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Teofimo Lopez shocks Josh Taylor to win unanimous decision and become junior welterweight king

It turns out the reports of Teofimo Lopez’s demise were greatly exaggerated.

The former WBA, WBO and IBF lightweight champion has hardly set the world on fire since moving up to the junior welterweight division a year ago. A rudimentary seventh-round knockout of limited Mexican Pedro Campa last August was followed by a lacklustre showing against Spaniard Sandor Martin in December, when he had to settle for a 10-round split decision victory.

After that fight he was caught on a hot mic asking himself “Do I still have it?”

The answer from many in the boxing world was a resounding “no”. How wrong they were.

On Saturday night at The Theatre at Madison Square Garden in New York City, Lopez 19-1 (13) challenged WBO and Ring magazine champion Josh Taylor 19-1 (13), entering the ring as a decided underdog.

Watching the fight, you would have thought he was the short-priced favourite.

After four close rounds to open the show, the 25-year-old Lopez took over. He increasingly opened up his offence, leaping in with hook, timing hard right hands and ripping into the body of the taller southpaw. Late in the game he started mixing in uppercuts. The variety of his punches kept Taylor guessing.

Former undisputed junior welterweight champion Taylor, 32, struggled to get off more than one punch at a time and rarely landed flush. When he did connect, Lopez took the punches well.

From the halfway point it was all Lopez as Taylor looked flatfooted and followed the challenger around the ring, walking into shot.

When the final bell rang the result was a foregone conclusion. The only surprise was that the cards were so close. Judges Steve Gray and Joseph Pasquale both turned in card of 115-113, while judges Benoit Roussel had it 117-111, all for the new champ Lopez.

“I’m so thankful. It has been a long time coming,” Lopez said. “We just beat the number one guy, former undisputed world champion. It was about doing what I needed to do.”

Lopez added: “He’s a tough dude. I can see why he beat so many fighters. You’ve got to counter a counter puncher.”

Taylor, who was having just his second fight in over two years, suggested his next move might be shifting up to the welterweight division.

“No excuses,” Taylor said. “It wasn’t my best. The better man won tonight. I’ve got no excuses. I fought to the best of my ability. He was better than me tonight. It is what it is. Congratulations to Teófimo.

“I thought it was a close fight. I’d love to do it again. I definitely know I’m better than that, and I know I can beat him still. I’d love to do it again. But he’s the champ, so the ball is in his court.

“The layoff had nothing to do with it. I’ve got no excuses. He was the better man tonight. I think probably will be moving up to welterweight now. But, no excuses. He was the better man tonight.”