Teofimo Lopez Sr told me, a couple days before his son went in against George Kambosos, that this will be it, the last fight at 135 for ‘The Takeover‘ specialist. A day after that, we heard heavy chatter about a Devin Haney v Teofimo Lopez fight–I wrote about it on RING website— which would have taken place at 135, but now, no, we don't hear that speculation.
What we do hear more than a week after Kambosos reminded us that we should know better but need periodic reminders that sometimes underdogs get to biting in a manner that matches their barking. ‘Junior' Lopez, not a shy guy, had been saying during fight week that he doesn't see anyone out there who could beat his son…and then, yeah, a few days later the guy NOT favored by a 13 to 1 margin had his hand raised. “I predict a first round KO for my son…but it definitely won't go three,” Teofimo the elder said pre-fight when I asked him what Teofimo vs Kambosos would look like.
Anyway, OK, dad's “Nostradamus” rep got smudged some. But, this week later, what do we know, what have we learned, how are Teofimo father and son thinking?
A few things, it turns out. It looks very much like in processing the loss, young Lopez is, publicly, anyway, in an anger stage.
This is a harshly judgmental era, a viciously cynical era, so it makes sense to me.
The young man, he's 24, is seeing how getting what you wanted brings up unforeseen ripple effects. Money, also, doesn't change everything, but it can seem that way, I'm told, when people that didn't have much at times suddenly come into a considerable chunk. And people have short memories, they enjoy being part of a swelling enthusiasm, savoring and accelerating a swift run into being a much more public figure.
And it can be jolting to the best of souls how things can whipsaw, how dizzying a fall can be. Because, how weird, there isn't the same number of folks surrounding the athlete who acted like a human rocket, going skyward in hot and brilliant fashion, propelled and fueled by the tabloid friendly family backstory after tasting the D, as in defeat.
And then, that same athlete having to make sense of the emotional state after the inevitable, but not to one who does a good deal of verbal envisioning of operating on a sky high plateau of craft-skill, trek back down.
And some people who had my back when the adulation was being showered hard are now scarce may well be something kicking around in the head of Teofimo the son.
The young man is likely understanding better how people like to get a kick in. A vision in my head of how shitty and sneaky people can be is a tape loop inside my head of Cap'n Lou Albano planting a boot in the gut of a downed Tito Santana while Vince McMahon excoriates the bearded buccaneer of the wrasslin' con branding him “that fat slob Albano.”
Why, when a guy is down? Because people like easier targets. It's cowardly, it's pragmatic, it makes sense, it's human nature. And there are still plenty of non bastards who try to see things from all sides, not just play a human on TV, but actually act with a focus on maintaining decency, empathy etc. But isn't it hard to be sanguine like that when you make the mistake of just taking a peek at what people are saying about you? And yes, Junior isn't in a bubble, he told me on Monday late night that he's not pleased at how Teddy Atlas went off on him, and said that he's going to the Boxing Writers Association of America awards dinner Thursday, and wonders if Atlas will go, and that he's aiming to process that displeasure with the analyst/trainer in person if the opportunity is afforded.
OK, but also, I told Junior, you know the Timberlands are going to be out in force when the son doesn't do a next day backoff of his assertion he though he won the fight by a large margin.
Teofimo did that Kanye thing and sort of Taylor Swift-boated George Kambosos during the post-fight in-ring debrief, making clear that he thought the deck got stacked against him.
Why? To make for an easier time for Haney, I think. The implication there is that Teofimo thinks of course Kambosos is an easier out for Haney than Teofimo the younger would be. That's debateable, and not a view shared by the masses, not right now, when Kambosos' rep is burning so bright.
On Saturday, papa Lopez checked in, after I asked how him and the boy are doing. “I'm good,” the father said. “The kid is a monster, the doctors don't know how he fought with a punctured lung and throat.”
If that went over your head, here it goes: On Saturday, a story dropped, written by Mark Kriegel for ESPN, which put forth a shocking disclosure. Doctors who examined him and/or reviewed his medical records said that Teofimo could have died during his fight versus Kambosos, because he went into the bout suffering from “pneumomediastinum,” which is deemed “very rare” on the WebMD site (click here to bone up on the condition.)
“He could have died, for sure,” Dr. Linda Dahl, an NYC otolaryngologist (ENT) told Kriegel. “How he breathed, I can't even explain to you. It's like somebody tied a 300-pound set of weights around his chest … like his neck and chest were in a vise. That's how he fought,” she stated.
Yeah, that legit sounds like an explanation AND a valid excuse for not performing at peak efficacy, I'd say.
“He's lucky he's not dead,” Dr. Peter Constantino, executive director of the New York Head and Neck Institute, told ESPN's Kriegel. “I mean, really lucky.”
