From the outside looking in, winning in sport must mean absolutely everything to those whose talents enable them to turn professional in their chose sport. Becoming the best in the world and collecting the prizes that show them as the elite can only be the icing on the cake. But what if reaching the top of the sporting mountain leaves some who do so lacking motivation? What if it leads to an inability to handle the accomplishment or to celebrate excessively in the wrong way? All of this can potentially damage the rest of that sporting career. Two boxers who have tasted incredible success so far in their careers are Josh Taylor and Teofimo Lopez.
With only 38 combined appearances in the ring as professionals, both have collected multiple championship belts. Since their respective career high-points, both have experienced different problems.
It is therefore somewhat poetic that, at time of writing, the latest information available is that Taylor and Lopez will face off against one another on June 10 in New York for Taylor's WBO light welterweight title.
How Josh Taylor Arrived At This Point
Josh Taylor (19-0, 13 KOs) became the undisputed 140lb champion in May 2021. The Scottish boxer's victory over Jose Ramirez in Las Vegas capped off a meteoric run of success for “The Tartan Tornado” as he effectively completed his weight class in only 18 professional outings.
Of course, talk of moving up to welterweight as well as defending his light welterweight titles followed. What actually happened was over-indulgence, injury, and an unconvincing defence of the four belts. This was followed by Taylor either vacating or being stripped of three of his titles. During this period Taylor also changed head trainer and suffered another injury – torn planter fascia in January – which scrapped plans for him to fight Jack Catterall in a rematch. That rematch would have taken place on March 4.
While celebrating success is fine, it seemed like Taylor's post Ramirez party lasted too long. As was very well documented by the excellent Ad Hoc Films production Josh Taylor: Portrait of a Fighter which aired on BBC iplayer last June, Taylor was well out of shape when he showed up to train for the first Catterall fight.
It's all very well showing up overweight and even joking about it on camera, but the reality is it makes everything which follows for a boxer so much more difficult – including performing well on fight night.
If it is Teofimo Lopez that Taylor faces next, it will be his first bout under new head trainer Joe McNally. Taylor announced he had parted company with Ben Davison in October 2022 and that he would be working at McNally's gym in Liverpool, England moving forward.
How Teofimo Lopez Arrived At This Point
October 2020 must feel like a lifetime ago to Teofimo Lopez (18-1, 13KOs). Back then, the Brooklyn born pugilist known as “The Takeover” sprung a massive surprise by defeating Vasyl Lomachenko in a lightweight contest that crowned him as the man to beat in the 135lb division.
What followed were reports of Lopez allowing his ego to run rampant – perhaps achieving so much at the young age of 23 was too much for him to handle in a mature manner. His father and trainer, Teofimo Lopez Sr., also became very vocal, making wild statements and just generally talking shit about everyone and everything in and around his son's weight class. The result was a lot of boxing fans becoming turned off by Teofimo Lopez and his team.
Disputes with Lomachenko (over a rematch), with fans and media over whether he was undisputed or just unified at lightweight (due to the status of the WBC version of the title Lomacheko held when Lopez defeated him) and with his promoter, Top Rank, after they couldn't match the purse bid from upstart entity Triller for his next fight against Australian George Kambosos Jr. took up much of Team Lopez' time and energy in the first half of 2021. Focus on boxing was being lost.
The title defence against Kambosos Jr. became a cursed event. The June date could not be fulfilled after Lopez tested positive for Covid-19 and suffered some complications from having had the virus. A venue for the contest could not be agreed on and eventually Triller had to bow out of promotional duties after they had been found to be in default of their contractual obligations. It was a mess.
Eventually the bout did take place in November of 2021. Lopez had been inactive over a year, but it was still a massive upset when Kambosos Jr. won a split decision at the Madison Square Garden Theatre.
Now Lopez was without his titles and knew boxing fans were revelling in his failure. The fighter's claim that he was suffering a potentially fatal health condition – pneumomediastinum – were dismissed by the many fans who had found him and his father to be unlikeable since the win over Lomachenko.
He also did himself no favours with claims the Kambosos Jr. fight was fixed based on the promoter and broadcaster who eventually promoted the event.
There were also reports of Lopez splitting with his wife and mother of his young son around this period.
In August 2022, Lopez got back in the ring. The fighter had moved up to the 140lb divison and stopped Pedro Campa in Las Vegas in the seventh round of their contest. A minor WBO title was on the line – giving Lopez some ranking points with that sanctioning body.
Lopez was back before the end of 2022. Sandor Martin of Spain was his opponent in New York. Lopez survived an early knock-down to record a split decision victory in the ten-round contest. It was far from impressive from the American, but the victory lifted him higher in the WBO's rankings – high enough to be seen as a challenger for Josh Taylor's title.
While Taylor and Lopez have gone through different experiences since their successes arrived, the underlying reason for the negativity that has become attached to them both might be the same.
Feeling down or empty after success or reaching a long-targeted goal is common in human nature. It just manifests itself differently in different people. Could Taylor's over celebrating and subsequent battle against the weight be explained by this? Could Lopez' letting things get out of control ego wise and with the output from his team also be explained by this phenomenon?
According to clinical psychologist Jesse Matthews, PsyD in a piece published by wellandgood.com it is not unusual for ambitious people to feel a shock after a long worked on goal is achievement.
“The downtime is a shock. They've spent a lot of time and energy on the goal and don't know what to do next,” explained Doctor Matthews.
“Some people are at their best when they're focused on something, so they feel lost without that structure. Also, maybe reaching the goal doesn't prove to be all you thought it would be. Maybe you thought achieving it would lead to something magical; that suddenly your life would be completely different. Mix that feeling with burnout and exhaustion and it's easy to see why you'd feel drained, rather than elated,” Matthews went on to say.
Something to think about.
Redemption For Both If They Fight?
While they competed in different weight classes as they made strides in professional boxing, Taylor and Lopez have a few similarities. They turned pro within 16-months of each other and both won their first professional world title in their 15th outing. Both were matched hard on their ascent as their teams were confident in their abilities.
There has also been the occasional back and forth between the two on social media over the past year or so. This has now been stepped up after news of their potential June bout was broken.
“He is a very good, very skilled fighter but I do believe that on my night I take him to bits,” Taylor told Sky Sports.
“He's a bit of a clown. He seems to look past his opponents all the time. He thinks he's God's gift, and then he comes crashing back down to earth with a bang,” the Scotsman continued.
Lopez responded, by telling Sky Sports: “I'd tear him up, from the body to the head. He's not going to know which one I'm going to hurt him with. I actually will put him down better than what Catterall did. He won't come back up, that's all I can tell you.”
If the fight is confirmed, that war of words will heat up even further.
If the fight is confirmed, both boxers will have the opportunity to add a significant win to their record.
While there would be a loser on the night, a high-quality tussle with both men showing what they are truly capable of would allow the pair of them to move past this strangely negative segment of their careers with renewed focus.
Hopefully the encounter will take place.
Hopefully both will emerge from it in a positive frame of mind.