Tonight, the lineal 140-pound title is at stake when former lineal lightweight Teofimo Lopez challenges current junior welterweight kingpin, Josh Taylor. The trash talk hit a fever pitch during fight week now; all that’s left is to walk all that talk.
Both men are coming off subpar performances in their last outing. Motivation in a 50-50 bout shouldn’t be an issue, but outside of the ring, stuff and mental state could play a role. The Taylor-Lopez fight will be shown live on ESPN, ESPN Deportes, and ESPN+ at 3 a.m. BST (British Summer Time), which is 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT in the US with a strong lead-in from UFC prelims. It’s refreshing to see such a quality matchup back on basic cable delivering a very good rating, relatively speaking.
Right off the bat, the weigh-in for this fight does matter when picking a winner. Having not fought since February of 2022, Josh Taylor could have some trouble making the weight or, at minimum, be hampered trying to squeeze down to 140. This will be Lopez’s third fight at the junior welterweight division in less than a year after competing at the champion level at lightweight. Taylor has made it known for quite some time that he wants to move up to 147 in an attempt to become a two-division champion. My gut tells me they will make weight and look just fine doing so.
A jab is as good as place to start as any when breaking down this fight. Both men should employ it and, if successful, stay consistent by throwing it in a variety of ways to the head, chest, and body. Clearly, Teofimo Lopez is the more explosive puncher, along with holding the athletic advantage over Taylor. Lopez has to be smart but not too tentative on the offensive end. Teofimo is an excellent counterpuncher and has a style that allows him to strike fire at his opponent at any time. At 140, his power hasn’t necessarily translated just yet, but this could be the fight we see detonate.
Josh Taylor uses veteran craft to land short, timely punches up close and skirt the line of being dirty in the clinch. Landing during exchanges and with one hand free was the key to victory over Jose Ramirez. That said Taylor is more than capable of using his footwork and ring generalship to jab, pot shot, and win rounds on the outside. The mid-range and Taylor on the way inside should be in favor of Teofimo catching Taylor coming forward with poor defense. Although many believe this is mostly Teo, both guys have a tendency to leap-punch. Taylor can counter and time fighters as well but Lopez’s speed and reflexes while moving his head and striking back quickly could be key in those moments.
Taylor needs to not only be first but make use of his lead hand and try to win that small battle of this war. Both men are capable of countering the jab once again; this boxing podcaster gives the edge to Teofimo in that department. Although Lopez can block shots with his lead hand, his open stance can be a weakness combined with a bad habit of dropping his lead hand when he punches. Lopez leaping in while punching places him in range to be countered, especially with hooks. Lopez can’t make the mistake of relying on his reflexes on offense or defense facing a heady boxer like Taylor.
The elephant in the room is Teofimo Lopez’s mental state along with his father remaining as the main voice in his corner. One can’t help to wonder if will Teo be able to make adjustments when faced with adversity, and I don’t mean just getting knocked down or hurt. Lopez tends to fight the way he fights, and the lack of creativity when it’s not working is troubling. Another obvious key for Lopez is not banging on the inside with Taylor for long portions of a round trying to prove a point.
This fight is way closer than most folks in the media and fans alike believe it to be. This boxing junkie was shocked to see the RingTV predictions article having it 20-0 for Josh Taylor. Even if you don’t believe he will win this hack-of-a-scribe, just don’t see this being a one-sided fight ending in a knockout for Taylor. The betting sites have this pretty close to a pick’em, with Lopez sitting at +138 to +162 on Fanduel, which is very good value.
The distance is the main thing that will predict the outcome. If Taylor can operate all the way inside or all the way outside, he will win. If this fight is at the midrange, Teofimo will prove lots of folks wrong. A tried and true method of picking winners is to go with the boxer who has more paths to victory. Taylor can win rounds of boxing with movement or make it a rough-and-tumble affair up close. He’s also no slouch at range, although it’s not a place he wants to be in the whole fight. Look for this fight to be won or lost in the later rounds.
My Official Prediction is Josh Taylor by Split-Decision.
Side Note: On DAZN, Munguia vs. Derevyanckenko should be a good “TV” fight on Saturday night. Also, Congratulations to Carl Froch, Timothy Bradley, and Rafael Marquez, among others, for their 2022 Hall of Fame merits.
Written by Chris Carlson, Host/Producer of The Rope A Dope Radio Podcast Available at www.blogtalkradio.com/ropeadoperadio Follow on Twitter @RopeADopeRadio