Lopez wins controversial split decision vs. Martin

NEW YORK — In the aftermath of another disappointing performance Saturday night, Teofimo Lopez sought reassurance from his father.

“I don’t know if I still have it,” Lopez told his father and trainer, Teofimo Lopez Sr. “Do I still have it?”

Lopez never appeared to be in control against Sandor Martin, a tricky southpaw who accepted the assignment on three weeks’ notice. However, Lopez still came away with the victory via a controversial split decision in a 10-round fight at Madison Square Garden.

One judge scored it 95-94 for Martin but was overruled by scores of 96-93 and 97-92 for Lopez. ESPN also scored it 95-94 for Martin.

Martin, 29, dictated the pace with his pinpoint jab and mixed in a timely check hook that floored Lopez for a flash knockdown in Round 2. Martin (40-3, 13 KOs) appeared to score another knockdown with the check hook in Round 7, but the referee ruled that Lopez slipped.

“It was a surprise with the judges,” said Martin, who revealed he suffered a broken nose in Round 1 following a clash of heads that caused a cut that bled throughout. “I won this fight clearly. For one judge, I only won two rounds. Really? There were two knockdowns. The referee didn’t count one of the knockdowns.

“He missed all of his punches. That’s a masterclass of boxing. That’s a robbery. But that’s the sport of boxing.”

Lopez (18-1, 13 KOs) fought recklessly at times, and Martin used that aggression against him. In his second fight at 140 pounds, Lopez didn’t resemble the boxer who upset Vasiliy Lomachenko to capture the undisputed 135-pound championship in 2020.

Lopez, 25, was able to land his vaunted power shots at times, but he rarely mounted a follow-up attack. Much of that was due to Martin’s stick-and-move style. The underdog presented a moving target, and the strategy frustrated Lopez.

“You were running the whole time,” Lopez, whose eyes were swollen, told Martin afterward. “Every time you landed that counter, I hit you. That’s why you were running. That was a boring-ass fight. I can’t believe it. I need a better dance partner. … You were dancing and running.

“It’s hard to fight somebody like this when they’re running the whole time. I was countering and tagging him. … I felt great overall. … Now these guys will want to fight me, so this is great.”

Lopez called for fights with junior welterweight titleholders Josh Taylor, Regis Prograis and Alberto Puello. Taylor and Prograis are among the sport’s elite and would be counted as heavy favorites following Lopez’s second lackluster outing in three fights.

The bout was an eliminator for the WBC title held by Prograis, who first owes a shot to Jose Ramirez. After that, Lopez will be in line for another championship opportunity.

Lopez, a Las Vegas-based boxer, was recognized as one of the sport’s best pound-for-pound fighters after the victory over Lomachenko. He entered a mandatory title defense against George Kambosos as a 10-1 favorite but dropped a split decision last November in a brutal fight that was named ESPN’s Upset of the Year.

Lopez was floored in that fight too but rallied to score a 10th-round knockdown in a losing effort.

He was hospitalized after the Kambosos bout and later diagnosed with pneumomediastinum, an intrusion of air in his thoracic cavity, ESPN’s Mark Kriegel reported. It was likely the result of a slight tear in his esophagus that developed following the weigh-in as he rehydrated.

When Lopez returned from the first loss of his career, he did so at 140 pounds with a seventh-round TKO over Pedro Campa, a handpicked opponent selected to deliver Lopez a confidence-building win.

His second bout at 140 pounds was slated to come against Jose Pedraza, but the former 130-pound titleholder withdrew from the bout three weeks ago after he fell ill. That’s when Martin received the call he has been waiting for since he upset Mikey Garcia by majority decision last October in one of the year’s biggest surprises.

That win sent Garcia, a former four-division champion, into retirement and sprung Martin into the title picture at junior welterweight.

The bout was Martin’s first outside Spain, and he parlayed the performance into a matchup with a second marquee opponent in the U.S. Once again, he appeared to defy the odds, but two judges saw a different fight.

“He’s a showman,” Martin said. “I’m a fighter.”

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