Sports

How Teofimo Lopez Jr. can get back on track against Pedro Campa

Teofimo Lopez Jr. returns to the ring on Saturday to take on Pedro Campa in his first bout since losing his lightweight titles to Geroge Kambosos last November. The fight headlines a Top Rank on ESPN card at the Resorts World Las Vegas on Saturday (ESPN, ESPN+, 10 p.m. ET with prelims at 6:35 p.m. ET on ESPN+).

Lopez (16-1, 12 KOs), who suffered the first defeat of his career by split decision to Kambosos, is moving up in weight and will make his debut at 140 pounds. With two of the junior welterweight world titles vacant (Josh Taylor currently holds the other two), there’s plenty on the line for the winner.

Campa (34-1-1, 23 KOs), hasn’t lost in almost five years and is riding an eight-fight unbeaten streak. In his most recent performance in March, Campa defeated Carlos Sanchez Valadez by third-round TKO. This will be Campa’s first fight outside of his home country of Mexico.

Can Lopez get back to the dominance he displayed before losing to Kambosos? Can he score an impressive victory to help him move to the top of his new division? Or will Campa take down Lopez and score an upset victory?

Two-division champion and current ESPN boxing analyst Timothy Bradley Jr. breaks down the lightweight matchup and picks the winner.


The backstory:

This is a confident-booster kind of fight for Lopez. Anytime you come back from a loss, especially a devastating loss – like the one Lopez suffered against Kambosos — you want to rebuild the fighter’s confidence. You want to match him against someone that can give him the right amount of resistance to where he can feel some competition — nothing too drastic — and put him in a position for a knockout win or simply a dominating performance.

We know Lopez has tons of skill, tons of ability, but when your confidence is gone it is really difficult as a fighter to really deliver a great performance at the highest level. You are only as good as your confidence takes you.


What does Lopez need to do on Saturday?

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Tim Bradley explains why he expects Teofimo Lopez to win by knockout in his next bout against Pedro Campa.

Lopez is young. He is maturing every single day and his body is growing, getting more dense. He’s training hard and building more muscle, so it’s a perfect time to go up to 140 pounds. I believe he should have gone up last year, but he sacrificed as much as he could, due to the possibility of a fight with Kambosos at 135 pounds. Some boxing analysts would say this is a “trap fight” for Lopez because he could be taking Campa lightly, thinking Campa is not at his level. But Teofimo has a lot to prove, so I don’t think he’s going to overlook Campa at all. Coming off a loss, Lopez understands that he has to look impressive. If I was training Lopez, I’d tell him to be himself and not to rush things. He has enough experience now and he’s been in big fights in his career. I would tell him to take his time, use his jab and let the fight develop on its own. Lopez should stay relaxed. What you see is what you get, and anytime he sees an opening he should fire punches.

Campa is the type of fighter that likes to go forward, so Lopez won’t have to go look for him. Campa struggles at fighting on his back foot, going backwards. He likes to apply the pressure, be in your face — he’s tough. He has a good chin, so he can take a punch and he has some pop on his punches as well.

Skill-wise Lopez is years ahead of Campa. Skill, ability, athleticism, size, strength, power, experience — you name it.


How can Campa have success?

Campa needs a wish and a prayer. The biggest thing for him to overcome is the power of Lopez. A piece of me also says that Lopez was a big fighter at 135, he was bigger than a lot of the guys in that division. Because of that, his power was one of the things that set him apart, speed and power and his ability to switch as well. At 140, I wonder if his power carries up with him because he’s not going to be the bigger guy of the bunch anymore. If his power does carry up, Campa is going to be in trouble.

Campa is going to wish that Lopez is not mentally in the fight. If Campa comes out fast and catches Lopez early, catches him cold, he could get a result that way or even stop Lopez. But as far as what I see on film, Campa is tailor-made for Lopez’s style.

Lopez fights off some kind of Philly shell, depending heavily on the shoulder roll where your lead hand is down, while your right hand is up, covering the face. The left shoulder blocks the right hand punches, while the right hand, back hand blocks the jab. You are basically setting up to throw your punches. It’s pretty much a counter punch, a way to get your opponent to commit so you can land a laser-fast counterpunch. It’s a defensive system that Floyd Mayweather used a lot, James Toney also used it heavily. If Lopez uses that shoulder roll, that will create opportunities to use his right uppercut, which is his forte. Those punches will be available for him all night.

Campa leans forward over his front knee. He falls in when he jabs, and when he tries to get out he’s a little too late. He tries to exit, to the distance where he can’t get countered, but the problem is that his footwork is terrible. When he steps in with his lead foot, as he lands, he is on his heels. He goes heel, toe, heel, toe. When you move like that, you try to push back and you are about two seconds late every time you try to get away. That’s not good against a fast guy like Lopez. Campa will definitely be off balance. Campa also drops his back hand as well, so I see Lopez having success with his left hook. I think Lopez can have a lot of fun in this fight and really showcase his talent, because Campa is going to give him opportunities to land vicious power shots.


The best punch for Lopez

The right uppercut. If he is going to KO Campa, it’s going to be with the uppercut or the left hook, but I’m leaning towards the uppercut. I say that because Campa leans over that front knee and Lopez loves guys that do that, especially when they jab and they fall in afterwards. Lopez is going to be waiting on that, use the shoulder roll then land the uppercut right down the middle.


The best punch for Campa

If Campa is going to land something with success, it’s the right hand. He has a good right hand and Lopez leaves himself open to get hit with right hands. I mentioned Lopez uses the Philly shell and the shoulder roll, and while he uses it well, there are some deficiencies in that system, especially when you make mistakes. Technique-wise, sometimes Lopez will do the roll at the wrong time, he would be too close and won’t get that shoulder high enough, so he can be caught with right hands. If Campa, who is training with one of the sport’s top trainers in Manny Robles, is going to have success he’s going to have to make major changes to his fighting style. I see counter punchers give Lopez problems, so Campa has to be a very good counter puncher, but he’s a little slow. Kambosos was successful against Lopez because he is a lot quicker on the trigger. Lopez has problems with counter punchers, but this is based mostly on his last fight. Vasiliy Lomachenko is a very aggressive fighter, he likes to fight at midrange and Lopez likes that as well. He likes when opponents let their hands go because that creates opportunities to use his speed and power to land his offense.


A lot on the line for the winner

With a victory, Lopez could easily move to the front of the line for a title shot at 140 pounds. This is a guy that already fought for multiple championships. You have guys like Arnold Barboza Jr., Subriel Matias, Gary Antuanne Russell and other contenders like Regis Prograis in that division, but Lopez, with his status in boxing, if he looks impressive against Campa, he can move up that ladder to one of the No. 1 spots.


X-factor:

Of course it’s going to be about talent and skill, but the fight is going to boil down Lopez’s mental preparation and toughness in this fight. Is he focused after his first loss? Everything has to line up. You can’t go in there physically ready but not mentally ready. I don’t care how physically strong you are or how much you trained. If you are not mentally ready, there’s a great chance you are going to get beat up. As for Campa, if enters the ring with the mentality of, ‘I’m not going anywhere, you can hit me with anything you want but I’m going to eat it and keep coming’, then he can pull off a win. He has to try to make Lopez rush things and make mistakes.

Prediction: Lopez finishes the fight before the sixth round. He’s been out of the ring for a while, so he’s going to take his time — and may need to depending on how aggressive Campa comes out. If Campa doesn’t start aggressive, then Lopez can finish the fight earlier. I see a KO win with an uppercut or a right hand.

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