Livescore Tuesday, April 23

The best part of Teofimo Lopez’s Saturday night came long after the fight for the WBO super lightweight world title at The Theater at Madison Square Garden was over. He’d just won a one-sided unanimous decision to take Josh Taylor’s belts following a dark, brooding promotion.

One felt sorry for him watching an interview he did with ESPN. When his father/trainer entered the room, his whole persona changed. When a reporter told him he understood what he’d been through, Lopez interrupted quickly and responded curtly and decisively.

“You have not a clue,” Lopez told ESPN. “You have not a clue of what I’ve seen, what I’ve gone through, and what I’m continuing to walk through. None of y’all.”

After seeing that, anyone who knew him had to have legitimate concern for his well-being. It prompted a serious and not-at-all unreasonable question about whether he should have been allowed to fight at all.

He was talking about killing Taylor. He was talking about wanting to die in the ring. He was showing great angst as he gave a glimpse into his life behind the scenes. One had to wonder whether the New York State Athletic Commission was being derelict in its duties by not stepping in and putting a halt to the fight.

Then, the bell rang Saturday, and it was like 2020 all over again. Lopez was brilliant. He boxed amazingly well. He hit Taylor with thudding punches that rocked the one-time undisputed champion. He controlled the ring from start to finish and he won a decision that was way closer than it ever should have been.

Had Taylor won the 12th round on the cards of Steve Gray and Joseph Pasquale, they would have had the fight a draw. The result would have been a majority draw and Taylor would have kept the belts. That would have been lunacy. Even Taylor understood.

“He was the better man tonight,” Taylor said after the fight.

Lopez went through his post-fight interview in the ring and then gathered his team to pose for the cameras. He took the pictures, turned to his right, looking at someone in the distance and beamed.

That was his best moment of his night because, at least for a while, the pain was gone.

This is a guy who is going through so much. He’s in the midst of a bitter divorce. He’s about to fight for custody of his son, Liam. Asked by a reporter later, “What’s next?” and Lopez said retirement and that he wasn’t being paid enough.

That’s significant because before the fight, he was complaining about his wife potentially getting 50 percent of his money in divorce proceedings.

This is a guy with a lot of pressure on his shoulders and his father, who is his biggest fan but also a major source of his problems, almost seems like he wants to live the fighter’s life for him.

Boxing has kept them close and kept them somewhat within the realm of reality.

There is no excusing Lopez saying, repeatedly, that he wanted to kill Taylor, though to his credit he apologized directly to Taylor for that Saturday.

He seemed to snap back, at least most of the time, to being the happy, gregarious kid who took boxing by storm in both 2017 and 2018 when he was named the Yahoo Sports Prospect of the Year twice.

He was near-perfect in the ring and brought back memories of his glory days, though he’s still only 25 years old. It was the kind of performance he gave in Las Vegas in 2020 when he routed Vasiliy Lomachenko to become undisputed lightweight champion and move high into the pound-for-pound list.

The outcome was never in doubt after a few close early rounds. Lopez was landing hard shots, punched in combination and walked Taylor into shots.

As his father loudly predicted following the weigh-in, he badly outboxed Taylor, who had been the undisputed super lightweight champion before giving up three of the four belts following a controversial win over Jack Catterall last year.

But Taylor was still clearly the man in the division entering the fight and was about a 2-to-1 favorite as all of the late betting money poured in on him.

Before the fight, when he was speaking illogically, clearly showing personal pain about his private life’s problems being laid bare for the world, Lopez showed no signs of performing anywhere near this level, but it was just an indicator of the enormous amount of talent he possesses. If he had a normal personal life and his father didn’t constantly harangue him, who knows what he could be capable of doing? After his last fight, a mediocre win over Sandor Martin, he asked himself if he still had it. Saturday, he showed he does.

“I’m so thankful right now,” Lopez said. “It’s been a long time, a long time coming. We just beat the No. 1 ranked guy, [the] No. 1 champion, lineal world champion, Josh Taylor. [He is] the former undisputed world champion, [so I’m the] two-time undisputed world champion, Teofimo Lopez.”

“I just gotta ask you one thing, and one thing only: Do I still got it?”

He does.

And it was good to see him smile after he realized the answer, as well.

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