On successive weekends we’ve seen important fights at 140lbs.
In the first, when Teofimo Lopez beat Josh Taylor, I was surprised by how disciplined he was throughout the12 rounds. We’d seen him do that before when he beat Vasily Lomachenko in 2020, but since then we’d seen a lack of discipline – including when losing to George Kambosos Jr in 2021 – so for him to perform like that again was a reminder of just how talented he is.
He has pound-for-pound level talent physically, in his intelligence, and in his ability to execute what he needs to in big fights. He’s beaten Lomachenko and Taylor – tremendous, tremendous champions. I’d always thought he was the most exciting of the young group of lightweights – Devin Haney, Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia were the other three – who came through together, but the defeat by Kambosos Jr challenged that.
Him beating Taylor showed that he needs to be put in with great fighters in big fights. He doesn’t get up for a lower level of fighter – like Kambosos Jr and Sandor Martin – in the same way. It’s when he has dangerous opponents in front of him that his performances are spectacular.
He thrives on chaos. When his back’s against the wall he performs to his best. The more wild his behaviour during the week of his fights, the better he appears likely to perform.
I don’t take this talk of him retiring seriously. When I heard it I thought, “That’s smart – you’re going to get some more money now”. He’s unpredictable, so it’s possible he’ll never fight again, but if he’s retiring because he’s unsatisfied at how much he’s being paid – how else will he generate seven-figure paydays?
Physically, he made it look an easy fight. But mentally, emotionally and spiritually those fights are so raw. I’ve been in fights like that – when I’ve given so much of myself to make it easy that afterwards I’m destroyed, mentally.
Lopez wears his heart on his sleeve. “I’m tired, man.” He’s had a lot going on, personally; initially he was being honest with himself and how tired he is; later it became, “I can use this to make more money”. That’s where we’re at now.
He and his father and trainer Teofimo Sr proved everybody wrong. You’ve got to tip your hat to Teofimo Sr – he knows his son. He recognises that his son thrives in that chaos, so he encourages him. He’s also had Joey Gamache in the gym with them; he’s allowed other trainers to work with Teofimo Jr, which is really smart.
Twenty-one champions and trainers were asked for their prediction for Taylor-Lopez, and all 21 expected Taylor to win. Lopez’s victory was so unexpected that it might even make it the performance of the year.
Taylor fought okay, but he was outclassed. When an opponent’s that good and gets a little bit ahead, and they maintain their discipline the way Lopez did, it makes it very, very difficult to fight them. I experienced that when I lost to Manny Pacquiao in 2014; every time I started to get a little bit of rhythm he’d find something new, and Lopez did that against Taylor. He stayed in front of him all night long, and understood the ebb and flow of their fight. It wasn’t that Taylor fought poorly or struggled at the weight – he looked fine, physically, late on when he got caught, even when he was being rocked. He just encountered a superior fighter.
Based on his past two performances – he was very poor last year against Jack Catterall, when he didn’t deserve the decision – he’s a fighter in decline. But Lopez was so good that I’m not yet convinced on the Catterall fight alone that Taylor’s declining as has been suggested.
Regis Prograis also produced a poor performance, a week later, against Danielito Zorrilla. Zorrilla can really punch, even if no one expected him to fight and move like that.
It didn’t affect the scorecards in the end, but Prograis was lucky that the referee Ray Corona didn’t recognise that he had been knocked down in the opening round. That was a real knockdown. He then dropped Zorrilla in the third, with a punch replays showed not to be as devastating as it appeared in real time; at that point it looked like it could have become a shootout; instead, it became a dud.
It takes two to make a fight that bad. Prograis also didn’t cut off the ring at all; he likes to fight and to fight someone who’s willing to stand and fight him, but he wasn’t able to make the adjustments needed against an opponent who didn’t want to. He had an off-night, against an opponent who fought in an unexpected way. He may also have been conscious of protecting his position; there are big-money fights on the horizon for him, so it was a case of winning and worrying about looking good the next time he fights.
Bill Haney, the father, trainer and manager of Devin, was ringside at both Taylor-Lopez in New York and Prograis-Zorrilla in New Orleans. Devin moving up from lightweight would be a smart move.
He’s growing, physically, and there’s a lot of good fights for him at 140lbs. The 135lbs division is tougher; he could be looking at a rematch with Lomachenko, and Shakur Stevenson and Davis. All three are very, very tough fights; at 140lbs he may be able to beat some of the top opponents, even if the fights aren’t quite as lucrative.
Devin Haney might even prove stronger at 140lbs. Even before Prograis underperformed against Zorrilla he looked a good opponent for Haney, and that fight showed that Prograis can struggle against rangey fighters who choose to box rather than trade, which, with Haney’s lateral movement, is his game. Lopez looks a much riskier potential opponent for him. We also don’t know when Lopez is next going to fight.