NEW YORK -- Teofimo Lopez reminded the boxing world he's still an elite fighter with a vintage performance on Saturday, a dominant unanimous decision victory over Josh Taylor to capture the WBO and lineal junior welterweight championship at The Theater at Madison Square Garden.
The scores were 115-113, 117-111 and 115-113 for Lopez, who became a two-division champion at 25 years old. Lopez was nearly a 2-1 underdog after three consecutive lackluster performances, including a defeat to George Kambosos in ESPN's Upset of the Year in 2021 when Lopez lost his four lightweight titles.
In December, Lopez (19-1, 13 KOs) was caught on camera asking his father and trainer, Teofimo Lopez Sr., "Do I still got it?" following a controversial decision win over Sandor Martin.
But now, Lopez is once again back on top amid the chaos. During an ESPN feature interview in the lead-up to this fight with Taylor, Lopez engaged in a heated argument with his father and talked openly about a custody battle for his son.
The son of immigrants from Honduras, Lopez vowed to not allow it all to distract him, and he delivered in spectacular fashion.
"I questioned myself for a good reason," said Lopez, who entered the bout rated No. 10 by ESPN at 140 pounds. "You guys don't understand. I've always been my worst critic. And you guys got a little glimpse of it. But I've just got to ask you one thing, and one thing only: Do I still got it?"
Undoubtedly, Lopez does after becoming champion in a second weight class with a one-sided beating of a top-tier fighter. The bout was competitive for three rounds, before Lopez took over. His far more explosive shots consistently beat Taylor to the punch and disrupted the longtime champion's rhythm.
Lopez, who fights out of Las Vegas, first buckled Taylor in Round 2. Two rounds later, Lopez was brimming with more and more confidence with each power shot that landed, the sort of boxing display he hasn't delivered since he upset Vasiliy Lomachenko in October 2020 to become the lineal champion at 135 pounds.
By the fifth round, Lopez had firmly found his groove. Both of Taylor's eyes were swelling up, the result of those damaging precision punches that came from varying ranges. There appeared to be little Lopez couldn't do in there.
Taylor (19-1, 13 KOs) refused to back away from the exchanges, but it didn't matter. Lopez was simply too good.
"Josh Taylor is a tough dude," Lopez said. "I can see why he beat so many fighters. But you've got to counter the counterpuncher. You've got to outsmart the man and get in there."
Lopez was cruising in Round 8, unloading lefts and rights while Taylor, 32, searched for a fight-altering punch that never materialized. Lopez sent Taylor reeling into the ropes in the final moments of Round 9 and never let up. Lopez played to the crowd, taunting the Scottish boxer when he missed with wild shots before making Taylor pay.
Lopez pushed for the finish in the championship rounds but settled for doling out more punishment. He stunned Taylor several more times over the final six minutes of the fight, leaving no doubt who's the ruler of the 140-pound division.
"This was about fixing what we needed to," Lopez said.
As Taylor said, "The better man won tonight. I've got no excuses. I fought to the best of my ability. ... The layoff had nothing to do with it. ... I think probably will be moving up to welterweight now."
The defeat was the first of Taylor's career and ended a championship run that began in May 2019, when he outpointed Ivan Baranchyk to capture the IBF title. Taylor unified titles in his next fight, a majority decision victory over Regis Prograis in London.
Two fights later, Taylor crashed the pound-for-pound list when he floored Jose Ramirez twice in a unanimous decision win in May 2021 to become the undisputed junior welterweight champion. That would be the pinnacle of Taylor's career to this point.
He eked past Jack Catterall in February 2022 for a controversial decision win before desperately pursuing a rematch to set the record straight. In the process, Taylor was forced to relinquish three of his four belts to avoid mandatory obligations, splintering the titles, but there was no doubt he remained the champion of the junior welterweight division.
The rematch with Catterall was scheduled for March following several postponements, but a torn plantar fascia for Taylor scrapped the fight. That's when Taylor turned his attention to Lopez, a matchup that was brewing for years.
Lopez vowed to kill Taylor in the ring. In turn, Taylor told ESPN on Thursday that he would punish Lopez for remarks he found "completely distasteful" and promised to inflict "facial reconstruction" on the challenger.
"I think I let my emotions get the best of me," Lopez told Taylor in the ring after Saturday night's fight. "I do not want to take your life. I want to you to go back to your family. I apologize as a man."
Now, Lopez said his "next battle is in court for my son," as he continues with divorce proceedings.
"I'm not really focused on who I'm going to fight next," he said.
Lopez offhandedly claimed he would retire and said, "I'm not getting paid enough. A million dollars? Get the f--- out of here."
No matter what he says, there's no question: Lopez is back on top. A special fighter with power in both hands, Lopez seems to be at his best when his back is against the wall. No matter whom he fights next, those who doubted him will have to think twice about doing so again.
"It's been a long time coming," Lopez said. "We just beat the No. 1 guy."