Paulie Malignaggi's Picks: Teofimo Lopez can prove he's still above Devin Haney with victory over Jamaine Ortiz

As impressive as Devin Haney was in beating Regis Prograis in December, Teofimo Lopez still deserves to be seen as the best in the world at 140lbs.

If Haney can continue to look that good against top-level opposition – and that’s the key – he’ll really start to rival Lopez. I even expect a time when they’re, by some distance, considered the division’s number one and two, and when there's a lot of demand for them to fight – which I write with respect to the very dangerous Subriel Matias, who’s good enough that his divisional rivals won’t want to fight him.

With Ryan Garcia, Josh Taylor and Jack Catterall among those also towards the top, it’s become the best division in the world. 

Lopez-Jamaine Ortiz, in Las Vegas for Lopez’s WBO title, takes place this week. In the simplest sense, Lopez, 26, is the fighter with more dimensions, but Ortiz is a high-level fighter who refuses to be out-worked or out-fought. He may not have Lopez’s physical gifts, but he’s a young fighter with some hustle, even if his aggression can make him vulnerable. He is a good fighter who deserves his opportunity to fight for a world title – if he wasn’t in the best weight class in the sport in 2024, I’d even back him to win one.

Lopez, like Tyson Fury, is an enigma. On their best night there might not be anyone in the same division as them who can beat them, but there are times they perform like duds and risk losing to any other fighter in the top 15. They talk a good game, but their ability to either look unbeatable or make you question why they’re in the ring can make their fights difficult to predict.

Paulie Malignaggi's Picks: Lopez can prove he's still above Haney with victory over Ortiz
Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc

Ortiz, 27, isn’t a fighter Lopez can be anything less than super-focused for. He’s been around for long enough and competing with a high enough level of competition – including against Vasyl Lomachenko in 2022 – to prove his worth and make Lopez wary of him, so I expect Lopez to show up and to perform.

One of the problems with Lopez’s defeat by George Kambosos Jr in 2021 is that Kambosos Jr hasn’t looked good since – and wasn’t considered a world-beater before then. Ortiz, from the perspective of his consistency, has, by comparison, looked pretty good. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Lopez performed like he did when he was unbelievable in beating Taylor last year – that’s how good he can be – and it also wouldn’t be a surprise, given how good Ortiz is, if Ortiz upset Lopez to win. He’s not a complete outsider.

Lopez might be one of those fighters who reads his press clippings and goes backwards, like after he impressed when beating Lomachenko in 2020. He had a lot of momentum going into that fight; against Taylor he produced what many consider the best performance of his career, because that fight came when he looked to be going backwards. Perhaps the optics flatter the victory over Taylor more than it deserves in the context of his win over Lomachenko, but the reality is that he enters this fight with Oritz off the back of a very good performance.

At his best, Lopez is a pound-for-pound level fighter. He operates best in chaotic circumstances. Some fighters don’t want peace of mind before a fight – they prefer chaos – and Lopez looks a fighter who might even be searching for that chaos. I don’t expect Ortiz to make it an easy night for him, but I expect Lopez to win, either on points or a late stoppage.

Earlier this week John Ryder announced his retirement. He’s a fighter who never had any favours done for him and did it the hard, old-fashioned way – he put in the work, took the tough fights, and earned his place in those fights. If he stays retired he has a lot to be proud of – he was a talented fighter without political push behind him, and he made sure his performances did the work for him instead. He deserves everything he got.