Teofimo Lopez speaks to John Dennen about Bruce Lee, boxing greats and his inspirations
THERE is a tattoo etched on Teófimo López’s forearm. ‘Be water, my friend’ the thin words read. The phrase come from Bruce Lee. “Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless, like water. You put water into a cup, it becomes the cup,” the legendary martial artist originally said. “You put it into a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” It’s a mantra that López, who thinks seriously about his style of fighting and his approach to the form, uses to inspire him.
“We all are a work of art. That’s what it is. We all are a work of art in different ways and my art is something that I will show throughout these years,” López said. “[Bruce Lee] was someone that understood the fundamentals of life, understood how to balance things but worked so hard to do it. Wanted to put everything into his own arsenal, went against his own tribe, his own mentors, his master.
“It takes a lot of courage and that takes a lot of wisdom and that’s why when I read those quotes of his, I grab it so much because I understand it. As I get older I will understand more because we never stop growing. We never stop growing,” he continued. “That’s when you know you’re living. When you’re learning.
“Comfort zone is a beautiful place but nothing ever grows there. You’ve always got to be uncomfortable.”
López has excelled. In beating Vasiliy Lomachenko last year he became the lightweight world champion. He carries himself with a particular confidence. That’s something he needs. “You have to have it with you. Either you build it and you have it and you were meant for it, or you don’t. Through trials and tribulations, through believing in myself, you have to believe. You have to truly believe like this was meant for me and only for me. No one’s going to take this away from me. That was the difference maker. It didn’t come off of just getting lucky or getting by. I had to do the things that 99 percent aren’t willing to do to be in that one percent club. Now that I’m there, it’s all about maintaining but working even harder to stay in that one per cent club,” he said. “I learned my confidence through the greats like Ali, through the greats like Joe Louis, through the greats like Floyd Patterson, I mean the list could go on and on, Tyson. His confidence when he was there, that rage, he was angry. He knew what he wanted. He wanted to hurt these fighters.”
That’s a quality López identifies with. “I’m always angry. Rage. I have a lot of rage. It’s just you’ve got to maintain it, you’ve got to know how to balance it. Balance is the toughest thing to accomplish in life,” he said. “Now I’m just learning little by little as I mature and as I get older, how to handle it better.
“I don’t want to live by what if. I don’t want live by should have, could have, would have. I want to live by I did exactly what I was destined to do and how I needed to do it, and that comes with just being patient. That comes with understanding and staying humble throughout the course.”
There’s another quality that he puts his rise down to, the one he finds hardest. Trust. “I have to have a lot of trust. When you take a route that 99% aren’t willing to take, that takes a lot of trust. A lot of trust in yourself,” he said. “You have to have a lot of trust in everything that you’re going through, it’s supposed to happen the way it needs to, to take you where you need to go in your journey. That’s really it. Trust, love, faith, hope and understanding.”
He’s had to wait for his next fight, his defence against George Kambosos was originally picked up by Triller, who failed to put the event together. Now it’s been taken on by promoters Matchroom and set for November 27 on DAZN. A long wait.
“Maybe it’s teaching me more patience. Maybe this is teaching me to continue on and not ever be sidetracked by anything that’s in my way. That’s how I took it,” he said. “If anything I turned that frustration into positivity and it gave me more work ethic. I’m training hard for this. I’m looking forward to it. I’m being more cautious and careful. But I can only do so much. I’m vaccinated now. I have the antibodies from Covid. So there shouldn’t be no delay, there shouldn’t be no postponements.
“It’s crunch time. Now is the time I turn from mentally being strong to everything else coming together,” he added. “Kambosos is a strong fighter, comes forward, is willing to take what he has to to get to where he needs to get to. However they’re not on the frequency that I’m in. They’re not even close to that frequency that I’m at. It’s a lot of work that I have to do but I’m willing to do it. What I’ve done and gone through would probably kill those guys. That’s the difference maker in this fight. I’m not overlooking him. I never overlook the fighters that I’m facing because that’s the person that could take all this away from me and I could be forgotten. I’m not looking past him, I’m not overlooking him, I’m looking through him. There’s a difference and that’s my mentality. Put them in front of me and I’ll go right through them.”