Teofimo Lopez looked ahead to his 2021 schedule to namecheck Devin Haney as just one of his planned opponents for the year.
After starting off as the underdog ahead of his fight with Vasyl Lomachenko in 2020, Lopez is now the pre-eminent fighter in his division. The American fighter has already noticed a change in those around him.
“I get that respect. People tell me I'm a bad man,” he said in an interview with ESPN.
“What I did is something that isn't easy to do against a pound-for-pound fighter like Lomachenko, but we made it look easy. It's definitely been different. I definitely have seen a lot more fans, a lot more people coming out and a lot more from crowds. It's good to see that from all my accomplishments. Now it's time to progress and grow. Canelo [Alvarez], he came to me after his fight [against Callum Smith] and congratulated me. We had a sit-down; he invited me to the gym. So it was great to do that and become 2020 fighter of the year."
With Devin Haney, Ryan Garcia and Gervonta "Tank" Davis, there is no shortage of young talent in the lightweight division, and Lopez is keen to make serious fights rather than avoid the main contenders.
“You got to take risks,” he explained.
“If you believe in yourself, you got to go for it. And look what happened: I became undisputed world champ at 23 years old; that motivated and pushed all the other fighters in that new generation. We're paving the way: The 0 and that stuff doesn't matter; it's all about making fights for the fans.”
Asked for his plans for the year, the 23-year-old champion listed the big names as his targets.
“Devin Haney first. Then Garcia or Tank, probably at 140,” he began.
“And Josh Taylor-Jose Ramirez winner at 140. The winner of that fight becomes undisputed at that weight division, and I'm trying to go back-to-back [being undisputed] at 135 and 140. It's never been done before, and that's what I love. I love doing things that have never been done before.”
Despite planning Haney as his next fight, Lopez acknowledged that he would honour the mandatory challenge from the IBF nominee George Kambosos Jr.
“I have to pay my respect to Kambosos,” he said.
“He fought his way up, the same way I had to fight my way up to be IBF lightweight world champion before I got to the point where I fought Vasiliy Lomachenko. I'll deal with that process first, negotiate, see what happens, and if they agree with all the terms, that will have to be the guy. It's not because it's who I want but because it's my mandatory... I'm a true champion. I'm not letting go of any belts. So if that's what it takes, that's what it's got to take.”
Lopez vs. Kambosos is provisionally scheduled by Top Rank to be held on June 12, though details are yet to be confirmed.