NEW YORK — Lightweight Teofimo Lopez Jr., the 2018 ESPN prospect of the year, has become a contender, and he showed it Saturday night.
Lopez scored a one-punch, body-shot knockout of former world title challenger and former two-time European champion Edis Tatli in the fifth round of the co-feature of the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN PPV card headlined by Terence Crawford-Amir Khan on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
“I didn’t have the best camp, but I did what I needed to do and came out victorious,” said Lopez, who plans to get married next week. “I knew I was going to get him with a body shot. I softened him up and finished him. The takeover is here, man.”
Lopez let some combinations go in the second round, landing a right and left to force Tatli back. Tatli shook his head as though he was not hurt, but the punches landed solidly.
Las Vegas resident and New York native Lopez (13-0, 11 KOs), 21, a 2016 Olympian for his parents’ country of Honduras, began to connect more cleanly in the fourth round. He landed combinations and had Tatli in some trouble and looking to hold on.
In the fifth round, Lopez continued to press forward and then landed a right hand to the body that did damage. Tatli went down to one knee with a grimace on his face and took the full count from referee Rom Lipton at 1 minute, 32 seconds.
Lopez, who will return in July in a main event, has been calling out unified lightweight world champion Vasiliy Lomachenko (13-1, 10 KOs), who retained his belts last week. It’s just a matter of whether Lomachenko and their promoter, Top Rank, want to make the match. But before that bout has a serious chance of being made, Lopez probably will have to win a world title first, which is exactly what he wants.
“I want a world title shot next. That’s what I want. We promised to take over the show, and once again, I took it over,” Lopez said. “I’m ready for [world titlist] Richard Commey or the [potentially vacant] WBC title. As long as it’s for a title, I am ready to go. No one can take my power.”
Tatli (31-3, 10 KOs), 31, of Finland, had never been stopped in his previous defeats, which included a lightweight world title bout against Richar Abril in 2014.
Stevenson routs Diaz
Shakur Stevenson earns a dominant decision victory vs. Christopher Diaz to improve to 11-0. Watch the full replay on ESPN PPV.
Featherweight Shakur Stevenson, a 2016 U.S. Olympic silver medalist and one of boxing’s best prospects, has been pushing Top Rank to match him with tougher opposition because he has no interest in a long apprenticeship before fighting in major fights for world titles.
So the company, while admitting it was a bit nervous, dramatically stepped up his opposition by matching him with former junior lightweight world title challenger Christopher “Pitufo” Diaz, who had returned to featherweight late last year. No nerves were necessary, because Stevenson dominated Diaz en route to a lopsided decision: 100-90, 99-91 and 98-92. ESPN also had it 100-90 for Stevenson.
“I take nothing away from Christopher Diaz. He’s a great fighter, but I came in there to outbox him, and that’s exactly what I did,” Stevenson said.
Stevenson’s speed advantage was evident from the outset and he was much quicker getting off his punches. Stevenson (11-0, 6 KOs), 21, a southpaw, let the punches fly in the third round, nailing Diaz (24-2, 16 KOs), 24, of Puerto Rico, with quick jabs and straight right hands before he seemed to know what hit him. He did more of the same round after round against Diaz, who could not get much offense going at all and who was getting hit with everything.
According to CompuBox, Stevenson landed 165 of 445 punches (37 percent) and Diaz landed only 76 of 345 (22 percent).
Stevenson is facing a battery charge in Miami in connection with a parking-garage brawl, but if that situation is cleared up in the coming months, he could return to fight in his hometown of Newark, New Jersey, for the first time as a professional on the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN card July 13. Stevenson won’t get a title fight next, but he’s pushing Top Rank for one.
“Listen, I want all the champions at 126 pounds. Josh Warrington is someone I want to fight. I am ready,” Stevenson said.
Verdejo outpoints Vasquez
Felix Verdejo dominates his bout vs. Bryan Vasquez at Madison Square Garden. Watch the full replay on ESPN PPV.
Puerto Rican lightweight Felix Verdejo, the 2014 ESPN prospect of the year, has not lived up to the high expectations and was looking to regain some of his stature against former two-time interim junior lightweight titlist Bryan Vasquez in the pay-per-view opener.
He did just that in a unanimous-decision victory against Vasquez, the best opponent of his career. Verdejo won 98-92, 97-93 and 97-93.
“It was an honor for me to get a big victory in front of my fans at Madison Square Garden,” Verdejo said. “I defeated a great fighter in Vasquez. I worked hard for this fight. The jab and body punches were key.”
Verdejo’s jab was indeed strong and Vasquez (37-4, 20 KOs) had a hard time getting past it with anything meaningful. Verdejo suffered a cut under his left eye in the fourth round, but it was unclear if it was from a punch or a head clash.
