Former unified lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez Jr. announced his arrival at junior welterweight with a sensational performance on June 10, a decision over the previously undefeated Josh Taylor to capture the WBO belt and the lineal 140-pound championship.
Lopez’s first two bouts in his new division were disappointing (a TKO over Pedro Campa and a split decision against Sandor Martin, both in 2022), but he erased all doubts about his ability to compete at the elite level in a second division with the win over Taylor. Lopez didn’t just outbox Taylor — he hurt him on several occasions and proved to be very strong on the inside against the bigger fighter.
Sure, Lopez has claimed retirement, but he still holds the WBO title (he hasn’t formally relinquished it) and is the man to beat at junior welterweight until further notice.
His victory injected some much-needed excitement into the deep division, and the impending arrival of lightweight king Devin Haney will add even more star power to 140 pounds. Ryan Garcia will now campaign at junior welterweight, too, one of many contenders pining for a shot at one the division’s four titleholders.
How does the division shape up following Lopez’s victory, Taylor’s departure and Regis Prograis’ lackluster win on Saturday? With four titleholders in the same weight class, there’s plenty of talent to make it one of the best divisions in boxing.
Here’s a look at the top 140-pound fighters and some interesting matchups between them.
The lineal champion
Teofimo Lopez Jr.
An exceptional talent, Lopez seems to fight up and down to the level of his competition. He struggled with Masayoshi Nakatani before he dethroned Vasiliy Lomachenko. Lopez then was upset by George Kambosos Jr. before he pulled an upset himself with the showing against Taylor.
Lopez showed against Taylor that his power carried from lightweight to junior welterweight, which was a question mark following the controversial win over Sandor Martin in his second fight in the division in December.
After the Taylor fight, Lopez said he was retiring, but he’s just 25, and this is boxing. If he fights on as expected, the natural matchup is against Haney, the undisputed lightweight champion coming off a razor-thin victory over Lomachenko in May.
Prograis settled for a split decision in the first defense of his second title reign, a victory over late-replacement Danielito Zorrilla on Saturday. “Rougarou” wasn’t as explosive as usual — he did knock down his opponent in Round 3 — but Zorrilla didn’t engage much, content to last the distance and play spoiler.
The challenger was selective, as he jabbed from the outside, but he did appear to score a flash knockdown of Prograis in the closing moments of Round 1 that the referee missed and called a slip. The outing was the first of Prograis’ three-fight deal with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing, and Haney’s father, Bill, was ringside in New Orleans to watch the fight.
Devin Haney said weeks ago that he contacted Hearn to express interest in a fight for Prograis’ WBC title in his 140-pound debut, a matchup that appears to be on the short list for the lightweight king.
A volume-punching machine from Puerto Rico, Matias has quickly developed a reputation as one of the sport’s best action fighters. He’s a violent puncher with power in both hands and always comes forward. Matias is there to be hit, but opponents haven’t been able to absorb his power and output.
He’s shown exceptional conditioning on his way up the ranks, routinely throwing upward of 100 punches per round late in fights, with plenty of sting on them. Matias will make the first defense of his IBF title on Aug. 26 when he meets former champion Sergey Lipinets in what shapes up as a slugfest on paper.
Rolando ‘Rolly’ Romero
Romero’s TKO win over Ismael Barroso in May was controversial, and the newly minted WBA titleholder didn’t impress in the process. But there’s no doubt Romero can sell a fight, as evidenced by his promotion with Gervonta Davis last year.
Romero is entertaining, but he is clearly viewed as the weakest of the four champions, and there are fighters who are sizing up the risk-reward factor here, chomping at the bit. Ryan Garcia has been calling for a fight with Romero, but next up for Romero could be a mandatory defense against O’Hara Davies, whom Romero would be favored to defeat.
The undisputed lightweight champion
Teofimo not impressed by potential Haney fight
Teofimo Lopez explains why a Devin Haney bout wouldn’t be enough to get him to come out of retirement.
