Josh Taylor out for redemption against Teofimo Lopez: ‘I’ve got a big point to prove’

Josh Taylor goes into this weekend’s showdown with Teofimo Lopez with a point to prove.

The Scot is looking at his WBO super-lightweight title defense against the New Yorker as a chance at redemption after a frustrating showing in his last bout against Jack Catterall.

In Glasgow in February of last year, Taylor retained his undisputed championship, although by controversial split-decision.

The calls for a rematch cam instantly. As a deal was reached, Taylor had to vacate three of his four world titles. However, a torn tendon in Taylor’s heel saw that bout eventually fall through.

After a long layoff the “Tartan Tornado” is back against a new opponent in Lopez, the mandatory challenger for his WBO belt. Taylor is itching to display exactly what took him to the pinnacle of the sport.

Hey told Sky Sports: “I don’t think I’ve got a point to prove in terms of the fighter I am, the caliber, but I’ve got point to prove in putting on a big performance here and say, ‘look I told you I ‘m not going anywhere. I’m still the best fighter on the planet’.

“One bad performance in 10 years and all of a sudden, I’m down here in people’s estimation. I’ve got a big point to prove and a chip on my shoulder, so this is when you’ll see the best of me .”

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Josh Taylor and Teofimo Lopez exchanged heated words at the final press conference ahead of their much-anticipated light-welterweight clash at Madison Square Garden this weekend

The WBO champion will be going up against a dangerous opponent whom he feels not only will make for a more captivating fight but also be a greater challenge for him than Catterall.

“I think this is a much bigger fight worldwide, it’s a huge fight. It’s a massive fight in boxing worldwide,” Taylor said.

“It’s a tougher fight I believe as well. I think Teofimo is a much better caliber opponent than Catterall all-round. His skills are just better than Catterall all around.

“He’s got the athleticism, he’s got the power, he’s got the punch speed, he’s got the combinations you know, he can do it all. He’s a very good fighter. But he’s coming up against a better fighter in myself.”

Taylor felt the level of criticism he received after the Catterall fight was unwarranted, saying: “I think that the volume and the amount of disrespect I received after that, a lot of it was really uncalled for.

“Most of the great fighters have had bad nights, but never had anything like that. I got it for some reason. But after this fight, that will be gone, be forgotten about. That’s what I plan on doing with this performance.”

Lopez is a fighter who is looking for redemption himself. After bursting onto the scene across the Atlantic with a KO of the year contender against Mason Mernard in 2018, destructive stoppage victories over Diego Magdaleno and Richard Commey followed in 2019 and he secured a massive upset victory over the legendary Vasiliy Lomachenko in 2020.

Ripping Lomachenko’s three belts away to become a unified lightweight champion elevated Lopez to superstardom. However, in his very first title defence, the fairy tale came to an abrupt halt after a split decision loss to Australia’s George Kambosos, that too coming at Madison Square Garden.

He subsequently moved up to super-lightweight where he stopped Pedro Campa and picked up a split-decision win over Sandor Martin.

Lopez is looking to become a two-weight world champion against Taylor and erase the memories of that torrid night against Kambosos.

But Taylor believes the 25-year old’s mental scars are visible. After a tough-fought battle against Martin, Lopez walked away with a razor-thin split-decision victory.

Taylor suggests: “He’s mentally weak. I think he’s mentally shot a little bit, in terms of questioning himself like that on camera. He’ll say that it’s all trickery and a false sense of security, but you don’t do that kind of stuff.

“You don’t question yourself like that on camera straight after the fight when the adrenaline’s buzzing and all that. So you know that he’s definitely got them self-doubts.”

The Scot remains confident in himself and is adamant he will secure a memorable victory.

“He’s very explosive,” Taylor said of Lopez. “He’s quite quick, he looks like he carries power as well, you know he’s quite smart boxing-wise, but he also makes a lot of fundamental mistakes that I know I can expose on fight night and will expose on fight night.”

He promised: “Fireworks. Search and destroy. An explosive night, an explosive performance, a polished performance all the way around and just back to the old Josh Taylor.

“I can’t wait.”

The goal for Taylor? Two weight world champion

Taylor’s ambitions extend beyond Teofimo Lopez as well. The Scot secured his place in history when he became Britain’s first undisputed champion in the four-belt era.

But Taylor believes he can be a two-weight world champion as well.

“Inevitably I will be moving up to 147lbs at one point because achievement-wise at 140lbs, there’s nothing left for me to do,” he told Sky Sports.

