Imagine you work at an insurance company collating and sorting accident claims. Also, for the sake of verisimilitude, your name is Ruth and you have what can only be described as “way too many” cats. Now, you’re a bit of a hotshot in the collating department. You’ve done some highlight reel alphabetizing and your stapling game has been described by some bloggers as “electrifying.” You’re clearly on the way up.
Then one day, an unexpectedly difficult collating assignment comes across your desk which is very obviously just four milk crates and an old ironing board you found at the dump. This file has that shitty A4-sized paper and all the staples are rusted shut. You’ve made the job harder on yourself by being hungover but you’re getting it done. I mean, you jammed the printer but you unjammed it too. You’re Ruth god damn it.
Upon completing this admittedly tougher-than-it-should-have-been assignment, you turn it in to the board of directors’ mailslot and put your ear up to the conference room door to hear their reaction.
“FUCKIN’ RUTH WAS EXPOSED!” you hear one say.
“SHE’S DOES FINE WITH SMALLER FILES BUT WE’VE FOUND HER CEILING!” shouts another.
“SHE SPENDS TOO MUCH TIME FUCKIN’ WITH HER CATS AND NOT ENOUGH TIME IN THE FILE ROOM!” a third, much weirder one exclaims.
How would you ever be expected to learn and grow under these conditions? How could you be mentally and physically prepared if and when the Pierson account ever comes in? Yeah, it wasn’t your best performance ever but you sorted the shit out of the files and you came out the other side a better collator. What the fuck, man?
This is the situation Teofimo Lopez now finds himself in after a grueling 12 round decision over the tough-as-gas-station-sushi Masayoshi Nakatani (18-1, 12 KO) at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland on an ESPN+ televised card.
Lopez (14-0, 11 KO) has been dishing out boxing boners to fans since his debut in November of 2016. Viral video knockouts followed by acrobatic celebrations littered the internet as the fighter and his father/trainer, Teofimo Sr, made the rounds on the requisite hype circuit.
Lopez found his way into high profile events like The ESPY’s as his name appeared in the gossip columns next to stories of family drama and soap opera worthy betrayals. Dumb shit, to be sure, but for a 21 year looking to raise his profile in the Instagram era, you couldn’t ask for a better trajectory.
So when Lopez stepped into the ring against Nakatani on Friday night, he did so with the lingering question of not if he would win but how.
The stochastic nature of boxing allows for convenient, post hoc revisions of past assessments, but make no mistake, this was intended to be a showcase for Lopez as he climbed the ladder toward the division’s elite.
It’s tempting to say that someone forgot to tell Nakatani that this was the script but even if they had tried he wouldn’t have heard it. The only thing Nakatani hears or listens to is the screaming voice in his head that tells him to march forward and throw punches until they hit something.
From the opening bell, Nakatani had Lopez second-guessing his desire to jump in and wing shots willy nilly. Like Oscar De La Hoya at swinger’s party, Lopez will always find the holes, because that’s what he does, but again like Oscar, he would pay dearly for attempting to penetrate them.
The first quarter of the fight saw Lopez, left-hand low, setting up his right hand while the longer, taller Nakatani sat outside and countered.
In the 4th, Lopez landed a glancing right hand of Nakatani’s shoulder that sent him to the canvas but it was ruled a slip as there was excessive water on the canvas in Lopez’s corner. I’m not saying Teofimo Lopez Sr. doused the mat with water in an attempt to break his son’s opponent’s ankles but I’m also not not saying he did either. Actually, now I am. I’m totally saying that.
I wouldn’t put it past the elder Lopez to pull some Mr. Fuji shit like that and frankly I’m all for it.
As the rounds wore on, Lopez began finding a more consistent home for his power punches. Nakatani showed no signs of backing off. The fight was certainly closer than the scorecards would later indicate, but Lopez was in control, if only slightly.
Those scorecards, though not reflective of our Earth’s reality, were all rightly tilted in Lopez’s favor at 118-110, 118-110 and 119-109. Far too wide were the scores as Nakatani acquitted himself better than the five total rounds the judges awarded him across three scorecards would stipulate, but at least the right guy won. That’s not a thing that happens as much as it should in this sport.
Asked to assess his performance after the fight, Lopez simply said one word:
It most certainly wasn’t that, though the lack of fireworks left a lot to be desired in the eyes of many fans.
Lopez certainly didn’t overwhelm but he didn’t underwhelm either. Let’s just say he perfectly whelmed and leave it at that.
Young fighters need fights like this and more importantly, they need to win fights like this. Though he’ll take some heat in the coming days and have to answer more questions than he wants to, an experience like this will serve him better than a dozen first-round knockouts ever could.
Just ask Ruth. The newly crowned Intercontinental Stapling Champion of the World.
You go, Ruth.
(Photo by Mikey Williams for Top Rank)