Lightweight Teofimo Lopez Jr., one of the elite prospects in boxing, has been pleading with his promoter, Top Rank, to step up the level of his competition, and it has agreed to do so.
Lopez will take on the most notable opponent of his career when he fights Mason Menard in a scheduled 10-round fight that will be part of the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN card on Dec. 8 (ESPN and ESPN Deportes at 9 p.m. ET, with preliminary bout streaming on ESPN+ beginning at 6 p.m. ET) at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York, Top Rank announced on Monday.
"The 'Takeover' is coming back to the Mecca of boxing," Lopez said of what will be his fourth fight at Madison Square Garden. "I am going to steal the show once again. It's my night. It's time to finish 2018 with a bang. Expect a big celebration after I stop Mason Menard. I was born in Brooklyn, so you know I have to represent my hometown."
The fight will be one of three televised bouts on the card that will also include the previously announced main event, a lightweight world title unification fight between pound-for-pound king Vasiliy Lomachenko and Jose Pedraza, and a junior featherweight world title defense by Isaac Dogboe against mandatory challenger Emanuel Navarrete.
The 21-year-old Lopez (10-0, 8 KOs), who fights out of Las Vegas and represented his parents' home country of Honduras in the 2016 Olympics, will be fighting for the fourth time this year when he meets Menard in a follow-up to a very impressive sixth-round knockout of William Silva in July.
Menard (34-3, 24 KOs), 30, of Rayne, Louisiana, is 2-2 in his past four fights, with both losses coming by knockout to the best opponents of his career in former lightweight world titlist Raymundo Beltran in December 2016 and top prospect Devin Haney in May. Menard bounced back for a low-level victory on Oct. 13, a six-round decision over sub-.500 opponent Ronald Rivas.
"I am looking forward to fighting Teofimo on Dec. 8. It's been my dream to fight at Madison Square Garden, and the fact that I am being given a chance to perform on Lomachenko's undercard live on ESPN is incredible," Menard said. "I can assure everyone that I will be 100 percent ready, and my performance will lead me to a world title shot."
One of the bouts on the ESPN+ portion of the card is scheduled to be the professional debut of 6-foot-6, 240-pound heavyweight Guido Vianello, 24, a 2016 Olympian for Italy, who recently signed a multiyear contract with Top Rank. He will debut in a scheduled six-round bout against Luke Lyons (5-1-1, 2 KOs), 33, of Ashland, Kentucky.
"I am so happy to be joining Top Rank and to debut at Madison Square Garden on a Lomachenko undercard, which is a dream come true for me," Vianello said. "I will do my country proud. I promise I will bring excitement and knockouts to the heavyweight division and ultimately fulfill my destiny of becoming the heavyweight champion of the world."
Vianello, who is being trained by Abel Sanchez at his camp in Big Bear Lake, California, is one of lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury's sparring partners in Big Bear, where he is training for his Dec. 1 fight with world titlist Deontay Wilder.
The ESPN+ part of the card will also include Oxnard, California-based Russian welterweight Alexander Besputin (11-0, 9 KOs), 27, a potential opponent for world titlist Terence Crawford, against Juan Carlos Abreu (21-4-1, 19 KOs), 31, of the Dominican Republic, in a 10-rounder.
There are also two eight-round bouts on the card: Bronx, New York, junior welterweight Josue Vargas (11-1, 7 KOs), 20, who will make his Top Rank debut, against John Renteria (16-5-1, 12 KOs), 26, of Panama, and Newark, New Jersey, lightweight Michael Perez (25-2-2, 11 KOs), 28, who is coming off a 20-month layoff for his first fight since signing with Top Rank, against Abdiel Ramirez (23-3-1, 21 KOs), 27, of Mexico.