That's pretty effin wild, isn't it?
Dahl told Kriegel that Teofimo's vessel wasn't ship shape, that air was surrounding his chest wall and his heart, his neck, and that's not supposed to be the case. “If he was hit in the neck or the chest — a certain way, in a certain place — he could have developed a pneumothorax [collapsed lung]. … He would have instantly been down and unable to breathe and needing a chest tube,” said Dahl, who did a book in which she shared some experiences working as a ring doc for the New York State Athletic Commission. (She appeared on the Everlast “Talkbox” pod in 2018, and we talked about her stint with the Commission.)
Kriegel did a solid job in wondering aloud how and why Teofimo went through with the fight even though he has a tear in his esophagus. What was he thinking when he had shortness of breath and swelling in his neck before the weigh-in?
“I thought it was just my asthma,” Lopez explained to Kriegel, sharing that he's fought through asthma on many occasions. He didn't want the fight to be cancelled, so he kept mum.
Note: I messaged the NY State Athletic Commission, asking if they had anything to share about this week-later development. Here is a statement furnished by a NYSAC spokesperson: The New York State Athletic Commission’s (NYSAC) primary focus is on the health and safety of combatants and the Commission has a strict set of medical protocols to help protect our athletes. In accordance with these procedures, all fighters for the event were evaluated twice before the fight by NYSAC ringside physicians, at the time of weigh in physical and at the time of pre-fight physical. Additionally, as per our guidelines, all combatants are evaluated between each round of the fight by a NYSAC physician. At the conclusion of the fight on the recommendation of NYSAC ringside physician, as already reported, Mr. Lopez was transferred via ambulance to the hospital for further evaluation. NYSAC will be following up with Mr. Lopez directly to further discuss the reports of his condition.
Teofimo actually felt worse after he weighed in, when he re-hydrated. The fighter said his dad told him maybe a hospital visit was in order, but he wanted the show to go on. So Lopez, still thinking he was dealing with asthma, vowed to go through with the fight, according to the ESPN piece.
From Monday to Thursday, Teofimo got treated in an NYC facility for the condition, which Dahl said could have made itself a factor during a scheduled plane-ride from NY to his residence in Las Vegas.
Yes, it's fair to say that we all on the outside looking in had no idea how trying it's been for Lopez this year. I found it interesting when Kambosos during a presser looked hard at Teofimo, and commented how the belts he held in his possession had proven to be a curse, not a blessing.
Kambosos had been made aware some of the drama that Teofimo had been tested by, including the emotional agony of splitting with his wife of two years, and how he'd been working to combat serious depression. He admitted to media before the latest Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder faceoff in October that his despondency had him thinking dark thoughts a few times. The honeymoon period after the Loma win came to a halt as the foray into the Triller-sphere devolved. Then he and wife Cynthia, expecting a baby boy Nov. 20, were getting space from each other before the baby was born. Yes, I'd imagine it would not be as easy as it had been before to concentrate on the task at hand, beating Kambosos, while a cloud of worry hung over him.
The boxer put on a brave face in the lead to the re-re-rescheduled Kambosos bout, and gosh, it doesn't seem like fun to have to keep tough stuff under wraps. “After Lomachenko I was able to flow, like water,” Teofio told Donald McRae for a piece which ran on the Guardian Nov. 26. “I was able to breathe. Beating Loma definitely changed my life. It was negative at one point [amid all the postponements and wrangles with the new promotional company Triller which had made an outlandish bid for the Kambosos fight but soon hit trouble] but I turned it into a great positive.” He told the author that he'd held his boy for the first time on Nov. 17, and didn't give a clue that him and the missus had hit a rough patch.
He didn't offer up some of the tough truths to McRae, when saying, after being asked is his relationship with his family now? “Never better,” Teofimo insisted. “I’m hopeful my son brings us all closer together. That’s the thing about families – they don’t get along but when it comes to kids and babies you’ve got to leave all that drama behind. I’m grateful for all that’s come and the turnaround of everything. It’s definitely been a year for me but I wouldn’t trade it for any other.”
So, he was putting on that brave face, understandably, I'd say, because he'd not want to give Kambosos notice how much stuff he was carrying on his plate.
We shall see where this goes. I won't BS, my outside looking in take, informed by the years I worked in a psychiatric facility, is that Teofimo would benefit by processing some of this hard stuff with a professional. If he puts the energy he's given to get to this station in the boxing world into figuring out where some of those demons come from, and where they reside, I'd bet big that his fighting will get back to 2020 level. He's already said he's benefited from taking to a therapist to help process some of the emotional challenges that have emerged in the last few years. We shall see where it all goes. I of course root hard for Teofimo and Cynthia to get closer again, for the sake of the baby.
