Why Teofimo Lopez Needs A Statement Win Against Steve Claggett

June 24, 2024
3 weeks
Teofimo Lopez makes the second defense of his WBO title against Steve Claggett

Teofimo Lopez Jr has never been short of confidence. A fighter who nicknamed himself ‘The Takeover’, Lopez has been vocal in stating his intentions of being remembered as an all-time great.

It sounded like delusional self-promotion when, in October 2020, Lopez contested a unification lightweight world title fight against a Vasiliy Lomachenko at the peak of his powers. Then 23 years old, the New Yorker vowed to achieve what few people believed was possible and beat the unbeatable Ukrainian.

He vowed to prove that Loma was overrated, too old, and too small – and created plenty of haters in the process who were more than happy to tune in and watch ‘Hi-Tech’ put on a clinic against the brash, arrogant American.

Instead, Lopez was true to his word and put on a 12-round masterclass at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas to become a unified world champion and announce himself as boxing’s next big star.

Was Loma His Last Great Win?

He may have won more enemies than friends by defeating the enormously popular Lomachenko, but that divisiveness gave Lopez the ideal leverage to become a pay-per-view star; whether fans were watching hoping for him to win or lose, it didn’t matter – either way, they would be paying. It was a strategy that earned Floyd Mayweather Jr hundreds of millions of dollars.

However, since that crowning moment almost four years ago, Lopez has underwhelmed more than he’s impressed. The first defense of IBF, WBA, and WBO belts ended in a shock defeat to George Kambosos Jr in a fight Lopez was guilty of taking too lightly.

After such a perfectly executed gameplan against Lomachenko, he had nothing beyond a Plan A for Kambosos, assuming he would blast the Australian out of the ring. It was naïve and arrogant. Perhaps his 13 months of inactivity between the two fights played a factor, but Lopez looked one-dimensional and short of ideas.

Even great fighters can have off nights and a move up to super-lightweight gave Lopez the chance to reset. An adjustment fight in August 2022 against the limited Pedro Campa ended in an expected knockout, but the Brooklyn native struggled again when faced with his next credible opponent.

Lucky To Beat Martin And Lopez

Sandor Martin, the experienced Spaniard, represented Lopez’s chance to return to form against a top-tier fighter, almost two years after his win over Loma. However, he labored to a split-decision victory in a fight he probably would have lost had it not been held at Madison Square Garden in his hometown.

Lopez certainly deserves some credit for his next outing in June 2023 when he beat Josh Taylor to claim the Scot’s WBO super-lightweight title and become a two-weight world champion. That said, Taylor was a shadow of the fighter who once dominated the division, admitting his “legs were gone” by the fourth round.

Then came his most recent fight for his first title defense – a dull, flat, wholly disappointing points win over Jamaine Ortiz in February which ended with boos ringing around the Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas. It was another bout where the champion was lucky to escape with the victory.

It means Lopez has gone almost four years and five fights since his last truly impressive performance against an elite fighter. For a boxer with designs on joining the all-time greats, it’s hardly a run that does his legacy any favors – which is why Lopez needs a statement win against Steve Claggett on Saturday.

Haney Is The Legacy Fight Lopez Needs

With all due respect to Claggett, he’s hardly an opponent to set the fans’ pulses racing, particularly when there are several exciting fights to be made at 140lbs. Anything less than an exciting and explosive victory for Lopez risks alienating the fans further.

Should the 26-year-old live up to the odds, which make him a massive favorite, and comfortably beat the Canadian, then bigger fights await. Mandatory challenger Arnold Barboza Jr, unbeaten after 30 fights, would be an intriguing match-up as would Jack Catterall or Regis Prograis after the pair have clashed in August.

But in all honesty, the only way Lopez can elevate himself back to the level he enjoyed post-Lomachenko is a unification bout. At present, that could be against IBF champion Liam Paro or WBA holder Isaac Cruz, although the one everyone wants to see is against the WBC’s Devin Haney.

A fight with Haney is the sort of opportunity that would give Lopez the chance to enhance the legacy he is so determined to build for himself. For that to even be a possibility, though, he needs to beat Claggett, and beat him in style.