Haney could elect to remain at 135 pounds, where he holds all four titles, or he could move up to 140 for his next fight, see how he feels at the weight and then decide if he wishes to keep his lightweight belts.
The 24-year-old will have plenty of options following his win over Lomachenko: Haney is a promotional and network free agent. Coming off the career-best performance (no matter how you scored it), Haney should be in more demand than ever before.
A fight with Lopez is the most appealing, but a future fight with Garcia could be a megafight if all goes according to plan.
Catterall is an uncrowned champion of sorts after his controversial decision defeat to Taylor in February 2022. Despite numerous attempts to land the rematch and set the record straight, Catterall now finds himself with a different promoter than Taylor, as well as a different weight class.
The Englishman signed with Matchroom Boxing after the proposed March 4 rematch with Taylor was canceled and returned to the win column with two knockdowns of Darrah Foley in a decision win in May.
Catterall, 29, was a major underdog when he outperformed Taylor, but will now have to prove he’s truly world class by doing it again against an elite opponent. A fight between Prograis and Catterall makes sense later this year.
Jose Ramirez defeats Richard Commey via 11th-round TKO
Jose Ramirez sends Richard Commey to one knee with a body shot and wins via TKO.
The former unified champion could have fought Jose Zepeda in a rematch last fall for the vacant WBC title, but Ramirez was set to be married in October and withdrew from the bout. Following a comeback victory over Richard Commey, Ramirez is itching to return to a big fight.
Ramirez was ringside for Lopez’s victory over Taylor and is hoping for a crack at the newly crowned champion. Ramirez’s lone pro defeat came in May 2021 against Taylor in a battle for the undisputed championship.
Ramirez remains a tough out for anyone at 140 pounds with his relentless pressure, power punching and size. He’s a good bet to become champion once again, and with only one fight remaining on his deal with Top Rank, could have plenty of flexibility going forward.
Garcia is undoubtedly the biggest star who resides at 140 pounds. He was TKOed by Gervonta Davis in a megafight in April, but the fight produced nearly $23 million at the gate, proof positive that Garcia is one of boxing’s leading men.
But he’s also the rare name fighter to never win a title in boxing, something Garcia will look to change at 140 pounds. He’s lobbied for a shot at Romero, but Garcia must first sort his promotional issues with Golden Boy Promotions.
Oscar De La Hoya’s company recently sued Garcia to enforce its contract — a response to a demand letter the 24-year-old sent the promotion alleging multiple violations that invalidate the agreement.
Garcia’s previous two fights took place at 140 pounds, including a KO win over Javier Fortuna, while the matchup with Davis took place at a catchweight of 136 pounds with a same-day rehydration clause.
Teofimo Lopez strikes Heisman pose after split decision win
Teofimo Lopez sports Caleb Williams’ USC jersey after his split decision win at Madison Square Garden.
The southpaw spoiler from Spain appeared to outbox Lopez en route to a close decision win, but Teofimo earned the nod by split decision in December.
Still, the performance was enough for Martin to establish himself as a bona fide contender. He has an awkward style, difficult to hit and possesses the jab and footwork to give nearly any opponent fits.
Martin already owns a big win on his résumé with the massive upset over Mikey Garcia in October 2021 and showed against Lopez that it was no fluke.
Arnold Barboza Jr.
Barboza was offered the opportunity to fight Prograis for the title on a month’s notice, but he deemed it a lowball offer and passed. Now, Barboza will wait for his first crack at a title.
Barboza doesn’t appear to own any A+ attributes, but he’s fundamentally sound and consistent, enough to defeat solid opponents like Zorrilla and Jose Pedraza while he remains undefeated.
He’s still waiting for his first fight of 2023, and if he can land the right opponent, could move one step closer to a title opportunity.
Junior welterweight — With Teofimo Lopez now champion, what’s next for the 140-pound elite boxer?