It was not convincing, nor was it very spectacular, and to some controversial, but in the end, junior welterweight contender Teofimo Lopez (18-1, 13 KOs) defeated Sandor Martin (40-3, 13 KOs) by split decision at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night in a 10-round final eliminator for the WBC crown.
One judge had the bout 95-94 for Martin, while two others had it interestingly wide at 96-93 and 97-92 for Lopez.
Martin took the fight on three weeks’ notice after Jose Pedraza withdrew from the fight due to illness; many said Martin, who beat Mikey Garcia, would be a more challenging test for Lopez, and they were probably right.
Unfortunately for Martin, his nose was bloodied after an accidental clash of heads in the first round. However, while the nose was bothering him, he overcame that issue. Throughout the fight, Martin used a check right hook that kept the more aggressive Lopez honest, and that check hook found a home in the second round, which dropped Lopez. It was a flash knockdown, and Lopez was not really hurt.
Lopez then spent the rest of the fight trying to attack Martin and counter him when he committed to his punches. However, that check hook landed hard in the seventh, and it appeared to have knocked Lopez down again, but the referee ruled it a slip.
Again, Lopez appeared to be the aggressor, and according to Compubox, Lopez(97/391) threw more punches and outlanded Martin(77/244).
According to Lopez, Martin did too much running.
“It’s so hard to fight somebody like this when they’re running the whole time,” Lopez said. “Every time this guy committed, I countered and got him every time. He just ran the whole time… I apologize to everybody tonight. This is not how we perform. But, listen, our dancer partner was running the whole time…
“This makes it look good. These guys are going to want to fight me now. More than ever. Now, this is great. Now I can actually have a good fight.”
Martin was not happy with the judges.
“I won this fight clearly,” he said. For one judge, I only won two rounds? Really? There were two knockdowns. The referee didn’t count one of the knockdowns. He missed all of his punches. That’s a masterclass of boxing. That’s a robbery. But that’s the sport of boxing.”
Lopez would love to fight the top guys at 140 and is even open to a rematch with George Kambosos, who gave Lopez his only loss.
“We would love to fight Josh Taylor,” Lopez said. “We would love to fight Regis Prograis. Or even a rematch with George Kambosos. My whole thing now is just staying focused and staying devoted.”
After the fight, Lopez was caught in his corner asking others if he still had it, which is not a good sign. Lopez has a lot of ability but may have to do different things in his corner with father/trainer Teofimo Lopez Sr. However, even with a change in his corner, wondering how he would stack up against the top guys at 140.
Lopez may have to do some soul-searching before he takes on his next challenge.
Photo: Mikey Williams / Top Rank via Getty Images