but I am also an entertainer. That’s been lost in today’s game. I’m unique in the sport of boxing.”
On his recent weight struggles
“The weight is not an issue. I’ve been working with a new nutrition team, Perfecting Athletes, and they have made all the difference. I’ll be able to make lightweight for a few more fights.”
All photos by Mikey Williams/Top Rank