For 16 years, Teofimo Lopez has fought for the championship of the world’s most important division in boxing. George Kambosos Jr. is in his first year, having fought six times before he got his title shot against Lopez on Saturday. Kambosos was favored to win, and he was indeed able to do so, winning on the judges’ scorecards 110-109, 111-111, 117-111 — a pair of triple knockdowns for Lopez to justify his status as a legendary lightweight. Still, it wasn’t until the 16th round, just a few minutes before the bout was declared a unanimous decision, that Kambosos caught up to Lopez and broke him down.
The bout was the first official world title fight to be broadcast on ESPN on Saturday, and it didn’t go as planned for either of the fighters. Lopez looked frustrated early on, while Kambosos was struggling just to remain upright with the speed and speed of Lopez’s punches. But Lopez continued to punch with gusto. Just as Kambosos was showing signs of seizing the lead with a vicious left, Lopez hit the canvas for the first time in the fight. A round later, Lopez was on his feet after a left to the body landed flush. There was never any chance that he would lose the fight in the later rounds, but as with many knockdowns, Lopez hung tough to the end.
This was Teofimo Lopez’s eleventh title shot in his 16 year career. He could walk away with the unified lightweight title tonight. pic.twitter.com/vqztVuY1VW — ESPN Deportes (@ESPNDeportes) November 11, 2017
“It felt great that I got this belt and I fought as hard as I could,” Lopez said after the loss.
Former champion Paulie Malignaggi was also watching Kambosos’ second chance with trepidation. “It’s sad that he has to be fighting for that belt against one of the better fighters in his division,” he said before the bout. “He should fight on his home turf, but for now I feel bad for George.”
For Lopez, it is a frustrating career that has led to two title shots. Lopez made his title debut in 2010 against Omar Narvaez for the WBO crown. In 2013, Lopez fought for a title against Teon Kennedy. Both opportunities were later turned down by the association of promoters leading up to their bouts. As with Kambosos Jr., Lopez was also jubilant at the outcome on Saturday. “I showed that I’m one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world,” he said. “I proved that I belong here.”