WBO junior welterweight champ Josh Taylor flew all the way out from his native Scotland to Newark, New Jersey for a face-to-face showdown with upcoming opponent Teofimo Lopez. That face-to-face, however, never happened and the former 4-belt unified champ chalks that up to Lopez’s mental fragility.
Appearing on ESPN’s Shakur Stevenson-Shuichiro Yoshino card Saturday to hype his June 10 bout with the former 3-belt lightweight champ, Taylor talked up the scheduled Madison Square Garden Theater clash and hyped the significance of the encounter. Fans had to settle for a video clip from Lopez, who’s Brooklyn home base is just about an hour’s drive from Newark.
“I’ve come over here to say hello to him and he’s went away hiding,” Taylor recently told Sky Sports.
“I flew over halfway across the world to come say hello to him and pull him up really. See what are you going to say, what time is it? But he’s not here. He’s not showed up. He’s got no backside.
“He can’t hide too much longer. We’ve got eight, nine weeks left, I’ll just have to wait till then or when the press conference is.”
The 32-year-old “Tartan Tornado” would then dive in deeper when it comes to assessing Lopez’s state of mind.
“A little bit of bravado, a sort of front and then you see the fragility of him on camera in his last couple of fights,” Taylor said.
“So you can see he’s a little bit fragile and a little bit mentally weak. So I can definitely use that to my advantage.”
“He might be doubting himself, maybe thinking I’m not as good as I thought I was or as big and strong as I thought I was. Putting a lot of pressure on himself by talking so much nonsense that he talks, him and his dad.
“Putting a lot of pressure on his own shoulders. So I think that’s maybe got to him a bit in recent times.
“I do think he’s a little bit fragile mentally sometimes. Yes I do.”
Backing up Taylor’s assertion was the most memorable moment from Lopez’s uneven performance against Sandor Martin this past December. After a fairly lackluster ten rounds and a controversial split decision victory, Lopez was caught by the ESPN cameras wondering aloud if he still had “it.”
“Bro, do I still have it, man?,” the 25-year-old asked members of his team. “Do I still got it?”
Taylor, though, is not putting all that much into the “Lopez is mentally broken” take.
“You take these things with a pinch of salt. What really matters is when you get in the ring. But you can definitely size him up and get inside his head before the fight and you can plant little seeds and doubts in their mind before the fight starts.
“I’ve not had that opportunity this time to see him. I’m not really too fussed about playing mind games and all that kind of stuff. It doesn’t work with myself anyway. I just take it as it comes.”
The former unified champ would insist that he’s not giving Lopez’s apparent current weaknesses all that much emphasis. Instead, he’s planning to face the very best Teofimo Lopez at the top of his game.
“I am preparing for the best version of Teofimo Lopez and the best version of Teofimo Lopez is a very good fighter,” Taylor asserted.
“I’m preparing for a hard 12 rounds as always, I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to coming in there and facing the version that beat Lomachenko and that version is a very good Teofimo Lopez.”