Shockwaves were sent through the boxing world on Tuesday when it was revealed that three-belt lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez tested positive for COVID-19 and would be out of his first title defense on Saturday against George Kambosos Jr.
Triller, which was promoting the bout, has rescheduled the fight for Aug. 14.
To discuss the situation, DAZN News sat down with Triller founder Ryan Kavanaugh.
Kavanaugh talks about how he found out Lopez tested positive, what if Lopez isn't healthy to fight on Aug. 14, how the champion is feeling and the latest on the situation with Mike Tyson.
(Editor's note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Also, the interview was before the announcement of Oscar De La Hoya vs. Vitor Belfort on Sept. 11.)
DAZN: When did you find out that Teofimo had tested positive?
Ryan Kavanaugh: I was on the way to the airport.
DAZN: Now, was that someone from his team calling you or is Teofimo calling you?
RK: His manager (David) McWatter called me and texted me and said it's urgent. I just was like, 'This can't be good'. He called me and just said I have really bad news. Both he and his wife came down with COVID, and it's symptomatic.
DAZN: What did you do?
RK: I've been in crisis management my whole life because of dealing with movies and TV and coming from a highly neurotic Jewish family. I was very used to that type of stuff. Not the thing you want to hear when you're in fight week and having just rolled out a massive marketing slash advertising campaign, looking towards a sold-out venue, and having very good trending pay-per-view numbers. The first thought was the show must go on. How are we going to make this happen? That quickly over about a 10-minute discussion kind of slowly dwindled, and made me realize that him (Lopez) being the main event, undisputed lightweight champ, (it would be) very difficult to have the show go on and have audience very disappointed that the main event was not happening. It wasn't like an undercard or a performer. The entire event is centered around that. There was no world in which an audience was going to come either in person or on pay-per-view and not be unhappy that the main event wasn't gone.
DAZN: You said you're going to move the card to August 14. But the (Miami) Marlins play against the Chicago Cubs that day. Where do you think this event is going to take place?
RK: Good question. It wouldn't be at Marlin Park. The reason we picked August 14 is that we're trying to pick a date far enough out that… he's got symptomatic COVID. Last I heard, he had 102 (degree fever_ and 90 percent oxygen. He's also got asthma. He's going to be very affected by this. It's not like, 'Oh, he'll be better in four days'. He needs time. He couldn't even shadowbox for 45 seconds without basically collapsing. He needs time to both recover, get back into training. It's not like this is some little fun social media fight. This is a real title fight for the undisputed lightweight championship of the world. He's going to have to be in shape. So we tried to give enough time. We hope for him to hopefully have a speedy recovery.
We don't know how long that's going to take to get back into training. You've got the weekend after the 14th, the Manny Pacquiao fight, and the weekend before, but there's another fight (UFC 265). It was really the only date in August that worked. Then after that, Kambosos is having a baby in September. He's from Australia. There's a 14-day quarantine going into Australia. He's not going to chance fighting in early September and not being able to make it back in time for the birth of his baby. It's August 14 or October. We hope he's going to recover quick enough to make that date.
DAZN: Have you talked to Teofimo?
DAZN: How's his mood right now?
RK: He sounds pretty sick. I think he knows he let people down. He definitely expressed that he feels terrible, especially for George. George made weight this week, and that's very hard. His whole family here flew over from Australia and has been here for weeks on end training. He has his pregnant wife here. They both have pregnant wives. Teofimo's pregnant wife also got COVID, so it's a lot of emotions. He comes from a very tough family, who's telling him, 'Oh, fight anyway, fight anyway'. He's sick. So I think he's torn in many directions. This is a big payday and a very important fight. It's very emotional for him. It's very emotional for George, multiple the undercard fighters. Some of them were crying. This is not a positive thing. These fighters, this is their life. They live, eat, sleep, breathe, and if, for some of them, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go to the next level. As much as I feel bad for us, I feel really bad for them.
Even though we've rescheduled it, there's a lot of uncertainty because it's COVID. It's not like he's got the flu, or it's a family thing that we know is going to be fixed. I mean, it's COVID, and he has asthma. We don't know if that means he's out for four weeks or he's out for 40 weeks. We hope it's quick and he's recovered. But I feel bad for him, but I feel much worse for the other fighters.
DAZN: You got to do promotion, you got to do advertising, make new promo videos and everything of that nature. How much of a time do you need to have a proper fight promotion if he's ready for August?
RK: We're going to spend most of this week assessing. We're just getting information on what the viral load is, which will tell us how early or late he is in the process. We're going to talk to his doctors and reassess his asthma; what do they realistically think. Because to do this right, we have to start re-promoting now, effectively, Monday. It's not so far away. It's seven weeks away. If you take out fight week, it's six weeks away. We got to start Monday. So if we're really just spending time trying to understand the dynamic, and if we feel that there's a good chance, call it more than 25 percent chance or more that he's not going to be ready, we will probably have to kick it out to October because it's really not fair. Kambosos isn't going to miss his child's birth, and that means he's out for September. The next date is October.
DAZN: A date Teofimo was going to return if he was going to fight on Saturday was October 2. Have you thought about dates in October yet, or are you just trying to really focus on August 14?
RK: We are keeping all options open. I'd say October 2 is where we would go if we realize he's not going to be ready for August 14 because he already said he would fight on that day, and George is supposed to have his baby at the end of September. I think that's realistic that week or the week after.
DAZN: There was a picture on social media of Oscar De La Hoya and Mike Tyson. Is everything good with Mike now?
RK: We have an option on Mike. We want him (for) his next fight. We have (the) utmost respect for him. He doesn't realize that he had people around him who I believe actually took money that they weren't owed and that he doesn't know and thinks it didn't get to his camp. And if he knew, he'd realize that he needs to reassess that side. I think that in order to deflect and not get caught, people around him may not be telling him the reality of a certain situation. I understand if that's the case why he thinks maybe certain things didn't happen. He was paid an extreme amount of money, and he was paid that specifically because we took the risk that nobody else was willing to take of his comeback based on the next fight would be the Holyfield fight. We do have an option on Holyfield. When I say option, we've already paid him partially. Mike, we have the first and last one, so nobody could do this without us. I'm just hoping that the people around Mike, who have been blocking him, that enough people around us like Oscar are speaking to him, that he's finally going to understand the reality.