Harsh losses like the one Teofimo and his dad experienced will bring on strong emotions, and I bet there will be cycling through more stages in the months ahead. Dad is an OG, he's not going to morph into a sensitive soul with the affect of a yoga instructor. When I asked if maybe a change of scene might be a positive, the father/trainer said, “The only shit we needed to change came two years ago, his weight. He stayed at 135 too long. But he still won that fight against Kambosos the way he was. He's the champ and you have to beat the champ to be the champ. This was all a set up so Haney can get the big stage we had. It's good, those boys are here short term, we are hear forever.”
On Monday evening, the father noted a couple times that, in fact, his son deserves heavy props, because the pain and discomfort he fought through on Nov. 27 would have buried most men. “Can you imagine what he must have been feeling? My son fights that kid again, it's no problem.” Fights, and whups him, the dad declares. Yes, no, the father isn't in a humbled mode. He's sounding a lot like he did before the Kambosos bout, and part of you has to chuckle, and give ‘im props, because through all the hubbub, the Lopez boys are still running together. Oh, and sure, father and son know there's no shortage of people opining that the son should ditch the father. Not gonna happen, I heard from the son, and the father as well. But here's something interesting–I got the sense that the Lopez' are both open to starting a new chapter with a highly regarded trainer.
The Lopez' are in NYC for a spell, docs recommend that Teofimo let his lungs heal up fully, because let's not forget he battled off COVID earlier in the year.
Junior said that he's had enough, Teofimo had a bad asthma reaction and collapsed after a fight when he was nine, and now this health scare, he's ready for a stretch of uncomplicated activity.
The father isn't backing off much more than an inch or so, but he probably actually is more than is portrayed in some circles. Yes, the Lopez' have indeed thought about different plays, like what about coming back to the hood, to Brooklyn, and lay down some roots again. I won't lie, I pondered aloud if maybe the solidity of this region might benefit the psyche of a young man blessed with a heavy helping of uncertainty. Ah, but dad, he doesn't share the same read. He's not moved much off where he was the days leading up to the Kambosos scrap: That the only thing that could derail his son is a health/injury issue. “That wasn't my son, my son doesn't fight like that,” he said, in explaining how and why Kambosos was able to impress so many so much.
It's still very much a “viciously cynical era,” so I expect that only a minority of boxing fans will come around to Junior's thinking, that it's a more than minor miracle his son was able to fight as effectively as he did against Kambosos with lungs that reminded him of how COVID taxed his breathing and body.
Teofimo the elder hasn't had to go with basically a “that which doesn't kill you makes you stronger” mantra, but yeah, there's that vibe seemingly percolating in the head of him and his boy.
I bet Junior Lopez scoots around the old haunts some this week, sees that street corner on 59th where he'd be stationed, year round, directing underlings traffic, and collecting loot from stimulant sales that were allowed because Teofimo Sr and LCNs in that locale co-existed. How far I've come, it would be fair for him to mull. Going back can sometimes go good, other times it'll be counter productive; I won't guess in this case. Junior Lopez can rightly remember how he was fortunate to escape Sunset Park alive, being that gun battles to hash out sales turf was more common than you see today.
Junior tells me, when I talk about how it feels to return to old haunts, that he hasn't been back to near that building where his mom took her life, when he was 17, in well over a decade. He pauses, and says, “A few guys, my boys, didn't make it out.” He did, though. Making it out doesn't guarantee that the roads will all be smooth, however.
Wrapping up, I won't pretend I know how this is going to play out. It's tempting for me to mention that a part of me would be comfortable hearing lessons in humility being dispensed by the Lopez.' But Junior's hammering away at how much the lung condition burdened Teofimo on Nov. 27 shifted my take a good bit…Doctors, you got to know, are not keen to go on record and talk about the health challenge that lightweight Lopez handled Nov. 27, like what Dahl and Constantino did, they are universally guarded about adhering to their oath of service and most always err on the side of circumspection.
So, explanations like the lungs one are these days met with reflexive mistrust from a public which now assumes they're being BS'd by any and all public servants, political leaders, anybody with some power who goes in to seeming “spin” mode when their fate takes a left turn. I'd say that the pneumomediastinum deal qualifies as an explanation, not an excuse, for how Teofimo operated in the MSG Theater Nov. 27. I'd say that, many of you wouldn't…But if you are thinking that Teofimo peaked and this fight signal the start of a slide, you maybe want to acknowledge that history shows Teofimo Lopez the father and the son did real well on the way up, when they encountered detractors who foresaw ‘The Takeover' going under. Could be that things go best for them when they are forced to exceed expectations, to prove the doubters wrong.