Teofimo Lopez (16-0, 12 KOs) is preparing to face mandatory challenger George Kambosos on June 19 in Miami, but the unified Lightweight champion has made it clear that he’ll be targeting a fight against Devin Haney (25-0, 15 KOs) before he moves on from the 135-pound division.
“I don’t care if he would or wouldn’t [fight me],” Lopez told BoxingScene.com of Haney. “I’m making him my mandatory, regardless. He can’t say no to that. We’re gonna corner him. We’re gonna checkmate him on every end. And if he overprices himself, we’ll go to purse bid. He’s not running away. He’s been running away, but nobody knows that. Ain’t nobody ducking nobody.”
The 23-year-old Lopez is coming off a triumphant victory over former three-division champion Vasiliy Lomachenko last October. The win made him the WBA, WBO, IBF, and WBC Franchise Lightweight champion.
The 22-year-old Haney, meanwhile, is considered to be the WBC (Regular) titleholder, although he’s been criticized because he didn’t beat Lomachenko to earn that distinction. Instead, he was promoted from interim champion when Lomachenko was elevated to Franchise champion.
Haney will have a chance to prove himself this weekend, though, when he meets veteran former three-weight champion Jorge Linares Saturday night on DAZN. At 35 years old, Linares may no longer be in his prime, but he certainly represents the toughest test of Haney’s young career.
Lopez will be keeping a close eye on the bout, and although he isn’t sold on Haney’s skills, he’s hoping the American wins so that a fight between the two can come to fruition.
“I don’t even know,” Lopez replied when asked how Haney-Linares will unfold. “We’ll see. You know, we haven’t really seen Devin step up to the plate until now. So, we can’t really tell or predict what’s gonna happen until we see it on Saturday. Maybe he’ll surprise all of us, or maybe not. Maybe he might just show up to the limit he always is. He’s a one-dimensional fighter. He’s not a universal fighter. It’s so easy to pick up on these guys. And may the best man win. I really want Devin to win this fight because I want his head next.”
In addition to Haney beating Linares, Lopez will also have to get by Kambosos, which he’s favored to do to make a Lopez-Haney bout a reality.
Another point to consider is that Lopez isn’t likely to spend much more time competing at Lightweight. And while a move up to 140 pounds remains the plan, especially given the possibility of a bout between Lopez and newly minted undisputed champion Josh Taylor, the Brooklyn native won’t end his 135-pound run with his fight against Kambosos.
“Look, I see it like this – I can’t go out with Kambosos [at 135] and move up to 140,” Lopez said. “And if I do, it’ll be with [Josh] Taylor, and he has his [WBO] mandatory now, apparently, with this guy named who? Catterall? Whatever his name is. And that’s it. So, my whole thing is like I gotta finish with somebody at ’35 clean then. So, it could be Devin.
“He ain’t the WBC champion,” Lopez continued. “He is the email world champion. He is the true definition of fake it till you make it. The only thing that’s keeping him relevant right now is that fake-ass belt. And hey, but he gotta focus right now on his fight with Linares, and then we’ll go from there.”