By Eóin Kennedy: The narrative across the Josh Taylor vs. Teofimo Lopez light-welterweight world title struggle in New York tomorrow night time is actually unusual, to say the least.
Scotsman Taylor has by no means been overwhelmed, and the challenger, Brooklyn’s personal Lopez, has solely misplaced as soon as in a profession that has seen them each turn out to be undisputed champions at totally different weight courses (Lopez was undisputed in every thing however identify because the WBC ridiculously created the franchise belt for the Vasiliy Lomachenko struggle). However, whereas the document books say each Taylor and Lopez are coming off wins, the followers beg to vary.
It’s over a 12 months since Taylor defended his undisputed world title in Glasgow, Scotland, in opposition to Jack Catterall, and the overall consensus was that Taylor was resoundingly overwhelmed that night time, however after twelve rounds, the judges noticed one thing totally different and awarded the struggle to the hometown champion.
Again in October 2020, when the world was nonetheless gripped by the Covid pandemic, Lopez did the not possible and defeated Lomachenko, a fighter that was at the moment considered among the best pound-for-pound boxers on this planet, however since then, we have now seen him lose these belts in a battle with George Kambosos, and very like Taylor, many followers really feel that Lopez misplaced his final struggle in opposition to Sandor Martin, regardless of getting the nod from the judges.
The style wherein each fighters emerged from their controversial final fights has actually had an impression on the hype and marketability of this struggle.
Earlier than the Catterall struggle, Taylor was massively revered throughout the sport for the style wherein he grew to become the undisputed light-welterweight champion in solely eighteen fights and the way he was prepared to struggle robust, undefeated fighters with out fuss. However the fallout from the Catterall struggle has actually broken the Scottish fighter’s model, as he was adamant that he received the struggle and went on the offensive verbally in opposition to Catterall within the following weeks and months.
To his credit score, Taylor did conform to an instantaneous rematch with Catterall, and a date was set, however between Taylor choosing up an harm, Catterall altering promoters, and the WBO ordering the champion to defend his world title in opposition to Lopez, that struggle has been shelved for now.
Whereas Lopez’s marketability has been tarnished in an analogous method to Taylor’s, the way in which he has gone about his self-destruction has been fully totally different. Taylor did act a little bit irrationally in response to the fall-out of his final struggle, however, in his protection, it was the judges that screwed Jack Catterall out of the undisputed world title in Glasgow that night time, not Josh Taylor, and his response, although fiery and excessive, might be a part of the make-up that has made him such an unbelievable world champion already.
Lopez, then again, could have been a sufferer of believing his personal hype after conquering Lomachencko, however at simply twenty-three years of age on the time, that may be forgiven. What followers are discovering extra unforgivable is that Lopez remains to be rambling on with unusual and misguided diatribes about how he’s the best of all time alongside Muhammed Ali, how he desires to kill Josh Taylor on Saturday (which is past deplorable since loss of life can and does happen within the boxing ring) and that his promotional firm, High Rank, and their broadcasting accomplice, ESPN, favor black fighters.
Lopez has had some private points which have spilled into the general public area, and whereas it’s no one’s enterprise apart from his personal, the unusual conduct and feedback from Lopez appear fairly totally different from the persona he had earlier than the Lomachenko struggle, which has commentators commenting on whether or not his present psychological state is one that’s at the moment suited to turning into a world champion once more.
Lopez’s coach and father, Teofimo Sr., additionally hasn’t achieved his son any favors along with his erratic conduct and claims which can be extra delusional than his son’s, and most boxing consultants have said that Lopez must ditch his dad from his nook, or at the very least get a longtime coach in to help and regular the ship.
Each champion and challenger have been seen because the golden geese of High Rank’s steady not too way back, however what would have been seen as a blockbuster struggle only a 12 months or two in the past is now flying underneath the radar a little bit bit and is even free to air on ESPN moderately than their pay-per-view platform the place fights of this magnitude normally sit.
Essentially the most damning indictment of a struggle that when would have been categorized as a super-fight is that it’s happening on the Hulu Theatre at Madison Sq. Backyard moderately than the larger, extra hallowed room on the world’s most well-known area. This truth proves that each fighters’ inventory has fallen fairly a bit, however it’s extra worrying for Lopez, who hails from the close by borough of Brooklyn.
There isn’t a prize larger in boxing than a world title, however on Saturday night time, it looks like Josh Taylor and Teofimo Lopez are each preventing for one thing larger; redemption and respect as soon as once more from the followers which can be the lifeblood of the game. Whatever the outcome, one man will go away New York Metropolis as world champion on Saturday night time, and that man could have choices going ahead. For the defeated fighter, deep soul-searching will ensue.