Teofimo Lopez defended his WBO super lightweight title with a unanimous decision win over Jamaine Ortiz on Thursday but he was perhaps fortunate to come away with the victory.
Lopez made a return to the ring for the first time since an exceptional performance against Josh Taylor back in June. ‘The Takeover’ made a shock retirement announcement after that win but quickly reversed that decision and his clash with Ortiz was a comeback fight of sorts, but a tough assignment nonetheless.
Ortiz came into the fight as a big underdog but one with an impressive 17-1-1 record, with his only defeat coming via a decision loss to Ukrainian star Vasyl Lomachenko.
After beating Ortiz, Lopez will be targeting a mega fight at some point in 2024, but the beaten challenger will feel he deserves a rematch after a contentious defeat.
Lopez went into Thursday’s bout with a few questions hanging over his head after his bizarre retirement announcement and subsequent U-turn, and his limp display will have done little to silence his detractors.
The 26-year-old was the more aggressive of the two fighters and frequently tried to engage, but he could find no way through Ortiz’s rock solid defence.
Ortiz is naturally an orthodox fighter but he adopted a southpaw stance for Thursday’s bout and it looked to be a tactic that had paid off. The challenger was elusive and Lopez was forced to spend the majority of the 12 rounds chasing him around the ring, with Ortiz connecting with the occasional counterpunch of his own.
This was a bout for the boxing purists and even they may have grown tired after 12 rounds of little action. The general feeling, however, was that Ortiz had done enough to claim the title and pull off an upset but all three judges scored the fight in favour of ‘The Takeover’.
Judge Steve Weisfeld had the fight 117-111 and Tim Cheathem and David Sutherland both scored it 115-113 in favour of Lopez.
It seemed as if Ortiz had executed his game plan perfectly as Lopez cut a frustrated figure for much of the bout. For his part, Lopez blamed Ortiz for refusing to engage and he is convinced that he deserved his victory.
“Hey, listen, I tried my best to do what I can for the people,” said Lopez in his post fight interview. “I even tried to box, going backwards, and [Ortiz] did not wanna commit.”
Given the close nature of the bout, there is a chance a rematch could be on the cards but in terms of the overall spectacle there will probably be little appetite for Lopez vs Ortiz II anytime soon.
Lopez is keen to line up another blockbuster clash, having faced Lomachenko and Taylor previously, and he revealed his desire to face off against welterweight king Terrence Crawford next.
"Glory is next for me,” he said. “None of these guys want to fight me. I'll fight (Terence) Crawford at a catchweight. I'm here. I'm ready. I've always been ready. I'm younger, prettier, and a two-time unified champion at 25."
Other potential opponents include Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis, Ryan Garcia and Devin Haney, or a rematch with George Kambosos Jr - the only fighter who has managed to inflict a defeat on Lopez previously.
Ortiz will potentially push for a rematch but with no clause in his favour, it seems unlikely that he will get another shot at Lopez anytime soon.
The 27-year-old believes he did enough to win on Thursday after an effective counterpunching performance, and will have come out of the bout with plenty of credit even if he does have a second loss on his record.
"I believe I won the fight," said Ortiz. "What can I say? I came out on the short end of the stick once again. He couldn't hit me...he wasn't landing any shots on me."
‘The Technician’ may well be able to earn another title shot at some point in the near future, however, with Subriel Matias and Haney also holding titles at super lightweight.