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Get on the Hype Train now: The Rise of Teofimo Lopez

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For every “hype train” that gets derailed in the world of combat sports, there are some young fighters that you can see them and know they are going to shake up the world. When Mike Tyson was knocking out stiffs in upstate New York in 1986, you knew he would special.

When Ronda Rousey was armbaring chicks in less than in a minute at amateur shows in Las Vegas, you got the sense that she might able to change the scope of Women’s MMA. Most recently, we knew after just a few pro fights that Vasyl Lomachenko would soon be the best pound for pound fighter in the world. He has since become that in the eyes of many boxing experts.

For the past year, one boxing prospect has emerged as the kind of fighter that might become transcendent in the world of boxing. Someone with that rare combination of boxing skills, knockout power, and perhaps most importantly, personality that shines through the screen. That young man is Teofimo Lopez, a twenty-one year old young man from Brooklyn, New York who is just two years, has emerged as not only the number one prospect in the entire sport of boxing, but as the man who just might be able to knock Lomachenko off of his perch…

Representing Honduras in the 2016 Olympics, Lopez was eliminated in the first round, but shook off the loss and turned pro four months after the games ended. Lopez than fought six times in 2017 and three more times in 2018, and it became clear very fast that he needed to be stepped in class and fast. He also impressed in his interviews in and out of the ring, impressing many long time boxing scribes with his presence and personality.

In response his promoters at Top Rank, who may be the best promoters of young fighters ever in the sport, put him in with Mason Menard, an experienced fighter who was a fight away from a world title when he was knocked out in the seventh round by Rey Beltran on HBO three years ago. Menard lasted forty-four seconds with Lopez. Lopez was hitting him combinations a mere fifteen seconds in, and an overhand right literally froze Menard on his feet before he fell face first to the canvas. It was as devastating as any knockout in any combat sports genre last year.

Saturday night, Top Rank showed their faith in Lopez further, positioning him in the co-main event spot of Sergey Kovalev’s rematch with Elider Alvarez at the Star in Frisco, Texas on ESPN+. This time he was matched on Diego Magdeleno, a 31-2 fighter who challenged twice unsuccessfully for world titles. The Las Vegas native is southpaw who was an excellent boxer earlier in his career and at some point, he learned to plant his feet and knock people out. After a year layoff, he won two fights last year and he figured to be a good test.

He wasn’t.

Yes, Magdeleno fought back, unlike many of Lopez’s opponents, and he used his guile and skills to last rounds. But from the first round on, Lopez was backing Magdeleno up with right hands and cut him on top of the nose in the second round. By the third round, Lopez was putting a left hook behind his right hand, controlling Magdeleno with his combinations. Finally with twenty seconds left in sixth round, Lopez floored Magdeleno with a right hand to the body followed by a left hook to the head. Magdeleno beat the count, but it seemed clear he had nothing left. Yet the referee and his corner chose to let him out for Round 7. What happened next was predictable.

Given the world-class championship level fighter that Diego Magdeleno has been in the past, it’s not surprising that he would come out even when he was hurt and dare Lopez to come at home. That’s the kind of thing that champions do. But Lopez responded by doing what he does-he hit Magdeleno with a left hook one minute in that dropped him to the canvas and Magdeleno was out before he hit the floor. The ref got to eight before he realized he needed to stop the damn fight.

Standing over his fallen foe, the former baseball player mimic hitting a home run over the fence, enraging the corner of Magdeleno. But their outrage should be against themselves, as there was no one they should have sent their guy out in the seventh round against a killer like Lopez. Lopez talked in his post-fight interview how love him or hate him, “you have to watch me.” It’s a formula that has proven to work in boxing, especially when you have knock out power.

Lopez has said that he wants to be a world champion by the end of the year and its clear whom they would have to fight to get there, Vasyl Lomachenko. While the Ukrainian wizard is tentatively scheduled to face Richard Commey, an excellent fighter for Ghana who captured the vacant IBF world title on the same card in Frisco, a hand injury to Commey may prevent that. Seeing Lopez vs Lomachenko in the next year is not out of the realm of possibility! And with his skills and power, Lopez would have more than a puncher’s chance.

Right now, a former world champion like Jose Pedraza or Rey Beltran makes a lot of sense for Lopez, anyone who could put him in real jeopardy at this point. It’s time. But take my advice right now-get on the Teofimo Express. Get on this hype train now! This young man has the kind of skills that can make him a star and champion in multiple weight classes. Now is the time to say that you were rooting for him before he makes it big.

Right now, Lopez has the best promoter perhaps of all time backing him, and right now the only thing that can beat him is himself. But by all accounts, Lopez is the hardest worker in the gym, has a young finance’ and focused only on his future in the sport.

No matter how far he goes in the sport of boxing, one thing seems undeniable, Teofimo Lopez is gonna hurt a lot of people before he hangs up the gloves. And remember, he is only TWENTY-ONE!

Get on the hype train now. I’m telling you…

"Frank has been a wrestling fan since he was two years old. (Don't worry, he's got proof.) He's also a huge boxing and UFC fan and has a long standing love affair with Popeyes Chicken. He still owns a VHS copy of the first Ring of Honor show ever and was watching NXT before it was cool (or good). Bret Hart > Shawn Michaels. You can follow him on Twitter at @FightFanaticPod and on Tumblr at FrankTheFightFanatic." He's also starting his own podcast soon!

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