Teofimo Lopez tops Jamaine Ortiz, retains title despite boos

LAS VEGAS — Teofimo Lopez strutted his way to the ring Thursday night accompanied by a sword eater and other circus acts as he channeled Hugh Jackman’s “The Greatest Showman” complete with top hat and ringmaster robe.

He was anything but in an uneventful junior welterweight title defense against Jamaine Ortiz, a unanimous-decision victory for Lopez that elicited constant boos from the Mandalay Bay crowd.

Lopez (20-1, 13 KOs) prevailed via scores of 117-111, 115-113 and 115-113. And while he retained his WBO title at 140 pounds, he failed to put on a show and was frustrated once again by a slick southpaw boxer.

“These fighters don’t want to come and fight,” said Lopez, ESPN’s No. 1 junior welterweight. “If you ain’t ready for this life, get the f— out of my sport. I am a champion. I bleed for this and I sweat for this and I cry for this. Every time.”

Neither boxer landed many shots — 78 for Lopez and 80 for Ortiz. Ortiz’s rangy jab gave Lopez fits, and each time the champion closed the distance, Ortiz (17-2-1, 8 KOs) would reset and refused to engage. The strategy was effective even if it wasn’t aesthetically pleasing.

Although Ortiz didn’t want to exchange, Lopez didn’t do himself any favors with his own strategy. Lopez mostly threw one punch at a time, followed Ortiz rather than cut off the ring and didn’t target the body.

This wasn’t new territory for Lopez. When he faced Sandor Martin, another slick southpaw, in December 2022, Lopez again failed to cut off the ring and was on the winning end of a disputed decision.

After that fight, Lopez was caught asking his father and trainer: “Do I still got it?”

The answer was a resounding yes after the way he dominated Josh Taylor in June to become a two-division champion. However, Lopez showed Thursday night that he didn’t learn much from the Martin performance; adjustments weren’t made this time around, either.

“It’s not a repeat because I still got it,” Lopez said. “Don’t tell me it’s Sandor Martin Part 2.”

Ortiz, a 27-year-old New Englander, gained recognition when he pushed Vasiliy Lomachenko in a competitive decision loss in October 2022. But just like he did against Lomachenko, Ortiz faded down the stretch.

Lopez swept the final three rounds to pull out the win Thursday. If Ortiz had won one of those three rounds on two of the cards, the fight would have ended in a draw.

“I believe I won the fight,” said Ortiz, ESPN’s No. 8 lightweight, who moved up to 140 pounds for his first title shot. “What can I say, I came out on the short end of the stick once again. He couldn’t hit me. … He wasn’t landing any shots on me. … I always stay true to who I am. … Make some adjustments and come back for another title shot.”

Ortiz suffered a serious cut over his left eye from a clash of heads in Round 7, but his corner was able to quickly keep the bleeding under control. And while his jab and footwork were impressive, there weren’t any moments that stood out to judges.

With Lopez pressing forward, even if it was ineffective aggression, it seemed to win over the judges down the stretch.

The victory nets Lopez his first junior welterweight title defense. One of boxing’s rising stars, Lopez captured the undisputed lightweight championship when he upset Lomachenko in October 2020.

But he lost the titles in his first defense, a decision defeat to George Kambosos in ESPN’s 2021 Upset of the Year.

First appeared on www.espn.com

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