Sound For Sound is a recurring column that further explores the relationship of rhythm and boxing by celebrating the music that influences and motivates fighters as they prepare for, and to excel under, the game’s brightest of lights
Said I’ma be a legend soon, shit, I’m a legend now (Legend now)
That’s real shit
Last night hearing “…and the new” came as no surprise to Brooklyn, New York’s 23-year old undisputed Lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez Jr. He filled in the details of the story exactly the way his brash father Teofimo Sr. told the boxing world their fight with pound-for-pound champion Vasiliy Lomachenko would unfold.
The action built slowly inside the MGM Grand Conference Center – the site of Top Rank’s Bubble the past five months – as the fight aired live on ESPN. Lopez fought confidently. He banked the early rounds, behind his jab and steady body work, that soon swelled into an insurmountable lead.
The 32-year old former WBA/WBO/WBC “franchise” champion feinted and cautiously attacked his opponent through the fight’s first half. The first few rounds were understandable, as he hadn’t fought in 14 months. With the pace slowly picking up through the first two rounds of fight’s second half, the Ukrainian’s path to a victory started to fall apart.
After Lomachenko’s effort became the best it was going to get, Lopez’ control of the fight shifted minimally. In fact, in the 12th and final round Lopez came out and firmly left his “The Takeover” stamp on the fight and its outcome. Lopez’ stellar night yielded him a unanimous decision with scores of 119-109, 118-110 and 116-112. A decision for the hard-hitting Brooklyn native was the least predicted outcome.
A day prior to the year’s best fight another upstart from New York, albeit upstate, delivered his latest project to hip hop fans. Buffalo’s Benny The Butcher dropped a highly-anticipated LP, Burden of Proof, with zero assistance from his usual list of go-to producers. Looking to cement himself as one of rap’s most eminent artists, Benny surprisingly enlisted California producer Hit-Boy to handle the duties for all of the project’s 12 tracks.
Hit-Boy’s past collaborators include top-selling artists including Beyoncé, Travis Scott, Chris Brown, Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez. He also helmed noteworthy singles such as “N—as in Paris” for Jay-Z and Kanye West, “Trophies” by Drake, and “Racks In The Middle” featuring Roddy Ricch by Nipsey Hussle. Hit-Boy was the sole producer on veteran emcee Nas’ recently released album King’s Disease.
Lopez targeting and accepting an undisputed championship with Lomachenko was similar to Benny’s objective of teaming with Hit-Boy. The album’s arrival was accompanied by a video for the single “Legend” – another vividly crafted autobiographical record about the earlier life as Jeremie Pennick.
In May 2018 Lopez appeared on the undercard of Lomachenko’s history-making 10th round technical knockout of Jorge Linares at Madison Square Garden. Lomachenko rebounded from a sixth round knockdown to stop Linares. In just a dozen fights he became the fastest fighter ever to be a three-division champion. Lopez also fought on Lomachenko’s MSG card months later in December.
During the buildup to Lomachenko vs Lopez we learned that the genesis of the rivalry between the two camps started at this show. Lopez Sr. told ESPN’s Mark Kriegel that he felt disrespected by Team Lomachenko after he approached them in the hotel at which all of the fighters stayed. Lopez approached Lomachenko to say something. Tensions escalated and a brief shouting match ensued. Lopez warned the Ukrainian two-time Olympic gold medalist and legendary amateur that his young son was coming for his throne.
Similarly, in coming from Buffalo, along with his camp known as Griselda, Benny The Butcher, gradually garnered the attention of rap fans who are generally more familiar with acts from New York City.
Gave my life to the game, had my mama concerned
It made her calm when she saw what I got in return
Broke my flow down, they still can’t describe it in words
And all the work they say they put in, I gotta confirm
Put my hood in diamonds, so you know how my block did it
Gun come with a Carfax, you know who I shot with it
Lopez paid his dues making noise during the preliminary fights of big cards. He built himself into an attraction on the undercards of Lomachenko and WBO Welterweight champion Terence Crawford. His highlight reel knockouts of William Silva, Mason Menard and Diego Magdeleno made Sports Center. The punishing punches preceded celebratory FortNite dances, back-flips, and Heisman poses in Kyler Murray and Joe Burrow jerseys. All of Team Lopez’ hard work culminated in the December 2019 scintillating second round KO of then defending IBF champion Richard Commey.
After the fight Lomachenko entered the ring, and the stage was set for Saturday night’s undisputed Lightweight championship fight.