In the fifth round, Verdejo (25-1, 16 KOs), 25, a 2012 Puerto Rican Olympian, landed a hard right hand to the head and also worked the body as he forced Vasquez, 31, of Costa Rica, to the ropes. Later in the round he landed a wicked body shot and a right hand to the head at the bell. A right hand in the seventh round sent Vasquez into the ropes, but he responded well and appeared to win the rest of the round as he landed several solid jabs.
Verdejo had a very good ninth round, seemingly finding a second wind and landing his overhand right repeatedly.
Verdejo, who has battled injuries and questions about his commitment to training, won his second fight in a row since suffering a major upset loss to Antonio Lozada by 10th-round knockout 13 months ago.
“I’m going to keep working harder and harder to get even better,” Verdejo said. “I am looking for a world title opportunity soon.”
Adames demolishes Galarza
Junior middleweight Carlos Adames took Frank Galarza apart in a powerful fourth-round knockout. “This was a message to all of the 154-pounders. I want to face all the best,” Adames said. “I’m coming hungry, and I’m determined to fight for a world title by the end of the year. I don’t care who has a title. I want it.”
Adames (17-0, 14 KOs), 24, of the Dominican Republic, who signed with Top Rank last year after first coming to the attention of company officials after giving Crawford quality sparring, dominated the fight, which was his first under the tutelage of renowned trainer Robert Garcia.
“I believe Robert Garcia will get the most out of me,” Adames said. “I felt great with him. He told me I was winning the fight, and he told me to pressure him because he was ready to go.”
Adames, who looked much bigger than Galarza, threw an assortment of power punches throughout the fight to force Galarza back. In the fourth round, he caught Galarza flush with a left hook that dropped him to his rear end against the ropes about 30 seconds into the round. He beat the count, but Adames was all over him. He unloaded numerous unanswered punches, including an overhand right that rocked him. As Adames continued to fire with abandon, referee Benjy Esteves stepped in to stop the fight at 1 minute, 7 seconds.
Galarza (20-3-2, 12 KOs), 33, of Brooklyn, New York, saw a three-fight winning streak come to a violent end. His only previous defeats had been to unified world titleholder Jarrett Hurd — before he won his belts — and former world titlist Ishe Smith in consecutive fights in 2015 and 2016.
Berlanga stops Barbosa in Round 1
Puerto Rican middleweight Edgar Berlanga (10-0, 10 KOs), 21, of Brooklyn, New York, continued his streak of winning all of his fights by first-round knockout as he stopped Samir Barbosa (37-16-3, 26 KOs), 38, of Brazil, in the opening frame of their scheduled eight-rounder. It was Berlanga’s first fight since signing with Top Rank, and he was impressive blasting through Barbosa in just 46 seconds. Berlanga had Barbosa reeling from a series of punches, but when he badly rocked him with a straight right hand along the ropes, referee Eddie Claudio stepped in and waved off the fight.
“I know this will open up a lot of opportunities for me,” Berlanga said. “I want to make my people from Brooklyn and Puerto Rico proud.”
Fryers dominates Polley
Junior welterweight Larry Fryers (10-1, 3 KOs), 28, an Ireland native fighting out of New York, won a grueling shutout decision over Dakota Polley (5-3, 2 KOs), 20, of St. Joseph, Missouri. Fryers won 60-53 on all three scorecards. Polley lost a point for holding in the sixth round. It was an action fight during which Fryers’ right eye turned black and blue and was a swollen mess. Polley looked worse for the wear also after suffering a cut over his right eye from an accidental head-butt in the fifth round.
Krishan wins big
Junior middleweight Vikas “The Indian Tank” Krishan (2-0, 1 KO), a two-time Olympian from India, won a lopsided decision over Noah Kidd (3-2-1, 2 KOs) that appeared much tougher than the scorecards indicated. He won 60-54, 60-54 and 59-55 but got touched with a lot of clean shots. The most decorated amateur boxer in Indian history, Krishan, 27, signed with Top Rank last fall and won his pro debut by first-round knockout Jan. 18. But Kidd, 23, of Jefferson City, Missouri, took him the distance and gave him a very tough fight, including opening a cut over his right eye in the fifth round.
Newton defeats Garza by unanimous decision
Bantamweight Lawrence Newton (12-0, 7 KOs), 22, of Boynton Beach, Florida, who is a stablemate of Crawford’s and also trained by Brian McIntyre, routed hard-charging Jonathan Garza (7-3, 2 KOs), 22, of Lawrenceville, Georgia, on Saturday. Newton won 60-54, 59-55 and 59-55.