World News Doctors has explained that former lightweight boxing champion Teofimo Lopez risked his life by getting into the ring for his last fight.
In one of the biggest upsets in the sport this century, the American lost his WBA (Super), IBF, WBO, and The Ring titles to Australian underdog George Kambosos Jr. by split decision at the Hulu Theater in Madison Square Garden last weekend.
The fight was put off several times due to a dispute with broadcaster Triller and Lopez, who dethroned Vasiliy Lomachenko himself in October last year and was defending the unified belts for the first time, also contracted Covid.
Heading to Bellevue Hospital after the defeat which he and his trainer father wrongly thought was a ‘robbery’, Lopez discovered he had “pneumomediastinum” with “extensive air in the retropharyngeal space” after being seen to by emergency room doctors.
“He’s lucky he’s not dead,” explained Dr. Peter Constantino, who is the executive director of the New York Head and Neck Institute, to ESPN. “I mean, really lucky.”
“He could have died, for sure,” agreed Dr. Linda Dahl, who works as an otolaryngologist at three hospitals in Manhattan.
“How he breathed, I can’t even explain to you. It’s like somebody tied a 300-pound set of weights around his chest… like his neck and chest were in a vise.”
“The air was surrounding his chest wall and his heart and his neck – places where air is not supposed to be,” continued Dahl, also a ringside physician for the New York State Athletic Commission.
“If he was hit in the neck or the chest – a certain way, in a certain place – he could have developed a pneumothorax . He would have instantly been down and unable to breathe and needing a chest tube.”
Dahl and physicians who attended Lopez later at New York-Presbyterian Hospital concluded that a small tear in his esophagus caused Lopez to suffer from extensive air, with a diagnosis complicated by the bout of Covid he contracted in the summer and asthma the fighter said he has suffered since the age of six.
“I fought through asthma before. If I told everybody, they would’ve canceled the fight. But I chose not to, because of the amount of pressure I was under. I didn’t want to hear people say, ‘Oh, another postponement’,” Lopez explained as to why he didn’t tell the athletic commission or his manager about his symptoms which were a shortness of breath and swelling around the neck area.
Lopez said that he went to a Chinese restaurant with his team after the weigh-in to rehydrate but only felt worse.
“I took a seat in the back of the restaurant, by the kitchen,” Lopez remembered. “Everybody’s trying to burp me and relax me. They see my neck is swollen. My voice changed. At this point, everybody’s a little concerned. I think my dad told me I should go to the hospital and I said ‘no’ because they’re going to end up probably canceling the fight.”
“That was not me in there Saturday night,” Lopez, who was knocked down in the first round, insisted.
Given oxygen and a CT scan at Bellvue, he checked himself out of the hospital against doctors’ advice which caused his manager to call in Dahl.
“I looked at the scan when I saw him Monday morning,” Dahl recalled. “I just said, ‘Thank God you’re alive.'”
“I don’t know how he went 12 rounds without being able to breathe,” she added.
“But he has air where it’s not supposed to be, and it’s dangerous for him to get on an airplane.”
This has prevented Lopez from being able to travel to Las Vegas to see his newborn son, but other factors have also worsened his lot away from the ring.
In August, he reportedly separated from his wife, who his family do not get on with, and spoke of considering killing himself on at least three occasions in October.
Despite receiving a $3.2 million purse from Triller, he also had to fire both his nutritionists and assistant trainer months before the Kambosos meeting with just $20,000 to his name come fight week.
Even though his performance suggested otherwise and wasn’t helped by his father telling him he was doing well between rounds, Lopez is adamant that he didn’t take his Australian foe for granted.
Now aware that he was lucky to survive their battle, he intends to move up to 140lbs to perhaps challenge undisputed champion Josh Taylor while “trying to stay positive” despite “losing this whole year”.