And I don’t want nothing for free, they didn’t know me then, bet they checkin’ now
The best player gettin’ drafted in the seventh round
I learnеd rules from the streets and wrote thеm lessons down
I know a hundred fifty-five thousand weigh like seven pounds
During ESPN’s two-part behind-the-scenes series Blood, Sweat and Tears, Lopez Sr. casually dismissed Lomachenko’s fighting style – and his father/trainer’s experimental training techniques. In addition to the hotel confrontation that was later revealed more in-depth on fight night, Lopez Sr. quickly became a major part of the fight’s narrative. Like Jay-Z’s American Gangster-inspired single, Sr. definitely became a real-life example of “say hello to the ‘Bad Guy’…”
After Jr.’s career-defining performance Sr.’s standing as one of boxing’s effective head trainers experienced the same transformative moment after Super Bowl wins by long-time NFL coaches like the Steelers’ Bill Cowher. The Rams’ Dick Vermeil. Or, the Chiefs’ Andy Reid just last year.
Yo, fifty thousand in the drawer, at the W with some b—-es
And every time I score, it’s a W for the villains
I’m somewhere in the hood, elbow rubbin’ with all the dealers
Sayin’, “Because of you, we ain’t been this comfortable in a minute”
I beat a lot of charges, this money, you gotta pardon
I’m a boss, so my hoes too bougie for Olive Garden
Lopez Sr. answered questions at the post-fight press conference while his son received stitches and changed into a suit and tie. He responded to questions from the media like the polished chief second of an undefeated undisputed champion – the only such current male fighter in boxing. His “I told you so!” and “Look, I know what my son can do.” remarks hit totally different, especially now that they couldn’t be questioned and scoffed at by pundits. Him and his son both offered the same short response to questions of a potential rematch with Lomachenko: “For what?”
When Lopez Jr. finally sat down at the microphone he talked through his execution of a highly effective game plan.
“I’m a fighter. I gotta dig in deep. I knew he was coming. I didn’t know if they had him up on the scorecards or not, and I love to fight. I can bang, too. I don’t care, man. I’ll take one to give one. That’s what a true champion does. I find a way to win.
“You just gotta keep pressuring him, press the gas, stick the jab and don’t really give him that opportunity to set up. Every time he did want to throw, I had something ready for him.”
The young champion ended the press conference after detailing his disappointing experience with USA Boxing. His stint involved with the process ended with him representing Honduras, the native land of his parents, at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.
He spoke on his climb up the professional ranks while stealing the show on the aforementioned undercards. Moreover, his sentiments hinted at his thoughts of handling the promotional duties of the fight with Lomachenko – a former champion whose first language is Russian.
Lastly, Lopez reiterated his father’s future outlook, stating that they will likely move on to the 140-pound division. Young Lopez took shots at the questionable upcoming opponents of his undefeated peers Gervonta Davis and Devin Haney. Haney faces previous Davis opponent Yuriorkis Gamboa in a few weeks when he will defend the division’s WBC title for which he never defeated anybody to claim. No need in delving into the WBC “franchise” title Lopez won from Lomachenko.
The major headline is Super Lightweight is a loaded division. Lopez’ move into that group of world class fighters creates the potential for a number of excellent fights. Lopez’ history-making victory closed the book on one great rivalry, and Team Lopez’ “The Takeover” campaign rapidly moves towards a second faze. The media must now scramble to create the next set of expectations for the father and son team.
Now we gettin’ caught by them TMZ cameras
Barely made it, we succeeded with the least chances
My team got a will strong enough to beat cancer
Master’s in dope, before that, I had a Bachelor’s in coke
I’m like Ali, I fight better with my back on the ropes
Lopez started the night as a champion. He fought brilliantly to become a rare undisputed champion – the Lightweight division’s first. The feat instantly makes the kid a legend. Normally that feat shouldn’t seem that easily achievable. However, it is when fighters indisputably dare to be great, and make moves that embody the popular saying of “all gas, no brakes.”
Benny The Butcher’s Burden of Proof has barely made its way into this writer’s music rotation. Mostly because it dropped during the fight week of boxing’s biggest bout of 2020. Okay, the biggest fight since the pandemic. “Legend” is a really dope record, and the Conway the Machine and Westside Gunn assisted single “War Paint” delivers in the way that only the Griselda family can. And, Lil Wayne reminded this writer why he’s so highly ranked by most hip hop fans with his one-punch KO verse on “Timeless”, a record that also features Big Sean. Other features such as MMG bawse Rick Ross and Freddie Gibbs are perfect reminders that this S4S needs to be ended right here. There’s dope music that needs to be reviewed on PMNM!
All photos by Mikey Williams/Top Rank
Benny The Butcher. “Legend.” Burden of Proof, Griselda, 2020.