Teofimo Lopez Jr. is nearing a return to his regularly scheduled programming.
The former unified lightweight champion is coming off a banner win over Josh Taylor in June at The Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City to become the WBO junior welterweight titlist. The victory put to rest (at least for now) suggestions that Lopez was damaged goods, a notion that has persisted ever since he suffered an upset loss to George Kambosos in 2021.
Immediately after the win over Taylor, Lopez told reporters he was retired.
Last month, however, the Brooklyn native notified the WBO that he would retain his belt.
Now Lopez (19-1, 13 KOs) could be returning to the ring by the end of the year, possibly on the same December night when the Heisman Trophy is awarded to a college football player, according to his promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank. (Top Rank has an exclusive deal with ESPN, the network that annually televises the Heisman Trophy presentation.)
Arum seemed to suggest in a recent interview that Lopez, 26, was still mulling when to return to the ring, but he noted that when he did so it would likely be against a contender such as Jose Ramirez, a former titlist, or Arnold Barboza Jr.
“I talked to Teofimo,” Arum told FightHype.com. He’s gotta get his head into it. We want him to definitely to fight this year, maybe on Heisman night. And the logical opponents would be either Ramirez or Barboza and we’ll see which one makes the most sense.”
A fight with Ramirez (28-1, 18 KOs) would theoretically be simple to make, since he is also backed by Top Rank. The native of Avenal, Calif., has won two fights in a row since losing to Taylor in their undisputed 140-pound title fight in 2021.
On the other hand, a fight with Barboza (28-0, 10 KOs) figures to be more difficult to consummate. The Los Angeles native is no longer affiliated with Top Rank, as the two parted ways last month. When asked about that contradiction, Arum said he received a request from Barboza himself to land a fight with Lopez.
“Barboza called me yesterday, with his father, for me to make that fight,” Arum said. “I would assume that I can make it.”
“I wouldn’t say he’s (Barboza) back into the (Top Rank) fold,” Arum continued. “Again, there is no animosity. When somebody’s contract runs out, it’s like any sport, he’s a free agent, he looks for the best deal possible. And Barboza was no different. When he fought under the Top Rank banner, he was no trouble, and he was always available, and he acquitted himself well.”
Arum has said in other interviews that Lopez announced his retirement on the thinking that it would allay issues in his personal life.
Sean Nam is the author of Murder on Federal Street: Tyrone Everett, the Black Mafia, and the Last Golden Age of Philadelphia Boxing.