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Teofimo and Manager McWater Still Grappling With How Top Rank Relationship Changed

Michael Woods

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After the fire and fury we saw last week, when we learned that Triller won the bidding to stage the Teofimo Lopez versus George Kambosos fight, we thought maybe things would die down.

We suspected that tempers would perhaps settle, and that folks might concentrate on business at hand, and that emotions would calm.

But it’s looking like maybe not…

You recall that Triller is putting up $6M or so to buy the Lopez v Kambosos bout. And that Top Rank boss Bob Arum said he wasn’t pleased with Eddie Hearn putting in a bid to buy the fight, to place on DAZN. And that on Friday, the day after the bid played out at the IBF headquarters, we saw a report that laid out some of what happened in the leadup to the bid. Mike Coppinger wrote of Top Rank executive Todd duBoef reaching out to DAZN, asking them to please NOT bid on the fight.

Lopez (16-0 with 12 KOs) spoke on the matter Tuesday, on Ak and Barak, who have the show on SiriusXM.

He said that he will be consulting with a lawyer, regarding how things went down the last couple months, between him and promoter Top Rank. “I tried to be as cordial and polite as I could be (to Todd),” he said, even though he was hearing that duBoef was “bragging” that he wanted to teach Lopez a lesson.

The 23 year old fighter said that he is of the belief that his fight versus the IBF’s mandatory challenger will unfold May 29. Also, he believes ESPN is “disappointed in Todd duBoef and Top Rank,” and he is going back and forth between taking it a bit personally and then seeing it as business. “It’s not personal,” he told the duo, but this is a different side to business that he’d not experienced, so, basically, sometimes it feels a bit like it’s personal.

I see myself within maybe this fight or maybe my next fight I’ll be a free agent,” Lopez said. “There’s so much proof for me to get out of this Top Rank contract, that they gave me the golden ticket. Todd duBoef gave me the golden ticket by doing so. They already dug a bigger hole than they needed to,” he continued. “So, of course, The Takeover Promotions will be in effect and it’ll be Takeover Promotions, plus the network.”

He said that he’s looking at hitting maybe 2 million buys with his fight on Triller. “When I leave Top Rank and I become my own free agent,” he said, he wants to have leeway to have more room to move, like Canelo does. Remove the middle man, that’s what he’s looking to do.

He said he was happy with Top Rank, that they are one of the best at starting fighters out. He basically seems to have animus toward DuBoef. “At least Bob was being cordial,” he said. He relayed a story, that he asked duBoef to take a pic together at the Miguel Berchelt v Oscar Valdez card, on Feb. 20, and duBoef said no thanks. “Some guys just need a wakeup call because they been fed with a silver spoon their whole life,” he stated.

The finger points not at Arum, but at duBoef. Lopez singles out the executive repeatedly.

Lopez went on. He said that there are people, he didn’t specify who, who are willing to put up money for a contract buyout. He wouldn’t have to put up his own money, in other words, to leave Top Rank sooner rather than later.

Lopez believes that because of the profile rise he will get from working on the Triller platform, the Ryan Garcias, the Devin Haneys and the Gervonta Davises will all be reaching out to him, to book a fight, because of his increased leverage and buzz.

Who would be first, if he could get his way? Tank Davis, he said. “The guy everybody thinks will be a 50-50 is Tank Davis,” he said, and he simply doesn’t agree, he thinks he has an edge. If he were to pick Haney first, then people would just move the goal-posts, and tell him to test himself against Tank. “I don’t see Floyd letting Tank out of the woodworks to fight me,” but the Haneys might be of a mind to take the challenge, Lopez said.

Back to the May 29 deal; The Takeover Promotions can place two fights on the card, Teofimo said.

And how about this…Lopez said it was floated that Oscar De La Hoya would be on his undercard, but Oscar said he wasn’t training, so that didn’t happen.

Lopez had his say, and his manager, David McWater, still has some thoughts on how things went down last Thursday, and indeed, leading up to the purse bid.

