Teofimo Lopez back in the saddle and seemingly ready to take over at 140 after TKOing Pedro Campa

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - AUGUST 13: Pedro Campa (L) and Teofimo Lopez (R) trade punches during their NABF & WBO International Junior Welterweight bout at Resorts World Las Vegas on August 13, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

Pedro Campa became Teofimo Lopez’s first casualty in the 140-pound division. (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS – Teofimo Lopez is a 25-year-old young man whose boxing career has largely been an expression of joy. He became a star not only with his boxing skills and punching power, but also with his bright personality and love for what he did.

Things changed dramatically in November. He was struggling to reach the 135-pound lightweight limit for a fight with George Kambosos Jr. He had a tear in his esophagus – before the fight – which doctors later told him could have killed him. And then he went out and was dropped early, dropping his decision and the undisputed title to the Aussie.

He had separated from his wife, had countless personal problems and left the department in which he had become a star.

“I was at 135 for about nine years and killed my body,” he said Saturday.

He carried the weight of all those problems and more into the ring on Saturday at Resorts World Events Center against Pedro Campa in what he dubbed “The Takeback.”

And while they bothered him early on, by the end of the night it was old Lopez in there: having fun, smiling, firing big punches and pulling off a dramatic win. He stopped Campa at 2:14 a.m. on Saturday seventh when referee Tony Weeks stepped in to stop him as Lopez rained hard shots into Campa’s head.

He did his backflip and the million dollar grin was for all to see. But he admitted afterwards it wasn’t just peaches and cream. He’s a father now, and his son, Teofimo Lopez V, was the focus of his thoughts as he climbed between the ropes

“I’m not going to lie, I had a lot on my mind,” Lopez said. “I almost died in my last fight and it weighed on my mind. I just had to clear it out. I’m not afraid to die, but the last thing I want is for my son to not have a father. That was the only thing on my mind, but I had to work it out, I had to get this guy out somehow.”

Lopez started slowly and patiently. Campa wasn’t blessed with much hand or foot speed, however, and that allowed Lopez to get out of the way with patience. He boxed and moved despite getting hit more than would be optimal if he was at 140 against one of the top dogs like Regis Prograis, Josh Taylor or Ryan Garcia.

But he continued to bank coins on Saturday, picking Campa apart with quick and sharp right hands and an occasional jab. He didn’t go to the body often, but that was more than enough for Campa.

Teofimo Lopez, right, celebrates with his father Teofimo Lopez Sr. after defeating Pedro Campa by TKO in a junior welterweight boxing match Saturday, August 13, 2022 in Las Vegas.  (AP Photo/John Locher)

Teofimo Lopez celebrates with his father after his 7th round TKO victory Saturday at the Resorts World Events Center in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

His father/coach Teofimo Lopez Jr. was pleased.

“[Campa] came to win,” he said. “I don’t want to take anything away from him. He’s a tough guy. He’s really tough. He put on a show. But there is nobody who can hit my son when he is healthy. He was healthy tonight and showed the world what he’s made of.”

Lopez began smashing Campa’s face in the sixth round, the toll of the fast, hard shots beginning to show.

Lopez deserves credit for staying true to himself and methodically working to get Campa out. He hit him with a right hand and followed him up with a left hook to drop him a minute or so into the seventh. When he proved something, Campa showed his toughness by getting up and getting back into the fight.

But Lopez is one of the best finishers in the sport and he’s been all over Campa, finishing it off with a twirl on the ropes.

The key, he said, is to stay calm and accept small victories throughout the fight.

“You have to take your time [because] Little by little, those punches add up,” Lopez said. “It’s going to hurt them in the end. It may not do it right away, but in due course you will get them out. [You need to] trust in God and trust in the process.”

There are plenty of great potential fights for Lopez at super lightweight, although most of the top fighters are busy. Former undisputed champion Josh Taylor, who has lost two of the belts, will face Jack Catterall again in December.

Regis Prograis meets Jose Zepeda for the WBC belt. Ryan Garcia is negotiating a fight with Gervonta Davis, who is holding a light belt.

Lopez wants Taylor because Taylor had all the belts before he voluntarily gave up the WBA and WBC shenanigans, but he won’t be picky.

“I take all the boys and take their dreams,” Lopez said. “I’m here to be her nightmare.”

His last outing was a nightmare. And while what he went through will likely stay with him in some form forever, he did a good job of asserting himself and getting over it on Saturday.

The man known as “The Takeover” appears poised to take over once more.

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