Lopez subsequently revealed he had been trying to manage tumult in his personal life throughout training camp, leaving him distracted and unable to reach the peak physical condition that had contributed to knockouts in each of his previous five bouts, none of which went beyond seven rounds.
“I was dealing with so much stuff during that time,” Lopez said in a telephone interview last week, declining to go into details. “From that point on, we just learned and we just figured out more things. We ended up becoming more structured as a team. … Our biggest key in everything I needed was structure.”
Fifteen months later, Lopez (15-0, 12 knockouts) is back on his original trajectory as he approaches the most significant match of his career. He faces Vasiliy Lomachenko in a 135-pound unification main event Saturday night in the fan-free boxing bubble at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
At stake will be Lopez’s International Boxing Federation title as well as Lomachenko’s World Boxing Association and World Boxing Organization championship belts. Lomachenko also is the World Boxing Council “franchise” champion, a special designation that does not come with a belt.
Championship straps notwithstanding, a victory undoubtedly would boost Lopez’s profile considerably, given Lomachenko (14-1, 10 KOs) is ranked the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world by ESPN and second by Ring magazine behind Canelo Alvarez.
Following a pre-fight blueprint since turning professional four years ago, Lopez, 23, has unleashed a verbal assault on Lomachenko, 32, boldly predicting a knockout of the Ukrainian southpaw while calling the ESPN-televised bout personal.
Lopez has become somewhat of a viral sensation for his post-fight celebrations, which have included a dance from the wildly popular video game “Fortnite” and donning the jersey of Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks, executing a backflip and striking the Heisman pose.
A straight right crumpled Commey to the canvas in the second round, and referee David Fields stopped the proceedings at 1:13 after Lopez repeatedly landed blows moments later against a defenseless opponent who had staggered into the ropes.
“There’s no such thing as overly confident,” Lopez said. “Honestly, you are what you say you are. If you believe you’re the best, you’ve got to show it out there and do it every time, and that’s what I’m willing to do and going to do each and every time.”
The thorough dismantling of Commey served as Lopez’s first bout after that inglorious night in Oxon Hill when he unexpectedly went the distance against unheralded challenger Masayoshi Nakatani, a prohibitive underdog fighting in the United States for the first time.
Among the changes for Lopez in the aftermath was hiring a nutritionist. His diet these days includes more leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables. He also pays more attention to hydration, allowing him to maximize his training regimen.
He moved his training camp to Flemington, N.J., and has added trainer Joey Gamache to his team to go with outspoken head trainer and father Teofimo Lopez Sr., known affectionately as “Junior.” Gamache worked with Lomachenko for several fights early in his career.
“It’s a lesson learned,” the younger Lopez said of moving on from the Nakatani bout. “It helped for the better. It was something that I needed. Mentally when I came into my next fight, which was Richard Commey, the world champion, all I thought about was myself.
“The only person that’s really going to take care of me is going to be me. I’m in that ring. Put all the BS to the side.”