David McWater, left, with Teofimo (middle) and Teofimo Sr. The manager is bewildered, he says, at how he’s portrayed in the Lopez-Kambosos negotiations.

The NYC resident told me that he was still puzzled by some of the things he heard from the Top Rank side stemming from the negotiations that proceeded in a choppy fashion for Lopez’ first bout after the triumph over Vasiliy Lomachenko in October 2020.

McWater just doesn’t get why Bob Arum is pointing a finger at him, he said, because he feels he’s been a total pro all throughout the process. “No idea why he’s irked at me,” McWater said. “I was polite the whole time. And I couldn’t have convinced my client to take that kind of money (what Top Rank offered to fight Kambosos) if I had wanted to!”

He brought up the assertion by Bob Arum that collusion occured, between the Team Lopez and Team Kambosos parties, and shot down that concept. “That part is not true, and I would love for them to explain to me why I needed Lou DiBella (the promoter for Kambosos) to collude on anything. He didn’t have a TV contract, he didn’t bid on the fight, that part is just silly. To accuse me of conspiracy, it just makes no sense.”

We know Lopez has a “certain fondness” for duBoef; McWater too has issues with how Arum’s step-son handled himself in the months pre-ceding the purse bid. In a Feb. 26 Coppinger story, duBoef is quoted as saying how McWater comported himself poorly in trying to make the Lopez v Kambosos fight. Like, worse than anything he’d seen before. “This has nothing to do with Top Rank, it was an attempt to collude; to create a rift between Top Rank, ESPN and the fighter,” duBoef told Coppinger. “They were trying to make us look bad. We’re sitting here saying, ‘When are you going to call us? When are we going to have a negotiation?’ Twenty-seven years in the business, I have never, through Oscar (De La Hoya), Floyd (Mayweather), Manny Pacquiao, managers like Cameron Dunkin, from James Prince to Mayweather Sr. to Al Haymon, I’ve never seen conduct like that as displayed by the Teofimo representative. Ever.”

McWater spoke to that. “For weeks leading up to the purse bid, I was calling them all the time,” he said. And then, he said, it became clear to him that continue to press was not going to be productive. “What was I going to say, ‘You are right, we are going to take the contractual minimum?’ It was on me to call and say, ‘Have you changed your mind yet?’ I always polite to them, at no point was I impolite to them. I never said anything to the press outside of reacting to the things (Arum) said. Meanwhile, they’ve been out there saying all kinds of things about me to everybody. I was just always going to do what was in the best interest of my client.

“When they say Teofimo has unrealistic expectations….I had told Top Rank (before the Lomachenko fight), if we got DAZN, and Devin Haney, we could get a lot more (into the pot). And they laughed at me, and said, ‘If he beats Lomachenko he’ll make $25M a fight.”’

He maintains that some of the “expectations” are created by “them,” when upsides are discussed, about down the line possibilities. “They feed some of that,” McWater said. “I never told Bob what to do with his money. But they gave us a lowball offer, and I said, “I don’t think we can do that.’ I felt it was worth a lot more and it turned out we were drastically right.”

McWater knows, it seems, that focusing too much of this “water under the bridge” aspect of the relationship between Team Lopez and Top Rank isn’t the smart play.

“At the end of all of this, there’s a fight, and none of this matters if we don’t win, and win in the fashion his fans are accustomed to.”

It just seems like the waters are still flowing, however, and might get choppier before it gets smoother out on the pond.

Editor/publisher Michael Woods became addicted to boxing in 1990, when Buster Douglas shocked the world with his demolition of the fearsome Mike Tyson. The Brooklyn-based journalist Woods has covered the sport since then, for ESPN The Magazine, ESPN.com, ESPN New York, RING, and he was editor of TheSweetScience.com from 2007-2015. Woods is also an accomplished blow by blow and color man, having done work for Top Rank, DiBella Entertainment, EPIX, and numerous other organizations.

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