Teofimo Lopez beat the most accomplished, skillful southpaw the former lightweight champion could’ve fought in recent years.
A confident Sandor Martin promised that he’ll do something Saturday night, however, that Vasiliy Lomachenko couldn’t accomplish when he opposed Lopez in October 2020. The Spanish southpaw predicted during an interview with BoxingScene.com that he’ll pull off another upset on short notice when he boxes Lopez in their 10-round main event at Madison Square Garden in New York (ESPN; 9 p.m. ET).
The favored Lopez promised that he has taken Martin every bit as seriously as Jose Pedraza, the former two-division champion Martin replaced 3½ weeks ago because Pedraza contracted an undisclosed illness during training camp. Barcelona’s Martin hopes Lopez (17-1, 13 KOs) means what he said.
“For his own good, I hope he takes me as an authentic threat,” Martin said through a translator. “I trained seriously for this fight. I’m very well-prepared for this fight. And so, I’m prepared to deliver a great fight come Saturday. This is not going to be an easy walk in the park. I’m very well-prepared for this, and if he’s not, he’s gonna have a big problem.”
Martin (40-2, 13 KOs) stunningly upset Mikey Garcia in their 10-round, 144-pound fight in October 2021. The unknown underdog defeated Garcia, a four-division champion, by majority decision in what was generally regarded as a safe fight that was supposed to keep Garcia busy.
Martin won seven rounds apiece on the scorecards of judges Carla Caiz (97-93) and Fernando Villarreal (97-93). Judge Zachary Young scored the Martin-Garcia fight even (95-95).
The 29-year-old Martin has fought only once in the almost 14 months since his huge upset of Garcia (40-2, 30 KOs), who retired rather than attempting to avenge his loss. He shut out Mexican veteran Jose Felix (39-6-1, 30 KOs) on two scorecards (100-90, 100-90, 99-91) in that bout to win a 10-round unanimous decision April 1 in Barcelona.
Martin’s handlers negotiated with Lopez’s representatives, but Lopez’s promoter, Top Rank Inc., eventually picked Pedraza (29-4-1, 14 KOs) as Lopez’s opponent for Saturday night. A determined Martin remained in the gym and was ready to replace Pedraza at a moment’s notice once he learned Pedraza was ill.
“I’m always ready because I’m an athlete every single day of the year,” Martin said. “I was already in the gym. I was expecting an opportunity like this, and that’s what happened. I’m always in great shape, in order to take advantage of this opportunity. With these last three weeks, all we did is intensify the training. So, I’m very calm and I’m very confident with my preparation and with my physical conditioning.”
The 25-year-old Lopez, a Brooklyn native who resides in Las Vegas, will fight for the second time as a full-fledged junior welterweight. He bounced back from his surprising split-decision defeat to Australia’s George Kambosos Jr. (20-2, 10 KOs) in November 2021 by stopping Mexico’s Pedro Campa (34-2-1, 23 KOs) in the seventh round of his last fight, a main event ESPN aired August 13 from Resorts World Las Vegas.
“I think he looked good,” Martin said. “It was a good fight to start his campaign at 140 pounds, but it’s far from being at the highest level.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.