As the boxing world continues to wait for the green light to return to action amid the coronavirus outbreak, unbeaten lightweight Teofimo Lopez Jr. has one thing on his mind: pound-for-pound king Vasiliy Lomachenko.
Lopez (15-0, 22 KOs), a 22-year-old from Brooklyn, New York, has tried his best to stay in shape while spending his quarantine in Arkansas (and recently surviving a tornado) at the home of his in-laws. His 135-pound unification fight with Lomachenko, easily the most difficult of his career, was expected to take place May 30 at New York's Madison Square Garden.
"I'm going to enjoy knocking him the f--- out and not feel any remorse whatever," Lopez told CBS Sports' "State of Combat" podcast this week. "That's just it. I do not personally like the guy. With Richard Commey, I liked the guy but I did what I had to do. There's business and then there is personal. This right here is personal. I just don't like the dude. I don't like how he says things and don't like how he is.
"When that day comes when we fight, I can't wait. I can't wait to knock his head off and that's just that."
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Lopez looked spectacular in winning his first title in December by stopping Commey to claim the IBF strap. He expects the Lomachenko fight to happen "probably this fall" and believes it's without question worthy of his first headlining spot on a pay-per-view.
"I think all the fans definitely, definitely have to pay to watch that fight," he said.
The interesting part is how volatile the normally jovial Lopez becomes at the mere mention of Lomachenko's name, especially considering the two-time Olympic gold medalist from Ukraine is far from menacing or a seasoned trash talker himself.
Even though Lopez is alarmingly mature for a fighter his age and position, the feud with the 32-year-old Lomachenko has clearly become personal. But why?
"It's the look, the way he presents himself, the way that he is. I don't know what it is," Lopez said. "You ever seen someone that you just look at and you are saying, 'Man, I want to punch them in the face'? Maybe not. Maybe it's just a me thing. I don't get that a lot, there are some people I can vibe to and just chill with and hang out. But there are some people I just can't and they annoy me, they bug me in just their presence being there in the same room.
"My energy doesn't like his energy. It just started getting bigger and I saw how he was to other people. I was like, 'F--- this guy, personally."
The beef began on the night of Dec. 12, 2008, inside the Theater at Madison Square Garden. Lopez was in a featured televised bout on ESPN on the undercard of Lomachenko's title defense against Jose Pedraza. Before Lopez ultimately entered the ring to author a spectacular one-punch knockout of Mason Menard, his combative father and trainer, Teofimo Lopez Sr., got in the face of Lomachenko and his team to boldly declare his son would one day finish him.
"My father, he's on another level," Lopez said. "My father was excited about it all and my father put me in some shit that I had to figure out. My father just wants me to become the best fighter in the world. That's his goal and he's just going to do anything and everything. He believes I can take on anyone. He believes in me 100% and that's why I have all of this confidence."
Just this week, Lomachenko was asked about Lopez's father during a word association drill in an interview with Top Rank's Crystina Poncher and declined to answer.
"I can't say that. It wouldn't look good," he said. "I was raised differently."
Lomachenko went on to demean Lopez by saying "he holds my belt" and revealed he's most looking forward to looking into the eyes of Lopez and his father to see their reaction after he defeats them. Upon hearing the comments, Lopez could only laugh.
"He's funny, man. That guy is funny," Lopez said. "He's a funny dude and a funny little man, that's all I can say. He won't understand until that day happens, honestly. A lot of people underestimate me because I'm young. They don't think I have the ring IQ but he will feel it when it comes. Me and my father, we don't talk our shit and not back it up. Obviously we have proven that and will continue to prove that.
"I like the fact that [Lomachenko] says that stuff. It keeps me going, keeps me motivated and keeps me knowing that when I whoop his ass, I'm not going to feel bad afterwards."
Lopez said he hasn't had any contact with Lomachenko since the two posed in the ring for pictures in December after his knockout of Commey.
"He knows I'm coming. He could feel it," Lopez said. "He is probably training as well as I am. We know what we have on the table and what is going to happen that night. He is probably going to try and do his thing and I'm going to do mine. May the best man win but I'm there to win. I don't need to slide in his DMs. He knows what it is, he knows the memo. Once we get our first press conference and get everything going, I'm going to look him in his eyes and he's going to know what's up."