In his first fight since his upset victory over Vasiliy Lomachenko, lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez looked far removed from a pound-for-pound talent. Whereas Lopez had a detailed game plan for negating Lomachenko with angles, body shots and footwork, against George Kambosos on Saturday Lopez's only approach seemed to be winging big shots to get a knockout. Lopez wasn't greedy against Lomachenko. He took what was available and didn't get caught overcommitting. Against Kambosos, Lopez got dropped in the first round while he was in a defenseless position.
I was tough on Lomachenko's performance against Lopez and I'll be tough on Lopez now. Teofimo Lopez was not physically or mentally prepared for his fight against Kambosos. There was a lack of respect for his opponent. He and his father (also his trainer) expected Kambosos to fall over without much resistance. There was no Plan B. And even when Lopez rallied later in the fight and scored a knockdown in the tenth, he not only didn't show enough urgency going for the stoppage, but he could barely put punches together in the next round. His conditioning was poor and he helped to beat himself.
|Kambosos (right) connecting with a left hand|
Photo courtesy of Ed Mulholland
But the victory was not handed to Kambosos; he had to take it. He had spent the last year preparing for Lopez, and he did not permit the myriad delays and postponements for the fight to get the better of him physically or psychologically. Kambosos was sharp throughout the fight and displayed a number strong aspects in the ring. His counter right hand, which knocked down Lopez in the first, caused problems all night. He hooked off the jab with precision and often caught Lopez by surprise with the effectiveness of his left hand.
Perhaps most impressively, Kambosos was able to persevere through some rough moments in the fight. He was dropped hard in the tenth round by a chopping right hand. He had taken pulverizing head and body shots at various points in the fight. However poor Lopez may have been on the night, he was still landing bombs throughout the bout. But Kambosos would not succumb. Even in the round after he was knocked down, he pressed Lopez and had one of his most dominant rounds of the fight. He checked off the "skill" and "will" boxes.
Make no mistake; this was a rough, brutal match with both fighters absorbing enormous blows. Kambosos was more consistent, more active and competed better in every round. He won via a split decision, and it's always nice to see that the visiting fighter gets the decision in the opponent's backyard.
After the fight Lopez was in disbelief that he had lost and the local New York crowd voiced its displeasure with Lopez's post-fight comments. New York boxing fans can be incredibly loyal, but they are also not stupid. They know their boxing. And even if Lopez did make the fight competitive, he had no case for being a clear winner.
Lopez-Kambosos is an illustration of what can happen when a fighter isn't at his best. But it's also a story about making your own luck. It's not just that Lopez was sub-optimal; Kambosos also needed to capitalize on the opportunity. He punished Lopez throughout the fight with hard counters. He was in excellent shape and he wouldn't yield when the going got tough. Kambosos earned his victory. And if few believed in him prior to the fight, he had enough self-belief for all. But it wasn't irrational confidence or hubris, which as Lopez demonstrated can lead to a downfall. Kambosos' confidence was sky-high because he had put in the work, because he knew he could exploit Lopez's defensive holes and spotty work rate.
The best that one can say about Lopez on Saturday is that he still hits hard and he didn't quit, but the rest...changes must be made and responsibility needs to be taken. No one on his team should be absolved from their share of the blame. But let's remember to start with the fighter himself first. It's his career that hangs in the balance.
Junior featherweight champions Stephen Fulton and Brandon Figueroa waged a thrilling war on Saturday that featured ferocious inside combat. Figueroa, the bigger fighter, used his size and inside skills to keep Fulton at close range, yet Fulton was not flummoxed by the phone booth battle. He had many periods of the fight where he flashed his considerable arsenal, landing authoritative power shots, even with his back against the ropes.
Fulton won the fight by a majority decision, but I believe that both fighters had a case for victory. Fulton impressed with clean punching in many rounds. I think that Figueroa was far more successful in the fight as the ring general. The fight was where he wanted it, and he was effective in coming forward. He landed his fair share of hooks from both sides and straight left hands throughout the fight. In particular, I was impressed with how he used his shoulders and hands to keep Fulton in position right in front of him. Although Figueroa does have some crudeness with his punching technique, he showed an expert's ability at how to fight on the inside.
|Figueroa (left) and Fulton in a night of inside combat|
Photo courtesy of Esther Lin
What I'd like to focus on regarding this fight is how wrong I have been about Figueroa. It's no secret that I was not a fan of his during many of his development fights. I thought that he was a product of fantastic matchmaking, where his lack of speed, power and refined technique was cloaked by his mediocre opposition. Prior to his last fight, against Luis Nery, he had been kept away from real punchers or athletes at 122-lbs. I just wasn't a believer in him.
But as I was watching Saturday's fight, I was continuously impressed with how adept Figueroa was at imposing his style. There were periods of the fight where Fulton was trapped along the ropes, where Figueroa did magnificently in blocking escape routes. In addition, Figueroa repeatedly landed shots from unconventional angles against a fighter with supposedly better defense.
I didn't expect Figueroa to beat Nery and I certainly didn't think that he had the athleticism to compete with Fulton, but I believe that he matched Fulton punch for punch. In the end, the fight to me was inconclusive. I have no argument with Fulton winning the fight on two judges' scorecards, but I don't think that his victory was an emphatic performance. At best one can say that he had done enough. But that's not faint praise. Figueroa showed that he is a fighter to be reckoned with and it speaks to Fulton's considerable skill set that he was able to land so frequently and with such menace in that type of fight.
Fulton beat another pressure fighter, Angelo Leo, in his last bout, but to me that was a clear and decisive victory, where Leo couldn't match Fulton's volume, arsenal or punch accuracy. But I think that Fulton fought Figueroa to a standstill. He shined at moments throughout the fight, but he also got sucked into Figueroa's style. Fulton could have circled more. He could have clinched more strategically. He could have had used his legs more consistently Yes, sometimes you have to bite down and fight a guy who keeps coming, but I also believe that Fulton could have focused on the "sometimes" part a little more often. He didn't HAVE to fight in that style most of the 12 rounds. He was fortunate that two judges preferred his work on the inside.
Figueroa has had trouble making weight at 122 lbs. and it's possible that he will need to move up to 126 instead of sticking around for a rematch. Nevertheless, he has proven himself as a world-class fighter. And Fulton, as talented and skilled as he is, has to remember that scorecards and judges can be funny things. He won a coin-flip fight on Saturday and he needs to do all he can in future bouts to fight to his strengths and not give judges a reason to prefer his opponent.