The internal physical damage Teofimo Lopez suffered last week was more dangerous than the obvious cuts and bruises he sustained during his stunning loss to George Kambosos Jr.
ESPN’s Mark Kriegel reported Saturday that Lopez suffered from breathing issues that should’ve prevented him from even entering the ring to box Kambosos on November 27 in New York. Kriegel cited Lopez’s medical records and interviews with doctors.
This story regarding Lopez, an asthmatic, first appeared on ESPN.com on Saturday morning.
The 24-year-old Lopez was diagnosed with “pneumomediastinum,” which caused “extensive air in the retropharyngeal space,” according to records from his post-fight visit to the emergency room at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan.
“He could have died, for sure,” Dr. Linda Dahl, an otolaryngologist (ENT) who practices at three Manhattan hospitals, told ESPN. “How he breathed, I can’t even explain to you. It’s like somebody tied a 300-pound set of weights around his chest … like his neck and chest were in a vise. That’s how he fought.”
Another well-known doctor seconded Dahl’s assessment.
“He’s lucky he’s not dead,” Dr. Peter Constantino, executive director of the New York Head and Neck Institute, told ESPN. “I mean, really lucky.”
Lopez’s condition could’ve caused a collapsed lung.
“The air was surrounding his chest wall and his heart and his neck – places air is not supposed to be,” Dahl, a former ringside physician for the New York State Athletic Commission, told ESPN. “If he was hit in the neck or chest – a certain way, in a certain place – he could have developed a pneumothorax [collapsed lung]. … He would have instantly been down and unable to breathe and needing a chest tube.”
According to Dahl and other doctors, Lopez’s condition likely was caused by a tear to his esophagus. Dahl also said such a condition would not be detected during a routine pre-fight examination by a commission.
Australia’s Kambosos knocked Lopez to the canvas in the first round, but Lopez was not badly hurt. He recovered quickly, made their fight competitive and floored Kambosos early in the 10th round.
A resilient Kambosos (20-0, 10 KOs) recovered as well and out-pointed Lopez on two of three scorecards (115-111, 115-112, 113-114) in a main event DAZN streamed from Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater. The Sydney native’s split-decision victory enabled Kambosos to win the IBF, WBA “super,” WBC “franchise” and WBO 135-pound championships from Brooklyn’s Lopez (16-1, 12 KOs).
After taking an extended break from training, Lopez almost certainly will move up from the lightweight limit of 135 pounds to the junior welterweight division (140 pounds). The former champion acknowledged to Kriegel that he didn’t feel quite right before he battled Kambosos, but he didn’t want to cause another postponement of a fight that had been targeted for eight different dates due to various reasons, including that Lopez contracted COVID-19 in mid-June.
“I thought it was just my asthma,” Lopez informed ESPN. “I fought through asthma before. If I told everybody, they would’ve canceled the fight. But I chose not to, because of the amount of pressure I was under. I didn’t want to hear people say, ‘Oh, another postponement.’ ”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.