Teofimo Lopez And Why Boxing Should Retire The Word 'Retire'

A 25-year-old who has just won a world title doesn't scream 'retirement'
15:00, 15 Jun 2023

Is there any more tattered and fraying word in boxing than “retire”? Weather-worn from decades of misuse, the idea of a boxing retirement is rarer than the ablutions of a rocking horse or a moment of candour from a politician. Teofimo Lopez is the latest to wipe his boots on this disintegrated doormat of a word. At the age of 25 and having just won the WBO super lightweight title from the unbeaten Josh Taylor, he’s deciding to call it a day.

Even as boxing retirements go this one seems particularly reed-thin. At an age that is perhaps even marginally pre-prime, two-weight world champion Lopez really expects us to believe he is turning his back on his sport. Is ‘The Takeover’ for real? Or is this merely a bargaining chip to further leverage the fact he’s back on top after a year in the wilderness?

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Speaking to the PorterWay podcast, Lopez laid out his discontent. "The only way you get Teofimo back is a nine-figure contract deal because I've made ESPN over $100 million, and I'm still getting paid $1 million a fight.” 

Fair recompense is a reasonable request, but Lopez needs to be conscious of the journey he’s been on. There is no paper trail for the supposed $100 million ‘El Brooklyn’ has generated for Stateside network ESPN. The 25-year-old also lost his WBA, WBO and IBF lightweight belts to George Kambosos Jr in November 2021. Since then he has fought in two lower-key bouts before returning to world title level with the Taylor win. This is not the form of the sport’s biggest earners, which Lopez is demanding to be.

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Lopez is a gifted fighter. However he is not a boxer that promoters would move mountains for. Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao and Mike Tyson have all returned at various points for exhibition bouts that topped up their millions. Lopez will not have the same clamour for his post-retirement services. No one is giving him the reported $20-25 million Mayweather got for his farce against John Gotti III to fight professional bouts, never mind exhibitions.

The $100 million is fanciful and surely Teofimo knows he isn’t going to get that. But he would be foolish to pass up some of his prime years, his newly-won WBO world title and his momentum for these political games. His purses should increase and promoters Top Rank will likely be working to that end. But if you want Mayweather money you have to earn it in the squared circle. 

Will Lopez do it? Will we see the New Yorker back in the ring despite his nine-figures-or-bust threat to stay away? Yes, in all likelihood he will. Just like we saw Sugar Ray Leonard, Muhammad Ali, Tyson Fury, Ricky Hatton, George Foreman, Evander Holyfield, Joe Louis and any number of other Hall of Famers return. They all had their reasons for retiring. They all came back. These icons came back and, given the fact he’s 25 and still a world level fighter, it would be genuinely stunning if Lopez didn’t either. He might get a decent purse for his “comeback” too. Just don’t expect $100 million.

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