By: Hans Themistode
For a kid with just 14 pro fights, Lightweight prospect Teofimo Lopez (14-0, 11 KOs) has made quite a bit of noise.
In a short amount of time he has managed to headline his own card, make constant viral trips on highlight reels and most importantly, climb up the rankings.
As it currently stands, Lopez is the mandatory challenger for the IBF world title held by Richard Commey (29-2, 26 KOs). At the young age of 22, Lopez has been calling for his shot at a title for some time now. His wish has now been granted as negotiations have begun for a showdown between the two being targeted for Madison Square Garden, on December 14th.
Lopez, who was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, took the boxing world by storm. His knockout wins over both Mason Menard and Diego Magdaleno caught the attention of many. So did his signature backflip celebration. He’s young, strong and explosive but he’s also lacking in experience.
Going into his contest against Masayoshi Nakatani, Lopez was on a roll. He scored five straight knockouts and was looking to get number six. Nakatani was an unknown fighter making his U.S. debut. Until then, he never fought outside of his native land in Japan.
Everything seemed to be perfectly set up for Lopez. The contest was officially made as an IBF eliminator and it was the first time in the career of Lopez that he would be headlining his own card. What was supposed to be an easy night at the office, turned out to be anything but.
Nakatani landed a number on shots on Lopez throughout the contest. Something that many weren’t accustomed to seeing. The undefeated Brooklyn native found it difficult at times to find a home for his own shots. It was clear that the height and reach advantages that Nakatani possessed, four and three inches respectively, were a problem for Lopez.
For the first time in his career, Lopez fought in the 12th and final round. Although he came through with a wide decision victory, it was clear that it wasn’t the performance that he wanted. Lopez would go on to say that matching up with taller fighters is something that he would like to steer clear of.
“He’s tall but from this point on we’re fighting guys my height,” said Lopez during his post fight interview following his victory against Nakatani. “No more tall guys.”
It wasn’t just the height that caused issues for Lopez, but so did the right hand of Nakatani. Now that Lopez is heading towards his first crack at a world title he will have his own issues to be weary of.
Not only will Commey possess a three inch reach advantage but he also has a devastating right hand. The same sort of punch that Lopez had an issue avoiding his last time out. Commey will also have the edge in terms of experience by a long shot.
Lopez has been calling for his shot at a title for quite some time. He is getting exactly what he has been waiting for. There is no doubt that he is a great young fighter but Commey will push him like he has never been pushed before.