Teofimo Lopez Jr. looks certain to face mandatory challenger George Kambosos Jr. in his next fight, after revealing that he has no intention of giving up any of his belts and the Australian has no interest whatsoever in 'step-aside' money.
Lopez holds the IBF, WBO, WBA (Super) and The Ring magazine (lineal) titles at 135lb after impressively defeating Vasiliy Lomachenko in October. Two weeks after his rise to the top of the division, Kambosos outpointed Lee Selby in London with a superb rally from Round 6 onwards to become the IBF's mandatory challenger.
The governing body ordered the title fight on Jan. 9, and Lopez explained on The Ak & Barak Show (on DAZN and Sirius XM Fight Nation) that with WBC champion Devin Haney and WBA titleholder Gervonta Davis also wanting a piece of the unified kingpin, the possibility of Kambosos waiting a little longer in return for financial compensation was mooted.
Lopez said: "The best way to explain it is this: If I don’t fight my mandatory, I gotta give up my IBF belt. And I just worked my ass off to get these belts. I’m not gonna let none of them go. So I gotta fight my mandatory.
"Even if we put money on the side and told them ‘hey, we want to do Devin Haney first’, they ain’t interested. Because even though he’s my IBF mandatory, he knows he gets all the belts if he can beat me.
"He has an opportunity to become undisputed at this division and get the recognition. So no matter how much we could give them to step aside, they would rather take their chance at me to try and get all the belts."
Kambosos, like Lopez, Haney and Tank, is also undefeated and it's understandable that he would prefer to try and become one of the fighters paying others to step aside. Of course, it's likely that Lopez will fight twice in 2021. So, could Haney or Davis be next if the champ can get past his mandatory?
"Oh yeah, absolutely," he said to A&B. "As long as Haney keeps winning and actually fights opposition in the top 10 — because he hasn’t yet fought anyone top 10 in the lightweight division, along with Gervonta Davis as well.
"The only person who has stepped up [against a top 10 contender], who got dropped in the second round and got back up to win, was Ryan Garcia.
"These guys, they’ve gotta prove something. The same way I had to prove myself to be able to fight Lomachenko for all the belts. There ain’t no handouts. I’m not gonna give them things I had to work so hard for."
You can listen to the entire Teofimo Lopez Jr. interview on Ak & Barak — in which he discusses Floyd Mayweather wanting to fight celebrities, the legacy of Muhammad Ali and more — right now with a DAZN subscription.