Lightweight star Teofimo Lopez Jr., focused on keeping all five of his lightweight titles, is beginning to gear up for his next fight.
Mandatory IBF challenger George Kambosos Jr. is the front-runner to fight Lopez next, in a bout that would likely take place in the early spring in the United States, sources told ESPN.
Top Rank, which manages Lopez, is negotiating with Kambosos' team on a deal. There was early talk of this fight being in Kambosos' homeland of Australia, where there could be a larger crowd, but the intention now. according to sources, is for the bout to take place in the U.S. due to COVID-19 restrictions and quarantine requirements in Australia, among other things. New York has been mentioned as an early location option.
Kambosos (19-0, 10 KOs) became the IBF mandatory challenger after defeating Lee Selby by split decision in October.
Lopez, 23, is coming off the biggest win of any boxer in 2020, defeating former ESPN No.1 pound-for-pound fighter Vasiliy Lomachenko in October to win the IBF, WBO, WBA, WBC franchise and The Ring magazine titles. He's the supreme belt holder in an extremely exciting lightweight division that also features young undefeated stars Ryan Garcia, Gervonta "Tank" Davis and Devin Haney.
Lopez told ESPN his ideal plan for 2021 is fighting Haney at lightweight before moving up to the junior welterweight division to face the winner of the May 8 Jose Ramirez-Josh Taylor undisputed title bout. That could still be in store as the year goes on, but he knows Kambosos is likely next.
"The only thing that is holding it up is my mandatory. I have to pay my respect to that guy. He fought his way up, the same way I had to fight my way up to be IBF lightweight world champion before I got to the point where I fought Vasiliy Lomachenko," Lopez told ESPN. "I'll deal with that process first, negotiate, see what happens, and if they agree with all the terms, that will have to be the guy. It's not because it's who I want but because it's my mandatory. A lot of people say I'm ducking a lot of people, but I'm not. I got to go through the process -- that's just part of the game. If things go south, Devin Haney is the next guy, and hopefully we can make that fight happen without him trying to overprice himself."
"I'm a true champion. I'm not letting go of any of my belts."
If Kambosos' team doesn't agree to a deal this week, the IBF will send a letter for a purse bid Saturday. Approximately a week and a half after the letter is sent, a purse bid would be set to lock in the pay structure of a fight. If Kambosos still doesn't accept the purse bid deal, Lopez and Top Rank will seek to move on to other, more appealing options.
Coming off a banner year in which he was named Fighter of the Year by multiple outlets, Lopez plans to continue to be in big 50-50 bouts and add to his large collection of titles.
Lopez told ESPN he is at about 70% coming off foot surgery after the Lomachenko fight. He shed a walking boot and has begun running. He plans to get back into the ring by the end of the month and expects to be 100% by his next fight date, which is currently expected to be in late April or May.