By: Jake Donovan
In the aftermath of his 44-second destruction of Mason Menard at MSG Hulu Theatre earlier this month, Teofimo Lopez told anyone who’d listen that he wants the toughest challenges from here on out.
The staff at Top Rank was clearly listening—and has delivered for his next fight.
Lopez (11-0, 9KOs) will take his first big step in advancing to the contender stage when he returns to the ring. Awaiting the red-hot unbeaten prospect will be two-time title challenger Diego Magdaleno, with their scheduled 10-round lightweight bout to stream on ESPN+ on February 2 live from The Ford Center in Frisco, Texas.
BoxingScene.com contributor and videographer Ryan Burton was the first to report news of the fight being finalized.
The bout comes as part of a loaded card on the eve of Super Bowl Sunday, with three title fights also on the bill. Lopez-Magdaleno will stream live on ESPN+ in supporting capacity to the light heavyweight title fight rematch between unbeaten titlist Eleider Alvarez (24-0, 12KOs) and former champ Sergey Kovalev (32-3-1, 28KOs).
On the ESPN portion of the show, Oscar Valdez (24-0, 19KOs) defends his featherweight title versus Italy’s Carmine Tommasone (19-0, 5KOs), while Ghana’s Richard Commey (27-2, 24KOs) and Russia’s Isa Chaniev (13-1, 6KOs) battle for a vacant lightweight title.
The latter bout has Lopez’ attention, as the 21-year old Brooklyn native is eager to transition from prospect to title contender in a hurry.
“One of the belts I just won was the USBA lightweight title, which is the regional title for the IBF,” Lopez told BoxingInsider.com in offering a glimpse into his planned title pursuit. “So that gave me a sign that I will be fighting for a world title next year. That title is vacant, so I’d love to fight whoever wins (Commey-Chaniev) after my next fight.”
No better way to plan for a title run than to test your skills versus someone who’s been there before.
“We’re trying to challenge Teofimo with all types of styles and experienced guys as he develops,” Carl Moretti, Top Rank VP of Boxing Operations told BoxingInsider.com in selecting Magdaleno. “Diego obviously fits that. Let’s see what the kid can do.”
On the other side of the equation, the one-time rising contender is also curious what he can still do on the big stage.
It was just a few short years ago when Magdaleno (31-2, 13KOs) and his brother Jessie were the talk of the town as rising prospects to watch. Jessie made it all the way to the finish line, picking up a 122-pound belt before conceding to Isaac Dogboe earlier this year.
For older brother Diego, the hope is that his third time will be a charm—if in fact there’s a third time to be had.
The Las Vegas-based southpaw has only lost to reigning titlists, coming up just short in a disputed split decision defeat to then-130 pound titlist Roman Martinez in April ’13. A five-fight win streak and a move up in weight put Magdaleno right back in title contention, only to suffer a 2nd round knockout at the hands of Terry Flanagan in their Oct. ’15 lightweight title fight on the road in Manchester, England.
Magdaleno has since posted three straight wins, including a 10-round decision over fellow southpaw Jesus Cuadro in his most recent outing this past September in Cancun, Mexico.
For Lopez, it’s a quick turnaround that even surpassed his own expectations. Plans called for the lightweight knockout artist—who represented Honduras in the 2016 Rio Olympics—to return either in February or March, the latter contingent on plans being finalized for a Terence Crawford-headlined show at Madison Square Garden.
Of course, opportunity always trumps location. With plans for Crawford’s next bout still being firmed up, an executive decision was made to have Lopez appear on the February 2 bill, which will mark his just second appearance in the Lone Star State.
His lone other bout in Texas will have come almost one year to the day by the time he enters the ring versus Magdaleno. That particular contest was also the last time he’s been extended the distance, settling for a six-round shutout of Juan Pablo Sanchez at close to the super lightweight limit this past February in Corpus Christi.
The win was his first of four in 2018, the balance all coming inside the distance and at lightweight where he plans to remain—at least until he gets a title or two around his waist.
“I want to win my first title at lightweight and hopefully be at this weight long enough to beat all the champs including Lomachenko, either next year or 2020,” insists Lopez.