Top Rank held a press conference to hype the Saturday night card at the Madison Square Garden Hulu Theater pitting Teofimo Lopez against Josh Taylor. Coming in, one might have predicted that this occasion would be ripe for a marvelous clusterf*ck, as both men have been known to pop off.
They’ve sniped aplenty at each other, in interviews and on social media, leading in to this 140 pound showdown. At the presser, presided over by TR emcee Mark Shunock, and produced along with ESPN, everyone held it together.
What a shame…
No, the mood of the city also would have suggested this hype session would be replete with some heated chest-thumping. On Tuesday night, into Wednesday, citizens were dealing with a bbq waft in the air, from forest fires in Canada. Lots of end times jokes rattling around social media….
Pretty Low Key Session
Taylor (19-0) has been in town a little less than two weeks, he said. The weather has been nice, not too hot, good for a Scot.
“Got some good cool photos,” said Taylor, of a Wednesday stroll in a more-orange-y-than-usual Times Square.
Then it went to Teofimo (18-1). Shunock deftly referenced trash talk and “stuff” and then threw it to Teo. Was all the harshness genuine?
“It is what it is, I speak my truth, that’s how I feel, everything that I speak out, I’m just trying to make into existence, law of attraction, having good faith in it…and just put on a show and give the fans what they really wanna see,” said the 25 year old who has had hands full dealing with the extra stresses that come with being a star.
What is that, pray tell? “An outstanding performance,” Lopez said.
His tone was measured, he wasn’t over promising, he wasn’t cutting a promo, he wasn’t riffing off some perceived slight or outside the ring annoyance. He seemed and seems to be head dialed on straight.
Teofimo Lopez Seems To Be Dialed In
More humility from young Lopez. He said Josh Taylor is the man at 140, so, that’s who he has to beat to properly represent the essence of “The Takeover.” We’ve heard of the impending takeover, and the were there for the actual occurrence, and have seen the ups and downs of the state of the mission.
Taylor had an opportunity to steer in a certain spicy direction, when the emcee asked him if the pre fight talk has been to promote or genuine? “I think it’s a little bit genuine, I think he means what he says, I mean what I say as well,” the Scot stated. “He’s been disrespectful, what he’s said I’m gonna make him pay for on Saturday. Can’t wait to get in there.”
His prediction for the night? “Josh Taylor win, that’s all, possibly KO, early as well,” he answered, evenly.
The Spiritual Side Of Teofimo Draws Guffaws
Asked the same, Teofimo grinned widely. “I worked my ass off, man, 11 weeks of camp, this one being 12,” Lopez said. “For me I think it’s the best version of me that I’ve really yet to see myself. I question myself because I know I’m greater. Every artist, we aim for perfection, and there’s only one person that’s perfect, that’s God.
“For me, it’s just practice makes improvement. We’ve improved since my last fight, and we’re ready to put on that show. We will win, most definitely. I’ll be, what, two time lineal world champion, that’s dope.”
So, how do we make sure we see vintage Taylor? “We could both go by previous performances and say you’re only as good as your last fight,” Josh said. “But I believe that’s a load of shit. You know, I prepared crap for the last fight, so I performed crap. I believe he was the same, and he performed crap as well.
“Teofimo, he’s up against the king of the division. I know he’s a good fighter and the version that beat Lomachenko is a very good fighter, and that’s the version I prepared for.”
Shunock then put it to Teo. Will we see vintage Teofimo Saturday? “F*ck yeah I’m there,” he said, grinning. “Heck yeah, man, I’m excited about this. This is like a dream come true turning into reality… I’m here to come in here and take everything that you got. That’s what we are, the Takeover.”
After Teo offered that old Mike Tyson quote, about plans evaporating when you get punched in the nose, Taylor jabbed. Any quotes of your own, bro? “I do have one, I made it up yesterday I think it says, ‘Aim for death, for that’s where life begins.”
“No comment,” Taylor said.
Lopez saw puzzled faces in the crowd, and protested. “Everybody’s scared of death, I don’t know why, we’re all going to die. But at least if I die, I’m dying for something that means something. That’s gonna last forever. It’s what greats are all about, something that you don’t really know!”
Teo went into wrap up mode: “Hey, at the end of it all, I’m ready to take over, put on a show for everybody. Listen, it’s been a great run. Thank you to everybody at Top Rank, thank you ESPN for the love and support, for myself, this is my seventh year now as a professional, I’m about to be a seven time world champion in that time frame.
“That’s great, at 25 years young. Making history, re making history and giving the fans, giving the youth a good thing to follow on. They need that, they need that motivation to know that they can do it, too. The only you can, there’s earth, there’s man, in between that you bring the realization within yourself, from the heavens.”
He saw some titters in the crowd.
“Listen, at the end of it all, everyone can laugh, do whatever the f*ck they want, but it’s just me and him that’s fighting,” he said to the “hecklers.”
Taylor wrapped up: This is a dream come true, fighting “in the Mecca of boxing,” he said, gesturing to Teofimo, who he derided as a “clown.”
Others On the Card
Puerto Rican junior middleweight Xander Zayas (15-0, 10 KOs) will fight Ronald “Diablo” Cruz (18-2-1, 12 KOs).
Taylor-Lopez and Zayas-Cruz will be broadcast live on ESPN, ESPN Deportes and ESPN+ at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT, for the record.
The ESPN+-streamed undercard (5:15 p.m ET/2:15 p.m. PT) includes: lightweight contender Jamaine Ortiz (16-1-1, 8 KOs) and rising junior lightweight Henry Lebron (17-0, 10 KOs) in 10-rounders, along with Polish heavyweight Damian Knyba (11-0, 7 KOs) and featherweight ace in the making Bruce Carrington (7-0, 4 KOs), in separate eight-round fights.
Also, Omar Rosario (10-0, 3 KOs) meets Jan Carlos Rivera (8-1, 6 KOs) in an eight-round Puerto Rico vs. Puerto Rico showdown.
My Three Cents: I'm guessing some money moves toward Teofimo today and tomorrow. You get the sense that his focus is good for this fight.