“The only thing I can do at 140lbs which I haven’t done yet is fight for a British title and now that for me no disrespect, but for me at this point in my career, that’s going 10 steps back.

“I’ll maybe do that when I’m on the way back down or whatever, but no disrespect to the British level, but that’s all that there’s left for me to achieve at 140.

“So motivation-wise and goal-setting is moving up a weight class and becoming a two-weight world champion.

“That’s what keeps me getting up in the morning, getting up hitting the roads and getting it in the gym and getting the best of myself is the motivation to achieve more in the sport.”

The key questions

Why are they fighting?

Once considered the hottest prospect in America, Lopez looked destined for stardom. He bursts onto the scene with brutal knockouts, showmanship and immense resolution.

But after suffering a first loss as a professional, Lopez decided to move up a weight division to seek out a new challenge and a championship at a second weight.

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Tensions are high between Josh Taylor and Teofimo Lopez at the final weigh-in ahead of their WBO light-welterweight clash at Madison Square Garden in New York on Saturday

He worked his way to a mandatory shot at Taylor’s WBO title with wins over Campa and Martin. But if those were intended to be statement victories, more questions arose.

Does he still have the hunger? Is he mentally ready for the big stage again? How will he deal with adversity again?
Against Taylor, he will find all those answers and more.

Taylor is such a demanding opponent not only due to his skillset and braces but also because of the timing of this bout. “The Tartan Tornado” is undefeated, formerly the undisputed king of the 140lb division and after a torrid bout with Catterall and the even more torrid fallout from that split decision victory Taylor is looking to silence any critics.

Both men have questions. Both need answers. To reveal them, they have to box.

What’s at stake?

Taylor will defend his WBO super-lightweight title against Lopez at the Madison Square Garden Theater on Saturday night in New York.

Taylor is looking to further cement his legacy by getting another marquee win abroad. With the passing of the late great Ken Buchanan, the Scot is aiming for a dominant victory to not only remain at the summit of the 140lb division supremacy but to honor the memory of his late friend and mentor.

For Lopez, this fight could be make or break. It sounds harsh as he is 25 and less than three years ago he secured one of the great upset victories by defeating then WBA, WBO and IBF world champion Vasiliy Lomachenko.

This win was followed immediately by a first career defeat and another, even against a top-class opponent, would be a considerable set back. Victory would redeem the loss to Kambosos and put him back where he was expected to be.

How can Taylor win?

Although Lopez has good head movement and can use his punch output well, the jab tends to cause him trouble, as seen in his fights with Lomachenko and Sandor Martin. In that last bout against Martin, the southpaw stance combined with constant probing and feinting made Lopez uncomfortable. This is where Taylor can capitalize.

Getting respect early will be vital. Lopez has been dropped a couple of times in his career and now he is fighting a bigger more natural 140lb fighter. Taylor should these physical advantages along with his aggressive output to put a dent in Lopez early. Taylor put down Jose Ramirez in his bout to win the undisputed championship. If he can hurt or drop the challenger, that will establish a crucial psychological advantage as well.

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WBO light-welterweight world champion Josh Taylor shrugs off weight concerns and says he can’t wait to give America’s Teofimo Lopez ‘a good scudding’ at Madison Square Garden in New York on Saturday

How can Lopez win?

Lopez typically fights with a low lead hand in an open stance which means he will be relying heavily on his spatial awareness and reactive movement to keep Taylor guessing.

Taylor likes to step in and initiate offense which on occasion leaves him vulnerable to counter-punches. If he has to back out in a straight line or pivot away to cover up, a fast fighter like Lopez can make him pay.

Taylor also tends to lunge in when leading with his backhand and with Lopez being so explosive, the challenger must use counter-punches to his advantage to secure the win.

Who’s on the undercard?

Puerto Rican rising star Xander Zayas looks to extend his undefeated professional record to 16-0. Zayas is one of the hottest prospects in world boxing today and heads into the toughest fight of his pro career so far as he takes on tough and gritty 18-2-1 (12) Ronald Cruz. Still only 20 years old, Zayas is one to watch.

Also look out for Brazilian Olympic gold medalist Robson Conceicao, who is working towards another world title fight after a points loss to Shakur Stevenson, and featherweight prospect Bruce Carrington.

How to watch it?

In the UK the event takes place in the early hours of Sunday morning (June 11), broadcast on Sky Sports Action gold Sky Sports Main Event with coverage beginning at 1am.