Taylor, Lopez trade threats ahead of title bout

Boxing

NEW YORK — Teofimo Lopez has vowed to end the life of junior welterweight champion Josh Taylor, who in turn told ESPN on Thursday that he plans to punish Lopez for his “completely distasteful” comments when they meet on Saturday at The Theater at Madison Square Garden.

Lopez (18-1, 13 KOs) is a former undisputed lightweight champion who owns a win over Vasiliy Lomachenko.

The 25-year-old made the controversial comments last week and doubled down following Thursday’s news conference, where there was added security to prevent a physical altercation. The traditional faceoff was scrapped, and the fighters are even staying at different hotels.

Taylor was the undisputed champion at 140 pounds before he relinquished three of his four titles. He’s looking to make a statement in his first bout since his controversial decision victory over Jack Catterall last February and now has added motivation.

“I know he said he wants to kill me and stuff, but I really want to f—ing hurt this guy and maybe cause some damage and pain, some physical damage, some facial reconstruction … really mark him up,” said Taylor, 32, who will fight in his fourth consecutive ESPN/ESPN+ main event.

Taylor added: “I want to render this guy unconscious … so he doesn’t ever forget me for the things he’s been saying. But at the end of the day, you want him to go get back, recover, get well, be safe and sound and go to his family … not inflicting long-lasting damage. It’s a sport at the end of the day.”

Taylor, who fights out of Scotland, owns one of the best resumes in boxing, with victories over Regis Prograis, Jose Ramirez, Ivan Baranchyk and Viktor Postol (all fighters who have held titles).

Taylor (19-0, 13 KOs) vacated three of his four titles to pursue a rematch with Catterall that was scheduled for March before Taylor tore his plantar fascia. Now, the titles are once again fragmented, but it’s clear who remains the ruler of the division.

“I’m still the king, and all these other guys who’ve got the belts are … phony champs,” Taylor said. “Regis Prograis is a very good fighter, and I had a great fight with him, but really he’s still No. 2. … All these other champions, they’re not the man because I’m the man, and they haven’t beat me yet.”

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