Teofimo Lopez wins title, Conlan avenges Olympic defeat
NEW YORK (AP) — Teofimo Lopez got his title and Michael Conlan got his revenge.
Lopez won a lightweight belt with a second-round stoppage of Richard Commey, and Conlan beat Olympic rival Vladimir Nikitin on Saturday night on the undercard of Terence Crawford's welterweight title defense against Egidijus Kavaliauskas at Madison Square Garden.
Lopez (15-0, 12 KOs) was spectacular in his first title fight, wobbling Commey with a left hand early in the second round and then flooring him with a hard right hand. Commey (29-3) had trouble regaining his balance and fell forward, and once he did get up Lopez pounced on him in the corner and unloaded a barrage of punches until referee David Fields stepped in and stopped it at 1:13 of the round.
The New York native who fought for his parents' Honduras in the 2016 Olympics celebrated with his signature back flip before being joined in the ring by Vasiliy Lomachenko, the two-time Olympic gold medalist who Lopez could now meet next year to unify 135-pound titles.
“You all know who I want to fight next. 2020 is going to be a big year," Lopez said.
Lomachenko is considered one of the best boxers in the world but Lopez appears to have the power to stand in with anyone.
“The kid's got dynamite in his hands," promoter Lou DiBella said.
Lomachenko said he wasn't entirely impressed with Lopez, given that the fight only went a couple rounds, though acknowledged that the 22-year-old hits hard.
“He has the power, of course, he has the power, and he's a smart fighter, but it depends on the opponents,” Lomachenko said.
Conlan (13-0, 7 KOs) wanted the match against Nikitin ever since storming out of Rio in a rage after the Russian was given the decision in a quarterfinal fight many observers thought Conlan won. He blasted the international boxing federation for being corrupt and extended his middle finger to the judges at ringside.
He had also lost a close fight to Nikitin in 2013 but the judges saw this one as no contest, giving Conlan a lopsided decision by scores of 100-90, 99-91 and 98-92.
“I needed to right this wrong," Conlan said. “Full credit to Nikitin, who fought his heart out. There’s no bad blood. There was never was. Now, we can put this chapter of my career behind me.”
The Irishman acknowledged that the bout may have been an unnecessary risk. His pro career is much further along than Nikitin's, perhaps with a chance for a title fight in 2020, and a loss to an opponent with a much lighter resume could have knocked that off track.
“It was a lot of pressure going into that fight, but it’s nice to get it done," Conlan said. “I just needed to get that one back.”
The fight seemed closer than the scores indicated, with Nikitin (3-1) continuing to come forward even as Conlan kept trying to catch him with uppercuts. But Conlan was clearly the better fighter in the closing rounds, with Nikitin perhaps wearing down late in his first 10-round fight.
Conlan had a big finish in the eighth round, raising his arms as he walked back to his corner after the bell. He wasn't even finished when he raised them again with about 20 seconds left in the fight.