‘The one person who beat me was myself’: Will Teofimo Lopez be taught from his errors?

RINGOES, N.J. — The final time Teofimo Lopez fought it was with a situation later recognized as pneumomediastinum, a balloon-like intrusion of air in his thoracic cavity, the seemingly results of a tiny tear in his esophagus that developed as he rehydrated after the weigh-in. “How he breathed, I am unable to even clarify,” stated one specialist who examined him. “Like his neck and chest have been in a vise.” Backside line: He may have died that evening.

“Each physician who sees my report,” Lopez says, “they have a look at me like, ‘How the hell did you survive that? Both you are a beast or a God.'”

Beast or God? Appears a bit grandiose for a fighter coming off his first loss, a large upset to the hitherto little-known — a minimum of within the States — George Kambosos Jr. However grandiosity (publicly uttered or privately held) and a commensurate ego are necessities for any fighter with the ambition and the flexibility of Lopez. Recall the nice Vasiliy Lomachenko and his personal incapacity to simply accept a clear-cut defeat by the hands of Lopez. Now it’s Lopez who continues to insist he beat Kambosos.

Is he in denial? After all. And if you wish to feign outrage, be my visitor.

The purpose is, Lopez is essentially the most dynamic younger fighter within the recreation. He has an opportunity to be nice. Not Instagram or YouTube nice, however the actual factor. Or, he can flame out in full public view. However do not mislead your self: That is a part of it, on the nub, the very dynamism of the attraction, what Lopez refers to as his “It Issue.”

However now — on the grand previous age of 25 — he finds himself embarking on a comeback (Saturday, 10 p.m. ET on ESPN/ESPN+), in opposition to a steadfast Sonoran named Pedro Campa. The previous undisputed light-weight champion of the world shall be making his 140-pound debut, however the related questions start with what, if something, he is discovered from defeat?

Fighters mislead the world. It is a part of the job. However an ideal fighter cannot mislead himself. The good ones be taught to navigate that very non-public area between self-belief and denial. The good fighter might really feel like a God or a beast — certainly she or he ought to — however simply the identical, is aware of he’s neither. The good ones can parse the distinction between bravery and bravado.

Lopez had each, in abundance. However self-knowledge? That is solely acquired the arduous manner, by means of failure.

There have been extenuating circumstances within the lead-up to Teofimo Lopez’s first skilled loss, however the defeat made an impending transfer to 140 kilos a logical subsequent step. Wealthy Graessle/Icon Sportswire

The subsequent yr or so will reveal lots about Lopez, not simply what sort of fighter he shall be, but in addition what sort of man. A part of me shall be rooting for him to beat his challenges. It isn’t the “It Issue” that is compromised what could be left of my journalistic integrity, however the delicate, looking child who hides beneath that violent braggart’s façade. Reality is, since beating Lomachenko, his life and profession — sophisticated in the perfect of occasions — have turn into, properly, messy. In late 2019, after we first sat down collectively on the Outdated Canine Boxing Membership, the place he trains deep within the coronary heart of New Jersey, Lopez was a newlywed about to win his first title. Now he is break up from his spouse, a single father making an attempt to win again his titles.

“Who stated I am a single father?” he shoots again at me.

C’mon.

“My private life has nothing to do with this.”

We’re that solely true. His private life — the bloodline itself and the inevitable household conflicts writ massive — have been at all times a part of this voyeuristic thrill journey. It started together with his trainer-father’s impossibly impudent vow, again in 2018, that his boy would dismantle Lomachenko, then clearly be considered the best fighter on the planet.

Fairly abruptly, Lopez went from being that child with the obnoxious dad to Fighter of the Yr, Son of Nostradamus. Then, the not-so-slow burn, fueled by unhealthy luck and hubris. Kambosos — an IBF necessary challenger — seemed like an ideal rating, massive bucks for little danger. However by struggle evening, final Nov. 27, there had been eight dates, six potential venues, two streaming companies, one preposterous purse bid, and in step with the grandest of boxing’s traditions, untold billable hours for the attorneys. By then, Workforce Lopez had dismissed its nutritionists, citing the prices of an on-again, off-again coaching camp.

I imply, why would a pugilistic prodigy fear about rehydration when he is preventing George Kambosos? Or so it was thought.

Then once more, Lopez had different issues on his thoughts. His son, Liam, was born simply weeks earlier than the struggle. He had already break up together with his spouse, Cynthia, whose mere presence had at all times been a degree of rivalry between the fighter and his household. He had spoken fairly overtly about having suicidal ideas.

A fighter’s preparation — emotional, bodily, religious — is a part of the struggle. So I take nothing from Kambosos right here. Lopez apparently feels in any other case: “By the seventh spherical, I seemed up on the lights and I simply stated to God, ‘I would like your assist right here as a result of I am about to do one thing that you already know I am not constructed to do, and that is give up.’ Three rounds later, I put that little b—- on his knees.”

He is referring, in fact, to Kambosos, whom he knocked down within the tenth, on an evening that, all issues thought-about, divine and temporal, he was fortunate to have survived.

Tim Bradley explains why he expects Teofimo Lopez to win by knockout in his subsequent bout in opposition to Pedro Campa.

“Was it a mistake to struggle?” I ask.

“No,” he says. “It was the best selection I ever determined to do in my life.”

“You nearly died.”

“Good. Good. I wanted that.”

“You wanted to nearly die?”

“To appreciate how … how darkish and unhealthy individuals actually are. As a result of I received that struggle.”

“You suppose you received that struggle?” I ask.

“The referee knew so. He raised my hand earlier than they referred to as out Kambosos.”

“Who beat you then?”

“The one person who beat me was myself, and that is it.”

Lastly. The reality.

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