Terrific Teo! Lopez Dethrones Taylor in Junior Welterweight Title Showdown
Former unified and lineal lightweight king Teofimo Lopez (19-1, 13 KOs) captured the WBO and Ring Magazine junior welterweight world titles with a 12-round unanimous decision win against former undisputed champion Josh Taylor (19-1, 13 KOs) Saturday evening at The Theater at Madison Square Garden.
In the opening two rounds, Taylor connected with straight left hands and counterpunches to the body. But by rounds three and four, the 32-year-Scotsman began feeling the sting of Lopez’s power.
As a result, his offense became more tentative and the pace of the fight decelerated, allowing Lopez to land his signature power shots. By rounds five and six, Lopez took a commanding lead as a confused Taylor struggled to find his punching range.
Lopez punctuated his victory in the final rounds with explosive bursts of offense, shades of the vintage ‘Teo’ who had dominated his adversaries as a lightweight.
With scores of 115-113 2x and 117-111, the 25-year old Brooklyn native is now a lineal world champion in two divisions.
“Josh Taylor is a tough dude,” said Lopez. “I can see why he beat so many fighters. But you’ve got to counter the counterpuncher. You’ve got to outsmart the man and get in there. And I did that. I think I did enough.This is what it is all about.”
“I questioned myself for a good reason. You guys don’t understand. I’ve always been my worst critic. And you guys got a little glimpse of it. But I’ve just got to ask you one thing, and one thing only. Do I still got it?”
“I’m so grateful. This was a bout fixing what we needed to. That’s why I don’t leave my coach. I trust in him a lot.
“No excuses,” said Taylor. “It wasn’t my best. The better man won tonight. I’ve got no excuses. I fought to the best of my ability. He was better than me tonight. It is what it is. Congratulations to Teofimo.
“I thought it was a close fight. I’d love to do it again. I definitely know I’m better than that, and I know I can beat him still. I’d love to do it again. But he’s the champ, so the ball is in his court.”
Zayas Coasts Past Cruz
Junior middleweight phenom Xander Zayas (16-0, 10 KOs) kicked off the Puerto Rican Day Parade festivities without a hitch. The 20-year-old scored a dominant eight-round unanimous decision against California-born veteran Ronald “Diablo” Cruz (18-3-1, 12 KOs) to defend his NABF and NABO belts
In the opening stanza, Zayas landed a counter right hand that floored Cruz. Zayas maintained his composure and began boxing off his jab, stopping only to land two and three-punch combinations.
Cruz, who has never been stopped, resorted to a high guard to avoid punishment, and he managed to connect with an occasional right hand. However, Zayas’ versatility made it virtually impossible for Cruz to land as he was outgunned both on the inside and the outside.
With three scores of 80-71, Zayas takes home the second annual Miguel Cotto Award.
“This is a dream come true,” said Zayas. “I’m very happy to have fought during Puerto Rican Day Parade weekend. He was a tough guy. I was hitting him with everything. He didn’t want to go down. He was here to fight. He was motivated. He was tough. But we passed with flying colors. Unanimous decision. And we made the adjustments we needed to do.
“He brought out the dog in me. I had to dig deep. I had to stay focused. I had to listen to my corner. And most importantly I had to have fun, which was the most important part. I had the crowd here cheering for me, so I was trying to stay as focused as possible.”
Junior Lightweight: Brazilian Olympic gold medalist Robson Conceicao (17-2, 8 KOs) was just beginning to warm up in his scheduled 10-rounder against Nicolas Polanco (20-4-1, 11 KOs), but an accidental headbutt in the second round forced the referee to stop the fight. The bout was ruled a no contest.
Junior Welterweight: Omar Rosario (11-0, 3 KOs), the fighting pride of Caguas, Puerto Rico, tallied a workmanlike eight-round unanimous decision victory against countryman Jan Carlos Rivera (8-2, 6 KOs). Rosario’s aggression and short counterpunches were just enough to overcome Rivera’s free-swinging style. Scores: 77-75 3x.
Heavyweight: Undefeated Polish prospect Damian Knyba (12-0, 7 KOs) defeated Mexico’s Helaman Olguin (9-6-1, 4 KOs) via eight-round unanimous decision. Knyba, a 6-foot-7 behemoth with an 86-inch reach, got off to a strong start, landing right hands that sent Olguin reeling to the ropes. Scores: 79-73 3x.
Featherweight: Brooklyn-born phenom Bruce Carrington (8-0, 5 KOs) defeated Luis Porozo (16-7, 9 KOs) via eighth-round TKO. Carrington fought at a close distance, mixing in jabs with power shots around Porozo’s guard. Time of stoppage: 2:17.
Junior Lightweight: In a battle of southpaws, Puerto Rican standout Henry Lebron (18-0, 10 KOs) scored a 10-round unanimous decision win over Spanish veteran Carlos Ramos (17-3, 10 KOs). After a few feel-out rounds, Lebron’s talent began to overcome Ramos, as he dropped him in the eighth and tenth with right hooks. Scores: 97-91 and 98-90 2x.