As he hit the midway point of his fight against Diego Magdaleno on the undercard of the Sergey Kovalev-Eleider Alvarez light heavyweight title rematch in Texas on Sunday, Teofimo Lopez knew he had his opponent beat.
Not just beat, finished. Lopez, a terrifying 21-year-old who was voted ESPN’s prospect of the year in 2018, felt like the fight should have been stopped already.
But the referee’s arms weren’t waved and towels weren’t thrown from the corner so Lopez did what he’s been doing in devastating fashion since entering the professional ranks in late 2016. He turned off his opponent’s lights.
As Magdaleno, a southpaw, slightly dropped his right hand, Lopez exploded forward and landed a left hook that violently twisted his rival’s neck and left him teetering like a tree that had been chopped within an inch of falling.
The final blow, a repeat left hook, was just as emphatic and left Magdaleno, an experienced 32-year-old fighter who entered the bout with 31 wins from 33 fights, sprawled on the canvas.
Here he is, my man for 2019 🔥@TeofimoLopez— Adam Catterall (@AdamCatterall)
It was Lopez’s 10th KO from 12 pro fights and was followed by his trademark backflip celebration — and a taunt of his fallen rival that drew criticism from some.
But the Brooklyn native — who declared “we are supposed to be cold-hearted to the bone” — said he was angered by Magdaleno’s trash talk during the fight and sending a message.
“He kept going and running his mouth. If he didn’t say those things, after the backflip, I would have went over there to try pick him up and sit him down,” Lopez told the TALKBOX podcast. “Instead I did, we can say … basically a ‘F*** you’ for saying those things.”
In the end Lopez achieved what he set out to do — win in spectacular fashion and create headlines.
In the wake of the win Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix labelled him “the future” and the “best prospect in boxing”. ESPN’s Dan Rafael declared he had “officially gone from prospect to contender”. Yahoo Sports’ Kevin Iole described Lopez as “a terrific talent with personality and style as well. He’s going places”.
There was plenty of buzz on social media too, including from Australian boxer Billy Dib.
This kid is no joke. Anyone in the lightweight division better think twice.— Billy The Kid (@BillyDib)
Just catching up on 🥊 from the weekend Teofimo Lopez definitely gonna be a nightmare for all of the top Lightweights out there , Great speed and movement 👍🥊🥊— Simon Ross (@rossie7dj)
Perhaps the most sensational aspect of Lopez’s finish is it came just two months after an equally-devastating knockout of another seasoned veteran.
Lopez — who has been fighting on pay-per-view most of his pro career after creating headlines for a controversial first round defeat at the Rio Olympics — has saved some of his best performances for the grand stage of Madison Square Garden.
His 44-second destruction of Mason Menard, punctuated with a blistering overhand right that saw Menard fall face-first to the floor, was one of the best knockouts of 2018.
“It’s not about winning that sets you apart, it’s how you win,” Lopez told Sporting News ahead of his win against Magdaleno.
“I’m honestly killing the game right now. But that’s off of entertainment. How do you bring more people into boxing? You have to do something different. The fans want entertainment. Don’t go out there and look pretty and win. They won’t want to see you again. It’s boring.”
First round KO ✔️
Backflip celebration ✔️
Strike the Heisman pose ✔️
Teofimo Lopez IS NASTY. pic.twitter.com/7cnROpk7Yv— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter)
Expect the hits to keep coming. Lopez, part of the Top Rank stable, is tipped to feature on an April card headlined by Terence Crawford’s title match-up against Amir Khan.
From there it shouldn’t be long before he earns a title shot of his own, but for anyone fighting at 61kg there’s only one opponent who matters. Vasyl Lomachenko.
The Ukrainian pound-for-pound star is considered one of the most untouchable men in the sport but he’s certainly in Lopez’s plans.
Just ask his father, Teofimo Lopez Sr. “Put whoever you want in front of my son and he’s going to dissect and kill them,” Lopez Sr told Sporting News. “I see him destroying Lomachenko in the first round because he’s too small. My son is going to wreck him.”